Guilt Road no one-way
WHAT a revolting sound the radio was emitting, plural strong rampant voices pounding a solitary small soft one into something that brought the word “extinction” to mind.
Didn’t she realise that she had nothing to say? That she couldn’t just have views, like entitled people, views on her country as if it was, you know, her country? Didn’t she realise she was white and Afrikaans, her day was over, her job was to close her mouth?
My ears read the body language and it didn’t look nice. Very unAfrican. Generosity of spirit is Africa’s long suit. Where was that generosity here? Slipped through the studio floorboards?
These guys were intellectuals, it’s true, but that’s only half an excuse. They were sour.
They were alarming, too. Do we now face another decade, a double decade, a generation, a century, of knickers twisting into useless aggro-generating knots over old misdeeds?
Seems to me a factor is missing from the current fusillade of guilting. It’s right to be revolted by past atrocities. It is right to be revolted that history was what history is, a brutal primitive place of tribes and clans and creeds beating each other up where they could or where they had to or where they thought they had to.
But nowhere is Guilt Road a oneway. My Catholic Irish relatives have a 400-year-old grudge about my Protestant forebears smashing their lot to pieces, but turn to the tortures and burnings that they administered when they were on top, and there’s no room for righteousness.
Someone telling me I must live in sackcloth because my forebears who came from Europe beat up his forebears who came from central Africa, had better be in sackcloth about his forebears beating up the Khoi who’d been here since homo sapiens or it doesn’t count.
It’s problematic too to blame anyone for sins that were not sins at the time that they were committed.
The outlook we now take for granted, that the human race is big and wide and all of it warrants respect and acceptance is startlingly new. My life, stretching only 20% back to when the records began, started in a world that took the differences – ethnic, tribal, religious, English/Afrikaans, let alone black/white – as major things.
I’m then to hold my granddad guilty because he as a trade unionist discriminated between races? Forget it. You might hold his times guilty of giving him (and his contemporaries of every complexion) a short-sighted view of their unfolding world.
He’d have thought that his grandfather’s view was short-sighted. Do you think our grandchildren will reckon that we got things right? No chance, they’ll blame us for stuff we can’t imagine yet. Maybe also some stuff we can – “That millennium period! Hawu, they sent skills scuttling away! Saboteurs!”
Best we can do is reduce their need to blame. Not help the previously-enfranchised crowd curling up in a corner whimpering guilt. It’s right to treat the country as our country, person for person no whit less than anyone.
It’s right to put effort into making it work fair and square. Do that for justice, do it for decency and do it because you pretty damn urgently want contentment around you.
No help, either, getting shouted at for being born wrong. But this too shall pass. The last bunch of racists have already chomped up their humble pie. The next one is in the oven.