Guilt Road no one-way

The Star Early Edition - - METRO -

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.

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