Mhambi has been redeployed.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

De la Rey is a symbolic weapon against a symbolic problem

At last someone writes a whole article of sense and spot on observation about the phenemena that is the De la Rey song. To Mhambi it was all the more surprising when he learnt Johann Rossouw was the author.

Johann used to write rather dense articles about post structuralist theory for Die Perdeby, the student newspaper of the University if Pretoria. Rest assured, not many meisies in Huis Madelief read his missives.

But last Sunday Rossouw, published an article Alienation much more symbolic than material and Mhambi could not agree more. The article was a response to the Sunday Times's editor Mondli Makahya's article. Mondli asked mused about why there was a surge in a siege mentality amongst Afrikaners.

Johann makes the following points: "One of the ironies of the 13 years since 1994 is that while a particular community could be going through intense historical self-reflection, the rest of society might be quite oblivious to it....

How then should Afrikaner alienation be understood, and solved? Let us start by suggesting what should not be done.

Firstly, avoid the myth that Afrikaners are still suffering from “power-loss syndrome” — after all, the young Afrikaners singing De la Rey never knew state power. Secondly, avoid reducing Afrikaners to mere economic beings by claiming that since some have become successful entrepreneurs and often ugly materialists, Afrikaners should be happy.

Thirdly, avoid the myth that Afrikaans is doing well. Two- thirds of Afrikaans schools have disappeared or been anglicised and Afrikaans universities are all in various stages of anglicisation, except Stellenbosch. Afrikaans has practically disappeared from the civil service.

The root cause of the alienation is the fact that the recognition between Afrikaners and Africans that served as the basis for 1994 have been severely eroded after the Mandela era. The important point is that the alienation is much more symbolic than material, and there is no reason it can’t be dealt with speedily."

Johann lists a few things that could be done:

By all means restore African place names, but not by erasing Afrikaans place names, for example, Tshwane-Pretoria;

Use language or class rather than race as the basis for affirmative action;

Increase mother-tongue education for all children, instead of targeting Afrikaans schools in the name of access, often anglicising those schools and winning poor education in a second language for speakers of African languages;

Use the Constitution, as a policy guideline rather than a narrow racially defined concept of transformation, as a policy guideline. and redefine transformation as a means of creating institutions that serve our communities rather than a new racial elite

Beef up administrative capacity in the land-reform process rather than demonising the majority of farmers on the basis of vague accusations; and

Deal effectively with crime by redefining our national ideal as that of a sense of community rather than consumerist wealth that excludes most citizens and creates symbolic misery among the consuming classes.

Ah, I hear some of you say. Is symbolism so important? Yes it is, why has the 9/11 attacks changed the world? They were for all the spectacular effect a minor tragic incident in the context of the power of the US behemoth. But the symbolism of it all shook the world.

Post structuralist theory apparently dismisses taking symbols as face value, or so I hear. I was going to try to make a pun on symbolism and post structuralism, but alas, I can't, I don't quiet get it.

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