In South Africa in 1994, after 350 years of suppressing and exploiting the black portion of the population, the ruling whites reluctantly handed them the keys to power. The more affluent among them then sat back on their assets, and critically waited to see what would happen next.
After several years of reasonably good government under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, the whites’ frequently low and arrogant perception of black ability to rule appeared vindicated, as massive corruption and incompetence within the African National Congress (ANC) government became increasingly evident. This permitted many of the whites, not only the continued enjoyment of their assets, which had been left in their possession, but also the gratification of having apparently been proven right in respect of the ANC’s inability to run the country properly. Statements implicitly denigrating blacks, such as ‘What can you expect of them?’, and ‘they’re all the same’, became commonplace, as whites reassured each other of their supposed inherent superiority.
With the benefit of hindsight, the sheer stupidity or naivete of most white South Africans in regard to their dealings with their black compatriots, has been extraordinary. Homo Stultus would be a more accurate designation for them than Homo Sapiens. For example, regarding the takeover of government in 1994, what exactly did they expect black South Africans to do, given the impoverished circumstances in which whites had left them?
350 years of white rule had not only suppressed, exploited, and humiliated non-whites. It had also denied them proper education and skills training, knowledge of the workings of a modern economy, and full property rights. As a people, they were consequently left dirt-poor and inadequately equipped to generate significant personal wealth, let alone run an industrial economy. And, unlike the whites, they had no accumulated assets or reserves to fall back on, because whites had largely denied them the means of earning them.
The purpose of acquiring power is to obtain wealth and assets. So, given the combination of fallible human nature and impoverished black circumstances, when the whites handed over the keys to the treasury, it was virtually certain that many politicians would immediately start exploiting the only source of wealth accessible to blacks as a whole – namely, money generated previously and currently by the South African economy, and controlled by the government. They would do this for their personal benefits, but also in order to distribute wealth to their political supporters through the ANC policy of cadre deployment, who, now that the ANC controlled the country, naturally expected circumstances for blacks rapidly to change for the better.
Did whites really expect all of the black politicians passively to accept the state of relative poverty to which 350 years of white rule had reduced them and their people, once power was in their hands, together with the treasury, to which they believed black labour had contributed so much? Had whites found themselves in exactly the same backward and poor circumstances, it is highly unlikely that their political leaders would have acted any differently, given their historical record, although from their comfortable position of relative wealth, whites tend smugly to delude themselves into believing otherwise.
Our failure as whites to foresee the inevitable scale of corruption and of administrative incompetence that lay ahead, was human, but it also indicates how limited human intelligence actually is, or more charitably, how naïve we humans are. If we are not either stupid or naive, why do we now find ourselves here at the foot of Africa in a highly vulnerable position, powerless, and governed by corrupt and inept politicians, who ironically practice racial discrimination against us just as the Apartheid government did against them, while they hypocritically profess non-racialism? Politicians who, in order to enrich themselves, have betrayed not only the ideals of a noble movement, but also their own people?
With white South African intelligence and understanding clearly being significantly less than we have believed it to be, is there nevertheless still a chance that we can do something to improve our lot, which is indubitably of our own making – and perhaps (naively) even assist in improving circumstances for everybody?
What was it about our black compatriots, and about ourselves, that we so utterly failed to understand, that landed all of us in our present predicament?
The answer to this question was undoubtedly the degree to which our inherent and often unconscious racism has alienated black South Africans, so resulting in a negative long-term outcome, for both blacks and whites.
All humans are racist to some degree or other. To genuinely not be racist at all, someone would have to regard people of different cultures exactly as they do people of their own culture. This is highly unlikely to happen, as the reader will no doubt confirm for him or herself, on examining their own feelings. Racism is the inevitable, and unfortunately negative corollary of the process of socialisation into the family and tribe that every normal human being experiences, from childhood on – which is why racism is so deeply ingrained in us today. What we call racism is but one aspect of the aversion and/or fear humans feel, regarding whatever is significantly different culturally to what they are brought up with, and so accustomed to.
The belief in the current superiority of their culture that characterises whites, and that to them justifies their sense of superiority, is understandable. Modern civilisation originated 350 years ago in Europe, and it is the form of civilisation that all the nations of the world aspire to today. The delusional and unwarranted feelings of individual racial superiority, however, derived by whites from the perceived superiority of their culture, are understandable only in terms of the limits to human intelligence and understanding that permit individuals to ascribe positive qualities to themselves personally, that actually belong not to them but collectively to long-dead ancestors.
The feeling of personal racial superiority is an emotional delusion that naturally incurs a cost the moment that the person revealing it comes into contact with people of historically subjected races, as no human being appreciates being treated as an inferior, whether the imagined superiority is expressed openly or only implicitly.
In an African context, the white delusion of superiority is particularly counter-productive as it grates harshly against the acute African sense of inferiority, as articulated and expressed by the black philosopher, Frantz Fanon.
“The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority, alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”
After the savagery of slavery and colonialism, the black sense of individual inferiority is as understandable as the white delusion of superiority, being also based upon what an individual’s ancestors did in the distant past, or had done to them, rather than on that individual’s own personal qualities and abilities. It is obviously also no more warranted.
Consequently, when the whites in South Africa were unable to maintain their hegemony, and ceded power to the blacks, the ANC leaders had no desire to continue the condescending and humiliating relationship any more than was absolutely necessary. Particularly, they were not interested in receiving advice from whites as to what they should do economically or politically. The whites’ racism, unconscious as well as conscious, had lost them all influence, credibility, and consideration with the black political leadership. It also effectively torpedoed any possibility of a ‘Rainbow Nation’.
Their racism was not costly for themselves alone. Alienating blacks to the extent that it did, and ensuring that whites would play no permanent and significant role in the running of the country, their racism facilitated and encouraged governmental corruption and the looting of the fiscus, as the members of the government tended to belong to the same political party, to be initially in the same poor financial position, and to be well known to one another.
Furthermore, because the political group that had most effectively fought for black interests – the ANC – was so politically dominant, it was able freely to deploy its often grossly unqualified cadres into all areas of government, with highly negative economic and social consequences for everybody in the country.
There is little doubt that the inherent racism of whites was the prime factor in their effective exclusion from all forms of government, and therefore of their loss of influence and their current, insecure situation – as well, albeit indirectly, of much of the racism, corruption, and inept performance of the ANC government.
The racism of whites having been the primary cause of South Africa’s failure to achieve its potential after 1994, because it effectively divided the races at the time that they most needed to come together, any move to fulfill that potential now, must clearly make addressing the issue of racism its top priority. The problem with this is the bizarre attitude towards racism that social scientists and politicians have chosen to adopt throughout the West since approximately 1950. Rather than being treated secularly as the innate human behavioural problem that it is, with an ongoing attempt being made to modify or eliminate it, the problem of racism has instead been exploited politically. It has been spiritualised, politically demonised, and declared a mortal sin, for committing which, confession and redemption are demanded. It is today’s manipulative equivalent of the old religious concept of original sin.
Counterintuitively, racism originally served a positive biological function. This was during the countless millennia when humanity lived in small, isolated, and potentially hostile communities, when the fundamental assumption was that if someone was not related to you by blood, they were your enemy. It is only relatively recently, with the mass migration and unavoidable mingling of peoples, brought about principally by industrialisation, that it has become counterproductive and socially destructive. As humans’ predilection for sweetness served a positive function in human nutrition in the past, but now threatens health in modern society, so racism was once beneficial, but has now, because of altered social circumstances, become socially negative. Only once the origin and nature of racism are addressed maturely and apolitically, however, can this major social problem be rationally dealt with and resolved.
While it will take decades for the bulk of South African whites to appreciate that their innate racial prejudice is the basic cause of their vulnerable current circumstances, this is something that the white leadership can relatively rapidly understand and address, should they have the mind to do so. If, on the other hand, they choose not to modify their racial attitudes, or are unable to do so, they cannot reasonably continue to blame blacks for their misfortunes.
Although the ANC leadership would with good reason be suspicious of any approaches by a reformed white leadership, it too might nevertheless see benefits to a genuine rapprochement. So corrupt and inept is the present government, and so high the level of unemployment among the youth, that it is only a matter of time before another, more radical political party, or a ‘strong man’, takes over the government – or tribalism shatters it. This would very likely lead to the corrupt ANC individuals losing everything they have stolen. Although the following consideration offers very little hope, while the ANC has failed the people of South Africa as well as its own noble values, at its core are still some people of moral integrity with the interests of the country at heart, as well as those of the ANC.
There is obviously and absolutely no reason why the ANC should not run South Africa successfully, entirely without the involvement of South African whites. This is unlikely to be feasible for some period of time, however, for all the practical reasons mentioned previously. The ANC politicians’ aversion to whites and the desire to have as little as possible to do with them, ironically places yet another obstacle in the ANC’s path to running the country successfully. Having administered it for so long prior to 1994, the whites are the people best placed to be of assistance in doing so currently, but their own racism has created circumstances that understandably disinclines the ANC to utilise them. So, primitive racism extends into the 21st century, destructive of everybody’s interests, and South Africans clearly haven’t the wit to deal with it, even though it is the root cause of South Africa’s problems.
Given the rapidity of the country’s decline, on the balance of probability it is far more likely that the ANC self-destructs before the white leadership comes to its senses, and so is available to contribute positively to the problems of governing the country. Whichever black party or coalition takes over the government will therefore be in exactly the same, negative situation that the ANC currently finds itself, and for exactly the same reasons.
A purely black-governed South Africa is failing, and is doing so because the purely white-governed South Africa had previously failed its black population. And both governments failed, or are failing, for exactly the same fundamental reason – their inherent racism. Homo sapiens is how we deludedly describe ourselves, but clearly, it’s Homo stultus that we are.