Afrikaans is dying
Have you ever seen the movie Idiocracy? Here is the quick Wikipedia cut-and-paste summary: “ It’s a film that tells the story of two ordinary people from the present who take part in a top-secret military hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years in the future in a dystopian society full of extremely stupid people. Advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly unthinking society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.”
Sound familiar? I have not said anything yet, but already I can hear the gnashing of teeth. No doubt somebody is already contemplating a crucifixion on a Hi-Lux grill. But let me put this frankly. Is that not pretty much exactly where we are heading? Us, the Afrikaans speaking Afrikaner of South Africa.
1. Devoid of intellectual curiosity. To call Afrikaans literature a shadow of its former self is like seeing a 2005 clip of Al Debbo singing “Sonbrilletjies” and thinking “Rockstar!” The great Afrikaans writers are all but gone. Afrikaans poetry, where we once had a host of geniuses to choose from, does not exist anymore… err, not entirely true as I found a R10 Gert Volk Nel collection in Bargain Books. I paged through it and, as they say, read it and wept... Afrikaans is a compact language; beautiful in its simplicity, but Volk Nel’s work is beautifully “simpel”. I bet the De Kat review gave it a golden star and a smiley face.
Afrikaans music is in an even worse state. The music is simply atrocious. But we love it. We buy it. Most of the music is so bad that if you would write “Frisbee” on the CD with a black marker and throw it, The Frisbee Company would sue your butt for defamation. Pity, because that is all it is really good for. Don’t get me wrong, there are some proper Afrikaans music writers out there, plying their trade in eccentric venues to small audiences, but somehow they are not the ones that get the exposure you would expect. Danelle de Vries, in my opinion is one of the gems out there. Nobody would know of her.
The problem is twofold: The market is ruled by idiots. The music companies are owned by simpletons, and the market – us - on the other hand simply do not know any better. Maybe we can blame the brain drain. So many Afrikaners have left the country that it is quite possible that the brainless quality of our music can be put squarely on simple economics . The demand is there.
2. Social responsibility. The Rapportryers, Vrouverening, Jong Dames Dinamiek, etc. are all struggling for new members. They gather at the old age homes these days for logistical purposes. We shy away from responsibility like Zuma shies away from… errr… well like he does. Most of us do not volunteer, we do not take part, we do not grow, in a country where there is so much more need than have. There are so many “vacancies” to be filled in this regard. Considering, in comparison to our English speaking friends, our greater numbers, we should dominate public forums and social responsibility groups, but somehow we are vastly outnumbered by them. Why? What have become of us? It is quite frankly embarrassing.
3. Coherent notions of justice and human rights. Well, that has already been well documented... and a Hi Lux has just stopped in front of my office, so I’d rather not go there.
I am and always will be proudly Afrikaans, but we should step it up. We are becoming a laughing stock among ourselves, like a (I stopped myself before I could type "bad") Willie Esterhuizen movie, and yes, to others too. I have kept it short. I have tried to soften the blow. The reality however, is much more troubling. I ask one thing of you: Reflect before you say anything. We are better than this. It’s time we show it.
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