Back in 2009 when I blogged on Mweb, Chris Louw committed suicide and his letter Boetman is die bliksem in was read by many, I was reminded of this letter by Brollox and Bittergal, who I knew under a different alias back then, I am sure but not certain. Boerseun is that you?
I translated Chris Louw's article back then because there were many that did not understand Afrikaans, I went looking for it on Saturday but my English translation is lost to mankind. I am posting a translation of Chris's letter here. Chris said the words that many of us that survived grensdiens, the rooi gevaar and the swart gevaar wished we could. Sleep peacefully Boetman.
I have made a few notes and the words that I translated, as there is no real English translation that has the power of the Afrikaans word or phrase, in parenthesis.
Afrikaans is a beautifully expressive language and that is why the English in South Africa use words like lekker, gatvol and the curse words that have no equal. My translation loses some of it's flavour because the vernacular is beautiful in it's original language. I want to thank my beloved M for helping with the translation.
"Dear dr. De Klerk
At first I wondered why I read your book "Afrikaners: kroes kras and kordaat" with such resistance, not complete loathing, take note resistance.
My generation was brought up to keep our emotions in check, and not to give in to any longing, not love nor hate.
We were taught to be seen and not heard, to do as told without backchat, to show respect for our elders, To, at the drop of a hat, be prepared to sacrifice our lives for our country and the greater cause. I am talking about white Afrikaner men between 30 and 50, the guy's who were branded by National Service.
(I am English and I was brought up with the same constraints, Chris thought he was talking for Afrikaner men, but he spoke for English men as well)
Let me phrase it diplomatically, your book smells of dishonesty, the dishonesty of excusing prior misdeeds.
Primarily your book was not written for children, those that must push out their new branches from their Afrikaner roots.
Your book was written for an aged man, somewhere in the seventies with wrinkles on the face and grey hair on the temples, a conservative pair of specs on the nose to create the impression of someone with status, someone with insight, whose judgement can be trusted, whose words carry weight.
I remember when you were the Editor of Die Transvaler. You most likely will not remember me, I was the lad that you greeted in the halls with "Dag Boetman", Then I was Boetman, twenty years later I am a middle aged white Afrikaner man.
My generation was taught from the cradle to play with words, words that seldom had the meanings seen in the dictionary. Think about concepts like "democracy", "nationalism", "self government", "independent states", even the noun that my friends were sent to the border for, and some were never to return, "South Africa".
The "South Africa" of your words, The "South Africa" that you promised loyalty to, was something totally different, something a lot whiter, than the South Africa that we together, black and white, praise in our painful new anthem.
We learned this from your generation, this ability with words, your generation thought up the concepts, my generation lived them. Because we were trained not to be openly rebellious, "yes dad, no dad, three bags full dad"
Your generation was the first and probably the last in Afrikaner history that never attended a war, too young for the second freedom war, too young for the first world war and too German Neutral for the second world war, too deep in thought and wonder about state orders and planning of other constellations and seeking justification for the border war.
(My dad was too young for the second world war but eagerly sent his sons off to war)
You were the first generation that conscripted your children and sent them to die for you.
Those that did not want to defend your crazy dreams with weapons that you issued were sent to jail or even worse declared insane. Those that even then called the system too crazy for words were declared schizophrenic and unfit for military duty.
And you? Where were you, You withdrew into your dusky office and minted resounding phrases and judgemental words like your famed new creations; enlightend (verligtes) and unenlightened. (verkramptes)
In reality there is another group of Afrikaners, The "addicted" (Die verknogtes), as in "addicted to power" or rather addicted to back stabbing (knoei). The dictionary definition of knoei is "untidy, unfinished work done, fraudulent and underhanded methods of doing things, using dishonest methods.
Enlightened, Unenlightened, Addicted (Verlig, verkramp, verknog.)
My Dad always said : Verwoerd, Confused, Arrogant (Verwoerd, verward, verwaand.)
Did you know when you "Dag Boetman"ed me in the Halls of Perskor, I was a married man, a father of two, just shy of thirty, with bond payments to make, Did you know that my peers, the shut-up-dad-has-spoken-generation were in Angola to shoot the k*k out of terrs? Do you know how the Terrs shot the k*k out of us?
But you were too busy thinking about new meanings for seperate development, too busy giving new meaning, moral and intellectual content to seperate development, You had to keep yourself busy with State Philosophical issues like the continual expansion of democracy that had to find favour in the stunning tricameral parliament.
Do you know that when I was the News editor of "Die Vaderland" I was called up for a military camp in Richards bay?
Do you know how this well known and important citizen served his country? I cleaned toilets (k*kpotte) in the army, That was my daily instruction.
I am not complaining, I am just one more generation of generations of Afrikaners that went to war for the survival of his people.
Cleaning Toilets in the camp at Richards Bay. When the captain heard he had a well known member of his community, he was ashamed and took pity on me.
So I was appointed to clean the office of his secretary, I was after all a senior journalist at a leading pro NP newspaper. I even decided what Afrikaners read, what was newsworthy and what was absolute k*k.
I was a trustworthy catalyst. I was after all a product of Christian National education, a succesful creation of groups like your "broederbond"
You, the product of a generation that let every war go by like the poisoned chalice (bitter beker). The generation that took the weight on their shoulders to mold their children by hand into tin soldiers that had to go to the border and fight, to kill and be killed for your ideals.
We got medals, yes Honoris Crux pinned on, post mortem in some cases with the strong and trusted hands of PW Botha.
We learned to live ironically, my generation, we couldn't do otherwise, we had to, to survive.
Shut your trap, listen when you get spoken too, put your head in the effing scrum, It's not an antheap, bend over, why is your hair so long, lets bow our heads and thank God for all our blessings, The K*ffirs are getting much too white, children must be seen and not heard, you are a effing sleg troep, do you understand? You will follow orders, we will solve the political problems ....
You never tasted that humiliation, not you or your generation, you merely created the stuation for it. You even phrase it better than I can - The herd instinct and tendency to bow down to authority make us followers of leaders in many areas.
How beautifully you play with the nouns "us: and "them" when you refer to the Afrikaner, everything to place distance between the subject and the verb, "I" nicely finds shelter behind the abstract "us" and "them" and "Afrikaners" as if the camoflaged "me" was never present, no need for self pity or to say I am bitterly (tot die dood toe) sorry.
Then your big opportunity arose, your hour of truth. To meet the ANC face to face on the battlefield of the conference table. For years the young ones held the enemy at bay, Now the childrens games were over, now you would take up arms, you were ready, Your words were honed by many years of practice.
All your biggest plans were unmasked in mere months at the multiparty negotiations in Kempton Park, Where were your seven point plans, your 5 point strategies, your guarantees for minorities, when you met representatives from the whole country? Where was your bravado, the threats, the rousing speeches, the promises? I was there, it was pathetic to see your arguments and your arrogance ripped from beneath you.
Now we sit with questions, Apartheid is dead, the time for grieving is over. There is reformation and transformation.
A new state is being ordered with snapping fingers. Come come "Boertjie" Move your arse, The servant has ordered his own state. Stand to attention, don't talk back, your days are over. It's your duty to help the new order to arise. You must hand over your skills to the new black elite, that's how you justify your existence.
Who is the you that is being referred to? The addicted? No their nests are feathered, the addicted made a historic about-turn, without missing one goose step as Breyten Breytenbach put it.
The elite of the old order fell over their duck feet to make peace and alliances with the elite of the new order. They visit one another and discuss high, reconciliatory ideas like state affirmation strategies, a new patriotism, paying homage to the new order.
Phil Molefe, the SABC's News boss, tells the human rights commission that transformation in the upper echelons of the management sector has successfully concluded, the problem lies in mid level management where white men are still kicking against transformation.
I am a white man. What is your definition of transformation Mr Molefe? Is it expected of me to transform out of my post? Must I willingly and courteously live out your African dream, because that is the way I was raised? What is it you expect of me? Oh, I may not have an opinion. Thank you Mr Molefe, that's really easy Mr Molefe, because that is how I was raised Dr De Klerk.
Who is the "you" like in "Hey you effing soldiers, Move your arses, the "you" that must now bring the sacrifices to the new South Africa? Is it not those poor bastards that fought the Afrikaner elites doomed war on the border and in the townships that once again has to pay the piper?
A Psychiatrist wrote in a letter to Beeld that a large part of my generation suffers from spiritual weariness. In many cases it takes the symptoms of psychiatric maladies like depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorders. A general reaction of grief, loss and an existential crisis.
The syndrome has to do with a loss of respect for the previous patriarchy. It has to do with predicting one thing and doing another, with truth and lies, with honesty and holier than thou attitudes (skynheilig) amd with communication rather than language.
"Despite all the discussions, we are a nation with rights, fame, achievement and a brave history" This, Dr DeKlerk, is what you wrote on page 99.
It was either Nat Nakasa or Can Themba, I don't remember, that once said, no matter how tightly he closes his eyes, he can't imagine a South Africa without white people, how impossible that would be.
Do you know when I close my eyes and I wish your generation out of Afrikaner history, then I don't see a nation of heroes, but only down to earth, real people with whom I can identify, people built by the conflict of the oppressed, from that old pedophile Jan Pieterzoon van Kaspel ter Mare that landed in the Cape in 1659 and battled lions and the Dutch Officials till he had a prize farm named Louwsvliet where the current Newlands is, to Louis Trichardt that rode to meet his death at Lourenco Marques, A stubborn and hard headed man without vanity, in his diary not one self righteous entry referring to the Bible or even the mysteriousness of God, The never say die General Christiaan de Wet, even Louis Botha and Jan Smuts that were prepared to fight and die for their beliefs.
Do you know how easy it is for me to close my eyes and imagine your whole generation of patriarchal, know it all, race obsessed thugs out of my history.
What is the greatest achievement of your generation, the generation that never smelt blood, never heard whistling bullets and felt the anxiety of battle, just the creators of big ideas and life philosophies? I admit my subjectivity, but didn't you expend all your energies to lead the world and your children by the nose?
Wasn't your greatest achievement the amount of dogmatic horse manure you successfully sold to us as moral fruits?
You have tough and bitter things to say in your tract, words you drop humbly, but why the abstract? Why "us" and "The Afrikaner"; Why not "I"; integrally part of the master race prophecies?
You write "It is absolutely true that the Afrikaner youth in large numbers are suspicious of being Afrikaans. Why? Why not a simple sentence that admits, I, I was personally, energetically and purposefully with the inhuman abberation called Apartheid?
The irony is that, intellectually, I agree with so much you wrote, but it does not dispel the rage. I am the "bliksem in" (totally beyond p*ssed off), raging at the arrogance, the self justification, the rationalisation, the denials and the lies.
If we follow your advice, we can survive, yes. But if we follow your advice now, we will be exactly where we would have been if your generation did not defraud us with apartheid, and what's more we would not be saddled with your guilt.
Like always we are at the feet of the masters. We get slapped on the ears. Because the new generation of know it alls is a generation that has rejected us, along with the patriarchy that we portray. In a single lifetime we have been transformed from shut up, stand to attention and do what the uncle says to middle aged white Afrikaner men that suffer from power loss syndrome. The result is the same "Shut your trap, you have nothing to say!"
Excuse me Corporal, but f*ck you, Excuse me Dr De Klerk. Excuse me, Mr Molefe, Excuse me, Excuse me, my fellow citizens, I have sinned against you. Excuse me, Sonja Loots, your generation are the real children of apartheid, you are still young and innocent, the real victims, I am an old sinner, polluted with gun oil, the sweat of the parade ground, the blood of black children.
Excuse me, I have no moral right to open my trap, I have never had that right, How dare I do it now?
What remains for me? I am too old to be totally innocent, I am too young to be completely involved, I am too innocent to make apologies, I am too guilty to wash my hands.
I am gatvol, completely, to the brim, gatvol of taking orders. First the apartheid's patriarchy, now from the reformed Pontius Pilate patriarchy and the new black elite.
Already the judgemental reigns are being taken over by young white feminists with a sharp eye for a power gap, the new class of oppressed, with the historically disadvantaged, black men, especially black women, the disabled, HIV infected ...
Shut your gob middle aged white Afrikaner man, Attention! listen when I speak, You have f*ck all to say.
I am sorry, I am very sorry, but I have been cheated enough. Now I fight for what is important to me, inside democracy, sure.
But not neccesarily with the prescribed and outspoken and the politically correct and the idiotic masses.
Chris Louw "
I would have said some things differently, I probably would have used harsher language but Chris spoke for me at the time. Looking back we trusted our leaders to ensure that our children would not be victimised for something they had no part in, We went to the gallows willingly, we voted YES and we were discarded like old toilet paper and flushed. Even worse is that our children are being punished for the sins of their fathers and their fathers before them.