Thursday, November 02, 2006

P.W. Botha (1916-2006)

P.W. Botha claimed, in 1998, in a statement to the press after his appearance before a court on charges of ignoring a subpoena to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that these were "attempts to humiliate me and, through me, my people".

P.W. Botha evidently saw himself to be quintessiantially representative of the mainstream white South African.

But who is the white South African ?

The white South African, unlike his Teutonic counterpart from an earlier era in which claims to Master Race status were more easily entertained, is an entirely different kettle of cultural fish.

First of all, white South African society is one which has largely been untouched by the Enlightenment. That may be seen as a good thing in many ways and in many quarters. But, it also means the white South African has been untouched by the reality check features of some Enlightenment concepts like "Utilitarianism".

Second, the white South African appears ('appears' being very much the operative word here) to be the carrier of those traits to which his Teutonic counterparts of an earlier era may justly have laid claim -- of being at the cutting edge of Western or European civilisation.

As is so often the case, the reality can be very different from the perception for the white South African, after a 350 year existence in the Cape, has definitely "gone native".

He has been able to maintain a perception of cultural progressivity, of cutting edge civilisation and of material productivity only through the luxury of having at his own disposal a slave nation of black South Africans 5 times greater than his own population.

The white South African is stubborn.

It took the Berlin Olympic Games and World World II before world public opinion finally denounced eugenics and master race philosophies.

While happily the penny did finally drop, in the case of Mr.P.W. Botha and his apartheid regime, it was not to be for another 60 years and in a very very grudging manner as Mr.Botha's own personal and political record shows.

(Events in this world have a nasty habit of overtaking the dearth of wisdom found in it's rulers).

How do you greet the stubborn, behind-the-times white South African?

Perhaps with some pity and, if able, perhaps with some charity as well for Thabo Mbeki who lost a brother and a son to Botha's secret police said the following of him in a statement soon after Botha's sudden passing :

"It stands to his credit that when he realized the futility of fighting against what was right and inevitable, he, in his own way, realized that South Africans had no alternative but to reach out to one another".

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