This is not a uniquely South African phenomenon or even the propensity of the ANC. The previous Nationalist Government aka “The Apartheid Regime” would without qualms use the British atrocities during the Boer War as a point of argument. The Arabs used it against the Americans when George Bush Junior obligingly used the “inflammatory” word “crusade” to describe the American invasion of Iraq. So why do certain peoples, nations or political parties have a predilection for harping about the past?
Main picture: President places the blame for South Africa’s “challenges” squarely on the first white in South Africa – Jan van Riebeeck
The fact that President Jacob Zuma stirred the racial pot before the ANC’s meeting in the Western Cape by proclaiming that the landing of Van Riebeeck in Cape Town in 1652 was the commencement of South Africa’s problems was both a blatant lie and vicious distortion of the facts was ignored by most commentators. Instead with the proverbial racial hackles raised, the Rainbow Nation bifurcated into racial segments as if cleaved with a meat chopper.
Let us peruse examples of where this type of defence is used as the default position and compare it to those situations where it is not.
From a South African perspective, the most voluble in being pre-occupied with past injustices are our fellow African countries. In this case it is the Colonialist Drum that they beat. It is their contention that if it were not for the dastardly Colonial Powers they would be more developed, more advanced and more industrialised. Not that I ever condoned certain of the practices or exploitation of these peoples and their natural resources but let us compare a number of ex-colonies and their experiences under colonialism.
A vivid example is Vietnam. Like most countries in prior centuries they were colonised. In this case it was by their next door neighbours, the Chinese who are currently colonising Tibet with Hai immigrants. This period of Vietnamese history endured ultimately for a millennium – a full 1 000 years. It was then the turn of the perfidious white men from Europe to have his turn at the trough. In this case it was the bagette eating and wine swilling French who oppressed the minute Vietnamese. This period of colonisation lasted for all of 70 years. After the French ignominious defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the Americans stepped in.
What has been the greatest oppressor of the Vietnamese subsequent to the communists capturing South Vietnam but their very own Communist philosophy? With Vietnam now taking the Chinese route – capitalist economy with Communist political control – Vietnam has already started to prosper again.
What about Africa? Two countries give the lie to the deleterious effects of colonialism: Ethiopia and Liberia. In the case of Ethiopia, it can be said to have never been colonised. Whilst it was true that the independence of Ethiopia was interrupted by the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and Italian occupation, the full period of this occupation amounted to no more than a measly five years being from 1936 to 1941. What is Ethiopia’s response to its lamentable economic and social progress subsequent to 1941?
Don’t guess as it is too obvious.
Colonialism of course.
What about Liberia? The fact that they have never been colonised has never been a deterrent to the use of the Colonialism Card.
Did I forget to mention Hong Kong?
Africans can rightly use the name of the King of Belgium Leopold and his own personal colony commonly known as the Congo. Whilst not denying their iniquitous treatment of the local black population is it not time now to focus on the future and not to wallow in sorry about the past.
Their motto should be progress but do not forget the past
That brings me back to those pesky Muslims in the Middle East who had the temerity to use George Bush’s innocent use of the word “crusade” as being indicative of American intentions to suppress Islamic culture.
At the crux of all these societies, nations and religions lie a stagnant pool of negativism, despondency and self pity. Instead of treading the path of economic salvation by focusing externally and embracing the modern and the new, they wallow in their inability to progress secretly jealous of the other people’s success.
Their haven, their fortress, their comfort blanket is the past and all the wrongs that were wrought on them even millennia ago.
Instead of an enabling environment both economically and socially, they focus inwardly, thereby stagnating and fossilising. The Raj Permit era in India was a prime exemplar of this brake on progress. In an attempt to control the whole economy, after independence a vast array of permits was introduced requiring all manner of unproductive and unrequired bureaucratic hoops to be jumped. Its effect can be best viewed in the motor industry where until very recently the total car production in India amounted to 10 000 cars per annum of an old 1950’s designed Austin motor vehicle.
Imagine instead if the Indian Government had adopted an expansive economic policy which had resulted in 2 000 000 cars being produced per annum. What would the economic impact have been?
The philosophy of victimhood buttressed by a sense of entitlement will never solve their problems. Just like in South Africa where the predominant underlying policy is one of redistribution rather than one of growing the pie. Four million people can never possibly distribute sufficient to cater for the needs of 45 million!
What I found very pertinent was this comment by an unknown author on Zuma’s besmirching of Van Riebeeck.
A Brit’s response on President Jacob Zuma’s statement some weeks ago that all the problems in South Africa started with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652….
I know, I know… We had the same problems in England, you know…
First we had the Picts and the Scots. And then came the Romans who stuck around for about four centuries. Then we had the Angles and the Saxons and all those other Germanic tribes. Oh ho! Then came the Danes and their Viking mates, a nauseating bunch of horny helmeted rapists and looters they were.
Nevertheless, the Danes were eventually displaced by the Normans, who turned out to be Frenchmen in disguise – but we were a bit slow to recognise the fact until it was too late; anyway, they were led by the Duke of Normandy, who was a real bastard, and who gave our wimpy king a right one in the eye. (The bloody French are still hanging around with their cheese and their bread and their wine and their accordion music and their fancy restaurants, seducing our people away from our culture of slap chips with custard.)
And then, and then, came the Dutch when King William and Queen Mary of Orange popped over and started causing nonsense with the Irish at the Battle of the Boyne. The Irish have never completely forgiven us, so they came over and settled all our building sites.
Then the Germans came back again, surreptitiously, and occupied the top of the Mall in Buckingham Palace… And where are we now…?
Now we have Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, Caribbeans, Syrians, the Oz, Italians, Americans, Canadians, Poles, Portuguese, Saudis , Kuwaitis, Moroccans, Egyptians, Iranians, Palestinians, Israeli Jews, Ethiopians, Somalis, Nigerians, Rhodesians, Scots (to run the government)… and (whoa!) South Africans… It has been going on for two thousand years.
It’s an outrage…
And yet, and yet… All of these people (well most!) have contributed to make England and the English a great and democratic nation.
And yet, I have never felt the slightest inclination to bomb Rome, to shatter the Pyramids, to close a Pakistani restaurant, to nuke the Ka’aba in Mecca, to blow up a bus in Jerusalem, to chop off the head of a Nigerian etc. (And even if I have, I have controlled myself from saying so.) I have few words for Mr Zuma and his depraved ANC: Grow up or piss off. You stand in the way of civilisation.
Perhaps too tongue-in-cheek but that is my preferred humour – rather understated British than brash American – but the point is clearly made.