Friday 13 December 2013

The Wrong Side Of History?

Which Side Were You On? The Prime Minister's decision not to include a representative of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the New Zealand delegation to Nelson Mandela's memorial service in Johannesburg revealed how very close to the surface the memories and passions of the 1981 Springbok Tour still lie. The words and gestures of the racists may have moved in a progressive direction, but their hearts and minds have not followed. (Photo and superimposed text by John Miller)
DO PEOPLE REALLY CHANGE?  Do political parties? It’s a question that many people have been asking this past week.
Well, I say “people”, but the one’s I’m actually thinking of are those who are old enough to remember the days when Apartheid was a living system, and Nelson Mandela’s jailers still called him “Prisoner 46664”.
We were all 32 years younger back in 1981 – most of us just kids in our late teens and early twenties – but that didn’t mean we couldn’t tell the difference between right and wrong.
Because, seriously, how difficult was it to identify South Africa’s racially segregated society as a vicious affront to human dignity? After 1976 and the wanton killing of hundreds of protesting high-school kids in Soweto, you didn’t need to be a moral philosopher to know that Apartheid was wrong.
And yet, there were hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders (and millions more around the world) who just couldn’t or wouldn’t make that judgement. When they saw the images of black school-children doubled over by 12-guage shotgun shells, their sympathies were with the man holding the shotgun. They had no problem imagining themselves into these horrific scenes but, invariably, it was alongside the white slayers – never with the black slain.
They hated us – the opponents of Apartheid – with an intensity that was frightening to behold. We just wouldn’t stop telling them that they were wrong to back a tour by Apartheid’s most effective sporting ambassadors; kept on insisting that only bad people could possibly defend such a self-evidently evil political system.
It made them furious.
Because they couldn’t admit that what they were doing was wrong: their indefatigable racism simply wouldn’t let them. White was right, and anyone who said different was a treacherous commie stirrer. And they weren’t the only ones saying so: the National Party Government said exactly the same thing. The Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon himself, had accused Hart and Care of actions “bordering on treason”.
And the New Zealand prime minister wasn’t alone. When the US Congress passed the Anti-Apartheid Act, mandating economic sanctions against the South African regime, the Republican President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, vetoed it. As late as 1987 the UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was still telling the House of Commons: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation ... Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”
Her Conservative Party colleagues were blunter: “How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist? asked Terry Dicks. “Nelson Mandela should be shot.” declared Teddy Taylor.
Seven years later Nelson Mandela and the ANC were running the South African government.
The racists and the haters had backed the wrong horse. History was spitting in their faces. Reluctantly, and seething internally, they found themselves nodding and smiling as the world celebrated the end of Apartheid. How sorry they were, the smarter ones confessed, that they hadn’t seen it earlier, because, clearly, Nelson Mandela is the Black Messiah: Jesus with a Xhosa accent.
And Mandela, bless him, forgave them their trespasses. He simply declined to notice that his former persecutors (and the multitude who had apologised for their crimes) still had blood on their hands. And when the White World finally acknowledged Black South Africans’ formal political equality it was only after the saintly “Madiba” had conceded his people’s continuing economic servitude.
How confusing it must be for the racists and haters: how complex and mutable the language and mechanisms of oppression. The man who was once branded a terrorist is now hailed as a statesman. Segregation, once as blatant as “Blankes”, “Nie Blankes”, is now achieved by the promise that black and white, alike, are free to live wherever they can afford the deposit.
But the racists’ visceral hatred of the ones who called Apartheid and its supporters by their true names has not diminished. The same Prime Minister who professes no memory of his opinion of the 1981 Tour has somehow remembered enough of his National Party contemporaries’ hatred of John Minto to deny the anti-Apartheid leader a place in the delegation to Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg.

"Where black is the colour, and none is the number" - Bob Dylan
But, perhaps, John Key’s instincts are correct. Where black remains the colour, and their number is still zero.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 13 December 2013.


Frank said...

For those apologists of apartheid - who are not much different to those who blame the poor for being poor and those on welfare for being on welfare - to accept the realities of racism means having to confront and do something about it.

That's where racism, bigotry, bene-bashing, etc, is more preferable. It means having to do nothing. Just parrot a few rightwing cliches. No further effort required. Sorted.

Skippers said...

From what I clearly remember of the Tour debate, the argument in New Zealand was generally along the lines of "Sport and politics are completely separate, rugby has nothing to do with apartheid and the problems in South Africa."
In other words, don't get between me and my rugby.
A selfish, narrow, sport- obsessed view rather than a racist position.

Anonymous said...

Those who actually fought against the evil and helped to end it aren't allowed to go to Mandela's funeral, whilst members of the pro-tour government are, and no-one in a position of power bats an eyelid.

It's a good lesson in politics.

Gerrit said...

Anon @22.52

Who said Minto was not allowed to go to Nelson Mandala's funeral?

If he has a valid passport (and there is no suggestion he does not) he can as easily hop onto a plane to South Africa as you and I.

Now if the South African government considered him worthy enough they would have found a spot for him in the entourage alongside Obama.

Kat said...

Lets face it, from one election to another a minimum of approximately one million New Zealanders who can vote support right wing politics.

Voting is where it is at.

If you don't like Key VOTE him gone!

Davo Stevens said...

@Kat; voting only works when there is a choice between two diametric opposites. For the last 30yrs or so we have had Tweedledum and Tweedledee, both rightwing.

NZ desperately needs a true leftwing party to balance out the politics and give people a real choice. Will Cunliffe fill that gap? I reserve my judgment on that one.

There is little point in "Voting Key Out" if we are going to get a Key clone.

atihana said...

The PM was obviously on the wrong side of history and the other Hone (Harawira) was. So were those who thought politics and sport shouldn't mix because it was about apartheid which was a racist system that even chose our teams on the basis of race for a long time. You won't see pro-SA rugby tours supporters admitting they were wrong and like the PM they are more likely to suffer the John Key illness; amnesia.

jh said...

Claiming victory against racism in South Africa is one thing but the fight seems to be going on on to destroy white dominance in so called (migration) "destination countries":

It is further assumed in this research programme that talk and text about minorities, immigrants, refugees or, more generally, about people of colour or Third World peoples and nations, also have broader societal, political and cultural functions. Besides positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation, such discourse signals group membership, white in group allegiances and, more generally, the various conditions for the reproduction of the white group and their dominance in virtually all social, political and cultural domains.

VAN DIJK: Discourse and denial of racism [Cited by Professor Spoonley.

Whites (apparently) brought imperialism and the capitalist system on otherwise nicely cooperative nations and ethnic groupings.

Margaret Mutu cites Professor Spoonley in a similar vien:

A dominant group not only holds negative beliefs about other groups but, because of the power to control resources, is able to practice those beliefs in a discriminatory way ... This ideological concept structures social and political relationships and derives from a history of European colonialism. The idea of ‘race’ has evolved from its use in scientific explanation (now discredited) and as a justification in the oppression of
colonised, non European people

There is oodles of evidence that racism is innate in *humans* - a notion at odds with the above paradigm, yet racism is the weapon used to attack those opposed to immigration from anywhere and everywhere.

So called "destination countries" just happen to still have things like a nice environment and low population, yet they have already developed and have reached diminishing returns.

Professor Spoonley refers to Christchurch thus:

One thing he is clear about is that the demographic changes set to occur in Christchurch could transform the city infamous for its white supremacist National Front movement. While Christchurch does have small ethnic enclaves, hosting lantern festivals for Chinese New Year and Diwali festivals for the Indian community, the scale of the anticipated migrant influx is unparalleled in its history.

Professor Kenneth Cumberland Landmarks:

Bold young men drove sheep on to the vast grazing runs to found pastoral empires and land owning dynasties. Out of the wealth from the squatters’ wool clips, and from wheat when the tussock was ploughed, grew a city of scholarship, grace and dignity”

jh said...

Thinking about the Balkins the left didn't achieve too much; a free market would have achieved a less explosive mix by allowing economic relationships and mutual dependence (think Barrfoot and Thompson).
A human economy is just another ecosystem where resources are utilised. If you have too many people and not enough resources people start hurting and then they divide along convenient lines (racial/tribal).
How will SA play out?

Anonymous said...

Yes I concur with Skippers. Pro-tour people were seldom motivated by racism. I was mildy anti-tour - by that I mean I joined a couple of anti-tour marches, and was very much against the concept of racism, but as a geeky 20 year old I didn't actually know much about South Africa or apartheid, and I was very uncertain about the significance of the rugby tour. And unfortunately, arrogance and lust for conflict were apparent on both sides.
Looking deeper, one contributor to the conflict was the FPP electoral system. National gained fewer votes than Labour in 78 and Social Credit polled 16% and got only one seat. The voters were thwarted. They were not not behind Muldoon or his policies, which created an underlying tension that energised the anti-tour movement.

jh said...

In terms of resource monopoly, economic slavery and potential for death, European civilisation is more barbaric, savage and destructive than any other since the beginning of time. . . and at this time I wish to recognise the Soviet people for hosting this conference . . . Our fight for a better world will only be won . . . when the white man comes hom”

If Hone Harawira is on the right side of History it is only good luck.