And now we talk about Old White Men. That list of names looks and smells entirely masculine and suspiciously Caucasoid. I’ll bet, too, that they average lots of candles on their birthday cakes. Which makes 11 innocent persons - united solely in having responded to an article about streets and spelling - collectively problematic.
Old White Males are well recognised, now, as one of nature’s mistakes; up there with mosquitoes and khakibos. To receive a commendation from a whole bunch of them, unleavened by even a single approved complexion or gender, is very taboo. A decent person should be mortified, no?
That struck me as I typed those names, en route to a follow-up on street names. So we detour momentarily to register an answer: No! Count me out of the race farce, please. No mythology sinks lower than the idea that non-racialism (clunky term meaning nothing more than being civilised) means switching labels, hanging old stigmas on new shoulders.
Progress is not swopping one backwardness for the opposite backwardness. It’s moving beyond primitive habits like worrying about colour to higher habits like recognising humanness. It travels toward the time that no-one is thwarted by their birth, their skin, the shape of their genitalia; you’re respected for who you are.
We’re getting there, despite running interference from the new antiracist racists. We’re getting there because people who don’t read racism sermons or tweets or lectures do what’s natural. They behave decently towards one another, unless inadequate politics messes them up.
Seffrica’s 20th-century inadequate politics messed us well up, making some people look down on other people. Our 21st-century inadequate politics is a notch improved, seldom disturbing day-to-day relationships.
Consider your standard exchange at the workplace, or at the greengrocer or the ticket counter or the licensing queue. It’s not an okay exchange. It’s an excellent exchange. Person-to-person we are more whole than where everybody is brought up with the same heroes, singing the same lullabies in the same language.
But there is this insidious creeping thing - not a real-people thing but in seminars and editorials and suchlike - making harmless individuals feel like villains for being old or white or male, let alone committing all three heinous sins together.
On a project, a hobby, a sport, when your pale male looks around and sees pale males (and grey pates) he doesn’t think “Ah, nice; people sharing a common interest”. He growls, inwardly: “You lot are embarrassing! Why aren’t some of you black, or women, or at least young!?”
People get paranoid. They suppress their energies, suppress their talents, curl up and skulk behind. Which is treason in the real meaning, blunting your contribution, blunting the economy, blighting the unborn.
It’s great that nowadays we rejoice in wholeness. I’m delighted when the Stoep inspires Amos Buthelezi to show me Frederic Place, Sibiya to introduce Alex’s swimming pool, Mthutuzeli the Rand Girls sports field. They broaden my world. Open-mindedness is a fine human trait, right behind open-heartedness. But if opening up to what had felt foreign means closing out your cousin stop and recalculate.
You can duck behind “that’s what our government wants”, but (a) that’s only half right, they’re lost racists rather than determined racists, and (b) their blundering doesn’t mean that you must blunder. Look how people now brag of (truly or imaginarily) defying the last racist government. We’ll swing into a second round of that in a decade or so.
Hm, sorry about Joburg Streets Part Two. Musumbuluwo Maandag Mvulo we’ll try again.