Last updated on Jan 25th, 2021 at 11:52 am
(Article by The Wanderer, first published on PoliticsWeb.co.za)
‘The Wanderer’ writes on the uncertain condition of white South African expats abroad
Where are you from? How long have you been here? When are you going back home?
These are the questions expats ask one another in the several Persian Gulf countries that play host to millions of people from more than 200 nationalities, who have all left home in search of better economic opportunities.
As a white South African, an answer to the third question is never as simple as it is for those from almost any other background.
Do we have a “home” to go back to?
None of the Brits has to ask themselves that. Some may get a bit overly emotional about how Brexit has destroyed their country, but they know it’s all hyperbole, and they will have a functioning, welcoming country to return to when they decide that they’ve had enough of the air-conditioned desert. For some, that may take a very long time indeed: I’ve met quite a few British expats who never stop moaning about life here, but who after 19 years away from home have no intention of going back anytime soon. Life is just too good.
Yes, the Brits, the Americans, the Canadians, the Filipinos, all have somewhere to go back to, somewhere they belong, somewhere they are, if not ‘wanted’, then at least not considered an undesirable presence, a reminder to those now in power of past defeat, perceived inadequacies and trauma.
The same is true for the labourers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who may not always have the most prosperous or stable nation to return to, but who nevertheless are not in any doubt about where they belong. It doesn’t hurt that they’ll be returning home richer than anyone else in a 10-kilometre radius.
None of this is true for white South Africans
Whenever we get homesick or naive enough to think that we have a home to go back to, we just read what’s being published in the mainstream media there. There you will find nothing short of demonisation, with excuses for and incitement to commit violence, whether they come in the form of direct calls to plunder and assault, or are couched in the pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook of the leftist academics (‘Heard what Fanon said about this or that lately?’).
A white person, senior university officials write in national newspapers, should never be allowed to ever again hold any office with meaningful political power in South Africa.
Imagine this being written about any other ethnic group in any other country?
Afrikaner folk religion always identified strongly with the ancient Israelites; the New Testament was of course important, because this was Christianity, after all. But it was with the tales of the Old Testament, with an exodus to a promised land, battles against hostile tribes and covenants with a God who brings victory in battle against insurmountable odds, that the Afrikaner felt a true connection.
How ironic, or perhaps fitting, that the experience of many white South Africans today is beginning to reflect that of another period of Jewish history, that of the exile following the destruction of the Second Temple.
Like medieval Jews, we are all held collectively responsible for something our ancestors supposedly did, and this guilt is eternal, inexpiable and a valid reason to discriminate against us.
Those who now rule our homeland deny that we have any right or claim to live there
Other countries will let us in if we bring with us skills that will benefit the country at large, but forget about getting in on any humanitarian grounds; open borders are only open if you’re an economic migrant from certain designated groups. They are definitely not open to those marked with the Sin of Apartheid.
So when I’m asked when I’m going back home, what am I meant to say? The truth is that I have no home. The country I was born in, in which my ancestors lived for almost 400 years, does not want me. I am legally discriminated against in the job market. I am demonised and incited against by political leaders and the media. I would have to be an idiot to go back.
At the same time, I can’t stay where I am forever
I am a guest here, a welcome one, but a guest nevertheless. When I am no longer welcome, when my usefulness has run its course, where will I go? Europe has washed its hands of the people it sent to its former colonies in Africa and Asia.
“This is your problem now,” they say. “We’re too busy helping migrants, some of whom express a sincere desire to destroy our civilisation. Stay there and pay for the crimes we had you commit.”
Exiled Jews at least always had hope to hold onto: “Next year in Jerusalem”. We don’t even have that; there is no “Next year in Johannesburg”, no hope that a divine hand will one day guide is back to where we belong.
This isn’t the answer people are looking for when they ask us when we’re going back home. It’s too depressing for the sort of light conversation in which it is usually ask. Those who get the longer answer often find it impossible to grasp, impossible to relate.
“At least we don’t have pogroms yet,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “But not for lack of trying.”