‘n Man sonder ‘n vlag is ‘n man sonder ‘n vlag
- a Cape Flats proverb
There is a theory that language is nothing more than a complex form of territorial marking. Under this integral schema, markings precede language, as the tracks and traces of animals, and then of man, who adapted the logic of the markings of things to his auditory and speech systems. In this manner then, writing precedes speech, and all language takes on the same properties and functions as territorial markings. Each concept demarcates the world, and each symbol, each word, each auditory mark, becomes a symbol demarcating territory, declaring property, declaring membership or exclusion, of some set, of some group, of some master.
The initiate into a culture begins by learning its language, just as the initiate into a cult or religion must learn their specialised arcane vocabulary. By speaking a certain way, you mark yourself as a member of group, just as much as you do by clothing. These things, these signs, do more than simply segregate and differentiate, unite and dominate, they transform. By means of one set of words and signs, the limits of expression are established. What can be said with one set of words cannot so easily said otherwise, or may not me expressible at all.
The discipline of these ritualistic transformations of the world make us what we are and construct the enormous edifices of power and authority by which the world since time immemorial has been governed, and will be governed down the mystic trails winding into the jungles of the future. Without them we would be reduced to the barking of dogs, the chatter of monkeys. And without our own languages to wield, we are the property of those who hold mastery over the language we speak, those who craft the tools we have deigned to use, whether we are conscious of it or not.
The flags we fly, the brands on our goods, the symbols we punch into our tattoos and spray onto the walls, and the shape of our ideologies, mark our soil, our food, our skin, our edifices, our tongues, our minds, as the property of the maker of those marks, subsume and transform them in spirit into the subjects of the sign under which they are united. In initiation, the initiate is daubed with some mark, an unguent, or the blood of a kill. They are made to perform some humiliating, painful, or difficult task. When they are done, they are welcomed as full members - finally belonging fully under the same sign as the whole tribe, by the same marker.
Here follows pages 108-111 of the 1778 publication, “Nieuwste en beknopte beschryving van de Kaap der Goede-Hope” by Carel Frederik Brink (translated into English below, emphasis is in the original):
Dus kortelyk iets van het zedelyk bestaan der Hottentotten gezegd hebbende, zal het niet ongepast zyn, ook eenige van hunne gebruiken en plegtigheiden te melden. Onder veele anderen, die wy niet alle zullen bybrengen, en om de vertellingen van Kolbe niet na te schryven, en de beknoptheid die wy ons voorgenomen hebben, in het oog te houden, is er eene die ons vreed voorkomt, en by hen van geen gering belang is; ik meen de plegtigheid waar mede zy eenen Jongeling tot eenen man maaken, dat is te zeggen, hem van onder het gezag zyner Moeder onttrekken, en in het gezelschap en den omgang der mannen aanneemen. Deeze plegtigheid noemen zy anders maaken, en dat is ook de algemeene naam van hunne andere Feesten; zy heft veel overeenkomst met die, by welkezy de jongelingen half ontmannen, waar van wy hier voor gesproken hebben. De Kinderen der Hottentotten, zoo wel jongens als meisjes, zyn van hunne geboorte af geheel onder het opzigt en bestier der moeders, en mogen nooit in het gezelschap van volwassen mannen, zelfs niet in dat van hunne vader koomen, zo lang zy niet ander gemaakt, en op eene plegtige wyze in den rang der mannen aangenomen zyn; het welk doorgaands op den ouderdom van agttien jaaren geschiedt, en voor dien tyd mogen zy niet trouwen.
Thus having spoken briefly about the moral constitution of the Hottentots, it will not be inappropriate to report some of their customs and rituals as well. Among many others which we will convey here, in order to avoid writing down all of [their native guide] Kolbe's tales, and to keep an eye on our intended brevity, yet there is one that seems most agreeable to us, though none of them is of minor importance; I mean the custom with which they make a boy into a man, that is to say, withdraw him from under the authority of his Mother, and accept him in the company and association of men. This custom they call a transformation, which is also a general name of their other Ceremonies; it has much in common with that by which the boys receive the half-castration we have spoken of. The Children of the Hottentots, both boys and girls, have been entirely under the supervision and direction of the mothers from birth, and are never allowed to enter the company of grown men, not even that of their father, so long as they are not transformed and accepted through ritual into the rank of men; which usually takes place at the age of eighteen years, and before which time they are not allowed to marry.
Om deeze plegtigheid aan eenen jongeling te verrichten, vergaderen alle de mannen van eene Kraal, en gaan in een ronden kring op den grond zitten; de jongeling, die man gemaakt moet worden, blyft op eenigen afstand buiten den kring, en moet daar op zyne hurken gaan zitten. De vergadering dus in ‘t rondje zittende, reist ‘er een van hun, die de oudste, of Kapitein van de Kraal is, op en vraagt aan de anderen of zy goed vinden, dat de jongeling, die voorgesteld wordt, in hun gezelschap en den rang der mannen zal aangenomen worden; en het antwoord is altoos ja. Dan komt de Grysaart, die de plegtigheid verrichten zal, uit den kring, gaat by den jongeling, en doet hem eene vermaaning, die in ‘t wezendlyke opdeezen zin uitkomt:
To perform this ritual on a young man, all the men of a Kraal gather together, and sit on the ground in a circle; the young man who is to be made man remains some distance out of the circle, and has to squat there on his haunches. The assembly thus seated, one of them, who is the eldest, or the Captain of the Kraal, rises and asks the others if they assent to the young man being introduced to their company and the rank of men; and the answer is invariably yes. Then the Elder, who is to perform the ceremony, comes out of the circle, goes to the young man, and delivers to him a lecture, which carries the following essential meaning:
“De mannen hebben u waardig geoordeeld, om u tot hun gezelschap toe te laaten; het is derhalven billyk dat gy van uwe Moeder, die u opgevoed heft, en van uwe kindsche speelen en tydverdryven afscheid neemt; en zoo het ooit mogt gebeuren, dat gy weder al seen kind beschouwd, en uit het gezelschap der mannen gebannen worden, tot dat gy op nieuw met dezelfde plegtigheid weder tot hen wordt toegelaaten. Alle uwe woorden, daaden en gedachten moeten voortaan naar die an een volwassen man gelyken; gy moet vol moeds zyn, en in u moet zich niets vertoonen, dat naar uwe moeder gelykt, of naar vrouwelyke zwakheid zweemt.”
“The men have judged you worthy to be admitted into their company; it is therefore appropriate that you take leave of your Mother who raised you, and of your childhood games and pastimes; and if it ever happens that you are again regarded as a child, you will be banned from the company of men, until you are admitted to them again by this same ritual. All your words, actions and thoughts must henceforth be like those of a grown man; you must be courageous, and show nothing in you that resembles your mother, or that resembles feminine weakness.”
Deeze vermaaning spreekt de redenaar met veele beweegingen en sterke gebaarden uit, om ze den jongeling ter degen in te prenten. Het is wel to gelooven, dat deeze Redevoering met eene groote deftigheid wordt uitgesproken; dewyl men daar in de denkbeelden vindt, niet van eenen Hottentot, maar van eenen Cato of Cicero, die zynen kleinzoon of neef den mannelyken tabberd (toga virilis) aandoet.
This lecture is given by the orator with much animation and drama, in order to impress its lesson upon the young man. It is to be believed that this Speech is spoken with great dignity; such that one finds in these images, not just a Hottentot, but a Cato or Cicero, who vests his grandson or nephew with the manly tabard (toga virilis).
Wanner de redevoering nu geëindigd is, bepist de Grysaart hem zoo rykelyk als hy kan over zyn gehhele lichaam; de jongeling, die te vooren braaf met schaapen vet besmeerd is, gelyk by de plegtigheid van half ontmannen ook geschiedt en boven verhaald is, bestrykt zyn lichaam overal met de pis, maakt met zyne nagels vooren in de vetkorst, op dat ‘er de pis in doordringe, en sluit ze daar na weder toe. De Grysaart uitgepist hebbende, wenscht hem geluk met woorden van deeze beteekenis: “Het geluk verzelle u! leef lang! en word teen vermeerderaar van uw geslacht! Uw baard koome spoedig uit!” En daar na wordt de jongeling al seen volwassen man uitgeroepen.
Once the speech is ended, the Elder pisses on him as richly as he can over his whole body; the young man, who has already been obediently smeared with sheep's fat, as is done in the half-castration ritual as recounted above, smears over his whole body with the urine, making furrows with his nails in the layer of fat, so that the urine penetrates to the skin, and seals itself in. The Elder, being all pissed out, congratulates him with words of this meaning: “Fortune befits you! live long! and become a multiplier of your lineage! May your beard spring rapidly forth!” And after that, the youth is proclaimed a grown man.
Men besluit de plegtigheid eidelyk met een gastmaal; waar by men het gantsche gezelschap onthaalt op een schaap, ten deele gezooden en ten deele gebraaden, door de ouders van den jongeling toebereid. Doch de man gemaakte jongeling heeft aanstonds nog geene Vryheid om mede aan te zitten, en in en kring mede met de mannen toe te tasten; alleenlyk mag hy, voor die reis, op het einde van den maaltyd van hetoverschot eeten en met de mannen drinken; en van dit oogenblik af mag hy altoos met de mannen omgaan en met hun ‘t zy in ‘t byzonder met den vader, het zy in ‘t openbaar op de Feesten, eaten en drinken. Wanneer hy ooit wedermet de vrouwen, al was het zyne eige moeder, of zusters eet of drinkt, of op eenige wyze aan hare gastmaalen deel neemt; vervalt hy weder van zyn verkreegen voorrecht, wordt van allen uitgejouwd en gescholden voor een kutsier, dat is in hunne taal, een bloodaart, en lafbek, verwyfde; en hier van wordt hy niet bevryd, ten zy dat hy van nieuws op de voorsz. wyze anders gemaakt, en dus in zyne eer hersteld worde.
The ceremony is concluded with a feast; wherein the whole company presents a sheep, partly stewed and partly roasted, prepared by the parents of the young man. Though the young male initiate still has no freedom to sit down with, and to meet with the men in circle; he may only, before that journey, eat the surplus at the end of the meal and drink with the men; yet from this moment on he may associate with the men, especially with his father, at all times, and eat and drink with them in public at the Feasts. If he ever were to eat or drink with the women, be it his own mother, or sisters, or partake of their meals in any way; he would lapse again from his acquired privilege, and be decried and reviled by all for a kutsier, that is, in their language, a faint-heart, a coward, an effete; and cannot be freed from this reputation, unless he renews his transformation in the aforementioned manner, and thus be restored to his honour.
Initiations, across cultures, always involves some form of humiliation, followed by a grandiose gesture of acceptance. Within any culture, these rituals are universal. We can see them in the old boarding schools, in the old universities. But rapidly these forms as they exist in modern South Africa (and indeed elsewhere in the West) are being replaced (along with many other functions of the education system) by a bureaucratic, caste-based initiation system by which one group is humiliated, another elevated, and those in the middle get to enjoy vicarious spite, but no real gain. The transformation is not redemptive, but eternally judgmental.
For those of us who have been paying attention, the level of discussion surrounding the use of the Afrikaans language at Stellenbosch is infuriating, disgusting, and disappointing. The source of outrage is simple enough to understand. The student leaders, as a measure adopted during orientation week, have banned the speaking of Afrikaans even among private conversations among Afrikaans students and their own visiting family members, even when no others are present. The media responses have been nauseating and transparent. Denial and faked outrage, combined with an insinuation that, really, would it be so bad to do away with Afrikaans anyway?
This discriminatory behaviour, which the student leaders perversely justified in the name of the official ideological framework of “inclusion”, follows a long and concerted effort by many elites across institutions, to erase Afrikaans, not just from Stellenbosch, but from every institute of higher education. Classes were once in Afrikaans. Then, they were given an English option. Then equal status, then English first, now Afrikaans is being removed to produce a single-medium university, where Afrikaans is being given third place beneath Xhosa, a language spoken by fewer of the province’s inhabitants. And it took only seven years.
The responses in the media have ranged in many different directions. Afrikaners, in an attempt to rally support, have appealed to the victimhood narratives which define the legitimating logic of modern political discourse. Instead of claiming ownership of the institution they built and demanding the respect that is their due, they beg for mercy from human rights institutions which have repeatedly told them they have no rights. They attempt to rally their comrades by calling to the memory of past wounds and humiliations - the ground-glass meals of the concentration camps, and the dunce-caps of the English classrooms.
Liberal Anglos have predictably looked down their noses at their co-racial subalterns and scorned the very notion that being unconditionally prohibited from speaking one’s native language is even an inconvenience worth complaining about. South African Black leftists, by now accustomed to a reality where nothing they say is ever too extreme or evil to receive criticism or judgment, have nothing remotely productive to contribute, having not felt the need to moderate their racial hatred for many years now, not one of their kind having stood up to say that Panyaza Lesufi went too far by calling the use of Afrikaans in education an intolerable and inherently racist state of affairs.
There is one group who deserves serious attention, and that is the indigenous peoples of the Cape. Some students have been unmoved by the changes, some have encouraged them, and others have lamented them. But their leaders in positions of authority have demonstrated weakness, resentment, cowardice and poverty of imagination. Brown Afrikaans speakers, who resent the fact that the dialect of the white Afrikaners has been the prestige dialect, and still suffer from the unfulfilled desire for justice (or vengeance, depending who we’re talking about) have very much a right to complain. After all, there is the question of dignity, and while it may irritate some of my more reactionary readers to say so, inclusion is, as far as the building of a Cape commonwealth is concerned, important.
But Coloureds, bruin Afrikaners, Kaaps speakers, however they wish to mark themselves, whether they know it or not, are now the ones who hold it in their power to include or exclude. And they appear not to have apprehended their new power. Nor do they appear even remotely aware of what they could be capable of if they were to grasp the opportunity properly. Instead of demanding the primacy of Afrikaans in the Cape, and transforming it into a more representative Kaaps, while preserving the academic heights Afrikaans has scaled, several Coloured academics have chosen to ally with those who are depriving their language of a seat at the table of high intellectual and cultural production.
This is short sighted. While the English speaking world is molested by the algorithmic steering of American intelligence-controlled social media, the mass cultural production of the politically correct entertainment complex, the oceans of dismal catechisms emanating from the sterile corridors of the wilted Ivy League, torn apart by festivals of symbolic book-burnings and convulsions of internecine outrage and hatred, Europeans, with their own lettered and intellectual traditions, have insulated themselves and pursued a modicum of sanity.
But those Coloureds (as unfortunate as this haphazard imperial designation may be), who have been steeped in the parasitic ideology of our modern universities, have rejected the opportunity - to take charge of a civilisation they can call their own, and steer it, out of earshot of the sinister whispers of American hegemony, into whatever future the chose, and mark out their own territory in a language they birthed themselves.
In the name of Steve Biko, many prominent university-educated Coloureds insist on calling themselves Black. But as the tale of Glen Snyman shows, the black supremacist regime which we currently live under has no interest in recognising Coloureds as equals. They are seen as treacherous, and as the bastard offspring of an alien race. As the Morogoro conference of 1968 declared, no Coloured, White or Indian could be part of leadership, because only black Africans had truly suffered. Biko thought only blacks were truly African, and only Africans were fully human. The attitude of the ANC, expresed in their BEE programme, now demonstrates that these ideas have maintained their shape.
And they are deep rooted. The Xhosa nation has long been dominated by the Tshawe, now seen as a royal caste, but originally a single tribe that dominated all others. Their blood became holy, and only they were deemed fit rulers, not unlike the Tutsi of Rwanda. The notion of unity or ubuntu, always comes with a notion of a first-among-equals, and a less-than-human designation for outsiders - the use of the noun classes reserved for animals and inanimate objects. And just as “goodneighbourliness” flimsily attempted to mask apartheid, we now have to watch as Biko blackness and intersectionality impose a caste system of their own.
The Xhosa even got their clicks through this culture of domination. Raiding and bride kidnapping, called ukuthwalwa, blended with the complex taboos of ukuhlonipha, which once upon a time forbade wives from uttering the syllables of their in-laws’ names, forced them to substitute in the alien phonemes of their mother tongues, or use euphemisms, to avoid punishment. The enslavement of the batwa, a derogatory word used by all Bantu to refer to the races they conquered before European settlement, including the pygmies of the Congo, is inscribed in the languages their descendants speak, just as the descendants of the Cape slaves and the Khoe to the west are marked with a Dutch creole.
Like the Coloured families who felt proximity to the old regime for their comparative benefits, affirming white dominance through a “white is alright” attitude, those who lack the spiritual fortitude to be truly proud of who they are have turned to Biko blackness because their resentment of whites outshines their fear of erasure and discrimination. They will ground their ethnic spirit in the power games imposed on them from higher up, whether white or black. This is why they use the language of power – the language of American leftist academics.
But as Professor Jonathan Jansen has written, Afrikaans and Afrikaners carry a poisonous culture through their institutions, including their own family structures, which he sees as inherently racist, and therefore in need of subjugation and transformation. A confident Kaaps would have no need to express such disgust for the Afrikaans language, nor delight in its erasure. The only thing this can serve to do is humiliate, which he relishes doing, by accusing those concerned of being crybabies. But perhaps that is precisely the point. Elsewhere Jansen has admired the Afrikaner for having achieved decolonisation. Yet he feels the need to bend the truth, and to accuse others of doing so, out of no more than spite, against this very achievement others should supposedly emulate.
Even when promoting Kaaps, Quinton Williams demonstrates this selfsame insecure attitude. He argues that Kaaps is the Afrikaans of the future, but he does not write his argument in Kaaps, he does not even write it in academic Afrikaans, but instead uses a form of English saturated with the resentful and emasculated language of an Ivy League apparatchik. He shows none of the verve and confidence of a proud and cultured man, and demonstrates a lack of confidence in his ability to state his argument plainly in his native tongue, instead borrowing forms imposed upon him by the domineering ideology of Transatlantic Capital. In a nominally Afrikaans-language literature magazine no less. He even spells the greeting/affirmation awê using the English spelling “aweh”.
He has left the marks of his masters all over himself, and rubbed them into his skin.
Languages, as any trendy fellow with a linguistics degree will tell you, vary. They change over time, and vary according to class, geography and ethnicity, sometimes even between the sexes. But in the case of educational institutions, there is a degree of standardisation which is unavoidable. The question then becomes, by what means do we assert a standard dialect which will form the basis of instruction?
This really becomes several questions. Is it possible to express the range of dialects available using the same standard spelling? I happen to think so. After all, English tolerates a massive shift in pronunciation from spelling rules which were perfectly phonetic for Chaucer, but by the time of Shakespeare, were already pretty out of date, and we get by just fine. All the range of pronunciation in the Cape dialects can be expressed by the forms of Afrikaans. Even white Afrikaans has drifted on - the word-initial n is often dropped, and the post-vocalic n disappears into an almost French nasal vowel; in the north, the ek becomes almost an ak.
Whose dialect then, becomes the standard? Who then wields the prestige? The English we speak today is really the dialect of the emergent class of wool merchants in the Oxford, Cambridge and London of 400 years ago, which pushed aside the dialects of the old countryside, in which Shakespeare’s words rhymed, and where thee and thou, the intimate words of affection and insult, resided until the 20th century in countryside nooks, now extinguished. Those dialects have eroded and been pushed down by years of class hierarchy, urbanisation and immigration, as has even the aristocratic dialect which led the way. To a degree this is all inevitable. And Kaaps speakers feel this ache, just as the Yorkshire Downs felt the cut glass condescension of the high-class Recieved Pronunciation as it mowed down their ancient rhymes.
But in the East, Russians, who shared no common dialect, and whose ruling class spoke French, heard resounding in the mixed-race poet of their national pride, Alexander Pushkin, the perfect blend of regional, intellectual and borrowed sounds, such that his became the model dialect from which all others flowed. Likewise, we have just such a celebrated author, with just such vital characteristics - Adam Small, a man who refused neither his bond to the African soil, nor to his indigeneity, nor to the substance of Afrikaans which touched and shaped his breath, the language of slaves, slave-drivers, farmers, merchants and cattle-herds, poets and philosophers alike.
Afrikaners have had the privilege, a privilege conferred by the sweat of their ancestors’ brows, a privilege no other native grouping in South Africa has had, to be able to read philosophy, poetry, great novels, and study advanced mathematics and engineering in their mother toungue. Kaaps, the name for a dialectic continuum that persists predominantly among Coloured Afrikaans speakers, has the power to consolidate the promise of Adam Small’s personal identification as a brown Afrikaner, and answer once and for all the call of NP van Wyk Louw’s kleurlingvraagstuk.
In any university where being inclusive of students was in any way important to the administrative staff, the abusive suppression of the native language of the majority of the province’s inhabitants by any element of the student body would be met with an aggressive and outraged punitive response. The students responsible for this policy deserved nothing less than expulsion and the publicization of their names to be held in shame for persecuting their fellow countrymen.
The ideology of the Anglo-American establishment, with all the hateful bile that entails will be part of a mandatory brainwashing course for student orientation. Students must speak the magic words of the new global establishment or face exclusion and censure. RhodesMustFall, while pretending to be the vehicle of popular uprising and cultural renewal, was in reality a recapitulation of the preferences of a shallow and deracinated American elite, mixed with CIA-approved decolonisation narratives blindly imbibed by students who did not realise that these ideas were the route by which their former colonial masters delivered an even more vicious means of wealth extraction.
By absorbing the approved formula for socialist centralisation, African states opened themselves up to state capture, and Tiny Rowland and others made a fortune. Yet these puppet states are praised as heroic achievements. RMF became a vehicle for Americanisation because the American disease empowers and justifies an unlimited capacity for hatred of whites in general and Afrikaners in particular. Smug Anglos join in to exercise their ancient justification for the genocide and oppression of Afrikaners by claiming that they are better friends of the black man, just as Rhodes himself did 120 years ago when he conspired to initiate the 2nd Boer War. Everyone gets to eat.
Stellenbosch was an Afrikaans university. It was created by Afrikaners, to provide an intellectual institution capable of providing education and the reproduction of social values in the cultural community Afrikaners had created for themselves. It has now been taken over by people who make no effort to hide the fact that they hate Afrikaners with a blinding and implacable passion. They are not just forced to speak the language of their former imperial masters, but to imbibe that ideology which considers them irredeemable bearers of a blood curse for which we and all our offspring must atone until the shade of eternity.
Perhaps this may satisfy the sense of superiority of some.
But the truth is that it means abandoning the territory bequeathed to you. Kaaps was handed so many vehicles it could have used for the promotion of its people’s dreams and visions, a chance to express themselves in ideas not yet given breath, to reach the heights that all other ethnicities in South Africa (except the Anglos) envy of the Afrikaners. But to do this, they will need to take back the universities from English, before they can take back Afrikaans for the Kaaps. And if they fail this test, their language will melt ever more into the low English that subsists on the crumbs of America’s table, and deprive their youth of the transformation into something higher, something that is of their own.
Bikoists and South-Africanists, who believe in some holistic vision of South Africa in which equality can be achieved under English while preserving their culture are fools. With each generation, Anglicisation becomes deeper, and speakers of every language feel their native powers of expression slipping, ceding control to the rotting strings of Anglo-American empire. They tell themselves, and tell their desperate compatriots who never made it to the steps of the ivory tower, shutout by black supremacy’s quotas, that if only the off-white scapegoat can be slaughtered, the greens of the promised land will spring forth. Instead, the only transformation they will receive is that of a slave - into an instrument of unseen powers written on hidden ledgers, in English.
When all opportunities to gain a grip on higher institutions, which create the opportunities to drive culture and reproduce values, have been lost, what will these smug academics tell their fellows? That they made them “less white”? If the bruin Afrikaners wish to conduct the initiation into an inclusive Cape language community, they should do so. If they just want to participate in somebody else’s humiliation ritual, then as a wise and anonymous old American once said, don’t piss on my head and call it rain.