How being 'Right' can be so wrong
I'm prone to cringing easily. I cringe at the sight of blood. I crumple my face amid cigarette smoke. The retching reflex, with its accompanying wince is reserved for body odours and halitosis.
In Afrikaans - that language so filled with expression - there's a perfect word for my response to all things yucky - 'gril'. I struggle to find the appropriate English equivalent, safe to say cringe would be in the same linguistic neighbourhood as 'gril'. Although given the topic of this column, the unofficial Afrikaans idiomatic extension of 'gril' goes like this: Ek gril myself dood (I cringe myself to death), is apt.
TV news has, in recent weeks, been dominated by the far right. From the sentencing of the Boeremag treason trialists to the sentencing of Chris Mahlangu - the convicted killer of Eugene Terre'Blanche, the Granddaddy of South Africa's extreme right wing.
I've been confronted with what appears to have been bizarrely frequent lapses of intelligence, (not mine, let me emphasise) compliments of this shrunken sector of our society - the white far right.
At each of Mahlangu's court appearances, the AWB roadshow pulled into town - over-utilised khakis, scuffed veldskoene, molested swastikas, nicotine stained teeth (those left in their mouths) and menacing sjamboks on full show. They belched out 'Die Stem', proclaimed their (mental) 'independence' from the rest of the country (and their senses), snarled, threatened and called for white supremacists to rise up against their black oppressors, (I warned you of the momentary lapses of intelligence) to avenge the murder of their leader.
I 'gril' and cringe, hurling my body across rooms while hanging my lilly-white head, not so much in shame, but out of embarrassment for these buffoons. Yes, I said 'embarrassment', because I share their hue of skin colour and feel they paint the rest of us sane white people much like a two-year-old would finger paint - badly.
I share some strains of Afrikaans-ness too. But the good kind, the progressive kind, which sees the language and its culture as forward-looking and an integral part of the nation's diversity. Right wingers do nothing to promote the culture they so dearly cherish and want to preserve; they damage, harass, molest and deform it with their brawling mentality of intolerance.
As a white South African, I can't hide from racism and its beefy, ugly cousin the right wing. However, I have become inured to the mindlessness of racism, while remaining acutely aware of how shameful I feel at times, when having to witness the likes of the late Terre'Blanche's ilk.
I try to meander towards diplomacy in describing this bunch, but can't seem to find a delicate way in addressing how absolutely moronic they are.
With his beer boep seeping from his khaki cargo pants, a bearded right winger paraded outside the court where Mahlangu was sentenced with a black doll, a noose around its neck. I laughed - not at the poor attempt at disparaging black people, but at the 'mean' face this individual put on as he virtually goose-stepped his way further into stupidity, his misplaced seriousness never once falling from his face.
You see, that man is proud, not of his Afrikaans heritage, but of his mindset. He's proud that he can hate, not just black people, but Jews, Indians, the British, in fact anyone who doesn't share his approach to the world. That would include me, a white non-believer, with an English tongue and adequately English skin so petrified of the sun. I don't even know this man - I wouldn't want to meet him anyway.
I can say however, if I ever had to cross his path, he'd probably pour the same amount of scorn over me as he would over a black person because I'm nothing like him. In other words, I can sing the whole of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika - indigenous languages and all. I have been known to wave a South African flag (the 'new' one) when struck by bouts of patriotism. Hey, I even have black friends so obviously I can't be racist (chuckle and chortle). I share only a skin colour with this man and related types. I'm grateful the similarities stop there.
I'm equally elated that I don't share a mindset with the ailing right wing of this country, in the face of further examples of just how idiotic and embarrassing they can be. Let me remind you of the time Andre Visagie, the former mouthpiece of that laughable minority of the AWB, tried to touch an eTV anchor, famously 'on his studio'.
It was like an absurd parade of uncomfortable intolerance. These white supremacists, so backed into their corners and besieged by their narrow-mindedness and perceived 'swart gevare', deal with reality much like a toddler does - by throwing tantrums and gurgling out threats made incomprehensible by myopic rage.
Another far more brutal reminder of how right wingers and racists deal with societal differences comes in the form of a Muslim man being beaten to death, allegedly by white men, because he dared to challenge them over apparent derogatory comments about his beard.
I cringe and sink my head into my hands. The extreme right will always resort to violence to hammer home their views. Such militancy knows not to look to intellect to make an informed point. This form of militancy is shared by the likes of Julius Malema and co. Yes, they occupy the furthest point of the political continuum, far away from the right. But Malema seems to only know how to spew anger, hatred and intolerance, much like white right wingers.
As for the Boeremag, well, where do I begin with this grouping of the more militant-minded morons of the wing to the far right? I recall vividly running across Soweto, covering their infamous attempt at insurrection in 2002. Once it emerged it was a right wing plot, my mouth fell open, and my eyes ballooned from my skull.
Was I really covering a real right wing attempt to overthrow a democratic government in South Africa in the 21st century? Indeed I was!
For a decade the Boeremag saga dragged on in court, showcasing the desperation of a super-tiny minority, its brain so addled with religious fervour and misplaced anger towards, not only black people, but anyone who didn't talk, think and behave like them.
The devil lay in the details that emerged during the sentencing of the plotters. They wanted to do away with the Rand, replacing it with a currency called the Veld. They were going to send black people packing from the country. As for the pesky white liberals, well they were going to be deployed to clean up informal settlements. The madness kept coming and the intelligent citizens of the country kept roaring with laughter.
I can't help but laugh when confronted, even indirectly, with right wingers. Half the reason I can chortle to myself is because I'm relieved I'm not one of them. Yet at times I find myself cackling and 'grilling myself dood', with hints of nervousness. That's because I realise such types do exist and do have a minuscule of ability to brainwash others into their downgraded mindset, in turn perpetuating stupidity and further ensuring my gril-reflex (much like a gag-reflex) stays intact.
Regan Thaw is an Eyewitness news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @ReganThaw.