Healing and the White African
Africa has many successes and casualties. International organisations have rightly focused on the trials and hardships of black Africans. They are seen as previously disadvantaged, and in need of help. These sentiments are correct and well-intentioned. Africa needs more help than it can ever get. This article is not meant to detract from the plight of any group. White Africans of a certain generation are too often overlooked in the endless sad stories from the region. They lived, loved and are products of their time. The vast majority were also servicemen fighting a war they never caused. They were boys, often under equipped and outnumbered fighting bravely in a war they could never win. While veterans in other countries are revered, these guys are overlooked and forgotten. Regardless of your politics, these were boys fighting a bloody war. They matter, and should be respected and remembered. PTSD means battles never end.
Understanding the White African
This is a very general article and people are individuals. Each one has their own story. This is an example of what life might have been like for some people, certainly not all.
You are Jason Bell. Rather, you could be if the axis of our planet was slightly different. He’s your alter ego, and he’s a white African. Forget perceptions. There’s a lot to admire about white Africans, especially the crop of your generation. You were born between 1950 and 1960. It doesn’t really matter exactly when or where, just that it’s in Africa. OK, in the southern bit.
Your four brothers and sister were all born in the same big square house where you all grew up. Most of the roof was asbestos, except for the overhang that covered the verandah. It wrapped right around the whole house. You loved sitting out there alone in one of the cane chairs when it rained. Ricky, the cream coloured muscle-bound dog, usually sat at your feet. All the dogs were mongrels but he was your favourite, and he knew it.
Mavis shoo-shooed any dog that tried to sneak inside, shoving them right back out with her broom. She huffed and clucked like only a black African woman of a certain era could. She would never tolerate fleas in her house.
It was never Mavis’ house. Technically, it wasn’t your dad’s house either. It belonged to the mill where he worked, and came with the job. There was a smaller house at the back for Mavis and Petrus. Your family’s maid and gardener had separate rooms, but shared ablutions. In later years you’ve sometimes wondered whether Mavis was happy. She wasn’t paid much at all, none of the maids were, but she sang as she worked and always seemed happy. She went home one weekend a month. It was a long way by bus, so your mum let her finish early on payday weekends and dropped her at the bus stop to save time. You don’t think about Petrus, maybe because he never spoke English.
Mavis told you that her home was small, but big enough. Her land was given to her by the chief – There were no title deeds, but it was hers to keep nevertheless. The chief was the person who could take it off her, but he’d only ever done that to one person in living memory. It was in response to an unmentioned but very serious complaint – So serious that the offender was banished.
Roof and Rain
Weather mattered. Too much rain and it flooded, too little and the drinking water dried up. Most years, the rains ran on time and were at least as reliable as the trains. The country was hot and the soil was red. The first rains made the land look like a blood drenched battleground, yet it smelled like nothing else in the world. It had a way of making every other smell stronger and sweeter. You all panicked when the rains were late, and stored water in everything that could hold it. After it rained, Petrus emptied the containers and filled them with dirt and plants.
Mum, Home & School
Mum helped out at the local clinic. She wasn’t really a nurse, but weighed babies and handed out deworming pills and other treatments to the locals. The doctor only came into town on Tuesdays, and the hospital was quite a long bus ride away. Dad worked shifts. The mill had an employee club. You spent most of your leisure time there with the family and everyone else in the village. There was something for everyone. Friday was film night, the bar always seemed to be open, there was a pool to cool off in and a golf course for the adults. The primary school was small and if you never knew a person you knew one of their siblings. Corporal punishment was routine for the boys, the girls seemed to get away with murder.
Everything changed after primary school. The nearest senior school was a distance away, so you boarded during term like the other teenagers. Boys and girls went to separate schools. The caning got more serious so the boys got more devious.
Long breaks between terms were spent at home, fishing, hunting, drinking and watching films on Friday nights. You fancied a girl called Colleen. Your pocket-money never went far after that.
Call Up – Man Up
The final school year brought a mix of feelings. Men in uniform seemed to be everywhere, and they suddenly looked more like boys. In reality, their numbers hadn’t changed, you just noticed them more – Probably because you and your friends awaited your own call up papers. They drafted you into the armed forces.
Soon after your 17th birthday you were on a train with the rest of your intake, and headed off to the barracks for initial training and drilling. This was followed by deployment 6 short weeks later. Nobody thought or spoke much about what came next. There wasn’t much to say. The country was at war. Criminal acts committed by insurgents was on the news. Everybody knew or knew of a family affected by a murder.
For the next 2 years you wore browns or camo and did whatever you were told to do, whenever you were told to do it. You went home for short passes or breaks, but felt so ampted at home that they were over before you could relax. You drove a V8, took friends and a girl to the drive inn to watch movies, listened to music on the radio and drank at the club. You rode horses and played golf.
Going back to the base was almost a relief from the endless unsettling news on the radio – International condemnation, local atrocities and how your country was banned from taking part in a sport, importing a drink, further sanctioned or excluded from yet another one of your favourite bands world tour.
You never signed up for permanent force, but your friends who couldn’t find jobs did. Your national service ended after 2 years, in theory but not quite. Your country could (and did) call you up any time, for any reason and for any length of time. Right through this, you stood when you heard, GOD SAVE OUR QUEEN being played because it felt wrong not too. This was different if you were in South Africa as their national anthem was old and well-known.
The time you spent in civvy street (at home) mirrored life everywhere. You dated, married, played and had kids. Many relationships split up due to time spent apart. Many others broke up because you and your friends drank or partied too much.
You never went anywhere without your firearm. Depending on where you lived, neither did your mother, your wife and even your older children. If you travelled any distance, it was either in a convoy to avoid land mines, or subject to frequent roadblock stop and searches.
You never considered your life as being anything but normal. Everyone muddled through the shortages, big names leaving the country, banks closing and petrol shortages. You knew that your country was under attack from all sides, and somehow you were proud of living under siege. Communism was taking over the world, and your country was the last frontier of freedom.
Then it happened. Life as you knew it ended with a full stop – or rather an X at the ballot box of the big election. Everyone voted. You knew the white vote meant very little because there were too few whites to make any difference. You voted anyway, and hoped that Mavis and Petrus voted sensibly, too.
Brave new World
Your unit was demobilized and effectively ceased to exist. Gone. Finito. Your country was renamed, except for South Africa which almost became Azania.
Cities and large towns were renamed. Roads, parks, places of interest, universities, colleges, airlines – Old, proud institutions were given new names you couldn’t pronounce. The flag went, too. It changed into an ugly, gaudy thing. The flag you fought under and would have given your life to protect became something you were meant to be ashamed of. It was now one remnant of a racist regime, a best forgotten past.
The world became a B movie. Surreal. Every week, more family and friends left the country. The crime rate spiralled out of control. You couldn’t sleep. You knew you shouted too much when someone yelled or left a door unlocked, but you weren’t able to stop it.
You had your firearms. It drove you crazy when anyone was a few minutes late home – Anything could happen and you couldn’t guard everyone all the time. You studied crime reports and minimised risk. When criminals broke in through a door, you fitted a steel plate to your own. When they climbed in through someone’s roof, you put razor wire in your loft. The thought of an unwitting burglar getting slashed and torn gave you a sense of satisfaction.
Last thing at night, you rested a glass bottle on the door handle so you’d wake up if someone touched it and it smashed on the floor tiles. These sensible precautions made you feel better, but not much. Opportunistic crime was the hard to avoid. You got into more arguments with careless family members. You taught your children how to shoot.
Change was everywhere. Names, laws, faces on bank notes and government funding priorities. Employment law was modified to allow positive discrimination or Affirmative Action. Business laws changed. Black Economic Empowerment laws dictated who could set up businesses, and how. Property rights changed.
No White Flight
Big companies stopped employing white people. The government took the big farm away from they guy just outside town. He and his 70 workers who lived on the farm were evicted and somehow this was legal. The police supported thuggery, and stopped coming when you called them. Everyone employed private security firms and hoped they would respond in an emergency.
Your family was clearly at risk of being killed. They (mostly) survived the war but were now very likely to die in a home invasion. You could taste danger, the familiar flavour you once thought would end with the war.
You looked into emigrating and discovered that nobody wanted you. Your ancestors had been pioneers, sent from Scotland. Their country won’t accept you because you were one generation too late. You were now part of a minority group, targeted by law and crime. Asylum doors slammed shut because of your skin colour and your old, beloved flag.
White No Right
The boss seemed genuine when he told you that Patrick, the clerk, was being made Ops Manager, the position you were in line for. He had to appoint him to level the playing fields and meet government targets required by the BEE laws.
You agreed with BEE in principle, but couldn’t understand how they could go on for so long. You worried about the future of the country that was already falling apart. A country that no longer felt like yours. Still, you lived in it and it needed to attract and utilise skills, not promote people to roles they were not trained to do.
You had a mortgage to pay and kids to feed. White guys were fired for what were once minor offences. Jack in stores was paid off for forgetting to report his clock card as faulty. He was one of many. Each was replaced by a black guy – You understood and even supported the concept until your brother lost his job and came to live with you when he lost his house.
Your home was just too small for 4 adults and 7 kids. Your wife, Linda, had never liked you playing darts with Pete. You were tired of eating soya mince and watching children’s tv after work. There was no way out. No matter what you did at work, promotion was off the table.
Your sister helped out until she moved to her husband’s parents in Canada. You felt miserable knowing you would never see her again. She could never visit you, there was no space. You’d never be able to visit her because of the exchange rate. Your country’s currency nose-dived.
Schools went next. Fees trebled to cross subsidise the poor kids. You agreed with this except you were poor, though just not poor enough, and you had 2 children too few to qualify for a subsidy.
Arguments about money became commonplace. Your tires were bare but you couldn’t afford to replace them. You saw the road rammed every morning and afternoon with taxis that were clearly not roadworthy. Still, it was you the black cop pulled over and fined.You never hated the blacks during the war, hell, you even fought alongside a good few of them. Now, every crime you heard or read about was committed by a black person. It got truly real when they killed Blake.
Blake, Blood & Vapour
You guys had been together since primary school. You hadn’t seen him for months because the wife kept bitching about your brother and money problems. You looked at your firearm and a red mist formed in front of your eyes. It looked just like that other red liquid mist from years back, in the bush.There was no mistake. You thought you forgot the smell of blood and vapour, but you hadn’t. It was back – Straight through your nostrils and into your brain. You threw up food you’d eaten days earlier before you could make the vomiting stop. You knew that from that day, that the smell of rotten iron was back with you and that it would stay until you died.
Sweet, Sweat, Sleep
You haven’t slept a whole night through since Blake died. His army photo was on display during the funeral service. Strangers came in just as it ended. You’re sure you heard a comment about Blake’s army uniform, right there in the photograph. He looked so proud standing there with your flag flying high and proud in behind him. You don’t remember anything between then and toasting Blake later in the bar.
Left or Right, You’re Wrong
Linda left. Actually, she left but kept your house. You live alone in the hostel but could see the kids every 2nd Saturday if you laid off the booze. You haven’t seen them for 16 weeks.
You still haven’t slept through since they murdered Blake and doubt you ever will again. Staying awake would be pointless anyhow. Linda has gone, and you can’t get it up now, anyway.
You know something’s wrong. You think it might be your blood pressure and plan on getting it checked next time you pass the chemist. It’s on the way to the bottle store. You have made one decision that you know you’ll see through. You have bought a windscreen decal sporting yours and Blake’s beautiful flag. It’ll make you smile, and justify you punching the next person who looks at it sideways – Man, woman or child.
A decal is all that remains now of the land you once called home.
I am writing a collection of short stories that addresses emotional pain, because nobody should hurt alone. If you feel the same way & you want to help, I will thank you in the book credits unless you tell me not to. Support Creative Pain Combat stress has been a huge focus except for one forgotten generation. Contact me directly if you prefer, but please do what you can. If you don’t want to help my project, then the Zim Pensioner Support do a great job and need all the help they can get.© greatwhitetribe.com - Respect copyright - You may link freely to this content