Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

Prejudice, racism and entertainment

“South Africans here in New Zealand have a reputation for being aggressive — especially the Afrikaners,” groaned Mark, a fellow English-speaking South African, over a beer.

“Why Afrikaners?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. “They arrive here with a huge chip on their shoulder, walk into our workshop demanding a WOF for their car and demanding everything, insisting they get served straight away.” “They can be bloody rude,” another (also English-speaking) “Saffer” chimed in, “insulting Kiwis in Afrikaans, talking behind their backs”.

The apparent aggression of South Africans is a comment I often hear in New Zealand. This time it was at a braai, I mean a barbeque, except now Mark and his other ex-South African mates were averring that it was Afrikaners that gave other Saffers a bad name. “And then there’s still the odd Afrikaner around who even now has the old SA flag above their house. They are very cliquey and don’t let anyone else in, which pisses off people here,” finished off Mark with relish, swigging back a Tui.

I shuddered a bit. I didn’t like what I was hearing, and thought of the friends I had made in SA who also just happened to be Afrikaners: their hospitality and humour. Surely it wasn’t just the Afrikaners, but English speakers as well? I thought of the road rage in SA, especially in Joburg, and did not miss it one bit.

Yes, too many of us Saffers can be very aggressive. I feel it is from living on the edge all the time, from being products of a violent society, from living in “cluster homes” with high walls and electrical fencing and so forth, and from being so uncertain about the future.

Perhaps putting stuff like the above on Facebook is not a good idea for your “image”. Maybe it is a good idea, as it is the raw truth, showing the “real” persona of the writer, not a packaged article that is designed and sanitised for a specific market. But the next morning I happened to read an article tweeted to me about a moerse brawl between Afrikaners in a pub/restaurant in Pretoria. Both parties laid charges of assault against each other. And it all started because there were not enough chicken strips on the blerry pizza.

One skattie even (apparently) gave the bar owner a snot klap. Hell, I thought, wish I could have been there, just a fly on the wall. So I Facebooked the article along with the seemingly innocuous remark: “And Afrikaners unfortunately have a bad reputation for being very aggressive in New Zealand, giving other South Africans a bad name … ”

Well! Most of my friends and my “friends” on Facebook who responded (the latter being purely online acquaintances) took fiery exception to my post. I was rightly accused of generalising, of using ONE incident to support the argument that all Afrikaners are aggressive. My mistake was not to contextualise my remark: that it is a common perception in New Zealand that we South Africans are bloody aggro, and that English-speaking Saffers in Kiwi land seem to argue it is only the Afrikaners. Hey guys, I remonstrated, I am only delivering the message, so please don’t shoot the messenger.

Eventually friends and “friends” made peace with me (very good friends have the right to be very blunt with you about flaws in your otherwise winning personality). One old friend signed off saying that after our fight she felt, and I quote “ … replete! xxx”.

The online brawl about my prejudice had been entertainment, an interesting, even obsessive, distraction (which is 90% what Facebook is all about). Prejudice, in all its forms, including racism, is online entertainment. Heck, just look at the blogs on Thought Leader alone: anything to do with racism or so-called “vile white practices” have relatively massive hits. This is because people are entertained by prejudice in all its manifestations, including, of course, racism in South Africa.

By “reducing” racism and other beasties to entertainment, an interesting subversion occurs. We relish that which we should be appalled by, that which we should find horrific, repugnant. Don’t believe me? All too often we can’t see the wood for the forests. Look at the obsession with horror movies, violent movies, zombie movies (the last my absolute worst) or endless computer games to do with the slaughter of Iraqis or Americans or … and how did slice and dice directors like Quentin Tarantino rise to fame?

Julius Malema, a scary, enormously prejudiced character if there ever was one, was massively entertaining. Simultaneously, for many the thought of “Julius Seizure” gaining truly substantial power in SA was nightmarish. That was before his demise.

Prejudice is rife and extremely enjoyable.

Many years ago I went through a “church-going” phase and was sometimes, as were many others, looked down upon by “fellow” Christians because I still drank, smoked and helplessly noticed enticing women. Church goers lectured me and told me I needed to keep my eyes on Jesus. I used the words “Good God” a lot and “fellow” Christians implored me and others not to use that word as it was blasphemy (?) and it hurt them.

Hurt them? Well, let me tell you now: deep down inside, that kind of Christian thoroughly enjoyed accusing me and others. They relished their feelings of prejudice towards my unholy behaviour. It’s Psychology 101, projecting one’s own issues onto others. It’s so much easier than having to deal with one’s own “stuff”. Just find scapegoats. There’s always plenty.

What is sometimes more personally satisfying than pointing out that someone else is a bloody racist or that all Afrikaners are aggro or that YOU are being judgemental? The earnestness with which people enjoy our finger-pointing recreation (especially safe, online slacktivism and clicktivism) reminds me of a remark attributed to Benjamin Disraeli: “What is earnest is not always true; on the contrary, error is often more earnest than truth.”

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    • Zeph

      A very nice article Rod – very true with a soul searching quote to end.
      Self righteous and quick to point a finger: Oh, how the hypocrisy can stink.
      I used to call them the ‘holier than thou crowd’ but maybe now I can call them ‘The Armstrongs’…
      Crucifying honesty seems to be politically correct and politically expedient these days…no wonder we are such a bloody mess.

    • The Creator

      (wags finger) It’s clear you’re totally bigoted against New Zealanders. Learn to love the fruit.

    • Stephen

      Interesting article. I agree, there is no single slant on any one particular issue. Easy does on the god-bothering bit – you’ll be BBQ-ed on the fires of hell. :-)

    • Jack Sparrow

      This is quite funny. I hear of an Australian company that has to limit the number of South Africans they employ otherwise the buggers will take over. It’s a characteristic of many migrants the world over. They will defend their space, work harder, longer and smarter and many will eventually rise up in their new world. A loss to the country that loses them and a gain to their new country. It has almost always been thus.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Isn’t it strange?
      A young girl who I speak to in Canada thought we are the most integrated country in the world. Apparently the ex-Saffers there are a friendly group who all band together regardless of language. They are also considered the most laidback, chilled and generally polite bunch in town (and that is saying a lot for Canada).

    • Tim Neary

      Hi Rob,

      The next Kiwi I come across that can pick a Dutchman from a Soutie will be the first. Let alone understand the nuances between the two. Granted, I live in Sydney not New Zealand so I accept I might be wrong on this one. Maybe the Kiwis in NZ are different to the thousands that live in Sydney. But given that the same applies to the Australians here (and the Canadians, Americans, Poms, Brazilians, Swiss, French…insert any nationality you wish, except Zimbabwean) I expect I am not.

      That said, regarding your enthusiasm for your mate’s comment at the BBQ that Afrikaans Saffers are giving all Saffers a bad name in New Zealand, I wonder if you are not just playing out a transference of your own? Could it be that you have a residual resentment towards Afrikaners; perhaps an incident that happened in the army all those years ago, or in business?

      For the record; my take on it is that South Africans have the reputation for being aggressive because we are aggressive – regardless of the language/s we speak. There are probably plenty of reasons for this, and I agree with the ones you list. Bear in mind that we also have a reputation for being diligent, honest, reliable and proud – regardless of the language/s we speak.

      One more small thing. I prefer the term ‘ex-pat South Africans’ to ‘ex-South Africans’. I might live in Sydney these days but my blood is still very Green.


    • Dave Harris

      Rod, I mentioned this many times before, your STEREOTYPING is the genesis of prejudice and racism. Its disingenuous to single out only Afrikaners when we all know that we are collectively (Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Whites) as a society are a violent bunch largely due to the oppression and brutality that we’ve endured and perpetrated for CENTURIES to benefit white supremacy.

      Quentin Tarantino’s success in movies is precisely because he isn’t afraid to speak the TRUTH, albeit in an entertaining way, about the sheer brutality of the holocaust, slavery, racism etc.,
      Julius Malema, a son of a single-mom domestic worker, is courageous enough to speak the uncomfortable TRUTHS, albeit in a crass manner, while everyone else pretends don’t exist. Our media mafia has demonized him, but inadvertently also elevated him to a status that guarantees that he will be a significant political force in the future – most likely president!

    • Brent

      And the faults we see in others are in fact our faults, wise Buddhist saying. Our SA (all of us) aggro stems from our immersion in a violent society.


    • JK

      Wow. Brilliant article. Great conclusion!

    • Callie

      Doesn’t the aggressive overeaction kinda prove your point? Nothing funnier than an agro South African bellowing his innocence and threathening to bliksem anyone who doesn’t agree.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      Hi Tim, nice to see your words.
      I doubt Kiwis can tell the difference between an Afrikaner and an English speaking South African. Mark, in my blog, is able to because he is a South African. I never wrote or implied anywhere that Kiwis can tell Souties and Dutchmen apart.

      Then your comment, “ regarding your enthusiasm for your mate’s comment at the BBQ that Afrikaans Saffers are giving all Saffers a bad name in New Zealand, I wonder if you are not just playing out a transference of your own? “ Nowhere in my blog am I “enthusiastic” about his comments. Instead, I wrote, “I shuddered a bit. I didn’t like what I was hearing, and thought of the friends I had made in SA who also just happened to be Afrikaners: their hospitality and humour. Surely it wasn’t just the Afrikaners, but English speakers as well?”

      Ex-South African or ex-pat South African? Interesting semantics. Mere word play, I am inclined to think.

    • OneFlew

      South Africans are often quite aggressive. Whites much more so than blacks in my experience. Can’t say that I can really differentiate between the white language groups: I think they’re behaviourally virtually identical. It sounds to me like it may a bit of projection from a subset who prefer to think of themselves as superior? Which belief is, of course, not all that uncommon among South Africans…

    • impedimenta

      I have worked in 21 African countries over the last 15 years and it is always interesting to hear how they feel about South Africans.

      In general (sorry, Dave, another generalisation) they find us pushy and aggressive. I have never heard them distinguish between white or black South Africans, or English or Afrikaans.

    • The Critical Cynic

      Lance ‘call me Earnest’ Armstrong for example…
      never a boring moment in this world of ours, thankfully this is normal.
      Thanks for the entertainment Rod, and the truth in the conclusion is spot on you stereotyping, ex-pat, finger pointing, honest judgementalist you :)

    • Gert Jacobs

      Well, Well, So it is a open suitcase for all to come and pack & Pick his/her Garment..? oops…. I am a what. Boertjie..? English or German..? So I have native Afrikaans ..? Yet our Family have a combination of Language.
      Down in the cape they all Speak full English, 75% Up Gauteng and other regions Afrikaans… ? so what am I.. The Bible tels me than and as well as the fact. My ancestors was German, English makes me than a “Gerlish” but been born as native in SA make me a South African. irrespective the Mother tong I speak.

      Well said all.. you all have your own perspective point of view. I respect all of you to be correct in your own way. It is not the Language you speak that deferring you in your personality.
      100% world wide you have Agro people. At home they are the most pleasant persons you can thing of (Angels)
      WOW yet when you meet them at the BBQ “Any gathering, after few dopies, their mind and personality change, 100% world wide. I have the same experience of Kiwis to be Agro here in SA. They come the Shops and aggressively demand Immediate service irrespective the Long queue already waiting their turn, Well not always just Kiwis, But all other Nations world wide in SA.
      What is my VIEW then,
      Conclusion. All humans irrespective their nature of origin, have Agro attitudes, all they need is just a very very small tiny reason to provoke that attitude, and whalla it explodes like a fire cracker. So it is we as humans are not perfect, If we where,…

    • Lesego

      OneFlew #

      Yes of course it is a superiority complex. Its funny how politeness is confused with inferiority.

    • hugh Robinson

      Hi Rod missed your take on events since cracking China. Yes we are an agressive bunch but laugh a lot and rarely bear a grude. Could be it is the pussyfooting around that annoys us.

      That pent up feeling one gets when one cannot move forward to get stuff done because of the too lazy to move or in most cases the victims are those that have done the job and think that that is it. If that part does not arrive it is not their fault.

      It seems that everyone has an affliction of some sort today where mediocrity is the praised and well paid.

    • Ex-Pat Saffer In Toronto

      Ex-Pat Saffers in Toronto also have a reputation for being agressive. Candians prefer a passive-aggessive stance that does not challenege anyone’s perceptions and avoids pointing out failures/errors/mistakes etc. The result is frequent paralysis in organisational decision-making, elaborate maneuvres to undermine and subtly humiliate opponents, constantly being trumped by the ignorant bully and a loss of self-respect on the part of those who see consensus as the ultimate goal. As for me, I’ve mellowed over the years and often go with the flow. When my own interests are threatened I plan elaborate maneuvres to undermine and subtly humiliate my opponents. I think New Zealand and Canada share the instictive me-second wolrdview that comes from being the lesser power in their neighborhood. Ozzies and Americans have less to feel second-rate about. As for the Afrikaner slant, I find English Saffers every bit as arrogant when they firsta land in the first world. The Afrikaners are perhaps a bit more shy, having to operate in their second language. I’ve never heard anyone complain about any of the 100+ ethnic groups sticking togehter for socializing in Toronto. The second generation almost invariable lose that.

    • Po

      On the whole, I find South African men very aggressive in their social demeanour. I am a Saffer too and lived in England for a while, and felt a little embarrassed to be associated with that aggression. I feel that it stems from insecurity. South Africans are very insecure people. We are a nation that the world hated for Apartheid, we have to bear judgements associated with that, and now the country is struggling, and we have to bear that judgement too. I feel that volatility and insecurity go hand in hand, but at least South Africans are incredibly sincere and forthcoming, direct, and say what they mean, which I find so refreshing in comparison the the paralysis in English society, where people prefer passive aggression and awkward silence in social situations and you never really know what people want.