South Africa Today, America Tomorrow?

Article by Paul Gottfried.


Ilana Mercer, author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, is persona non grata to the established media culture, which features debating partners who look and sound remarkably similar. Ilana’s book would be anathema to such nonstop celebrants of pluralism and diversity. She is questioning the sustainability of a Western society that slips into nonwhite (and non-Asian) hands, and she offers her former South African homeland as a frightening case in point. Only a decade after apartheid’s end, South Africa had the world’s highest intentional homicide rate. Mercer claims South Africa’s murder rate is ten times that of the United States.

Ilana shows the white Afrikaner National Party yielding to international blackmail and its own liberal Protestant conscience and finally surrendering rule irrevocably to the black majority and their leader Nelson Mandela. Since that fateful decision in 1993, rampaging blacks have murdered thousands of Boers, including many of their leaders. Economic conditions for blacks, who make up almost 80% of South Africa’s population, have grown dire; while the whites, many of whom have had their property and businesses expropriated or destroyed, are confronting a rising poverty problem. Ilana notes that whereas Western countries redefine Third World interlopers as “refugees,” they cut no such slack for those whites who are trying to escape South Africa’s diversity hellhole. Such applicants are generally viewed as spoilsports who can’t stand a non-colonial African society’s blessings.

“The Afrikaners made secession unworkable by creating their own version of diversity.”

Moreover, the American national press has interpreted the violence and chaos that have erupted in South Africa since apartheid’s end as the lingering signs of the emotional disorder created by colonial racism. To an assertion by (former) New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld that “there is nothing new about the hideous, sadistic violent crime in SA,” Ilana responds that before black liberation the African National Party “kept the lid on the cauldron of depravity now boiling over.” The white South African government policed black areas because that’s where violent crime was occurring. The Group Areas Act of 1950, which represented the high point of Afrikaner apartheid policy, imposed absolute residential segregation. While this restriction did not look nice, it prevented black crime from spilling over into white neighborhoods. The worst crime rates are among black males, who specialize in rapes as well as murder and theft; the “Coloureds,” who include South Africa’s once sizable Indian population, are well below the blacks in murder and mayhem, and the whites—whether Afrikaner, English, or whatever—are the least violence-prone.

What makes Ilana’s exposé all the more remarkable is her South African Jewish background. The Jews in South Africa (like their co-ethnics here and in Canada) were disproportionately on the left, and several white leaders of the South African Communist Party were of Lithuanian Jewish extraction. Ilana’s family, including her rabbi father, held the characteristic political views of other South African Jews. But once they saw the fruits of their revolutionary agitation, many of these formerly radical Jews, including Ilana’s father, asserted their right of Jewish return by moving to Israel. Ilana did the same as early as 1994, but she later moved to North America and now resides with her husband in suburban Seattle. She says she believes that her fellow Jews in South Africa behaved stupidly and even maliciously by allying themselves with black revolutionaries against their fellow whites. She expresses profound admiration for the traditional Afrikaners and treats these stern Calvinist farmers and citizen-soldiers as Christian embodiments of ancient Hebrew virtues. She says she regrets that the descendants of South Africa’s Dutch and French Huguenot settlers have deteriorated into liberal, guilt-ridden multi-racialists, and she pays me the honor of quoting my works on the “politics of guilt” to describe the Dutch South Africans’ changed mentality that led to their disastrous surrender of power. Ilana says that one cannot understand why Afrikaner President F. W. de Klerk threw in the towel unless one takes into account the diversion of Calvinist guilt into an antiracist pathology.

What would have been the alternatives to the mess that South Africa has become under black-majority rule? The only one I can think of, besides an Afrikaner-ruled country armed to the teeth against both leftist world opinion and a restive internal black majority, would have been a more serious approach to political and ethnic separation. The Afrikaners did not go far enough in separating themselves from the black tribes around them. They should have made themselves economically and politically independent, and they should have never come to depend on their black neighbors as a cheap labor source.

Ilana is correct that the great Afrikaner Treks into Africa’s interior, which led them across the Vaal River in the 1830s, were explicit acts of secession from English rule. In 1815 the Dutch handed over the Cape Colony and its Dutch-speaking inhabitants to the British as part of the Treaty of Vienna, ending the Napoleonic Wars. The Dutch farmers living around the Cape did not want to suffer alien rule and so they moved north, into Africa’s heart. This was an assertion of their independence, but when gold was discovered in their territory, the English followed them and appropriated their land. The continuing British encroachments led to the Second Anglo-Boer War, which began in 1899 and entailed the brutal subjugation of the Afrikaner freedom fighters.

Unfortunately, the Afrikaners became dependent on black labor, whether it was that of slaves or, later, black wage-earners. Native tribes and residents of adjacent regions came to the white settlers in search of work, and the newcomers stayed. This movement of labor destroyed whatever chance the Afrikaners had to achieve permanent control in a particular region. To make matters worse, the white non-Afrikaners and until recently the Coloured often made common cause with black revolutionaries against the majority-white population. By the time the Afrikaners won total independence from the British in the 1960s, they had to deal with unfriendly non-black minorities as well as the black majority. Although the cry of secession, which Ilana as well as many South African whites and ethnic Indians are now sounding, seems eminently just, the horse has already bolted. The Afrikaners made secession unworkable by creating their own version of diversity. They should have carved out a region inhabited entirely by their own citizens. Everything else could have been left to the Xhosas, Zulus, and other black tribes.

Ilana and John Derbyshire, who has written a thoughtful blurb for her book, say they are sure that South Africa’s fate under black-majority rule portends the sort of apocalypse that may soon confront us in America. The South African case, however, has only limited applicability for the United States. It is unlikely that black-majority rule will ever be our fate. What may be more likely is a power struggle among Hispanics, Asians, and those whites who have been awakened from political niceness and democratic universalism. Blacks will not likely be major contestants in this war for influence and assets unless white liberals continue to give prominence to their grievances and unless their numbers vastly expand. At less than 15% of the total population and still dependent on white leftist support, blacks are not plausible contenders for power in our multicultural society.

White madness may not be causing on these shores exactly the kind of disaster described in Into the Cannibal’s Pot, but it is taking its toll here as well as in the heart of darkness.

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