We all agreed with Wikkus De Vries, then, when he said it was thoroughly disgraceful behaviour, and totally unbecoming of modern South African youth (of any racial grouping).
Again we nodded when he said, further, with deep feeling, that it was the sort of behaviour that would have been frowned upon -- in the most serious manner -- in those days of the Old South Africa when the Boere still ruled this land south of the Limpopo River.
That what he said was true, was plain to all of us. It was something that we could all clearly understand, even Tiaan Bester, despite the accident when he was a baby and the kitchen girl had dropped him off the stoep and onto his head in a place where the cement was very hard.
What was somewhat less clear at first, to some of us at least, was when Wikkus De Vries changed the tack of his conversation, and continued in a slightly less obvious vein.
Despite the behaviour having been disgraceful, he said -- and it should not be assumed that he was in any way condoning that sort of disgraceful behaviour (Wikkus De Vries made that very clear) -- despite that fact, he said, it did show that the people of the New South Africa were beginning to come closer together. This was particularly noticeable, he continued, amongst people who were born of different colours (for Englesmanne and Boers could, obviously, never find common ground).
The different racial groups, Wikkus De Vries said, were at last beginning to find a sort of mutual understanding and agreement that had not existed before between the disparate colour groups: not even in the times when South Africa had been ruled by our White forefathers.
This, Wikkus De Vries continued, was, probably, in many ways, a good thing.
I saw then that Tiaan Bester was nodding in seriously considered agreement, and not wishing that anybody might feel that Tiaan Bester had acquired an understanding of the matter that was superior, in any way, to my own, I nodded also. I felt this was important because at no time during my childhood had a careless native servant or anyone else (of whom I was aware) dropped me upon my head from any farmhouse stoep, and not where the concrete was softer than in other places, even.
Wikkus De Vries continued upon the subject of this new common ground of understanding between the races, and after a few moments I noticed that the attention of both Andries Vosloo and Tiaan Bester (who was no longer nodding in that manner that had briefly caused me to betray my personal integrity) had transferred from Wikkus De Vries to Johann Nel.
For we all knew that there had been very significant common ground between Johann Nel and Suzie Mpulu for many years, although that was not something of which we would normally have spoken: in mixed company, at least.
And we knew furthermore that the common ground to which Wikkus De Vries alluded had existed, in certain cases at least, for many generations.
For, if you looked closely at the texture of Johann Nel's hair (which was dark and more than normally curly) and at the large white moons on his fingernails, it was plain for even an ordinary man to see that the common ground and understanding between the different races had existed, to a significant degree -- in Johannes Nel's family at least -- as far back as the times of Johann Nel's great grandparents. Or before that, even.
Wikkus De Vries paused then to light his pipe, and we were pleased to be allowed the extra time, the further to consider the disgraceful conduct that had been reported in the newspapers, and to which Wikkus De Vries had originally referred.
Some young White men (the newspaper said) who had clearly been influenced and confused by the consumption of strong alcohol, had gone into a beachfront café in Durban after a game of rugby. The young men had been carrying a plastic blow-up doll and had proceeded to make gestures of the very lewdest sort, and pretended acts of the most intimate nature upon the doll, which -- and the report in the newspaper had been very clear about this -- was extremely detailed in the nature of its anatomical construction.
The actions of these young White hooligans, (the report in the newspaper continued) whilst giving rise to considerable mirth amongst themselves and others of high intoxication or low breeding, had caused the most severe embarrassment and offence to other patrons, and to the management of the establishment.
Many patrons of the café, particularly those patrons of coloured and Indian decent, had actually left the premises, in haste, as a spontaneous protest against the disgraceful behaviour perpetrated upon the blow-up doll by the confused young White men.
Some patrons, indeed, had been so greatly incensed by the disgraceful behaviour that they left in such haste that they could not find the time to pay their bills, even, before they left. Others, who had not been quite so deeply offended, had nevertheless registered strong complaints with the management of the establishment.
Wikkus De Vries then asked us to consider a particular aspect of the report, and we began, then, to understand what he meant when he said that it showed that the divergent races in South Africa were starting to come together, to find a new common ground.
Because we remembered then, (even Tiaan Bester, who had to some degree recovered from his childhood misfortune) that the doll referred to in the newspaper report had been the effigy of a coloured woman.
Those coloured and Indian people who had been so offended by the disgraceful behaviour of the confused White men, (Wikkus De Vries pointed out) had acquired much in common with all decent, White South African Volk.
"Consider Oom Paul Kruger, from the days of the Old Republic, even ... " (Wikkus De Vries concluded) " ... Oom Paul Kruger would also, with the utmost certainty, have been at least equally offended by the shamelessly immodest behavior of those young White hooligans as the Indian and Coloured people were."
In the long pause that followed, I considered the words of Wikkus De Vries carefully. And knowing from my grandfather of Oom Paul Kruger's beliefs (and frugality), I could not but agree that Oom Paul would, himself, also have felt obliged to flee from such disgraceful behaviour. And probably before paying his own bill, even.
And I understood then, that Wikkus De Vries was right, and how disgraceful the behavior had, indeed, been.
For the newspaper report had been specific on another point.
And that was that a similar blow-up doll -- in the effigy of a White woman -- could have been purchased by the confused White men at the same shop, and at the same time, and at no greater cost, then, than the Coloured doll, even.
-- KK Brown
Article © KK Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-03-26