NEWS & ANALYSIS

Ashwin, actually we know what you mean

Wynand Boshoff says the feeling is familiar to most Afrikaners

Ashwin, we don’t want to admit it, but actually most, if not all, Afrikaners know what you mean. It is because the English had been doing the same thing to us, for more than two hundred years now. You see, from the first day, our indication of basically everyone’s occupation as “boer” reminded them of “boor”, and they found it highly applicable.

Once, in 1902, when they conquered us all, we received the universal English invitation: Those of us who could rise above our boorish descent, could be honoured by being taken into “Society”. We could join the Masons, we could become members of clubs, we might be benovelent through Rotary or St. John’s. We could even win bursaries to study at Oxford or Cambridge and really become civilised.

Or we could carry on growing hair on our backs, and hide beneath stones like rock spiders.

It wasn’t a bad invitation. After all, we did not know much about the world. We had been isolated for long, with exceptions lacked cultural sophistication, were not equipped for any job outside agriculture, unless it involved teaching or preaching. So, some Afrikaners accepted.

Others declined, thank you very much. We would rather found a Broederbond, Vrouefederasies and a Noodhulpliga. We would turn Pretoria and Stellenbosch into Afrikaans universities, creating scientific language on the go. We would rather try on our own, than experiencing English sneers or, even worse, patronising encouragement.

The English air of superiority left its mark on us, of course. No matter how well versed someone might be in Classical languages, or nuclear physics, or whatever, if he or she could not speak English with a proper accent, even Afrikaners would regard him as just a little uneducated.

But you know what? In general we would rather die than acknowledge this. That is why nobody has told you, so far.