On Sunday I spent a lovely afternoon boozing with a bunch of Saffas and talking about their experiences growing up under Apartheid. It was an eye-opener. These are some very intelligent, passionate and socially-conscious people - quite the opposite of the stereotype that we're fed about thuggish, racist, conservative jaapies.
It was very interesting to hear how information was kept from them throughout their childhoods (they're all in their mid to late 30s), how little they knew of the realities of their own country, and how the government stamped down on the dissident whites as well as the black populous. My ex-wife grew up in the GDR (in East Berlin) under the Stazi repression but even there the control of information didn't seem as complete as in the RSA - simply because of East Germany's proximity to democratic countries. South Africa was geographically cut off which allowed for even greater filtering and repression.
I guess I'm guilty of not really thinking much about the white South Africans except as rugby-playing meatheads, racist Boers and backpackers/immigrants. Odd how the vilification of the Apartheid regime has pretty much tarred all whites with the racist brush despite the fact that most of them were as much prisoners of their own government as much as the blacks. Not that I'm equating treatment of the two groups of course.
They're not bitter people but after years of being in South Africa with all the dangers that go with that have made them understandably defensive. I'd kinda noticed the national trait to a certain edginess before but one of them pointed out why: the wariness and fear that accompanies simply walking down the street in Johburg informs the rest of your life. It's a hard habit to break.
I've realised there are big gaps in my knowledge of recent South African history and, as a Kiwi - with all the sporting connections and history New Zealand has with RSA - I really ought to know more. Especially since it's the football World Cup this year and there's bound to be a mass of misinformation and historical whitewashing going on. Must ferret out some unbiased (as much as possible) books - anyone have any leads for me?