During my travels within the Middle East, I have come across may different cultures, religions and of course race and in many instances race, religion and culture is seen as one in the same. For example, many seen the Muslim demographic as rolled into one but at the end of the day Muslim is religion, it is not your race as you may be from Turkey or Indonesia nor is it your culture because even a South African Muslim enjoys a chop on the braai on a Saturday afternoon and will cheer on the Bokke thrashing the Kiwis. But I promise this is not a racial, cultural or religious bashing opportunity, I’m purely trying to get my point across.
I have always been a history buff but I will not profess to understanding or even able to discuss every historical event that had occurred through out the ages but there are, of course pivotal moments which each person in the world should be aware or even acknowledge has happened. There events include the likes of the Bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Russian offensive with Germany in the Second World War and the Holocaust. I admit this is actually rather recent history, which gives it even more relevancy to society today. Yet, these days, there are many who either lack to knowledge about these incidents or really couldn’t be bothered, why? Well, because history never repeats itself… right? Take a moment to consider that for a moment, there are actually people out there who just don’t care. But, I would rather have the people who don’t care about history than the selection of people who deny it ever happened. I learnt this important lesson last week while I sat through what should have been a business meeting with a colleague of mine. A meeting about Architecture some how escalated in a history lesson because he was determined to rewrite the history of the world according to “Jeffery” (not his real name)
First I was given a rather graphic monologue on South African history, which was part of the course I studied at Varsity and is a still very fresh in the mind of most South Africans. Before which, he proudly told me, he had never been to South Africa and most of what he knew about the place was from his friend who had been there twice about 19 years ago, which was of course totally accurate in his mind. He then went on to compare Apartheid to Hitler’s Jewish extermination during World War 2.
At this point I was totally horrified and squeaked out a very indigent “Excuse me?” When he saw I was rather upset he said, “Don’t get me wrong, Hitler was a maniac but at least he was able to curb the Jews in Germany, just as the South African government was able to control the black community” At this point I was furious but still asked him to explain where he was coming from, he calmly explained that as the Apartheid government had done by forming the homelands within the Eastern Cape (the Transkei and the Ciskei) Hitler created camps for the Jewish population to be segregated from the rest of Germany and there they lived out the rest of their lives, happily within their own communities or ghettos. He then went on to tell me that the only reason that 60,000 Jews died during WW2 was because they tried to escape the camps set up for their benefit.
Completely dumbstruck at this point, and purely to stop myself screaming at him politely asked if he had even used the wonderful invention called Google? Or even picked up a history book in his life? He shook his head and laughed at me, it was not in a cruel way, but as if to say, oh you poor summer child! Firstly I was completely horrified at his comparison to the death of nearly 6 million people to Apartheid (don’t get me wrong I am NOT an Apartheid apologist, I believe it was one of the darkest moments of South Africa history) but then when on to say that the Holocaust never truly existed because Hitler in his infinite wisdom allowed the Jewish population to “live out the rest of their days in peace” I was horrified and thankfully before I could launch into my rebuttal of his complete ignorance I received a rather important phone call. As my call ended he began to reeducate me on the Israel Palestine issue at which point I politely dodged and said that I needed to get me my next meeting, and told him that the next time he requires our services he must please call my work associate and not me. To which he even had the audacity to look confused!
Fredrick Douglas once wrote “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Which got me thinking if I was too much of an apologetic bystander of how the South African history is viewed, or if even I bear the guilt of the white South African but I do believe that getting into a mud slinging match with someone who has no idea what he is taking about says more about my character than it says about his.
So I walked away with one quote ringing in my head, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true. The other is to refuse to believe what is true”. Soren Kiekegaard