DEKOLONISASIE: ‘N ALTERNATIEWE OPVATTING – Prof. Danie Goosen

Prof. Pitika Ntuli (links) en prof. Danie Goosen (regs) antwoord vrae van die gehoor tydens die ontbytgesprek by die Voortrekkermonument oor ‘Die koloniale erfenis’ – Foto: Netwerk24


Prof. Goosen se toespraak wat hy op 25 April 2017 tydens ‘n ontbytgesprek oor ‘Die koloniale erfenis’ by die Voortrekkermonument gelewer het. Hy voer aan dat Afrikaners wel aanknopingspunte met die dekolonialisasie-beweging kan vind, maar in sy argument stel hy ‘n alternatiewe opvatting van dekolonisasie voor wat as sodanig radikaal verskil van die linkse en sosialistiese opvatting van dekolonisasie. 


(oorspronklike Engelse weergawe volg na die Afrikaanse teks)

Vir Afrikaners is dit van groot belang om gemeenskaplike grond met die dekoloniale beweging te vind. Ons kan nie opsy staan ​​nie, selfs al verskil ons in belangrike opsigte. Trouens, ons moet ons verskille in dié beweging ter sprake bring, en antwoorde op ons vrae soek.

Dit is nie ’n onmoontlike doel nie. In die kollektiewe geheue van Afrikaners brand daar steeds die herinnering aan die heldhaftige stryd wat ons teen die grootste koloniale mag van sy tyd gevoer het. Dit is daarom ook nie vreemd nie dat ons die belangrikste dryfkrag in ons eie geskiedenis met die dekoloniale beweging deel, naamlik die strewe na vryheid.

Laat ons ter wille van die gesprek eers by die definisies van die kolonialisme en die dekolonialisme stilstaan, waarna ons op ’n dilemma sal fokus wat die dekoloniale beweging in die gesig staar. Dit is juis hierdie dilemma wat Afrikaners teenoor woordvoerders van die dekoloniale beweging ter sprake moet bring.

Kolonialisme kan kortliks gedefinieer word as die poging van koloniale magte om die ekonomieë, sosiale strukture en kulture van die ‘res’  (diegene wat hulself buite die koloniale sentrum bevind) aan hul eie selfbeeld te onderwerp.

Die dekoloniale beweging poog daarenteen om die koloniale ambisie te weerstaan. Maar met watter doel, kan gevra word. As ek ’n oogmerk kan formuleer waarmee die meeste Afrikaners waarskynlik sal saamstem: Die dekoloniale beweging vra dat die ‘res’ erken sal word, en dat laasgenoemde nie aan die verwagting onderwerp sal word om soos die koloniale heersers te word nie.

In praktiese terme beteken dit dat die dekoloniale beweging, ten minste wat Afrika betref, na ’n Afrika sal strewe wat haarself verstaan ​​as 1). ’n vrye en demokratiese kontinent wat 2). die veelheid van demokratiese en vrye gemeenskappe in haarself erken, en wat 3). pogings sal weerstaan om ’n eie selfbeeld op almal en alles in Afrika af te dwing, omdat dit slegs die ‘koloniale projek’ sal kontinueer, al is dit dan onder die vlag van dekoloniale bevryding.

Indien die dekoloniale beweging dit as sy oogmerk verklaar, sal hy ’n daadwerklike alternatief vir die koloniale gees wees.  As die dekoloniale beweging daarom ook self deur ambisies gekenmerk word om almal en alles in Afrika volgens sy eie beeld van die werklikheid in te rig, sal die stryd teen die koloniale gees tevergeefs gewees het.
Miskien kan ek hier ’n kantopmerking byvoeg oor ’n les wat Afrikaners in hul stryd teen die kolonialisme geleer het. Uit hul eie swaarkry het Afrikaners geleer dat ’n politiek van wrokkigheid teenoor die koloniale verlede niks anders as ’n pad na selfvernietiging is nie. Afrikaners het geleer dat ’n etos van harde werk en die aanvaarding van ’n eie verantwoordelikheid die enigste weg na vryheid is. As ons nie uit die politiek van wrokkigheid kon breek nie, sou ons steeds ’n gevangene van die koloniale era gewees het. Omdat ons egter die greep van wrokkigheid op ons deurbreek het, kon ons ook waarlik uit die koloniale wurggreep ontsnap.

Maar dit bring ons by die groot struikelblok. Dit hou verband met ’n dilemma waarvoor die dekoloniale beweging te staan gekom het. Indien dié beweging nie ’n sinvolle antwoord daarop gee nie, sal Afrikaners dit waarskynlik onmoontlik vind om hulle daaraan te verbind. Na watter dilemma verwys ons?

Indien ons die koloniale era werklik in sy wese wil verstaan, moet dit in samehang met ’n ander historiese verskynsel begryp word, naamlik die era van modernisering (dit wil sê dié era wat omstreeks die einde van die 1400’s aangebreek het, en wat onder meer uitdrukking gevind het in die opkoms van die vroeë territoriale state, die sogenaamde ontdekkingsreise na Amerika, Afrika en Indië, die verbrokkeling van die ou Middeleeuse kerk, die ontwikkeling van wetenskap en tegniek, ensovoorts).

Histories gesproke het die aanbreek van die era van modernisering saamgeval met die era van kolonisasie deur die Europese moondhede. Dit is daarom ook kwalik moontlik om tussen die twee eras te onderskei, naamlik die era van modernisering en die moderne era van Europese kolonisasie. Laasgenoemde het bykans onmiddellik in die voetspore van eersgenoemde gevolg.

Maar dit bring ons by bogenoemde dilemma. Dit gaan oor ’n dubbelsinnigheid wat die dekoloniale beweging kenmerk. Terwyl dié beweging met die een hand homself teen die koloniale era verset het, het hy met die ander hand die era van modernisering omhels. Dit was die rede vir die vreemde dilemma. Ons kan dit so formuleer: Terwyl die dekoloniale beweging graag voorgee om anderkant die koloniale era te tree, knoop sy verbintenis tot die moderne era hom juis aan die koloniale erfenis vas!

’n Konkrete voorbeeld kan hierdie dilemma illustreer. Ek verwys na die sleutelrol wat die moderne territoriale state in die era van kolonisering gespeel het. By verre die belangrikste mag met behulp waarvan die moderne state hulle kolonisering van die nie-Europese wêreld aangepak het, was juis die moderne territoriale state. Met behulp van die magte waaroor dié state beskik het, het die moderne Europese wêreld die ‘ou wêreld’ (die Amerikas, Afrika en Indië) ontdek, oorwin en oorheers, om dit maar bondig te formuleer.

En juis hier lê die dilemma. Die dekoloniale beweging van die afgelope 70 tot 80 jaar het, in sy poging om ’n sogenaamde dekoloniale orde tot stand te bring, die moderne staat – dit wat hulle vroeër gekoloniseer het – vir hulself opgeëis. Dit het tot ’n vreemde ding aanleiding gegee, naamlik dat die dekoloniale beweging self dikwels kolonisties teenoor hul eie mense opgetree het. Soos wat die koloniale meesters die moderne state gebruik het om die ‘res’ aan hulle wil te onderwerp, so het die antikoloniale kragte op hul beurt dieselfde state ingespan om die res binne hul eie gebiede aan hul wil te onderwerp. Maar daarmee is die koloniale gees in stand gehou, selfs in naam van dekolonisering.

Om hierdie punt nog duideliker te illustreer, moet nog nader by die moderne staat stilgestaan word. Die moderne era gaan gepaard met die ambisie om alles volgens sy eie standaarde in te rig. By verre die magtigste instrument wat die moderne Europese wêreld daarvoor ingespan het, was, weer eens, die moderne staat.

Hierdie poging van die moderne magte om alles volgens sy opvattinge te standaardiseer, het ’n vernietigende uitwerking gehad op die veelheid van plaaslike gemeenskappe, tale, kulture en tradisies wat hulself binne die grense van die nuwe moderne state bevind het. Vóór die koms van die moderne state het verskillende gemeenskappe in ou Europa ’n lewe van relatiewe onafhanklikheid gelei. Die moderne staat het dit alles verander. Voortaan het die staat homself as soewerein en oppermagtig verstaan, met die gevolg dat hy ou gemeenskapsfunksies (skole, universiteite, besighede, versorging, plaaslike regering, ensovoorts) vir homself opgeëis het.

Soortgelyke dinge het in Afrika gebeur. Die moderne moondhede het by wyse van die instrumente van die moderne staat ’n eenvormigheid op hul onderskeie gebiede afgedruk. Voortaan sou die staat soewerein oor alles besluit. As gevolg daarvan is diep snye in die vesel van tradisionele gemeenskappe gemaak. Voortaan is van jou verwag om jou eie stam agter te laat met die doel om die staat te dien en sy bevele te gehoorsaam. Die eie stam is as minderwaardig, primitief en selfs barbaars beskou. Daarom moes hulle ook met moderne (lees: Engelse of Franse) lewenstyle vervang word.

Dit bring ons terug by die dubbelsinnigheid waarna hierbo verwys word. Sonder uitsondering het die anti- of dekoloniale magte in Afrika die moderne territoriale staat omhels. Maar daarmee het hulle eenvoudig die ou vyandigheid teen die gemeenskappe voortgesit, in der mate dat talle antikoloniale leiers selfs met die grootste minagting na hul eie stamme verwys het. “Ons kan slegs bevry wees as die stam sterf,” het hulle in navolging van die voorbeeld van die sentrumsoekende state uitgeroep.

’n Tipiese voorbeeld van hierdie probleem is die wyse waarop die antikoloniale kragte – in perfekte gelid met die beleid van die koloniale state – eweneens daarna gestrewe het om één amptelike taal op die inheemse tale af te dwing. (Een amptelike taal is een van die belangrikste instrumente waarmee state alles standaardiseer). Daarmee is die koloniale mentaliteit eenvoudig gekontinueer, alles in die naam van ’n weerstand teen die kolonialisme. Die feit dat Julius Malema van Engels in sy geveg teen die koloniale erfenis gebruikmaak, sorg waarskynlik daarvoor dat Cecil John Rhodes in sy graf glimlag. Rhodes het die laaste sê, self al is sy standbeeld intussen verwyder.

Waar laat dit ons? Afrikaners sal by die geledere van die dekoloniale beweging aansluit as hulle verseker kan word dat laasgenoemde verbind is tot ’n bedeling wat werklik buite die sentraliserende neigings van die moderne koloniale staat is. Dit wil sê ’n bedeling waarin ook die veelheid van gemeenskappe tot hul reg kan kom.

 

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For Afrikaners, it is of the utmost importance to find common ground with the decolonial movement. We can’t stand aside, we need to be part of it, even if we differ in some important respects.

This is not an impossible aim. In the collective memory of Afrikaners still shimmers the heroic battles we fought against the biggest colonial power of its time. In fact, the most important driving force at work within our own history is something we intimately share with the decolonial movement, namely the quest for freedom.

First, let me make some introductory remarks on the definition of colonialism and decolonialism, where-after I will focus on a dilemma faced by the decolonial movement. If this dilemma can be solved, it will pave the way for Afrikaners to participate wholeheartedly.

Colonialism can be defined as the attempt to subject the so-called peripheral economies, social structures, and cultures to its own self-image. In the process, it aims to impose not only its own idea of economic development and well-being onto the periphery, but also its own social and political structures, even its own views on the nature of time, the nature of freedom, and what it means to be a human being. Deep down it wants to standardise and homogenise the globe according to its own wishes and demands. In short, the colonial mind wants its own self-image to be imitated by the rest.

Decolonialism, and that speaks for itself, is characterised by the contrary ambition, namely to resist the homogenising ambition of colonialism. But with what aim in view, can be asked. Afrikaners can find common ground with the decolonial movement once it is understood that the positive aim of decoloniality is to create an Africa that understands itself on a symbolic and practical level as 1). A free and democratic collective that is 2). Internally differentiated in a multiplicity of free and democratic communities. Such a self-understanding – the idea of Africa as a community internally differentiated in a multiplicity of free communities – is to my mind the only alternative to the dictatorship of homogeneity imposed by the colonial project. If we are to impose another standardised project, or again attempt to homogenise, even in the name of decoloniality, our struggles for freedom will be in vain.

Perhaps I can also add a side remark about a lesson learned by Afrikaners in its struggle against colonialism. Through many hardships, Afrikaners discovered that a politics of resentment towards the colonial past is nothing but a road to self-destruction. Instead of falling prey to the politics of resentment, we have learned that an ethos of hard work, taking responsibility for ourselves as community, and the search for the common good is the only and true road to freedom. If this is not done, and if one gets stuck in resentment, one is strangely enough still dependent on the colonial mind. However, once you take responsibility for yourself, you do break free from the colonial stranglehold, even if the immediate economic, political, and cultural benefits are not visible.

 

Modernism

Defining colonialism and decolonialism is, however, the easier part. The decolonial movement needs to face up to a very strange and even debilitating dilemma that characterises it from its very inception. When we squarely face up to this dilemma and give an honest response, Afrikaners will find it even easier to join ranks with the decolonial movement.

Historically speaking, the modernisation of almost the entire globe by Europeans coincided with the era of colonisation. Historically speaking it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two processes, namely modernisation and colonisation. The one always follows in the footsteps of the other.

But this brings us to the dilemma mentioned above. It is about a certain duplicity that marks the decolonial movement. While the decolonial movement has resisted colonialism with the one hand, it embraced modernisation with the other hand. Remember that almost all its intellectuals and leaders studied at Western universities. At these centres of modern learning they picked up many of the critical instruments they used with significant effect in their war against colonialism. But even these instruments (like nationalism, Marxism, communism, etc.) were shaped in a fundamental way by modern presuppositions and, more to the point, by the ideology of modernism itself.

This leaves us with a strange irony: The resistance against colonialism is marked from its very inception by the very same thing it professes to resist, namely the colonial mind set.

Let me give one example to illustrate this strange coincidence between colonialism and decolonialism. I am referring to the key role of the modern territorial state within the modern project. The territorial state was experienced by the modern colonial mind as the most important and powerful instrument by means of which territories could be submitted in a systematic fashion to processes of rationalisation, standardisation and homogenisation.

This had a devastating effect on the multiplicity of local communities, languages, cultures, and traditions who per change found itself included within the borders of the new modern states. Before the arrival of the modern states, different communities in old Europe led a live of relative independence. Based on the principle of subsidiarity, they had a direct say in their own affairs, and left only those responsibilities they could not take care of themselves to higher authorities.

The modern state changed all of this. Responsibilities previously taken care of by community based institutions (families, schools, universities, businesses, even churches) were appropriated by the state. Henceforth the state experienced itself as the sole provider, the supreme and sovereign ruler within its own territory. The rich texture of communal life cave in before the onslaught of the state and its territorial ambition to standardise and control.

Similar processes played itself out in Africa. States imposed a standardised and abstract logic onto its respective territories (see the modern and artificial map of Africa). Deep cuts were thus made into the fibre of traditional communities. Henceforth, you were considered a civilised person if you leave your tribe behind to serve the state and obey its imperatives.

 

Following in the footsteps of modernism, the colonial powers established the idea that the indigenous communities are inferior, primitive, and even barbaric. Thus, they had to be replaced with modern (read: English or French) lifestyles.

This brings me back to the debilitating irony referred to above. Without exception, the anti-colonial forces in Africa has embraced the modern territorial state, by far the most powerful instrument of modern colonialism.

A typical expression of this is the fact that modern states have always sought to enforce one official language. The anti-colonial states invariably imitated this strategy, and even imposed – in a strange multiplication of ironies – the colonial languages onto the many indigenous languages. Colonialism was thereby continued, all in the name of a resistance against colonialism. The fact that Julius Malema uses English in his resistance against the colonial heritage, must make Cecil John Rhodes smile in his grave, for it gives him the last and victorious word, even though his statue is removed.

This irony can be illustrated by many other examples besides the reliance on the state, like the imitation by anti-colonial elites of modern Western lifestyles, modern desires, modern technologies, modern science, as well as the modern instrumental, and materialistic mindset, etc.

How can we as Afrikaners not understand this, because this very same irony characterises our own history. On the one hand, we fought the British Empire, and resisted its centralising tendencies. On the other hand, we have imposed apartheid by means of the very same centralising state on our black compatriots. Even to this day Afrikaners have not taken account of this fundamental paradox in their own history. The reason being that the very logic of the state has not been thought through.

Where does this leave us? Afrikaners will join the ranks of the decolonial movement if they can be assured that the latter is committed to a dispensation truly beyond the centralising tendencies of the modern colonial state. Such a dispensation can, as said before, be based on the idea of our country (and eventually Africa itself) being a community of communities.

Unfortunately, Afrikaners are today on the receiving end of a centralising state. The latter shows a remarkable lack of understanding for Afrikaners’ need to have a reasonable say in schools, one or two universities, etc. Instead of spurring them on to join the ranks of decoloniality, these tendencies have the opposite effect, namely scepticism, indifference, and even animosity.

Afrikaners and representatives of the decolonial movement need to sit around a table. And come to an understanding about their mutual search for freedom beyond the destructive role of the colonial mind.

I think such an understanding is a real possibility. Afrikaners know from first-hand experience that colonialism caused them to suffer deeply. The history of our own inferiority complex vis-à-vis firstly the Dutch and eventually the British makes for fascinating reading. But just as fascinating is the often unaccounted for struggle within the psyche of Afrikaners not to give in to the need for scapegoating. Instead of blaming others, we have learnt to take responsibility for ourselves. In this we have much to bring to the table.

Like our black compatriots, we long for a true post-colonial future. For the sake of our common humanity such an understanding is nothing but a necessity.

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