Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meet the Eloi

“I see from your conference nametag that y’all are from South Africa.  Whereabouts?”

“We’re from the University of Johannesburg.”  [Pronounced, as it turns out, “Jo-HAN”, not “Yo-HÄN”.]

“Johannesburg!  I’ve heard that’s a, um, rough neighborhood.”

“Well, no, no more than Rio or Mexico City.  Anyway, it’s only violent crime.”  [As near as I could tell, this last bit was in dead earnest.]

“Last summer, I saw a movie set in Johannesburg.  It’s name was, ah . . . “

District 9!”

“That’s the one.  So, anyway, as you know, one of the themes of the movie is the presence of Nigerian gangs operating in South Africa, and were here portrayed as preying on the alien refugees.”

“Well . . . yes, it’s true that Nigerians are heavily involved in organized crime in South Africa . . . .   Hey, a really good movie about South Africa is out now called Invictus, about how Nelson Mandela intervened to save the Springboks, the national rugby team, to which Boers are fanatically loyal.”

“I saw that movie.  You know, you would have a better perspective on this, of course, but as an outsider, my impression is that Nelson Mandela understands – in a way that, as a counterexample, Mugabe of Zimbabwe does not understand – that the future of his country requires him to give the white population a reason for staying rather than drive them out in a fit of nationalistic fervor.”

“Mmmm . . . actually, I would say that’s a better description of the motivations of South Africa’s current president.  In Mandela’s case, I believe he wanted South Africa to accommodate its white minority because it was the right thing to do.  Our second president, Mbeki, was an academic and not really that bad except he was an AIDS denialist.  South Africa is on its third president now, Jacob Zuma, who is much more a standard politician.  But yes, he recognizes the importance of preserving the centers of wealth creation.  Of course, not all of those are white nowadays.”

“I saw another movie about South Africa just recently.  Disgrace.”

[Eye-roll]  “Oh yes, that one.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No, but the book was required reading in school.  It’s a book guaranteed to put children off of literature forever.”

“Yes, both the book and the movie are thematically dark.”

“The end of apartheid has been rough on South African literature as all their doomsday predictions haven’t materialized.”

“So, looking at your last names [examining nametags] I take it that y’all are English South Africans, not Afrikaners?”

“Yes . . . by background.”

“Well, hey, it was great meeting y’all.”


Dexter said...

“The end of apartheid has been rough on South African literature as all their doomsday predictions haven’t materialized.”

Say what? If turning into the murder and rape capital of the world isn't doomsday, what is?

Φ said...

Dexter: indeed. If I had had my wits about me, I would have replied that Eugène Terre'Blanche's predictions certainly came true for him personally.

Anonymous said...