Let us be!

Eugene Marais
Eugène Marais

by Albert Brenner

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I have been asked many times to write a column about Afrikaner identity. It`s a task I have always dreaded, for it will need to also involve examining questions like: can an atheist be an Afrikaner? Similarly, can an English-speaking white South African be an Afrikaner? Can Afrikaner political parties not supporting self-determination still be called “Afrikaner”? Or even: can non-whites be Afrikaners? Any honest elucidation of (the) Afrikaner identity must also include the less savoury aspects of said people. But then; nobody is perfect. That said, here goes…

Afrikaner identity, like all others, is comprised of three distinct, yet intimately intertwined aspects: the individual, the collective and the nation.

The individual sustains the collective which, in turn, sustains the nation… and vice versa. Meaning that it is the primary responsibility of the individual to contribute to the collective in such a way that his/her collective – in this case, the Afrikaner collective – takes precedence over all other collectives. The collective is comprised of various sub-collectives. For example, (the individual) Naas Botha – the famous ex-Springbok rugby player – has recently stated that he is in favour of race-quotas in rugby. This means that he, as an individual, does not support the Afrikaner sub-collective (Afrikaner rugby players, in this case), ergo, he is not sustaining the collective. Hence, he is a “South African”, not an Afrikaner. This obviously also applies to individuals like Dr Piet Croucamp, Fransie Cronje, Tim du Plessis, Anton van Niekerk, etc.

Moving to the collective/s; aforesaid has the primary responsibility to sustain the interests of the individual, be it as welfare organisation, church, academic institution, etc. For example, Stellenbosch University (as a collective) supports discrimination against Afrikaner students. This means it is not Afrikaner anymore… it is “South African”.

Moving to the nation; if a sub-collective is primarily involved in politics (e.g. the Freedom Front political party) its main responsibility is to strive for nationhood. The aforesaid can only be sustained if it dominates physical territory. It is possible to be a people (i.e. a collective) without physical territory. But one only has to look at the history of the Jewish People – arguably the most successful in terms of survival – in order to realise that dominance over a physical territory is the only sure-fire guarantee of/for progressive survival. This means that the (traditionally Afrikaner) Freedom Front party is not Afrikaner anymore, because it has forsaken its primary responsibility… self-determination in/on a physical territory dominated by Afrikaners.

To the tricky questions; e.g. can an atheist be an Afrikaner? Yes, but only if s/he sustains the “default” of the collective which, in the case of the Afrikaner (identity), is Christian. Meaning that as long as atheists put the well-being of the Christian Afrikaner collective above their individual well-being as atheists, they can be 100% Afrikaners. Ditto for English-speaking white South Africans – or any other white person, for that matter – in terms of language. Afrikaans is, and therefore must stay, the default. The same could be said for non-whites wanting to be Afrikaners. But this, in itself, would be self-contradictory and, ultimately, irrational. For in order to sustain the Afrikaner default identity (which is white, in terms of race), non-whites would have to forsake any and all attempts at demographic dominance.

The above-explained dynamics are also being played out in traditional Western countries with, hitherto, distinct identities. Just think about the American identity when, in 2060, white English-speaking (and mostly Christian) “Americans” will be demographically swamped by Spanish-speaking Hispanics. In short; (the) American identity will no longer be “American”.

To the specifics of (the) Afrikaner identity; we are the most inherently pharmaconian people on the planet. I derived the adjective pharmaconian from the Greek root pharmacon… meaning to heal or to kill. Afrikaners like to fight and to heal. We make the best soldiers and the best doctors. We, as a people, are absolutely unique in this regard! In terms of the former, there is no need to blow our own trumpet – others do it for us, with aplomb…

The Americans fight for a free world. The English mostly for honor glory and medals. The French and Canadians decide too late that they have to participate. The Italians are too scared to fight. The Russians have no choice. The Germans for the Fatherland. The Boers? Those sons of bitches fight for the hell of it! – American General George “Guts and Glory” Patton

Give me 20 divisions American soldiers and I will beach Europe. Give me 15 consisting of Englishmen, and I will advance to the borders of Berlin. Give me two divisions of those marvellous fighting Boers and I will remove Germany from the face of the earth. – Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery (Commander Allied forces WWII)

It is therefore no wonder that we love rugby so much. It has become a substitute for our warrior-like psyche. An opium, unfortunately.

In terms of our passion for healing, we can only look at incredible doctors like Christiaan Barnard, or the fact that we had one of the very few defence forces in the world with a separate medical services arm. This pharmaconian essence of the Afrikaner also has its drawbacks. In terms of liking to fight; we tend toward bullying behaviour, especially because of our big physical size – inherited from the Dutch. This bad characteristic has always necessitated a very strong (mostly patriarchal) hierarchy… to keep the boys in line, so to speak.

The above characteristic was, in my opinion, the main reason why nearly the whole Afrikaner society collapsed after 1994, for when our leaders jumped ship, all the power structures collapsed like a house of cards. The main bullies then turned on their own people, selling them out like flies at the TRC, and in nearly every Afrikaner sphere imaginable. This thuggish behaviour is (now) exemplified by people like Piet Croucamp, Max du Preez, Pik Botha, Anton Van Niekerk, Pierre de Vos, etc.

Our passion for healing was, in my opinion, also the main motor behind the majority Yes vote in the referendum in 1992. Many Afrikaners thought that being “nice” (like e.g. the Swedes) was the only way out of all the fighting. I.e. many Afrikaners wanted to “heal” the bad relationship they had with blacks. The only problem is that this innate propensity to heal is not suited for African conditions… for here the Rule of the Jungle is still very much prevalent. And hell, what do the Swedes know about Africa in any case?!

Be that as it may; we share identity characteristics with other people that are also unique. We, like the Bushman, are in awe of Nature. No wonder the Afrikaners and the Bushmen get along so well, especially during the Angolan War. We established nature reserves long before it became cool to like the natural environment. Unlike our European peers, our art and literature is mainly devoted to the admiration of nature in connection with existential deliberations, e.g. Eugène N. Marais`s Die siel van die mier. (Eng title: The soul of the ant.)

We, as a people, prefer to spend every free minute in nature, be it camping, hunting, or visiting game/nature reserves. This also has its drawbacks. You`d hardly see an Afrikaner family going to a museum or art gallery on the weekend. This has, unfortunately, seen us lag behind our European peers.in terms of sustained “intellectuality”. But then, we live in the most beautiful country in the world… and we have been forced to fight for our continued survival as a unique people ever since we landed here 350 years ago.

Last, but definitely not least; if it were up to me, I’d change the word history to herstory when it comes to summarising the history of the Afrikaner, for the Afrikaner woman is the most unique woman on the planet. They know exactly what they want, and will go through hell and high water to get it… even if it means whipping their men all the way there.

In conclusion: I think that, given our absolutely unique pharmaconian character, the identity of the Afrikaner can best be summed up in the (moral) imperative of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger; sein lassen.

This idea/l, letting be, is a battle-cry to consciously demand and strive for an independent Lebensraum for yourself, as a unique people… as well as for all other things unique, be it other people, races, cultures, beliefs, or nature herself. Even during Apartheid, warped as it was, the Afrikaner promoted the independence of the various unique black peoples of South Africa. It is certainly not the Afrikaner’s fault that the latter did not stay true to their own identities… something they now yearn for with all their (identity-less) soul.

A discussion about the difference between the Boer and the Afrikaner is conspicuous by its absence in this column. In my opinion, the Boer is just a much hardier version of the Afrikaner – true grit… best summed up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Take a community of Dutchman of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world.Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots, who gave up their name and left their country forever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon the face of the earth. Take these formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances in which no weakling could survive; place them so that they acquire skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is immanently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman and the rider. Then, finally, put a fine temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism.Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual and you have the modern Boer.

That said; the very survival of the Afrikaner is now at stake. At the heart of this war is the battle for his identity. It is now up to the Afrikaner to decide his own fate… for letting others be definitely does not imply forsaking your own right to be!

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  • Daniel

    May be a choice between relocation and slaughter, unfortunately.

    • Albert Brenner

      Slaughtering Boers is not that easy. Just ask the Brits… who are still paying off the debts incurred during the Anglo Boer Wars.

  • Henri le Riche

    I agree. Afrikaner identity is not someone who just speaks Afrikaans, but also someone that do not, but either speak Afrikaans as a second language, and support all spheres of Afrikaner culture and values. Also not only supporting these points, but also lives by it, albeit while speaking English and associating with the larger group.

    Atheists don’t have to believe in God as you say, but as long as they understand the important fundamentals, that not only our Afrikaner heritage is built upon Christian values, but also Western society as a whole.

    • Albert Brenner


  • Johann Theron

    You will need to follow-up on this article explaining the identity surge in afrikaans music, gays and churches.

    • Guest

      Repression. It has been covered extensively on Praag. Are you a newcomer?

      • Johann Theron

        Most certainly, but then the premise of a body-of-knowledge is its repeatability. The fact that Albert did not repeat it shows that he is not aware of it. So, repeat it please (if you do not mind).

        • Guest

          Perhaps he is. He wrote on a different subject this time

        • Albert Brenner

          Dear Johann,

          “Repeatability“ presumes a positivist view of knowlegde production.. as in the social sciences emulating the hard sciences… ontologigally speaking.

          My approach with this piece was sociocultural.

    • Albert Brenner

      Dear Johann,

      An explanation of the “surge of Afrikaans music“ is implicit in the column (see paragraph 14).

      “gays“ …see paragraph 16…where individual preferences/self-actualization top collective imperatives.

      “churches“… Hmm…now that would make for an interesting article. But first we have to deal with the greatest church of the secularized Afrikaner…Loftus Versveld.

    • Boerseun.Z.A.R

      Why,have you seen an Afrikaner surge in gays…?
      Where I’m from,nothings changed…most still don’t like a “maricon”.

  • Boerseun.Z.A.R

    Well written,Albert.
    When I lived & worked in USA,I also chose to live among American Dutch who were engaged in commercial farming,they are also similar to Afrikaners in certain traits & embrace SA Afrikaners, on the other hand whilst in Canada I lived with Italians in Ontario & French in Quebec,but being Spanish/French Huguenot ,I enjoyed the company of Spanish Basque in the ranches of USA & S-America.

    • Albert Brenner

      I agree. There is something special about farmers all over the world. It is as if they … somehow… still stayed normal, so to speak.

      • Boerseun.Z.A.R

        I am still one, although a lithographer by trade,but no work for us due A.A & BEE.
        Maybe a good thing..because I saw more of the world & met wonderful people, outside of printing.

  • Jochen Peiper

    The Afrikaner is a European ethnic group which originated in Africa. This seems contradictory but the truth is the Afrikaner gave up his German, Dutch, Italian, Belgian, French and various smaller European ethnicities, Irish, Scottish… even English and Welsh and moulded into the Afrikaner nation. Thus the Afrikaner is a people of varied European ancestry but as a collective has moulded into the Afrikaner in Africa. A singular African ethnic group.
    I know many people who speak different languages like German, Russian, Gujerati, Hindi and English who are not… language does not define your Afrikanerdom.
    Controversially I also hold out that when the Voortrekkers left the Cape in the 1830s they were the nucleus of the Afrikaner ethnic group. They tamed the inland wilds and carved independent lands for themselves. Those who remained under colonial rule do not belong to that group… but nothing stops them from adopting the identity… after all… during the Second Boer War the English speaking citizenry of the ZAR fought under the banner of the Boksburg Commando… they have, to my mind, more right to call themselves Afrikaners, than those who speak Afrikaans, lived in the Cape Colony and enlisted as Town Guards and combatants for the Imperial Forces…

    • Boerseun.Z.A.R

      Also true…

  • Marthinus

    Thank you Albert, I have been waiting for this one and I agree. Goed geskryf en nugter beredeneer, dit het verseker my laat dink aan hoe ek inpas hier in ons huidige stryd. Ek is verseker nie ‘n klassieke Afrikaner nie en redelik ver van ‘n geharde Boer maar ek sit die dinge op sy wat teen die grein en gesondheid van die groep is, sodat ons weer ‘n gesonde nasie kan hê.

    Die pad tot ‘n toekoms is om die individu se begeertes tweede te sit tot voordeel van die nasie. Nie maklik nie maar alleen sal ons val, as een sal ons sterk staan. Soms wil ek net f##off, want jy vra “what’s the bleddie use met hierdie wederstrewige klomp p###pholle (praat met myself ook)?”:D Tog kan ek myself nie weg skeur van die volk waaruit ek gebore is nie in hierdie beeldskone land wat God aan ons gegee het. Ek is ‘n Boer in my hart en ‘n Afrikaner tot die dood.

    • Albert Brenner

      My plesier, ou vriend.

      “Die pad tot ‘n toekoms is om die individu se begeertes tweede te sit tot voordeel van die nasie“.

      Amen. Ongellukig het die Afrikaner (en die Boer) ook in die slaggat getrap waarin geglo word dat die `onafhanklike` individu geen beskerming en ondersteuning van die kollektief meer nodig het nie. Banale materialisme het baie Afrikaners, veral die wat ryk is, laat dink hulle is die `konings van hulle ryke`.

      Maar soos ons sien, veral met die Plaas Moorde, is geen mens n eiland nie. Die kollektief… en op die ou einde, n nasie met grond en n weermag,.. is die ENIGSTE waarborg vir die individu om te oorlewe.

      FW se Grondwet gaan dit nie doen nie, Die ANC se polisie gaan dit nie doen nie.

      Ons moet weer leer om alles SELF te doen.

      • Marthinus

        Ons moet dit self doen want die Broederbond is nie meer daar om dit vir ons te doen nie, dankie Vader daarvoor; uit al die sleg wat uit die laaste 20 jaar gekom het is dit die een goeie ding wat ek kan noem sonder twyfel.

        Die Afrikaner se storie is nog lank, lank nie verby nie. Hierdie hoofstuk is nou maar skaars verby die begin.

        Ek lees ‘n aanhaling van wat ‘n oorlede Amerikaanse skrywer Gary Provost gesê het waar hy die struktuur van ‘n storie uitlê:

        Once upon a time… *something happened* to *someone*, and he decided that he would pursue a *goal*. So he devised a *plan of action*, and even though there were *forces trying to stop him*, he moved forward because there was *a lot at stake*. And just as things seemed as *bad as they could get*, he learned an *important lesson*, and when *offered the prize* he had sought so strenuously he had to *decide whether or not to take it*, and in making that decision he *satisfied a need* that had been created by *something in his past*.

        Die Afrikaner as die individu, maar ook as die kollektief kan hier ingeplaas word, en dit is hoe hulle storie dan kan gaan;

        Een dag lank gelde, het die Afrikaners hulle geliefde vaderland verloor en na baie jare van moedeloosheid het hulle besluit om te strewe, weg van hulle sadistiese onderdrukkers, na vryheid weer soos hulle Boerevaders en -moeders van ouds. Hulle maak toe ‘n plan en al was daar bose magte wat hulle probeer stop het, het hulle aangehou want hulle oorlewing was op die spel. Net toe dit gelyk het of dit nie kon slegter gaan nie het hulle ‘n belangrike les geleer (is dit dalk die les van nederigheid voor God en om ‘n einde te roep aan hoogmoed en die afgod wat ons gemaak het van geld en onbelangrike tydverdryf tradisies? Besluit maar self vir nou). Met hierdie nuwe gees van ontwaking, hierdie les wat hulle geleer het, het hulle toe besluit om te doen wat dit verg en die opofferings gemaak om te kry wat hulle nou al amper twee eeue lank oor droom, die droom van vryheid; ‘n land van hulle eie. Knegte van die Allerhoogste teen die hele wêreld vry.

        Dit het nog nie so sleg gegaan soos wat dit kan nie, dit is sekerlik hoekom ons storie nog nie vorentoe beweeg het nie. Die Afrikaner is besig om verder te groei en daar wag ‘n groot les vir hom voordat hy ooit sy vryheid sal sien. Ek weet ek praat hier van stories, maar stories kom van die mense af wat deur baie gegaan het en groot lesse geleer het; dit is oorleweringe van wysheid aan die volgende geslag. Ons kan nie ons storie ontsnap nie al verlaat jy die land, jy word deel van ‘n ander nasie se verhaal. Ek verkies die Afrikaner se verhaal, dit is vol hartseer maar dit gaan vol onbaatsugtige heldedade, mannemoed, en groot liefde wees – lees net bietjie verder.

  • Willem De Jager

    It is mammoth task indeed to circumscribe an infinitely complex notion as “volk”. From an internal perspective there would probably be as many ideas of Afrikanerdom as there are Afrikaners, some exclusively Boers, some both, reflecting the entire spectrum of humanity. But from an external point of view, the very notion of “volk” is being contested by the multi-culti Anglo world order; volk, based on a homogenous ethnolinguistic principle that is. It is being fought with that showstopper of modern taboos -the racism card.

    Choosing to remain an Afrikaner rather than sublimating into the rainbow smudge therefore implies active resistance and facing the accompanying derision. We need to be aware what it is that we are resisting because the idea of global connectedness through English and the associated financial benefits are being dangled in front of us ceaselessly. But that commodification of global citizenship is the illusion created by the Capitalists (read: Democrats) that always work towards world domination. Of course there will be the little rich people -like we see now with BBBEE but by and large most will remain poor and disillusioned. It will just be easier to dominate them in the beautiful English that they chose over their native languages. I’m referring to Africans but on a global scale also to Asians and even continental Europeans. North Americans have no way out of that trap (called the American Dream) anymore.

    I could quite happily continue being an Afrikaner if Rugby ceased to exist in its entirety (though I doubt I’d ever be that lucky). But there’s no way I’d stay in Murder Capital of the World if Standard Afrikaans ceased to be a qualifying priority. I have probably said it before but there are many safe, rich places where the white-default operates in English (and a host of other languages). Afrikaans then is a non-negotiable aspect of Afrikanerdom for me, not only literally but also what I have come to understand about the Afrikaans ethos, through my experience of dealings in that language: Integrity; honesty; rationality; perseverance; achievement, solidarity and kindness, to mention some of the noteworthy aspects from the positive side of the spectrum.

    All that remains before I break out in song about the smell of Boerebeskuit in a farm kitchen or cutting Kudu biltong with a pocket knife in the winter sun, I will just say this: It is like love, it is futile to rationalise it to an opponent, it is home.

    Thank you for engaging us in this conversation, Mr Brenner.

    • Albert Brenner

      “Thank you for engaging us in this conversation…“

      It is, at the end of the day, one of those conversations we`ll have to engage in forthwith…. similarly, the conversation about Rugby as Opium.

      As you said; they are infinitely complex and are bound to be be controversial. But it simply has to be done!

    • Marthinus

      Well said Willem. It is like love.

  • Shannon

    Dear Albert, indeed there are pitfalls and even land mines when tackling the old cultural identity issue. The longer you analyse the more you have to consider and the trickier it gets. This to me sounds like a solution :
    “Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.”

    I commend you on your take that ‘almost all can be Afrikaner’, It’s just a case of how obediently the participants contribute to the ‘collective’. But do the – shall we say – majority within tolerate or do they truly accept ? I would also like to point out to you that it may prove naive to assume that this majority is in fact a majority. For two reasons :
    1. They are themselves so divided that they do not represent a determining block.
    2. Many Afrikaners, as you say, are so staunch in enforcing their frame of reference that this has resulted in a process of disenfranchising for likely close to a century and a half at least due to religion, morals, language etc. As a result of which the fallen Afrikaners now make up a fair percentage of Afrikanerdom. One that does not wish to be told by a generation who stuffed up South Africa under the Nationals that they alone have the right to determine who is and who is not Afrikaner.

    There is in my view only one way of defining the meta data for an Afrikaner database and that is the simple principal that any human being who identifies as being Afrikaner is one.

    A mulatto Angolan who married and Afrikaans woman after being released from the S.A.D.F. and wishes to be Afrikaner should be allowed to be one. So to the Scottsman and the Russian.
    A Bushman who lives in – and speaks Afrikaans and identifies as Afrikaner should be allowed to be one and not be told that he is colored. By the way the Boers did not always get along smashingly with the local Bushmen Albert. They fought in a war early one.
    Lastly, a Roman Catholic or Scientologist transvestite with a heavy criminal record who chooses to an Afrikaner can be one. If only for the sake of pragmatism.

    But Albert, both you and I know now that if you were to debate this topic in the AaaPeeKaaa after the main Sunday service, that you would find sufficient division right their to realize that consensus is far off.

    I’m with you brother, I’m with you.

    • Boerseun.Z.A.R

      When we are granted self determination,would you accept your angolan mulatto as your Afrikaner neighbor?

      • Shannon

        I would give preference to all the above – probably ahead of yourself – however I can of course not deny you. Refer my definition of identity.

        Something else to, I think you need to adjust buddy. The skin of you hide is no longer a ticket for privilege. You are stuck in an artificial world of government enforced segregation and I have a feeling that you are one of those who wish to define your utopia on racial grounds alone.

        By the way, if you can focus, who’s going to grant you your self determination ? Your enemies ?

        • Boerseun.Z.A.R


  • Jy sit met ‘n GROOT probleem as jy hierdie issue tackle.

    Jy sê: “Meaning that it is the primary responsibility of the individual to contribute to the collective in such a way that his/her collective – in this case, the Afrikaner collective – takes precedence over all other collectives.”

    Dan sê Jy verder dat Naas nie ‘n Afrikaner is nie, omdat hy die kwota spelers ding ondersteun. Jy neem aan dat die kwota spelers issue nie ten gunste van die Afrikaner is nie. Maak nie saak hoe jy daarna kyk nie, dis slegs jou persepsie dat dit nie in die beste belang van die Afrikaner nasie is om kwota spelers toe te laat nie.

    Nou kan jy argue dat miljoene Afrikaners jou kant sou kies, teen my. Die punt bly egter steeds dat dit iemand se opinie is (and yes, 50 million people can be wrong). Jy kan nie sê Naas is nie ‘n Afrikaner nie, omdat hy kwota spelers aanvaar. Jy het GEEN idee hoekom hy dit ondersteun nie. G’n mens kan in ‘n ander mens se hart in sien nie.

    Dit mag dalk in die beste belang van die Afrikaner wees dat hy heeltemal ge-humble word vir ‘n tydperk. Dit mag dalk die Skepper se doel wees om hom ‘n les te leer, vir watter rede ookal. Maar ja, ek comment seker nou op ‘n pro-verbondsteologie forum, so ek soek vir moeilikheid.

    • Johann Theron

      Ek kan sien hoekom jy ‘n Kruiwa is. Naas is juis gebruik om mense soos jy te skok rakende die hele kwota gemors wat BEE en diversities insluit. En het jy regtig die woord Skepper gebruik? Iemand stoot jou ouboet, en dis nie ons nie.

  • steve hofmeyr

    Heerlike stuk broer. Altyd n turksvy.

    • Albert Brenner

      Dankie, Steve 🙂