Nothing maverick about The Daily Maverick’s sucking up to Woolworths

The Daily Maverick should rebaptise itself as “The Cute Conformist”, for that is really what it is, a bunch of people who sound like your average ANC propagandist on the SABC, except they think they are cute.

One such very cute conformist writing for that cyber rag is a certain Justin MacCarthy. I had never heard of him, until someone mentioned that he had accused me of producing a rant against Woolworths. MacCarthy is given to clichés, so probably everyone who does not agree with him, is guilty of “ranting”.

However, one of the commentators on his piece states that MacCarthy is actually the MD of TBWA/Hunt Lascaris who happens to be the lead advertising agency for… You guessed it: Woolworths. How mercenary, how venal! If this is the quality of people Woolworths actually pay to do their PR for them, I am getting more and more confident that we are going to bring the PC Cape firm to its knees with our current campaign.

Judging from his profile on The Daily Maverick, alias The Cute Conformist, MacCarthy also lives in Durban. Yes, that hot and humid place in KZN, the area where they speak Zulu. I have some memories of Durban and petty ethnic insults that seem to sprout amid the tropical verdancy in that “Indian Ocean City” as Mbeki referred to it during the World Conference Against Racism that yours truly proudly attended. I was one of about five whites among the multicultural multitude. I saw the ANC wasting a few hundred million rand to produce hot air, amid general disorganisation, non-functioning interpretation systems (with all the equipment lying around) while Jews and Palestinians screamed at each other.

Talking of petty ethnic banter in Durban, that is about the sum total of the stupendously brilliant “adman” Justin MacCarthy’s intellectual repertoire. Not only does he fulminate – or “rant”, to bring it back to his set of platitudes – against Afrikaners, but also against white English-speaking South Africans (Wessas). In fact, his tedious sermon of an article bears the long-winded title: “Moaning Myrtle and Mrs Woolworths: Why white English speaking South Africans are failing our country.”

MacCarthy’s penchant for cliché and the unexamined idée reçue is complemented by his urge to entertain us on his autobiography. Therefore in the first paragraph he lurches into confessing that he is actually a foreigner, an uitlander. Again, I seem to recall Mbeki declaring at some point: “Never again will you be uitlanders,” addressing himself to some undefined leftist and presumably white alcholic or drug-crazed populace with a stated allegiance to Great Britain and its creation, the ANC, like the uitlanders of old. However, Justin MacCarthy uses the word buitelander, which lacks the historical reference to the people who caused the Anglo-Boer War. The most hilarious part of his preaching which I am going to quote at length here, as I am sure it will amuse you too, is that he “is not given to generalisations”. Apparently he was at Wits, that bush college in Jan Smuts Avenue which I also attended in days gone by. However, “An Introduction to Logic” in Philosophy 1 was oviously not one of the courses he took:

“When I first came to South Africa, I thought racism belonged to white Afrikaners of a certain ilk. How disappointing, then, to find that the selective blindness plaguing the country is not only frighteningly widespread, but that even a new generation of white people feels as entitled as ever.

I’ve followed the furore in a frappuccino over the Woolworths boycott with a great deal of interest these past few weeks. When the ‘story’ broke I admit I was quite dismissive and thought it would be over by the time I’d finished my double espresso. I was wrong. Not to inflate the issue with any greater import than it deserves, but it got under my skin and irritated me like a mozzie in my ear. In fact, I find the entire matter not only distasteful but quite alarming. It’s actually revealed an issue of much greater proportion than I imagined – and one of critical national importance.

I’m not given to generalisations. They’re often concocted from a narrow base of opinionated observation and therefore dangerous. However, I am making an exception here, and using several, which (in my defence) are based on many years of broad-based observation. So when I refer to white English-speaking South Africans, for instance, I refer to them as a collective – which is, by definition, a generalisation, and therefore unfair. I admit upfront that my accusations are far from universal.

In my teens, my primary association with Apartheid was not blacks or coloureds or Indians (we were separated then) but the white Afrikaner male. I was a buitelander to them (being an Irish import), and I was here in their land of milk and honey by their good grace. When I turned 16 they insisted I join their army. I politely declined. They did everything in their considerable power to force me into conscription, including amending a law to close a loophole on dodging buitelanders. They bullied and intimidated me and threatened me with all manner of foul impositions, so that my lasting impression of the Afrikaner was that of a myopic, insecure bully, empowered to enforce doctrine and dogma by the authority of their illegitimate State. Their leader, the serpentine, lip-licking, finger-wagging Groot Krokodil who spat threatening warnings about black people and communists and the devil from my parents’ television set, personified everything that was grotesquely distasteful about this tribe of denialists. I evolved into adulthood with a deep distaste for anyone who belonged to this tribe, a view that was compounded by the police intolerance and brutality I witnessed first-hand at demonstrations on Wits campus. Their iron-rigid dogma, unshakable intolerance and viciously violent enforcement of their will awoke in me the horrors of Apartheid and the hotbed of student activism that fizzed comparatively peacefully around the fringes of the township violence so prevalent throughout the eighties. Even at a liberal institution like Wits University, I had to sign my name and student number to access the special library reading room where one could consume the filth penned by the likes of Marx and Engels, under constant suspicion that Craig Williamson was taking note of my silent revolutionary intentions.

My prejudice was hard to shake, and every now and then I get an unpleasant reminder like a surge of indigestion that elements of this benighted tribe remain. Like when I read Dan Roodt’s rant about Woolworths and his “War Against Racism”, or when I learned of the trade union organisation Solidarity’s call for a boycott in which they take an appallingly poor dig at Woolworths’ proposition (“making a differentiation” [sic]). However, this should not be unexpected, as a vocal number of Calvinistic Afrikaners are rather disgruntled by their loss of absolute authority. It sits uncomfortably with aspects of their superior being belief system.

Yet many, many are not. Many get on with life and work an honest day and pray to their god and demand no more than what is enshrined in our Constitution. They have skills and application and they possess a can-do attitude. They make a number of aspects of our economy productive and efficient. They pay their taxes and help their neighbours and are generally cheerful and conscientious citizens who understand that as possessors of knowledge and skill, they have a responsibility to deliver on their contribution to making this country stable and prosperous.

What struck me about the calls to boycott Woolworths was the reaction of middle-class English speaking white South Africa. In as much as a cry of racism is expected from diehard enclaves of the Afrikaner resistance, I didn’t expect the outpourings of bile from this bunch that I thought understood the dynamics, if for no other reason than they are the beneficiaries of the finest education South Africa has to offer. The weight and volume of derogatory comments, misinformed myopism and out-and-out racism shocked me. PRAAG, the pro-Afrikaner organisation of which Dan Roodt is some sort of high priest, has managed a whole 1,500 petition signatories in their WAR on Woolworths. That’s pretty feeble. My 13-year-old son has half that many BBM contacts. Dan the Man also has 2,665 Twitter followers. Solidariteit doesn’t disclose the number of signatories to their anti-Woolworths campaign, but they do have 12,500 Facebook fans collected over the three years they’ve had the profile (the trade union itself was founded in 1902). They also have 2,880 Twitter followers. It’s probably safe to assume that the majority of their members support their cause either actively or passively. These are the guys claiming to be behind the temporary suspension of Woolworths’ Facebook wall. Assuming a high duplication of Facebook and Twitter fans/followers, neither organisation has a particularly impressive following in the numbers game.

Conversely, an English speaking blogger and self-styled “internet marketing” expert by the name of Justin Harrison has 34,600 Facebook fans and 68,900 Twitter followers, although he maintains he doesn’t like Twitter and is going to close his account – which two weeks later he still hasn’t gotten around to doing. He has, since he went public with his protest over Woolworths, protected his Twitter account under the pretext that he couldn’t take the hate. His blog, http://www.justinharrison.com/,has a significant following, although it has been down for some days with a redirect to his Facebook page, leading me to suspect him of attempting to control the buzz. Perhaps his views on EE were having an effect on his business interests. Now, Mr Harrison has courted quite a bit of controversy since his call to boycott. 2OceansVibe, a streaming radio station and website that appears to be developing a bit of a CSI bent, did an exposé of sorts on Harrison’s social media following after some industry folk asked “who?” when his numbers were bandied about. His website has subsequently undergone unscheduled maintenance for the past 10 days, lending more credence to my suspicions.

Controversy, bought followers and credibility questions aside, what Harrison did achieve was to be the first to spot the Woolworths recruitment ad and create a fuss (according to him at least). His various blog posts, Facebook posts and tweets ranted about the gross unfairness, unconstitutionality and immorality of Employment Equity. He fed the trolls and they feasted. By comparison, the News24 comments feed was relatively tame. Now that takes some doing.

Immersing myself in this swamp emanating from the bile ducts of the internet, I discovered a whole boil of racism festering and seemingly lanced by the Woolworths recruitment ad. The majority of the whining came from English speaking whites, possibly because they make up a disproportionate percentage of Woolworths’ customer base, or possibly because they’re just as racist as their Calvinistic broeders. What they almost universally displayed was a distinct misunderstanding of the difference between BBBEE and EE (which are related, not equated) and a complete insensitivity to what Ferial Haffajee in her fabulous article The Woolworths boycott brigade eloquently termed “intergenerational privileges”. The dramatic irony of their invoking Constitutional rights they had barely anything to do with coupled with a blind miscomprehension of just how fundamental redress is to their survival, forged from the vantage point of their soapbox of inherited privilege, is so ironic as to be worthy of a Shakespearean three-part drama.

Here’s the reality, white South Africa, whether or not you like it, agree with it, are guilted into submission or just plain accept it as part of living in this magnificent country: unless we address the grotesque imbalance of access to the corridors of wealth creation, this country will fail and it won’t by any stretch be just the government’s fault. It will be just as much your own. This country is magnificent while you have access to education, jobs, skills and the means to make a good living. It’s not if you don’t and are forced to live off government grants and have no real prospects of improvement. That plain sucks. It sucks emotional energy and replaces it with anger and resentment that feed the monsters like Julius Malema who use it for the advancement of their personal agenda. Malema is a dangerous character, not because of who he is, but because of the support he can mobilise. When you have no voice and no representation, you’ll take Julius over nothing. Silence Julius, and another thousand will fill his place. Look at the history of civilisation, and every time the inequality gap has reached a tipping point. You have to be blinded by dogma not to get it.

If you are a white product of the new South Africa (in the sense that you were born after 1990 or so) then open your mind and read our history. You cannot dismiss Apartheid as the “sins of our fathers”.  As hard as that may be to swallow, it’s a fact, and as much as you may feel a victim of history, be bloody thankful you weren’t born black in 1960. You have been born to a position of privilege, so quit moaning about a small element of job reservation and use that privilege to your own advantage. Learn some more skills, work that much harder, or go to the big school of entrepreneurism and take the hard road.”

I apologise for subjecting you to all that, but I felt it to be quite a revealing “confession of an adman”. Now I understand why most advertisements in South Africa these days do not show any white faces, why Vodacom thinks the average white man has never heard of “Bluetooth” and needs some black genius to explain it to him or why paying a visit to your local bank often feels like a visit to a branch office of the Cuban Communist Party, as you will be confronted with socialist-realist-style propaganda posters masquerading as advertising or “corporate communication”.

Let me just summarise three of his dogmatic and ethnocentric suppositions, which any mild application of intelligence, historical research and coherent argument will reveal to be baseless.

Afrikaners are a benighted tribe: Just name one other tribe in Africa and many other parts of the world that has produced the finest body of prose and poetry on the African continent, folk songs, Cape Dutch houses, as well as modern and postmodern architecture, our own popular music stars, engineering feats such as the old Transnet, Eskom, Sasol, the Rooivalk helicopter, G5 and G6 cannons, not to mention the atom bomb by means of an innovative enrichment process.

Whites have inherited privilege: Unlike in the U.K. and many European countries, we white South Africans do not really have a class system. We are far poorer, on average, than most Westerners for the simple reason that we have poured a huge amount of our income, wealth and manpower into “black upliftment” over decades and even centuries. Since 1948 we have spent trillions of rand on blacks via our taxes, charitable contributions, donations, corporate responsibility programmes, church welfare schemes, etc., only to demonstrate the old adage: “Never a good deed shall go unpunished.” We owe blacks absolutely nothing. In fact, they owe us. Big time!

Without BEE, EE and the alphabet soup of discriminatory measures, this country will fail: No, this country will fail because of these measures. Already the wholesale ethnic cleasing of white engineers and accountants from the municipalities has caused many towns and cities to fail, with raw sewage running down the streets and into rivers, the degradation of roads and a chaotic lack of town planning, no to mention the financial bankruptcy of many such towns. The same goes for state hospitals, Eskom and Transnet. The only reason why Eskom is still functioning, is because of its huge tariff increases, to “fund” the structural inefficiences brought on by rampant greed and affirmative action.

Woolworths, too, is taxing its white consumers to finance its sojourn into the dizzy world of ANC race politics. Very soon you will see quotes from Steve Biko and Frantz Fanon printed on your insipid packet of Thai spring rolls at Woolworths, as those two are apparently very much en vogue at the moment.

I am an Afrikaner or, by Justin MacCarthy’s and probably Woolworths’s definition, an “element of this benighted tribe” that “remains”. In one of Zapiro’s cartoons he actually referred to the old South Africa as “Jurassic Park”, with the same kind of exasperation that Afrikaners are not yet extinct. Despite the murder of 3000 farmers, the killing last week of André Jordaan of Muldersdrift and the week before of 13-year old Alyssa Botha. And all the others that have been raped, killed, humiliated, driven off through affirmative action, insults, innuendo, baseless accusations of being “guilty of a crime against humanity” and so on.

We are still here, against all odds. Unlike the white Rhodesians, the Portuguese of Moçambique and Angola (500 years of Portuguese settlement in Angola), the Indians of Idi Amin’s Uganda and other African minorities who have simply been ethnically cleansed from their lands, we refuse to bow to the pressure to simply “move on”. We are supposed to go and disappear into the wider Anglo-Saxon empire, somewhere in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom. After all, the more effective form of genocide, apart from simply massacring the target population, is assimilation.

However, although I consider myself an Afrikaner, we must acknowledge that the total onslaught – PW Botha did not live to see his term vindicated by the New South Africa – is against all whites in this country. In a sense the ANC has never recognised that there are two language communities, two Western cultures, in this country. To them, we are simply “the whites”, the “non-designated group” against whom it is fine to discriminate or even to incite violence as Malema and so many others, even Zuma, have done.

There is a community of prejudice between the ANC, Malema, Woolworths, TBWA/Hunt Lascaris and Justin MacCathy. While they cry “racism!” at every turn, their style of generalisation, of stereotyping, of Kafkaesque accusation and calumny correspond to most legal or academic definitions of racism or ethnic prejudice. That is why I am going to lay a complaint of “apartheid” against Woolworths, because they are more guilty of apartheid by the international definition than government officials of the old South Africa.

Ultimately, Justin MacCarthy is an identityless opportunist, a drifter without any real culture except maybe yesterday’s American fashion that the mass media will stamp on him like he in turn will toil to stamp it on us and everyone else who queues up at McDonald’s or KFC or any of the global icons that define our “South African”landscape. By the way, someone mentioned the other day that “no white person is allowed to own a McDonald’s franchise”. That is something worth investigating, once we have finished with Woolworths.

The uitlander opportunist that J.B.M. Hertzog referred to as the “foreign fortune seeker” is therefore still with us. As ever, he is the source of conflict and discord. He is the purveyor of lies, propaganda and “generalisations”, slinging mud against “the whites”, notwithstanding our well-nigh pristine human-rights record, compared to other nations, be they German, British, Japanese, American, Rwandan, Cambodian, or whatever.

I specifically refer to Hertzog because he was more or less the inventor of the notion of “South Africanism” and of a broader Afrikaner identity that included all “indigenous whites”.

When an uitlander like MacCarthy, confidently full of his hatred for local whites, having been well fed on British leftist and Scandinavian propaganda in the 1980s, therefore vilifies Wessas, I feel concerned too. In fact, I have a theory that there are only two types of Afrikaners in South Africa: the ones who still speak Afrikaans and the ones who lost their language through British policy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of course, today many Afrikaans children are also growing up “English” in foreign lands due to ANC policy, so we are all in the same boat.

This ANC nightmare was foisted on us by Britain, Sweden and Norway who provided the money, the propanda and strategic know-how for what was virtually a coup d’état in the early nineties. Regime change. With an election to follow. How many times have not seen that in the recent past, causing the same violence, misery and instability as in South Africa?

Once the nightmare is over, a new Afrikaner nation will rise up and the old wounds will heal. Once again we will be strong, and fair and tolerant like we have always been.

All those who are currently managing the unjust and, yes, exceedingly racist “transformation system” – and that includes people like Justin MacCarthy who are in a real sense collaborators – wil some day have to answer to us.

However, unlike the ANC and their odious hangers-on, we are not prone to terror and violence. We will use logic and reason to defeat them. The current system is so full of legal and other contradictions that it will almost collapse of its own accord.

But as in those self-defence manoeuvres in which one uses the attacker’s momentum to help topple his body and bring him crashing down, we need to give the system a push in the right direction. Let’s keep on boycotting Woolworths.

Also, don’t forget to sign our petition against Woolworths.

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