A couple of weeks ago I was at one of my favourite watering holes in Bryanston, Johannesburg, enjoying a few pints of Guinness with an English mate of mine who now resides in South Africa. We were sitting at the bar with another mate of his from Britain and these two Brits spent most of the time complaining about people from other cultures, basically belittling them as much as possible.
They hate the French for historical reasons that only they can articulate. They hate the “Japs” as they call them, as well as the Irish, Germans and of course “Africans” simply because they are inferior, inadequate and can never do anything right, if these Englishmen are to be believed. Whilst typically enjoying my pint of Guinness I turned around and asked them a simple question which they couldn’t answer, “how can you hate people just simply because they are different from you?” It really surprised me that people so well-travelled could be so narrow-minded. I have never been outside the continent of Africa but I found my world to be much bigger than these well-travelled Brits. I found that I embraced the world much more than these people who had been all over the world and it made me realise how silly prejudice and a feeling of cultural superiority really is.
Through my love of literature and the arts I had embraced more of the world than these well-travelled, parochial Brits. A week after this event I was at my other favourite watering hole, a quaint little Irish pub in Fourways, Johannesburg and I ended up sitting next to an Afrikaner man from “die Republiek van Delmas” just outside Johannesburg and over the course of the evening I had a conversation with this man which broke all stereotypes and yet again revealed to me how foolish it is to hate people just because of the ethnic group they come from.
Firstly we talked (as is always the case with most conversations I am involved in) politics and found that we agreed on most things and had a lot more in common than would have been obvious at first glance. Here was this Afrikaner man who fitted every stereotype, who lived on a plot in some dorpie, finding common ground with me on issues political, unheard of in South Africa. We talked about rugby and discovered not only that I knew more about rugby than this Afrikaner man, but was actually more passionate about the game than him, also unheard of in our country.
He was open and honest with me about the prejudices held by his community against black people, even those closest to him like his wife and yet despite all that he was completely free of the same prejudice and was able to mix with people of all types which enriched his life greatly. It then occurred to me that maybe we should spend more time at pubs drinking together. Maybe then we will truly become a nation. On a more serious note though, all of this just made me realise how shallow prejudice is and how much we miss out on by allowing ourselves to stereotype and bracket people. I exchanged cards with the Afrikaner msn and we promised to meet again in the not-too-distant future for a few dops and some decent conversation. Perhaps that is the way forward for South Africa.