Kinder Sculpture

 

Sep 2001 Journal

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Exiles to the left of them – exiles to the right of them

One of the questions which puzzled observers of the S. African scene during the apartheid years was the fact that the Afrikaners, though descended from Dutch stock, were infinitely more bigoted and backward-looking than their cousins ‘back home’.

The partial answer to the question is suggested by the synonym for Afrikaner, i.e. Boer. This word, cognate with the German Bauer (smallholder), indicates that the Afrikaners left overcrowded Holland in quest of land they might appropriate for themselves. They backed up this appropriation with a version of Calvinism in which Blacks were predestined to be the White man’s servants.

The obverse process to this redistribution of the population of the Netherlands – whereby (some) bigots emigrated and more liberal elements remained at home – occurred in mid-19th century Germany. After the failure of the 1848 Revolution many liberal Germans lost hope and went abroad (mainly to America). They had already been preceded into exile by free spirits like Heinrich Heine and George Herwegh. Thus it happened that the ex-‘48er Carl Schurz became US Secretary of the Interior at the time Bismarck made himself ‘Iron Chancellor’.

Interestingly enough, Britain has over the last thirty years created its own tiny offshoot, a ‘settler’ mini state with a Boer mindset and near-permanent sunshine. A quarter of a million expatriate Britons live along the various Spanish costas. Most are ludicrous xenophobes, calling the continental Europeans among whom they live dishonest and worse. They likewise harbour hardline views on asylum seekers in the UK – while they themselves have found asylum from the British climate (not only in its meteorological, but also in its political and cultural manifestations).
Richard Grunberger

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