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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Artikels | Features

Identity politics and the quarterlife crisis

Cobus Fourie - 2009-08-20

To start with - I am an Afrikaans dissident who absolutely refuses to be referred to as an "Afrikaner".

In fact that term conjures up images and memories of our fascist past, stuffy old boys' clubs like the nefarious Broederbond and the equally disgusting Jong Dames Dinamiek, and who can forget the Afrikaans churches who wholeheartedly preached apartheid from the pulpit?

I refuse to be called that and I inform everyone of it. By pure chance I happened to have been born into an Afrikaans family of French Huguenot origins who gave up le Français for practical reasons since they lived in a Dutch colony in 1688. They discarded their language and most of their culture for a place to live free of religious persecution. I happen to be a descendant of those "heretics".

My ancestors of the 1800s were not Voortrekkers and they were not party to the great exodus out of the Cape. They arrived in what is now known as the North-West Province about 50 years later. Uncannily one of my direct ancestors was one of the Afrikaans Bible translators of 1933 - his monument declares: "Dr Fourie - co-translator of the first Afrikaans bible", and the tomb is on the premises of the Reformed Church in the rustic town of Groot Marico, 40 km from where I grew up. Nevertheless, despite all of this, I have no sentiments regarding my linguistic heritage, since it is not my antecedent language.

I have expunged that language from my written communications and speak it only as it is easy, but I am by no means a puritan and those will have aneurisms when they hear how I speak it. I do the pompous northern-city accent. I intermingle a lot of jargon in which is English, French, German, Yiddish and Latin.

I have more of an allegiance to the LGBTIQ community than my supposed stuffy linguistic fraternity. I do not wish to live in an Afrikaans "bantustan". I hate their patriarchal and fundamentalist culture. I have been to the Voortrekker monument, but it was no emotional experience. I often make jokes at their expense and laugh at them when I happen to drive by Loftus and curse at the road closures, obscene detours and ubiquitous over-zealous car guards all because they want to indulge in some biltong, klippies and coke, testosterone and rugby. So, if you want to hear how dysfunctional this group of people are, ask a dissenter who by some similarity is grouped with these.

I was thus quite perturbed when a friend of totally different heritage made a comment that it is in the Afrikaans populace's DNA to want autonomy and independence since they are from Dutch, French and German descent and fled to claim their own republics in the north of South Africa.

Even though I have no allegiance towards the supposed "Afrikaners" I completely understand why they did not want to live under Colonial/Imperial British rule. This was the same reason for the American Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the Federal Republic known as the United States of America. It is also the raison d'être of the French Revolution. I find the system of government in Britain very antiquated and not befitting our Zeitgeist. It is a vulgar remnant of the Medieval Feudal system which in fact should be phased out. The class system is even manifested in parliament - they have a House of Commons and a House of Lords. They have a jury system where the proletariat play amateur judges. But hey, what can we expect from a country with no Constitution. Yes, you heard right, I was equally flabbergasted, they have no written Constitution.

Identity politics is always a sticky issue. People within certain demographic and psychographic groups are by no means homogeneous in their outlook on life, philosophy, and other aspects which make identity.

I have friends the world over and globalisation has led to a confluence of culture and the commercialisation thereof. Most of my friends left South Africa during their quarterlife crises in search of adventure in a foreign country and renouncing the mundane suburban life in dull Gauteng City.

It is during this quarterlife crisis when we are most concerned about identity. One begins to reflect on past, present and imagined future and the supposed idealist career and life paths we have dreamt up for ourselves or inherited from our parents. We wonder about where we fit in. This is vastly different from a teenage identity crisis. The quarterlife crisis is more occupation and identity specific. One may influence the other.

We live in a vastly different world from that of our parents and the Zeitgeist is completely different. These incongruities between the ethoses of generations fuel the identity crises we see almost everywhere.

We have a culture of disposability. We have disposable nappies, disposable cameras and cell phones, disposable music (especially dance music, which has a very short shelf life, same for pop) and disposable relationships.

Do we know who we are? Maybe more or less, but it doesn't bother us much. And frankly, should it matter? It is apparent that I steered my way through my quarterlife crisis and that is most probably the origins of the gripe as stated so very brazenly above.