In times of great misfortune and uncertainty it is an African tradition to consult your ancestors and ask them to show you the way forward.
In the time of Zuma we have had misfortune in spades. These are also times of great uncertainty. This is a good thing. If you’re complacent in your job or comfortable in your marriage, you need to upset that applecart and get with the times. Forget certainty. It will stab you in the back as soon as sleep with you.
Change is in the air. Climate change. Regime change. Don’t be left behind. It’s a new year. Shed your old life and start anew. Sure, it might end in a homeless shelter. But it might not. Come on. Come and gamble with me. The odds are better than anything you’ll find in the Goodwood Casino.
First, though, I need to find my ancestors and shake their bones. I don’t even know if this works for whiteys. I assume it works for darkies. Last week Squirrel Ramaphosa, South Africa’s black Jesus, said the ruling party had been down and out, riddled with foreign tendencies and required ancestral intervention. Something or someone must have intervened because he was elected party president a couple of weeks ago. I’m virtually down and out and riddled with all sorts of things, so it’s definitely worth giving the ancestors a shot.
Thing is, Ramaphosa wasn’t consulting his own personal ancestors. He was reportedly shaking John Dube’s bones. And Walter Rubusana’s bones. Them be the bones of former ANC leaders. So the question I’m asking myself now, apart from why the waiter is ignoring me, is can one go about rattling bones willy-nilly when they aren’t in fact direct kin of the shaker and still expect sensible answers? Maybe it only works for people like Ramaphosa. After all, ANCestors, rights?
Can I go to the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris and shake Jim Morrison’s bones? Of course not. If I could afford to go to Paris why would I be sitting in this filthy bar writing rubbish for a pittance? Not to mention that the Lizard King would give me the most appalling advice in the unlikely event that we made a connection.
“Don’t take heroin. Don’t take a bath after taking heroin. Don’t date women called Pamela.” If he had told me this a few years ago, I would’ve listened to him on at least one of those counts. Too late. The damage is done.
It might make more sense to visit Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California, and rattle Steve Jobs’s bones. There are a couple of things that need clearing up. Like why do his laptop charger cables have the lifespan of a one-legged chicken in KwaMashu. Steve doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about any of us. He was meant to be immortal. He was meant to update his operating system, for heaven’s sake, not die.
A lot of other bones worth shaking can’t be shook because they got cremated. I don’t know what the ancestor worshipping business says about people who get burned instead of buried. Does shaking the urn have the same effect? Is it the same as praying with your eyes open or shut? Or, for that matter, not praying at all? Can I make a martini and shake it instead of the bones and expect the same result? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.
So the challenge for me, apart from catching the waiter’s eye, is to find my ancestors. Maybe define them first. I think it excludes parents. You can’t go from mother to ancestor in the blink of an eye. Even grandparents might be pushing it a bit. If you’ve met them they aren’t proper ancestors. From where I’m sitting, and I use the word sitting loosely, ancestors are people who died before you could get the chance to thank them for their contribution towards making you the genetic miracle you are today. By thank I obviously mean strangle.
I’ve always been a bit subnormal when it comes to grasping family relationships. Anything beyond uncle and my eyes glaze over, my mouth falls open and my heart rate plummets. If someone tries to explain how my aunt’s brother’s cousin is related to me, I am clinically dead before they can finish.
When I think of my ancestors, I think Cro-Magnon. Not so much upper class as lower Paleolithic. I imagine them in skins but only because I can’t bear to imagine them naked. Perhaps I’m going too far back.
As a white South African I have no traditions other than those involving the denigration and exploitation of black people. Sadly, those days are over and now there are no traditions I can call my own. Braaing, perhaps. Even then, there are darkies who will claim they were cooking meat over open fires long before white people were invented. It’s outrageous.
Look. I’m quite happy to rattle the bones and communicate with my ancestors if it means getting an indication of what I should do with what little remains of my so-called life. Communicating with the living doesn’t seem to help much at all. Might as well try the dead.
The problem is, I can’t afford to get to the graves of my ancestors. It would mean going to Italy, England, Australia and the Netherlands for a start. Those are just the ones I know about. Europeans spread their seed like wildfire in the early days. I’m surprised I didn’t turn out Catholic.
I’m a bit ashamed to say that I just googled Where Do White People Come From. What a mistake. I was dragged from Genesis to revolutions, from Australoids to Caucasoids, from the Semites to the Hamites, from the Third Reich to the Fourth Extinction. I could go on but it’s too depressing. It turns out that white people are little more than a concept.
Anyway. That’s enough about white people. In a few hundred years everyone will be brown. Or dead. I can’t do a global tour of my ancestors’s graves but I do need some direction so I’m going down to the bottom of my garden. There are bones there. Chicken and mutton, mainly. They must know a thing or two with the benefit of hindsight. Watch your back. Don’t trust humans. Have an exit strategy. That sort of thing.
White South Africans, much like white sharks, are one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet. They have a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and non-Caucasians are often afraid to venture into their territory for fear of being attacked.
Some, however, are merely inquisitive and will circle warily before racing off in their Hyundais. Others, perhaps sensing their way of life is under threat, might go on the offensive. A lot of the time, though, this will be nothing more serious than a mock charge. Stand your ground and they will more often than not back off.
White people, particularly alpha males, are easily enraged. They have been bumped from their slot at the top of the food chain and are struggling to adapt to their new position.
In many instances, they can be calmed down with offers of raw meat and brandy. There is nothing a white South African likes more than a chunk of charred cow and a bottle of cheap liquor. If he has just eaten and is already drunk, he might show no interest in your offer. This is when he is at his most dangerous.
The best way to ward off an attack, verbal or physical, is to threaten him with charges of racism. He will retreat faster than Khulubuse Zuma confronted with a salad.
When the EFF says whites need to come to the party or their land will be confiscated, they are forgetting one thing. White people don’t just rock up at a party. They need an invitation. They also need directions. And even then, they are going to want to know who else will be there. I think if the EFF had to put white people on the guest list and tell them there would be snacks, spare girls, a free shooter at the door and a DJ playing hits from the 80s, they would almost certainly come to the party. Unless it was raining, in which case they wouldn’t.
We already have a fairly good idea of what white people don’t like. In the interests of fostering better race relations, let’s take a look at some of the things they do like.
White people like nothing more than an orderly queue. There are two rules governing the queue: no eye contact and no talking. Do not be alarmed if you are standing somewhere with your hands in your pockets idly wondering what to do with your day and white people spontaneously begin forming a line behind you. They will be too polite to ask if you are in the queue and will happily stand there for hours waiting for some of whatever it is they think you are waiting for.
Even though every white person owns at least three cars, a boat and a private plane, they rarely use them for transport, preferring instead to get something they call exercise. If you see a white person running, do not assume he has been hijacked. Your offer of a lift to the police station will be misconstrued and things could end badly.
Now that sjambokking the staff is frowned upon, white people have to get their jollies elsewhere. Riding roughshod over the environment has become the new urban aphrodisiac. White people also enjoy taking their 4×4 to the carwash, even though the trophy wife has only ever used it to drop her Aryan offspring at the private school on the corner. Don’t bother asking for a lift. There is never room because the back seat is for the Borzois. You would be missing the point if you mentioned that the dogs aren’t even in the car.
White people have such a yearning for sea views you could be forgiven for thinking that if some of them were a bit brighter, they could be related to dolphins. But with burglaries and rates and taxes on the increase, second homes at the coast are becoming, much like the South African passport, a crushing liability.
Apart from sausages, Vienna – the home of classical music – has little in common with Africa. White people are drawn to classical music for two reasons. It places them above the middle class – who spend their evenings listening not so much to the sound of Mozart as they do to the sound of gunshots and screaming – and it places them under no pressure to get up and dance.
Although horses are useful only for transporting marijuana out of Lesotho, many white families keep race horses as a means of getting to the nearest airport in a hurry when the ANC Youth League take over the country and nationalise all private vehicles. In white culture, a pony for the youngest daughter is often a traditional gift. If you encounter a lady of the manor astride her mount down a leafy lane in, say, Noordhoek, doff your cap and fall to one knee. As they pass, you may want to whisper: “Neigh, my bru.” Unlike dogs, horses owned by white people have a fine sense of humour.
Wine was invented by white people for white people. They have much in common – both can be petulant, bitter and easily spoiled. And the cheap, nasty ones always worsen with age. If you find yourself at a wine-tasting on a farm in Franschhoek and a foreigner mistakes you for the sommelier, you might say: “I would recommend the Augusto Pinochet, madam.” Alternatively, you might want to say: “Go fuck yourself, madam.” Your call.
We live in a country run by a government that makes it exceptionally difficult for those who don’t wish to complain. Over the past 20-odd years, complaining has developed into a lifestyle. White people love complaining almost as much as they love rugby and Woolworths. If you find yourself pinned down by a complainer, don’t be reckless and say something like, “So what are you doing to change the situation?” Rather smile, nod and back away slowly.
You might think they would be used to it by now, but white people spend much of their time talking about it. Being born in Africa with European genes plays havoc with their internal barometers. Deeply conflicted, they complain endlessly about the heat, the cold, the wet and the dry.
Because their families are frequently dysfunctional, white people collect cats and dogs and treat them as if they were the fruit of their own loins. Many white people even train their dogs not to attack strangers, but to rather sit at the table and eat with a spoon. Cats don’t care much for table manners, let alone white people, and they may well be the downfall of this great nation. If a white person’s dog goes for you in the street, tell him the animal has character and he might pay your medical bills.
The only reason World War II was a success was because Germany invaded Poland on schedule. One of the reasons an African country has never tried to colonise the world is because most people don’t have watches and it would be impossible to coordinate anything. White people grow restless when things don’t happen on time, such as government programmes to house, educate and employ millions of people who might otherwise start blaming white people.
When Robert Browning wrote the immortal lines, “Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged” in his poem Andrea del Sarto, he wasn’t to know that 150 years later, pseudo-Italian architects with Arabian catamites and coke-encrusted nostrils would use it as a haute monde design philosophy. If you visit a white person’s home and they have very little in it, compliment them on their interesting use of space. If they say they have nothing because they’re poor, you should leave.
White people like old things more than they like old people. They spend a fortune putting their parents in old age homes and then spend a bigger fortune putting old stuff in their houses. They think that having a 17th Century Parisian douche bag on a pedestal would be more rewarding than a father who can’t remember his name. If white people visit your home and take an interest in your furniture, tell them the chairs were carved by Taharka, King of Kush. They will probably think this is a drug reference and try to buy weed from you. Add on 25% and give them whatever they want.
White people go to restaurants even when they have food in the house. This is because an entire generation of white mothers failed to teach their daughters to cook. The daughters don’t see this as a failure. They see it as a step towards the total emancipation of women. Really, darling? You won’t cook and you want to be free? Fine. See ya. Have a nice life. Hello, Mr Delivery?