Tough Question, Simple Answer

…I think.

Reader TR sends me this head-scratcher:

“I must ask a question. When you refer to apartheid, you — like nearly everyone else — refers to it as an ‘evil system.’  Given what has transpired since the end of apartheid, is it appropriate to rethink that?  With the chaos that South Africa has experienced as it has descended to the African mean of madness, perhaps a more appropriate viewpoint is to think that apartheid was simply a logical adaptation to the presence of a population that simply cannot support or sustain a First World standard of living, done by people who very much valued the First World society they had created.”

Let me address the several issues contained in the above.  To anyone who was exposed to its machinations — let alone directly affected by it, as most South African Blacks were — apartheid was  truly evil:  only the absence of extermination camps differentiated it from the Nazism of the 1940s.  In actuality, Blacks couldn’t live or work in “White” areas except by permit, couldn’t own businesses in White areas, couldn’t be promoted past a certain point when they did work outside the “Black” areas, and were forcibly resettled into Black “homelands” without legal redress or the ability to resist.  Social intercourse between Blacks and Whites were restricted, by law, to business interactions only — any kind of interracial sexual activity was legally classified as “immorality” and summarily banned, carrying appallingly-high penalties in the breach thereof.  Crimes by Whites against Blacks carried penalties far more lenient  — to the extent of semi-official toleration — than those by Blacks against Whites, which were severely punished.  The education system favored White children over Black children and continued throughout life — to where “White” universities were ubiquitous but “Black” universities could be counted on one hand, with a couple fingers left over.  (Lest anyone is offended by the comparison to Nazism, simply substitute “Jews” for “Blacks” and “Aryans” for “Whites”.  That would have been Germany, from 1933 to 1945.)

So the disappearance of apartheid cannot be seen as anything other than a Good Thing.

Now, what has replaced this abhorrent socio-political system is not good, at all;    indeed, what has since happened in South Africa is typical of most African countries:  massive corruption, bureaucratic inertia, inefficiency and incompetence, and a level of violence which makes Chicago’s South Side akin to a holiday resort.  (For those who wish to know the attribution for much of the above, I recommend reading the chapter entitled “Caliban’s Kingdoms” in Paul Johnson’s Modern Times.)  Where South Africa differs from other African countries is twofold:  where in the rest of Africa the preponderance of violence and oppression was Black on Black — and therefore ignored by the West — apartheid was a system of White  on Black oppression (and therefore more noticeable to Western eyes).  The second difference is that apartheid exacerbated the virulence of the “grievance” culture which demands reparations (financial and otherwise) for the iniquities of apartheid.  This continues to unfold, to where the homicide rate for White farmers — part of the taking of farmland from Whites — is one of the highest in the world, and the capture and conviction rates for the Black murderers among the lowest — a simple inversion of the apartheid era.

Speaking with hindsight, however, it would be charitable to suggest (as Reader TR has done) that apartheid was “simply a logical adaptation to the presence of a population that simply cannot support or sustain a First World standard of living, done by people who very much valued the First World society they had created.”  While that statement is undoubtedly true, up to a point, and it could be argued that apartheid was a pragmatic solution to the chaos evident throughout the rest of Africa, it cannot be used as an excuse.  Indeed, such a labeling would give, and has given rise to the notion that First World systems are inherently unjust, and a different label “colonialism” — which would include  apartheid — can be applied to the entirety of Western Civilization.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to Africa, there is no good way.  First World — i.e. Western European — principles only work in a socio-political milieu in which principles such as the rule of law, free trade, non-violent transfer of political power and the Enlightenment are both understood and respected.  They aren’t, anywhere in Africa, except where such adherence can be worked to temporary local advantage.  Remember, in the African mindset there is no long-term thinking or consideration of consequence — which is why, for example, since White government (not just South African) has disappeared in Africa, the infrastructure continues to crumble and fail because of a systemic and one might say almost genetic indifference to its maintenance.  When a government is faced with a population of which 90% is living in dire poverty and in imminent danger of starvation, that government must try to address that first, or face the prospect of violent revolution.  It’s not an excusable policy, but it is understandable.

That said, there is no gain in rethinking apartheid’s malevolence, as Reader TR asks, because apartheid was never going to last anyway, and its malevolence was bound to engender a similar counter-malevolence once it disappeared.  Which is the main point to my thinking on Africa:  nothing works.  Africa is simply a train-smash continent, where good intentions come to nought, where successful systems and ideas fail eventually, and where unsuccessful systems (e.g. Marxism) also fail, just fail more quickly.

So there’s no point in reevaluating apartheid:  it was a savagely iniquitous and evil system, and the best thing that can be said about it is that it was no different to any other  tribal system already in existence in Africa — except that it was loudly and proudly unapologetic about its foundation (“Blacks are genetically inferior to Whites”), its goals (“protect the White race”) and intent (“keep the races apart”).

And yes, while apartheid existed South Africa worked better as a country — roads, medical care, electricity generation and distribution, financial systems and the economy all worked well, to the envy of the rest of the continent and even outside Africa.  But it was too evil a system to last, its benefits excluded too much of South Africa’s population and ultimately, its First World efficacy cannot be used to excuse it.

And many, many thanks to Reader TR for bringing up the topic.


  1. I defer to your judgment of South Africa. However, I will note signs here of the dysfunctions of South Africa you identify.

    The rule of law is definitely fraying as is respect for the Enlightenment. We haven’t gotten to violent transfer of political power but we are definitely at the point of resistance to the constitutional norms and I would be surprised to see that one tip over too. Long-term thinking and consideration of consequence are definitely fading away too.

    Roads are deteriorating, electrical systems don’t work at least in CA, medical care is a cluster and likely to get much worse. Financial systems work but they are corrupt and increasingly used as a tool of oppression. The economy seems to be working again thanks to Trump but we had 16 years under Bush and Obama where it did not work for Main Street anyway.

    We have not reached the level of dysfunction of South Africa but I am not liking the direction.

  2. “Africa is simply a train-smash continent, where good intentions come to nought, where successful systems and ideas fail eventually, and where unsuccessful systems (e.g. Marxism) also fail, just fail more quickly.”

    Why is that?
    And in deference to Richard above, why is it happening here in the US?

  3. An excellent observation that replacing one broken system with another system doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a quantum leap forward. In fact it might just be replacing one broken system with one slightly less broken system.

  4. It’s not clear to me which you find “evil” about it. Is it the foundation they were unapologetic about, or is it the methods that were used, or both. Or is it that such a foundation will, inherently, lead to the sorts of maltreatment that, very obviously, occurred? On the other hand “segregation bad, diversity good” only seems desirable to our betters up to the point where the correct folks are in power, then it’s ethnic cleansing all day long, and good riddance.

    It seems to me that the “worked better as a country” part cannot be written off as merely “First World efficacy” without some reference to whether that efficacy was, in fact, related to the founding principles and, ultimately, to biology.

    Ending apartheid was predictably suicidal for the white population and yet the ongoing extermination is somehow OK, or even deserved, because Africa. That seems actively evil to me and “nothing works”, however true, just passivity in the face of it. It’s failure to ask the question why nothing works. It’s not the dirt, as the Afrikaaners demonstrated to the irritation of the rest of Africa and all right thinking folks everywhere.

    1. If you’d seen for yourself the evils involved in the mass (and enforced) uprootings of populations and the oppressive tyranny which enabled them, I very much doubt you’d be as dispassionate.
      It is of a piece with the forced relocations by the Khmer Rouge, the displacement of farmers in the Soviet Union and the collectivization policies of the Shah of Iran.
      The only difference between apartheid and the three examples above is that the White South African government did not embark on a campaign of wholesale torture and the murder of dissidents (as was the case, say, in the killing fields of Cambodia — to name but one). And that’s about the only positive thing I can say about them.

    2. I’m not going to set foot into the tarpit of biology when it comes to Africa, because I’m not sure whether the African mindset is biological, genetic or simply a result of millennia of social conditioning brought about by tribalism, appallingly-high mortality rates, perpetual warfare and in general the precariousness of life on the African continent.
      MAYBE all that leads to some kind of genetic disposition towards the African mentality, but I don’t know if we will ever know the answer to that with any degree of certainty, so I’m not going to suggest it. Nor am I going to suggest that it can be changed through “education” or “environment” either, because the examples of failing Black-run cities in the U.S. (let alone in sub-Saharan Africa) would seem to indicate not.
      As always, I simply note the condition’s existence, and argue complete withdrawal.
      Nobody has ever suggested that the perpetual catastrophe of Afghanistan, for example, is a result of the biology of its inhabitants rather than its tradition of tribalism, warfare and in general complete lawlessness. Yet we are quick to do so in Africa even though the mindset is quite similar.

      1. Don’t Afganis, like so many other Muslims, practice cousin-marriage? If so then there are good odds that the condition of Afghanistan are, at least partially, a result of the genetic consequences of close inbreeding.

  5. An acquaintance of mine used to say “God made Africa for the Africans, its a mistake for us to ever have had anything to do with it.”

    1. I believe that’s actually a derivation of what Bismarck said about both Africa and the Balkans — which are similar in nature (albeit not in degree), if you think about it.
      His other comment was that the entire Balkan region was not worth the life of a single Pomeranian grenadier, which is how I think of Africa.

  6. Can Africa change, or does Africa destroy all who enter there?
    It will be interesting to see the results of ChiCom expansionism into Africa come the end of the Century – will China still be a player, or will Africa have eaten them like they have preceding systems that have interrupted the course of African history.

    1. The Chinese have a very different attitude towards barbarians than does the West. If China doesn’t eradicate herself via the cultural consequences of the One Child policy and Marxism in general, then I give good odds that the black population of Chinese controlled Africa will shrink precipitously over the next century.

      1. Hard to say. The folks that draw exponentially increasing population graphs will be as wrong as the other folks that say ebola will solve the population problem. Could China enslave/exterminate all of black africa and somehow turn that to their advantage, just to get the minerals it wants? Seems equally implausible as Kim is fundamentally right that “nothing works.” Afghanistan repels invaders. Africa sucks them in and transforms them into something else than when they started. Heart of Darkness is informative on the subject.

        1. Hermann Goering’s father, Heinrich had something to do with Germany’s failure in Africa before WW1, if memory serves. That might also shed light on Africa’s transformative nature as you say.

          My thought on Africa is that the colonizing powers did not think about their “exit strategy”, and just thought the gravy train would just keep on rolling, and so long as the natives weren’t restless they gave little or no thought to the natives someday governing themselves. They therefore did nothing to ensure that the culture there changed from one of stasis to one of development.

      2. China is re-inventing colonialism in Africa for their own benefit. Much like the European colonists, they are, for now, almost exclusively focussed on access to cheap labour and natural resources. The big difference today is that Africa has acquired a taste for cheap technology, and China almost completely monopolizes the production of inexpensive, high quality manufactured goods. As a result, Chinese businesses in Africa are effectively financing what otherwise would be much more of a burden to the Chinese economy.

        Longer term therefore, China can capture Africa economically without any effective competition from Europe and North America.

        With China’s population boom behind it, Africa’s just hitting its stride and western markets saturated with goods, China does not need “lebensraum” as much as it needs a massive and expanding consumer market – they have it pretty-well sewn up if you ask me.

        1. What with the cultural changes of the One Child policy followed by sex selective abortion, China still has millions of excess males. Sending them abroad, perhaps as managers and enforcers, might keep them out of mischief at home.

          If the locals in Africa or elsewhere turn out not to like the consequences, the Chinese will probably make the Belgians and the apartheid system look like Mother Teresa.

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