Saturday, July 21, 2007

Between Pride and Prejudice: The Problem of History

In its latest Weekend Edition the Financial Times ran an article on a catchy song that has become popular amongst Afrikaners, "De la Rey," by Bok van Blerk.

The song has been the source of much controversy. The title character is Koos de la Rey, an Afrikaner guerrilla general from the Anglo-Boer Wars. Some claim the song promotes racist nationalism and plays to a crowd that desires a return to apartheid, and there is no doubt that these elements have indeed embraced the song. (The translation of the lyrics below was first found by Google on the Stormfront White Nationalist Community website.) Others, among them Bok van Blerk himself, claim that's going too far.

We wanted to sing a song about history and the general, to be proud. De la Rey did not want to go to war. He stood up for the right things, for freedom.... The song wasn't written for [a political] reason.... I wanted to create something for people to be proud of. It's like 'Flower of Scotland.' There's a warm feeling inside and it's got that feel to it. My generation of Afrikaners wants to be proud of who we are and were we come from, and our language.

While the United States does not exactly face the same questions of race, culture and politics found in South Africa, the same themes are in the air here, as seen by recent debates about immigration, affirmative action and English as the official language. Is this dangerous nationalism or innocent cultural pride?

De la Rey
by Bok van Bleck

On a mountain in the night
we lie in the darkness and wait
In the mud and blood
I lie cold,
grain bag and rain cling to me.
And my house and my farm,
burned to ashes
so that they could catch us
But those flames and that fire
burn now deep, deep within me.

De la Rey, De la Rey,
will you come to lead the Boers?
De la Rey, De la Rey
General, General, as one man
we'll fall in around you
General De la Rey

And the Khakis [Brits] that laugh
-- [just] a handful of us
against their whole great might --
With the cliffs to our backs,
they think it's all over
But the heart of the Boer lies deeper and wider,
that they'll still find [out]

At a gallop he comes,
the Lion of the West Transvaal


Because my wife and my child,
lie in a Hell-camp and perish
And the Khakis' vengeance
is poured over
a nation that will rise up again


De la Rey, De la Rey,
will you come for the Boers?

Note: The flag seen in the video which might at first glance be mistaken for the American flag is in fact the flag of the Orange Free State.

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  • For those of you who wanted the lyrics in the original:

    De La Rey,
    Bok van Blerk

    Op 'n berg in die nag
    lê ons in die donker en wag
    in die modder en bloed lê ek koud,
    streepsak en reën kleef teen my

    en my huis en my plaas tot kole verbrand sodat hulle ons kan vang,
    maar daai vlamme en vuur brand nou diep, diep binne my.

    De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
    De La Rey, De La Rey
    Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
    Generaal De La Rey.

    Oor die Kakies wat lag,
    'n handjie van ons teen 'n hele groot mag
    en die kranse lê hier teen ons rug,
    hulle dink dis verby.

    Maar die hart van 'n Boer lê dieper en wyer, hulle gaan dit nog sien.
    Op 'n perd kom hy aan, die Leeu van die Wes Transvaal.

    De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
    De La Rey, De La Rey
    Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
    Generaal De La Rey.

    Want my vrou en my kind lê in 'n kamp en vergaan,
    en die Kakies se murg loop oor 'n nasie wat weer op sal staan.

    De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
    De La Rey, De La Rey
    Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
    Generaal De La Rey.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 7:59 AM, July 23, 2007  

  • "Is this dangerous nationalism or innocent cultural pride?"

    Not sure what you mean by this. If you're talking about that Afrikaner tune...I have no opinion. As for "immigration, affirmative action and English as the official language", I would have to say, "Neither, at least at the current time".

    Some who oppose immigration & affirmative action, and support English-as-a-national-language, may indeed be racists or nationalists or white supremacists, but a decent number are not. One need not be a racist - in the original sense of Jim Crow or the Nazis - to oppose, um, discrimination on the basis of race (which is ultimately what affirmative action boils down to).

    Likewise immigration & official English: one need only look at the American Civil War - or the more recent example of Quebec - to see what happens when you allow cultural rifts to grow within your population.

    It is entirely reasonable for Americans to expect that immigrants assimilate to the larger American culture (including learning & speaking of English). And it is likewise reasonable to question whether a sufficiently large influx of immigrants might "choke" the Melting Pot by eroding incentives for immigrants to assimilate.

    By Blogger Avenging Sword, at 4:54 PM, July 24, 2007  

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