Once again my life experiences have woken me up in this force from within me that could probably be seen from many angles: 1) Passion, 2) Anger, 3) Hate, 4) Fear, 5) Conviction, 6) Insult, 7) Holy Spirit… and whatever other emotion / force that people assign to the burning ache that happens in one’s chest that shouts: “You just have to stand up for this”… it seems most of my blogs are “sourced” from “that” place.
This blog, once again, revolves around the “Names” of Universities in South Africa saga. In particular, my alma mater: Rhodes University. Decades ago there was a guy whose surname was Rhodes, and there is the belief that the man (who no-one in the 21st century ever met, or could ever know) doesn’t deserve to have his name used anymore, because government has changed and a minority group believe that they should erase all white history in South Africa. I.e. they want to destroy DECADES of history, they want to cost the University a FORTUNE in ‘rebranding’, ‘re-heading’, and ‘re-marketing’ a mix that has worked for years. A little group of upstarts has decided that the alumni, who have put MILLIONS and MILLIONS into their “Rhodes” University, should now put more into it to pay for their little itch that dislikes a man who they’ve never met, dislikes an apartheid system they never lived in, and, in so doing, cause great annoyance, frustration and a waste of time and money because they have no respect for HISTORY.
This nonsense really has NOTHING to do with present day South Africa, anyone walking around the Rhodes Campus would know and feel how fantastic it is; and that has NOTHING to do with the NAME and EVERYTHING to do with the PEOPLE – of ALL races who live, work and study there.
This little group appear to be against white people in their essence and by nature interested in segregating themselves – this is wholly evident in the fact that they still call themselves the: “Black Student Movement”, thus, by their own title and own choice of label (that no-one is demanding that they change in this 20 year old multi-racial-EQUAL-Rights South Africa) they are telling the world that “Black” should be alone and separate from everyone else. How can ANYONE let a group who see themselves as a singled-out-more-important-separated race, in a VERY multi-racial society, dictate what the majority desire?
If they wanted to do this LEGITIMATELY, LEGALLY and DEMOCRATICALLY, then they would put out a VOTE to EVERY Alumni, every current student, and every lecturer in the decades of databases and ASK THEM TO VOTE on whether or not they want the name of their University to change. I have NO doubt in my mind that the hundreds of students I studied with will vote to KEEP OUR UNIVERSITY NAME … Why? Because of the Nickname. As students we all took on the “Rhodes” and reduced it to a “Rat”, we even have a Pub Called “The Rat and Parrot” just off campus. That Rat symbol – THE RHODENT – became the symbol for all of us for our student identity. We have mugs, bags, t-shirts, pens and all the other branded paraphernalia, with our “RHODENT” on it. I even have a bumper sticker. The Rhodent – a lowly rat, that holds no-one above anyone else, has become what the name means to students AND NOT the guy who died decades upon decades ago.
Interestingly, however, this little group of upstarts occupied the VC’s office – illegally. They have put graffiti on campus property – illegally. They are photocopying wads of the VC’s “Private and Confidential” documents – illegally – and are “playing” with journalists, like they are important. There are THREE: ILLEGAL, GO TO PRISON, offences going on and their supporters are blind enough to say – no, it’s all about that dead guy and what we think he stood for, and what history books portrayed…? Seriously?
How about skipping over a past that no-one can change, getting over your personal issues about whatever prejudices you have, and jumping into the 21st CENTURY where you can CHOOSE your view, and choose to see a new meaning for the name? Take on the “Rhodent”, take on the change, respect the history, respect the reminder of where we have come from, respect that change has to happen, and we can’t change or erase the past, and we shouldn’t desire to change or replace the past, because IT IS THAT PAST that got us to where we are today. IT IS THAT PAST, that history, that has taught us the lessons we need to remember, we need to acknowledge and we need to make sure we never repeat.
Changing a name will not erase racism. Changing a name will not erase the anger and hurt in anyone’s heart – it will only aggravate and cause more hurt because it is saying one group’s history is more important than another’s. Changing a name is expensive, in an economic climate where we should be focusing on spending money on NECESSARY things. Changing a name will not change the history that has already been laid down. Acceptance is the only way to move forward peacefully.
What has gutted me more than anything about these little upstarts is their lack of appreciation for the privilege of being at Rhodes; their lack of respect for their elders, the alumni and the VC; and MOST of all – their SCREWED UP priorities. I really am heart-broken, that in the 21st century – 20 years AFTER apartheid, that they have not moved on from the past where other people were treated horrendously and into the present where they are free to IMPROVE the situation, instead of make it worse and create a century-long feud like the Capulets and Montagues in “Romeo & Juliet”.
Why are they not protesting against the fact that a woman is raped every few seconds in this country?
Why aren’t they protesting against the fact that the ESKOM bosses, who have cried “no funds” to give the people electricity, have received MILLIONS in bonuses? Or how about the fact that the government, who haven’t effectively managed coal energy, are now wanting to manage NUCLEAR ENERGY?
Why aren’t they protesting against the fact that in a time of poverty, 25% unemployment, water shortages and shocking educational statistics, the president has spent a quarter of a BILLION on his ONE house?
Why aren’t they protesting against the fact that pollution is killing us; that the world’s population is currently bringing itself to EXTINCTION for the first time ever in the millennia of the history of life?
Why have they placed The Name of an over 100 year old University as more important than the issues of the 21st century?
I don’t understand… and my mind asks: Which political party is sponsoring these little upstarts? What is their “REAL” agenda? How can a mass of people let them do what they are illegally doing? It’s apartheid all over again – Hitler all over again – one little group dictating to the masses and the masses letting them. . . and still society is apathetic and lets it happen… ugh
What’s worse is that those supporting the name change appear completely clueless that “Rhodes” University does not teach or lecture racism; completely clueless that being racist is something that is ‘learnt’ from their parents and those they mixed with in their school years. Racism is not something anyone ‘learns’ at University, it is actually part of the baggage that individuals have chosen to take on from their elders. Changing the name will not get rid of the baggage, only the individual can choose to let go of it.