Culture, Reality
White Slaves

White Slaves

by Brandon Edmonds / Illustration by Alastair Laird / 23.01.2012

Sometimes you gotta laugh. Right? I mean this country. I tell ya. It is funny. Here’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s recent toast at the ANC Centenary shindig: “The leaders will now enjoy the champagne, and of course they do so on your behalf through their lips.” Oh of course. Wait. So the lips of our leaders belong to us? Whatever passes them is our business, is beholden to us? We control, by proxy, the intimate threshold of their lips. Cool. I say we test this.

Champagne, who wouldn’t bolt that down? That’s child’s play. How about piss? How about raw sewerage? How about taint sweat a’ la Jackass? How about the menstrual blood of a hundred loyal members of the ANC Woman’s League? A sort proto-feminist-performance-art-Centenary-tribute-thing. May even win the Turner Prize, right. Shit lets test our leaders’ commitment to this ‘servant of the People’ / representative democracy thing. Let’s take them at their word. Let’s push them all the way.

We could have monthly referendums on a rotating provincial basis with alternating cabinet ministers: You Decide What Goes in the Minister’s Mouth. Tears, sump spillage, ground bees, the drippings of a homeless man’s cyst. Now that’s entertainment. Interest in the political process among the youth would spike to North Korean levels of commitment. Nimrod could host the show like the Lotto. The Parlotones could be the house band. The McGregor sisters could be naked and administer the liquid in like an S&M dungeon setting. The Minister would gulp it down and roar in exultation as households cheer. This thing has legs producers. Call me.

Wretched of the Earth

It isn’t an original idea. As in so many things, the great Frantz Fanon, anti-colonial philosopher and psychologist from Martinique, author of Black Skin White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, got there first. In an essay that grows more and more pertinent to the situation in South Africa by the second, called “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”, free online and so worth reading, Fanon suggests the only way ‘the authentic national middle class’, the new leadership that emerges once the white suppressors give way, can avoid becoming just another champagne-glugging “tool of capitalism” is by making itself “the willing slave of that revolutionary capital that is the people.” Hence the S&M dungeon set. See I’m on it. I’ve thought this through.

Speaking of slaves, more shits and giggles are to be had with that nagging venereal disease of the political system, as devilishly hard to eradicate as syphilis, Juju, who told delighted Khayelitsha residents that they’ll be employing white domestic workers in a decade.

This is ingenious political opportunism. Flipping the drudgery of so many upside down. Stoking political fantasies. For Malema liberation is a form of resentment. For one race to succeed another must fall. A sense of how class works in capitalism would help shift the racial basis of his thinking but the objective conditions in South Africa, the abiding blackness of poverty, make his ideas both accurate and appealing.

But their ultimate hollowness, the self-serving truth, is nailed by Fanon: to cut-rate ideologues like Malema, “nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are the legacy of the colonial period.” That’s why the call isn’t for rational anarchist freedoms, the collective autonomy of workers to decide their own fate, an urgent necessity, but the continuation of indignity in a different skin. Whites will be domestic workers rather than the right of work and dignity for all. The same overall oppression abides. The same system that lets Malema re-do his house at a cost of millions mustn’t be challenged.

Imagine a white domestic. A retired old librarian. Let’s call her Betty White. Black kids would sneak out to her ‘khaya’ (a nice Tudor bungalow that smells of tea and Marie biscuits) when their parents are away and score mince pies, racy Jilly Cooper novels and Michael Buble CDs. She’d teach them to bake and keep their elbows off the table. She’d tell them how to talk for hours about the weather. The kids would learn how to use an inside voice and keep their feelings well hidden. She’d tell them about the days whites were on television and hair salons didn’t have a selection of weaves and braids. They won’t believe her.

Betty will tell them stories about life under apartheid to put them to sleep at night. Being a liberal she will be moved by regret and shame. The kids won’t understand her shame. But they will feel sorry for her and a little disgusted at her lowly position in life. Couldn’t she have worked harder or studied more? What’s wrong with her? Doesn’t she have any pride? Hating too how their father speaks to Betty. The offhandedness. The indifference. She’s a good person they’ll think. But lazy. Shame man.

*Illustration © Alastair Laird.

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RESPONSES (21)
  1. cnut says:

    Since when did being a domestic worker amount to slavery?

    My mother brought up her employer’s kids like the grand-mother they didn’t have, ran their household in every respect (whilst they both worked huge hrs), afforded me a top notch education and still works for them by choice (I can afford her to retire)…

    Mahala run out of original content in South Africa so now having to include politics and lurid cartoons at every turn?

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  2. Veronika says:

    Whilst Cnut turns out daily criticique that worsens the scenario.

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  3. cnut is white says:

    Y’all didn’t know?

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 10

  4. Plasma scream says:

    Now it’s official, gratuitous reference to bodily emissions will serve as regular substitute for substance and intelligent discourse on mahala.

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  5. your mom says:

    so I started reading this, then started yaaaaaawning.

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  6. cnut says:

    Exactly PLasma… much like it is (was) impossible for Roger Young to write anything without 90′s drug references or Andy Davis to write anything objectively (without super-left-softcock-white-guilt)…

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  7. Tarren says:

    See where your pseudo-smarts get you.

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  8. Roger Young says:

    @cnut

    Please! 90′s OR drug references; you make me sound so limited.

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  9. Zo says:

    I fail to understand why since the white maid is a liberal she is capable of feeling shame and regret about South Africa’s Apartheid past. I’m sure conservatives have the moral and intelectual capacity to be similarly affected.

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  10. Andy says:

    cnut you spout a lot of criticism for someone I’ve never met in real life. I just wonder, have you read much of my work? Or are you just stuck online teasing out reactions to compensate for being sad and lonely?

    This piece is actually great. cnut et al, once again refuse to actually engage with the subject, pick on one sticking point “white slavery” – which is used spuriously and mainly carried by the headline and imagery and not the actual text. Edmonds clearly explains in the piece the pitfalls of Julius Malema’s thinking with regard to the “white domestic workers” comment. But you all just look at the pics and make up your own meanings anyway, huh?

    And really, instead of just being a weak, anonymous little troll under the story… if you think you can do better than this, inbox me

    pitch@mahala.co.za

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  11. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    Back in the 90′s white business explained to the ANC all about sanitaryware. They got the picture and soon learned how to flush their credentials down the toilet. As predicted by Fanon. As pointed out by Edmonds. Thanks.

    @Cnut
    I think I’m getting a handle on you. It was your ‘top notch education’ that persuaded you that some people are superior to others, and that the poor will always be with us.
    I know it’s hard to break free from tradition, but try questioning the attitudes you picked up at that school and you might find it easier to like people.

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  12. cnut says:

    Cnut said “Mahala run out of original content in South Africa so now having to include politics and lurid cartoons at every turn?”

    The last 4 out of 5 articles have included the above… I rest my case!

    Andy, Andy, Andy… your insular, narcissism (strangely just as strong a trait in a GenX-white-apologist as it is in the staunch-old-school-Afrikaner-stereo-type you so despise) has seen you and your site devolve from a once refreshing MO to one that has to fall back to using race, lurid cartoons, and smutty writing (as it gets the ‘hits’)…

    The devolution from the original mission statement is plain to see… and it irks you my generation of successful, black Gen Y’ers are calling you out.

    Open-your ears and your mind… do you want to get the ‘hits’ or be refreshing… race at-every-turn certainly ain’t that for my demographic!

    If the above are the only topics you can find in this vibrant country then you’re fading fast!

    As for being anonymous… you have my name, you have my email (which you’ve used to practically beg me to engage with you) and you know my two businesses I own and part-own… that’s grade 2 googling pal!

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  13. blue tuesday says:

    Andy, please tell us cnut’s name. We’re all eager to find out who the man behind the nasty mask is.

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  14. Jeff Peterson says:

    Thing about Cnut is he tells us what Mahala shouldn’t write about, but has no suggestitions as what it should be covering.

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  15. cnut says:

    Jeff how about this for a novel idea…

    South African ‘Art, Culture, Leisure, Sport, Movies, Music’?

    @Blue Tuesday… yes please do Andy, particularly my email address.

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  16. Andy says:

    cnut has always dissed us. I can’t remember one positive comment about our work. So it’s interesting to see that he once thought we were “refreshing”.

    Dude’s an oppositional troll clamouring for attention.

    my inbox = empty

    pitch@mahala.co.za

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  17. Wilmien says:

    We are going to employ white domestic workers and gardeners, we are busy training them to become the best domestic and gardeners ever!!! We will advertise to fire all the black domestics and gardeners and employ your own white people!!! Thanks Malema, good idea hope you have some jobs available for all the unemployed black people within a year, thousands will the jobless thanks to you!!!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    iv’e also heard that they are also selling women to italy.

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  19. Babel Fish says:

    George Orwell would have been proud of that champagne/lips line.

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  20. Babel Fish says:

    As usual in SA the issue is being clouded by race. At the end of the day the people are once again being fucked over by the ruling classes. “All animals are equal…” Almost embarassingly simplistic but utterly true.

    Lets get back to basics folks….

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  21. raimondo says:

    Hallelujah for opinions like yours. Thank God and Allah and Vishnu….that there are people who see the big picture. Way to go brother! thanks for the article, look forward to more opinion/insight/entertainment from you.

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