Abigail George is a South African writer from Port Elizabeth. Versions of this article was published on www.goodreads.com (US), www.hackwriters.com (UK), LinkedIn (US), and (www.ovimagazine.com) Ovi Magazine: Finland’s English Online Magazine (Scandinavia).
“Not like the movies: The Cape Corps (1939-1946) and the legacy of apartheid”
It is another violent day outside, it is another day of eating the dust of the colonial masters, the breadcrumbs from the kitchen table of the masters, the men, the soldiers, the “boys” are animated, and cool under pressure. But this is a documentary by the filmmaker Vincent Moloi of shoes and a bicycle, this is the legacy of the apartheid-government, this is the story that has not been told yet of the Cape Corps. They have seen combat, they have seen death, they have seen Kenya, and these “agents of terror” serve and protect their country selflessly and will define future generations to come. This is not like the movie. This is real life, a reality based on the “interpretation and illustration”, and “idea and ideal” of survival-training.
The Cape Corps (that served in the Second World War) was about the adrenaline rush of camp life, the transformation of brotherhood, these “elite killing machines” knew about honour and loss, the charitable engagement of reward, discipline and obedience to the cause, and in the end they were the winners, because the war was won on the backs of
soldiers of every nation, of every faith, of every creed, and of every race. The Cape Corps, the soldiers who served selflessly, fearlessly, saw destruction and death and law knew much about sacrifice and service, and this is what writing means to me now. The continuation of legacy, liberation, fraternity, honour, honour, honour, service and reward, even if it meant imprisonment, or death, or casualties of war.
I’m not with you, the former-elite (see minority-rule), and the majority is now the democratic-elect in South Africa. I see a fragile darkness visible found in the minds of those soldiers who returned home from the war, I see major clinical depression, I see unspoken incidents of trauma, injury, infirmity, and besides the loss of life, these soldiers had to return to a semblance of normalcy somehow, they had loved ones, families, wives who had waited for their return, they had children, they had to survive by any means necessary, they had to live, provide for their families, and some of these veterans chose addiction because there was simply no other release. In those days there was no state psychiatrist, no rehabilitation centre, no psychotropic drugs, anti-depressants, or mono-amine oxidase inhibitors, no education about the neurotransmitters (in particular, dopamine and serotonin) of the brain.
The millennials have a modern way of thinking, the “inner music of their soul” is not nostalgia, or even sentiment, (my next book will be called “The Elders, the Patriarchs, and Matriarchs of the George Family”) and the millennial thinks in functioning-code, data capturing, and not usurping, uprising, the collateral damages of war, rogue agents, intelligence, defence capabilities, the primitive wars that human lives have always fought in the name of commission, and honour, the mandate of obligation, military duty, service, and conduct. The politicians say it is the political way or the internet-highway, the technological advancements made in the name of human potential, but gender-bias still exists today in our still patriarchal society.
Our future leaders are technocrats and socialites, alpha dreamers, iconoclasts, teaching intellectuals, scholars, academics, educationalists, and it is still the West seeking key independence in mapping out trade routes, fighting democracy in this age or iron lost in the translation of the African Renaissance that began, that had its roots in the twentieth century. Now we must look to our fractured writing style, and our grassroots-techniques when it comes to our spiritual-and-collective gospel-truths, our “tribal” literature, flexing the muscle of language, the intrinsic flux of literacy in our rural countryside and our metropolitan cities. I write to write the almost spiritual, where the lines of the external meets the struggle of the internal.
The alpha-males (Akin Omotoso, Dr Ambrose Cato George (Ph.D.), Rehad Desai, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Ayanda Billie, Mzi Mahola, Winston Ntshona, John Kani, Athol Fugard, Athol Williams, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, George Bizos, Vincent Moloi, Moses Molelekwa, Ken Oosterbroek, Kevin Carter, Patrice Lumumba, Rick Turner, Kwame Nkrumah, Stephen Bantu Biko, Samora Machel, the South African award-winning journalist Lee Gary McCabe, comrade Chris Hani, comrade Julius Malema, comrade Trevor Manuel,
comrade Johnny Clegg, the lions, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, ex-president Jacob Zuma, and president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Of course, the alpha-females are in a league of their own (Dulcie September, and the Mother of Africa Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nadine Gordimer, Dorothy Alexander, Jann Turner, and the list continues ad infinitum).
It is strange to me, the homage, the tribute, the price I pay as a writer (see Nadine Gordimer) who lives with silences, solitude, loneliness, as poet (see Ingrid Jonker), as blogger, and diarist, as essayist, as playwright, to have domestic responsibilities, to live with the legacy of a post-apartheid government, the consolation of my paternal grandfather, Staff Sergeant Joseph William George, a highly decorated war hero who on his return from the Second World War received a coat and a bicycle from the then South African government. What about compensation for their devoted widows, the devout clergymen who prayed fervently for their safe return, their children, and great-grandchildren?
It is therapy, modern-day psychiatrists, the indoctrinated-church, the African Renaissance, and conditioned-thinking of religion that has always defined my identity, my self-worth, my mental health, my reality and my non-reality. War heroes, what conditions their thinking, did the members of the elite Cape Corps suffer from auditory hallucinations, are these questions that we will never find the answers to, and what exactly was their extra-sensory, extra-ordinary comprehension of their reality and their near-catastrophic non-reality. What did they remember about the casualties of war when they returned home, the fallen heroes, the genocide of war, their mental illness, or melancholia, or their depression, the flux of their state of mind?
Our “sins must be washed away” (but how you ask), for the work must continually be published, the history of the liberatory struggle must be rewritten, and in death, the lives of our “scholars of trivia” must always be celebrated. If I may be allowed to digress, we (white, black, brown, of mixed-race descent, Khoi, Griqua, San, Asian, non-European, Afrikaner, Sotho, Xhosa, Venda, Zulu) must decolonize ourselves mentally (see oral tradition, information communication technology, the digital divide), we must decolonize ourselves intellectually, we must write in the eleven official languages with a “spiritual sensitivity” and a “divine intuition”.
We will be defined by our Pan African-consciousness, drumming “the Jerusalem, our Jerusalem at the gate” in the images of our visual artists, our photographers, the art is to look for succession, extraordinary succession, situations of mischief, conflict and otherwise, and idyllic opportunities for us all to learn and grow in grace and mercy. I have become older, but write frankly to talk about my generation.
You see for us to understand that the “figurative storm” is over, the work, the education, the philosophy is just beginning, that war makes pariahs out of all of us, that writers must unmask the , that poets must have the turning point, the edge, a world of sacred neural energy to turn their energies, sacred space, the system must demand all of their attention, that there will be music and fragility and darkness, but that yes, we can.
Name: Abigail George
Street address: 20 Romneya Crescent, Gelvan Park, Port Elizabeth, 6016
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: (041) 456 2059
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