Updated: Dec 11, 2019
This article is written with the deepest respect, love and understanding for those who have lived through horrific atrocities and reflects the author's lived experience of an 'isolated minority group' within the global arena, yet the underlying consequences of separation of any group applies to all of us, equally...
The African White Male; a commonplace topic of banter at many a barbeque (braai) - what might this title conjure up for you, can you relate directly, or do you know someone who fits this description..
I was born in the beach-side town of Scottburgh in the early 70’s and grew up on the east coast of South Africa in the surrounds of Amanzimtoti (Zulu name for “Sweet Waters”).
Under the ‘then’ Apartheid regime as a young white male I had near unrestrained freedom in life, and
as kids we walked to school, rode our bikes and skateboards in the streets till dark and lived very much akin to the way my sons now have the opportunity to live in Australia.
As a young boy I recall we left cash on the doorstep for the milkman and seldom locked doors in houses or cars.
By my late childhood the milkman was a thing of the past, locking the house door became a drummed in habit; then everyone began building fences around their properties.
At the age of 20 I was involved in an armed high-jacking of my beloved (new to me) second-hand car in the midst of a busy shopping centre carpark where a shoot out ensued. The next day I visited a Gunsmith and for the 15 years that followed, carried a concealed 9mm pistol strapped to a Velcro belt around my waist for protection..
House break-ins became commonplace and so fences were replaced with walls and electric gates. Security companies progressed from installing alarm systems, to having ‘private armies’ patrolling our neighbourhoods – no one took note of the house alarm sirens once the novelty wore off – after all we’re here, as a man, to protect our own – not some other blokes family down the road…..
The horror stories in the news became so over-whelming that the news no longer reported the majority of what was going on in society and by the time that I emigrated with my young family in my mid 30’s I did so completely numb and blind to the reality of the life we were conditioned to living. We left purely on the whim of exploring life in Australia for a few years; I was adamant we’d return.
The life of the average male, world wide, comes with the expectation that you grow up, have a family, provide for them financially and be their responsible protector.
So as a white male in South Africa this meant education was delivered with a lacing that you had to compete at some level in order to be, if not one step ahead, at least in the middle of the pack to ensure a job and career to tick the first box of ‘provider role’. By the time my much younger brothers came through the ranks, a university degree, or similar, was near mandatory to ensure your employability as the political climate began to change.
Interestingly the black African male, without much schooling at all, made the sacrifice of travel to distant work sites toiling all day to send his wage home to the family who he might only see briefly once or twice a year.
So what about the second box of public protector role that men subscribe to full-fill; how does the burden of this ideal weigh on the shoulders of men, when you make a decision to strap a pistol to your belt, fully aware that you’re making the choice that in an instant you must decide to take someone else’s life in defence of your own or your family….
Surely this must have an immeasurable toll, akin to being a soldier at war..
But you’re living a ‘normal’ life, conditioned over time – there is no war, or at least it is not acknowledged as one.
And what happens to life when your nervous system is subliminally in constant overwhelm and your internal stress levels are through the roof – well, in order not to feel the state your body is in: you work harder, you exercise and play sports harder, you eat and drink harder – and because you’re in a society where you’re all finding ways to cope under the same stresses, the harder does not appear harder and so the limits get pushed further and further – and little or none of it appears out of place. Occasionally extreme stress gets the better of you and something snaps..
Now I live in a society where the protection role is wound right back, and the stress is off - right. In fact, within two weeks of relocating to Brisbane, Australia my three young sons completely transformed in their nature – the release of the stresses within them that had moulded their characters was so tangible that it snapped my wife and I out of our denial and we swore we’d not be returning to live in South Africa within a few years, as planned.
But the male provider role, being in a new country with zero support base, no work network, no friends or family nearby, escalates this burden to nearly match that of providing protection while living in a war zone.
Let’s face it, you arrive in a foreign land and you are an outsider – business operates world-wide on the principle of the ‘old boys club’ and when you’re not on the inside, you’re left out. This is stressful to contend with.
I’ve more recently found myself working away from home to make ends meet, and this is not uncommon for the Australian construction work-force, both blue and white collar. Reminds me of the migrant worker in Africa.
How do we deal with this as men, as a family, as a society – well my observation that this amounts to a fair amount of stress for all, is an under-statement.
How do we deal with this when it’s the ‘normal’ way of life – well its effects remain hidden by the seeming normal and behaviours go unchecked as they escalate. Sound familiar.
Is it for the 'African White' Male, that migration to another shore shifts anything of the burdens of being a man?
Unlikely, is my observation, clearly evident when standing around a barbeque with others of my ilk, that life remains very stressful. And boy are we “ex-Saffas” classed as being highly driven achievers once we do re-establish ourselves in business on a foreign land – the fight for survival ever-present in our make-up.
So why write this blog – what’s the point of dredging up something that for many is a no-go zone of realisation..
Well it dawned on me in a conversation just recently that when life ‘normalises’ that which is clearly not normal, the light in the long dark tunnel you enter, gradually fades until it reaches a point that any glimmer of hope appears as nothing more than a figment of the imagination. And I’m clearly not the only one to have walked this path…
Not knowing who you are, your true purpose to life, will undoubtedly weigh in as the number one source of stress, anxiety, despair etc and growing up in a war zone and competing for life on many levels will certainly conceal the truth of who You are, very very effectively.
So who are we – this 'African White' Male species? Well we’re certainly not the deeply hurt and protective individuals we portray of ourselves through our hardness, competitiveness, aloofness, withdrawn-ness etc.
We remain, in all likelihood, deep down the playful, innocent, tender being we were as a young boy growing up – having fun on the streets with friends or being in nature (playing in the sandpit).
I have come to understand that we, as men, are not the result of the expectation of society to forsake these childhood qualities to fit the mould of provider and protector in any land. Know who you are and you will understand that protecting and providing for others bears no true service if you don’t know who you are first and foremost.
Is the 'African White' Male (or any other man on this planet) under threat – most definitely!
Life is setup to ensure we do not consciously know who we truly are with a constant internal war being waged.
Yet take a moment to pause and feel how your in-and-out breath moves within your body, or feel the gentle touch of your fingertips when holding a baby (or a puppy) and you will begin to re-connect with all the amazing qualities you bring to your role in this universe. Bringing these qualities to how you then choose to move and live in life builds the understanding that returns you to know who you are…
Web page: Men in Livingness