A Time to Dig Trenches

A Time to Dig Trenches. By Enrst van Zyl.

What insights can I share on this situation from South Africa? Being part of a minority community with a Western heritage, living on the edge of Western civilization, arguably offers a useful perspective to see things that Westerners in bigger countries sometimes miss …

Afrikaners have struggled for centuries with many of the existential questions that are only now emerging for the West. In South Africa the future has already happened; political options for decades have been limited to a choice between center-left, leftist and far-left, and many Western utopian visions continue to crash, burn and get stripped for parts. Accordingly, few of us here in South Africa still labor under the delusion of thinking that political parties will save us. But this doesn’t mean that we’ve lost hope. …

Moving or trekking is deeply engrained in Afrikaners’ historical and cultural memory. Our ancestors arrived in Africa as immigrants, refugees, fortune seekers, or by accident through twists of fate. One of my own ancestors was on his way to New Zealand when he was thrown off the ship in South Africa for kicking the captain’s dog. I’m also a direct descendent of the French Huguenots, who fled to South Africa more than 300 years ago to escape religious persecution. My French Huguenot ancestor, a man with the surname Roux, arrived in southern Africa in 1688, almost 100 years before the United States became a country.

The British occupation of 1806 resulted in the loss of political control over the Cape Colony. Anglo political and cultural repression drove many Afrikaners to pack up their belongings in the 1830s and embark on a great migration into the unknown interior. This exodus has become known as the Great Trek and was mainly an effort to escape ruthless anglicization under the boot of imperial administration. For the Voortrekkers, as those intrepid Afrikaners are now known, the time had come to move.

This was not a move in pursuit of greater material wealth or safety. Many of the Afrikaners in the Great Trek abandoned their farms, businesses and most of their possessions and left, despite the promise of better infrastructure, schools, security and business opportunities under British rule. As luck, or rather fate would have it, the Boers discovered diamonds and gold after establishing the fledgling South African Republic (the Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State in the Southern African interior. The eyes of the empire, therefore, became fixed on them once again, resulting in the First (1880-1881) and Second (1899-1902) Anglo-Boer War.

This time, faced again with a renewed existential threat of imperialism, the Boers decided it was a time to dig trenches. In fact, the use of trench warfare by the Boers in the Second Anglo-Boer War was the first use of this tactic in military history and set the stage for the century to come. …

Over the past several decades South Africans have mainly chosen to emigrate to Western, Anglosphere countries. These emigrants concluded that the time has come to move, and that movement closer to the cultural and political power centers of the Western-dominated global order was their best bet. As Russell Lamberti put it: “[w]e now live in a world of people on the run.”

But the problem with constantly moving to higher ground to escape the rising tide is that you eventually run out of higher ground. If you recently emigrated, or semigrated to what you deem a more defendable position, you now have a duty to take root and hold your ground there. The harsh reality is that, at some point, you will have to make a stand. If not you, it will be your children. …

The time has come for Western communities to stop running and start digging trenches. These trenches will have to be dug in the field of parallel institutions and in the ground of identity and the mountains of heritage. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots.” Just as a military and economic balance of powers facilitate world peace, a healthy pride in one’s own cultural identity is essential for coexistence with other cultures. We should encourage healthy cultural pride and a sense of identity in our own community, as well as in neighboring ones. When you remove the cultural heritage of any human being, you uproot them. Anchorless, they float with the currents into the boundless ocean, until one day they are spat out on an unfamiliar beach as driftwood and picked up by strangers as firewood.

The benefit of living in good times is that you have ample opportunities to live a comfortable life. The advantage of living in hard times is that you have plenty of opportunities to live a great life. As my father once observed: “There is a hefty price to pay to live in one of the greatest places on earth.” The older I get, and the more volatile the West becomes, the truer that sentiment rings. Freedom is only truly possible on the frontier, and a frontier is more often than not to be found on the periphery of empires or on the edges of powerful civilizations. So I’ve thrown my lot in with the trench diggers of Southern Africa. To live dangerously on the margins of human expansion like a leopard in the Western Cape mountains is better than growing fat and living safely in a concrete zoo.

South African was the white country at the bottom of Africa. Australia is the white country at the bottom of Asia.

hat-tip Stephen Neil