Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is a Rhodesian?

Gooks and Gob in Gokwe and Gwelo: the latest.

I have good news, and I have bad news. First - the good news. I am having some happy chatting with a publisher. More about this as I progress. Secondly, my latest OU course starts in a few days time and it is all about design and the web – perfect for my plans. This makes my work load rather a lot as I edit away.

Now the bad news…

I have decided you will not get any teaser chapters. BUT, saying that, I have put one up. This one is at present tagged at about page 80, and Chapter 16. It is not the finished product. I am also not sure if it will stay in its present location. It has nothing to do with the actual progression of the story itself, hence I can put this up as a ‘stand alone’.

What I do know, is that this chapter should be quite controversial.  So, please, I would love loads of comments. OKAY…here we go…

What is a Rhodie and are they for real?  

This is a difficult question. Firstly, where did the name Rhodesia come from? Obviously from Cecil John Rhodes, but it was his controversial sidekick, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, who publically announced the proposal to use the name in 1894. The official adoption was taken by Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, in an 1897 proclamation. The term covered both areas what would be called North Rhodesia (later Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia. This ‘new’ land would be for the only time in history; named after an Englishman.
With UDI declared in 1965 (something the Americans invented, meaning Unilateral Declaration of Independence. In clear words – Britain can bugger-off, we are doing our own thing), the pure term Rhodesia, as a land, was when it declared itself as a Republic in 1970. So its occupants were called Rhodesians.
P.M. Ian Smith, in addresses to the nation, would often refer to Black and White Rhodesians, but that isn’t strictly true. In fact, the Rhodesians were divided into tribes. In the almost fourteen years that I spent in Rhodesia, I never heard a Black person refer to themselves as Rhodesians. They were mostly Shona or Ndebele. Coloureds (mixed race) were called Coloureds politely and Goffels impolitely. The Chinese (chinkies) and Indians (churras) were called by their ethnicity also; despite that many had been born or been around Rhodesia for generations.
Then there is the use of the words munt, kaffir and hout (pronounced Hote), in the vocabulary of White Rhodesians. Munt, according to a March 16th 1959, article in Time magazine, entitled: Southern Rhodesia: The Munt Lover. - is - a Bantu word for man, used by Rhodesians as a rough equivalent of the U.S.'s "nigger". Stupidly, the article, by using the word ‘Rhodesians’, it implied that only ‘Whites’ were Rhodesians – so what was a ‘Black’ person called?
            The next word, kaffir, is so often bullshitted around on the internet in some vain attempt to ease any niggling of niggerism, that it gets boring. Wikipedia explains
The original meaning of the word is 'heathen', 'unbeliever' or 'infidel', from the Arabic 'kafir' and is still being used with this meaning by Muslims. The Arabic term Kafir (arab كافر) is, however, also applied to simply anyone who is not a Muslim. Portuguese explorers used the term generally to describe tribes they encountered in southern Africa, probably having misunderstood its etymology from Muslim traders along the coast. European colonists subsequently continued its use. Although it was in wide use between the 16th and 19th centuries, and not generally seen as an offensive term, as racial tensions increased in 20th century South Africa and the surrounding countries, it became a term of abuse. 
 So there you have it, but the definition also states –
The word kaffir, sometimes spelled kaffer or kafir, is an offensive term for a black person, most common in South Africa and other African countries. Generally considered a racial or ethnic slur in modern usage, it was previously a neutral term for black southern African people.
Strangely, even in apartheid South Africa,
Use of the word has been actionable in South African courts since at least 1976 under the offense of crimen injuria: "the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity of another".
The word Hout is more difficult to pin down, but I did find this -
"Hout" was a derogatory term for black people. Because many Africans were uneducated they were ignorant of the Europeans (whites) ways and modern technology. Hout meant "wooden headed" in the South African Afrikaans coming from "hout" meaning log or piece of wood. (Exact source needed)

These words are intensely derogative, but it is extremely puzzling how they were used by White Rhodesians. I found that the least cerebrally talented (male and female) used them racially. You find this sort of behaviour in every Western country. A few middle-class mates would have picked up the usage from their parents. They would let slip this description for the simple reason it never occurred to them to use any other form of terminology; although ‘African’ would be about as close as they could get. I know that the racial terms would be strictly censored by teachers and it was certainly so in my family. My father referred to them affectionately as Schwarzers, from the Yiddish, meaning Blacks. The BSAP simply called us African or European.
In modern day Britain, they have there own system in the constabulary. For example – W1 (White-British), W2 (Irish), B1 (Black-African), B2 (Black-Caribbean), A1 (Indian), A2 (Pakistani), and so on to sub-identities ad-infinitum.

The Rhodesian Whites had their own sub-tribes and cultures. The largest clan were of British heritage. The next, in population terms, were the Afrikaners of South African descent - the ones that got lost on The Great Trek. Then we had Portuguese (their numbers were boosted in 1974 by many fleeing to Rhodesia from Mozambique after it went ‘Black’), Greeks, Irish and the Jews. These people could send their children to government schools - even the Jews! The others had either ‘Black and/or mixed bag’ government schools or went private; of which there were many.
But even these so called Rhodie Whites would be called Pommies, Slopes and Rock Spiders, Porks, Greasies, Paddys or Micks, and Jew-boys. Jehovah Witness and other religious ‘freaks’ were called ‘Happy Clappers’. The terminology was used between friends and foes alike then and even now.
For example – When I was at school in Widdecombe Primary in Park Meadowlands, I was referred to as a Pommie by the little nasty Rhodie children from white-trash piss-poor backgrounds that were frequent in the ‘poor’ suburbs of Salisbury. But, by the time I was ten, and attending ‘posh’ Blakistan Junior, my multi-dialectical ability had transformed me into a speakable Rhodie; however, the surname was a problem - Greenberg = Jew-Boy. Still, with my skimpy pocket money I was definitely the stereotype. The tag didn’t bother me much; just the lack of some decent coin.
When I attended Mount Pleasant High School, my problem wasn’t the ignorant gentiles calling me a goy - it was the fact that the smart arse Jew-boys called me a gentile! It turns out that being unable to speak any Hebrew, neither had I had a Bar mitzvah, or even worse – gasp - my mother was not Jewish and the ultimate sin – I loved Colcom pork sausages and bacon (crispy please), meant I was a piggy in the middle. I solved that problem by changing my religion to Anglican. The wasted hour once a week at this class was great fun. Far better than listening to some old man with a top hat and beard going on about shabat, shebam, sherbert and mazeltovs.
This new identity meant I no longer had to go outside with the other Jews during school assembly when Christian hymns were sung, but could stand by my mates and sing off-key corrupted versions of Onward Christian Soldiers. Any really dumb-ass Jewish observations were actually just jealousy. They all tended to have rather well-off parents who could, for example, make their son become Headboy by buying the school a new tuck-shop. But, in a classic observation of the strange way the Rhodesians thought, Israelis were considered as almost God-like; as they kicked the Gippos about in their little wars. The similarity of circumstances seemed obvious to Rhodesians; hence the fact that the Israelis, though Jewish; were hard-core like Rhodies.

But ‘Rhodesian identity’ is still not solved. My father, a Jew, was born in Manchester and had parents that came from Poland. He was British, but took out Rhodesian citizenship in 1970. I believe he had a hidden agenda behind that move, but officially he was a Rhodesian - but not a Rhodie, because, according to Wikipedia
The term was first used by British army and civil service personnel in Rhodesia (the pre-independence name for Zimbabwe) during the period immediately before the country's independence.
It was? Well, well, I never knew that. In fact, the harder I think, the more it could be true. It isn’t like I would be walking around Salisbury and hear an old friend call out,
            ‘Hey Rhodie china, howzit, lets go for a chibuli.’
No, it would be more like
            ‘Hey, you old Jew-boy, fancy buying me a beer or are your arms still so short they can’t reach the bottom of your long pockets?’
             Wikipedia then goes on and identifies us as having –
a belief in the superiority of whites over blacks
a tendency to indulge in alcohol
an inclination towards occasional violence

Really? That definitely makes me a suspect Rhodie, for as far as I can tell, I only fill the middle criteria. In fact, the above description covers just about any yob Caucasian society on the planet. It gets better –
The term Rhodie is used throughout the English speaking world. It tends to be used in Commonwealth countries as the equivalent of the American term "redneck". It is occasionally applied to a person with no Zimbabwean connections, carrying connotations of a conservative world view and boorish behaviour.
Amazing, I thought they were describing ex American President George Bush Jnr. I am sure that there are many Rhodies who might think if George had been in power instead of weak, wimp, peanut grower Carter, they could still be an ethnic minority military elite ruling an African land - just like they do in Rwanda. (Nah, no chance china, your skin is the wrong colour. You need to come from China and bribe your way to the top of the shark feeding frenzy.)
More confusion –

After independence, the term began to be applied increasingly to those Rhodesians who were nostalgic for the past.
‘Nostalgic for the past.’ (When-wees.) Yes; like I really miss people fighting and dying. I really miss being scared to death of my father and later of Gooks. Perhaps that entry refers to White Rhodesians who remember life before Macmillan’s Wind of Change speech (and there are not many left of them now). After that, it all went tits-up and held aloft by spin. What post 1960’s Rhodesians are nostalgic about is very diverse; but basically it was orderedness. There seemed to be no chaos; the counter culture-revolution simply didn’t seep into the Victorian time bubble that was Rhodesia. By the early 1970’s if you were caught in tie-dye flowing caftans with long hair and a flower in your hair; you had a good chance of being called a morph/moffie  trouble maker and kicked out the country - if the R.L.I. (Rhodesian Light Infantry), didn’t catch you first.
Whilst the war, would for the urban Whites, who made up 90% of this ethnic population, become a complication to life; they swiftly adapted. What they miss is fabulous weather, wide open spaces, and someone who ironed and made the beds etc. High Street shopping meant going to your suburban shopping centre and bumping into neighbours. Sanctions were a pain but if you had enough bucks, you could get almost anything.
Does that make Rhodesian nostalgia unique? Oh please…I lived in Germany for two decades and watched the wall come down. Check out how many sites are on the internet for those East Germans that are nostalgic for their own previous way of life and orderedness.
More confusion gathers –
Expatriate Rhodesians outside Zimbabwe often describe each other affectionately as Rhodies. These people do not generally exhibit the characteristics indicated above.
This is wonderful news. It sounds like some of us are redeemed from being classified as imbecilic followers of a lost cause. Actually, for every 93 ‘boorish’ Rhodie, there are a few bright sparks. Quite a lot actually - all 7 of them. In INTELLIGENCE: THE MENSA JOURNAL No. 97, MARCH 1967, guesses who comes top of the brains chart? I quote –

White Rhodesians are an elite element within the English-speaking world in terms of psychometric intelligence. This finding is reinforced by visual impressions. Salisbury whites appear larger, healthier, more vigorous, alert and bright than London whites. Beatniks, transvestites and obvious homosexuals are conspicuously absent.
Brilliant! But it gets better –
The Terman-Merrill tests revealed that about 7 per cent of the white children in the government schools of the Salisbury district had IQs of 130 or better. This compares with about 2.5 per cent in that range in the U.K. and the U.S. and about 3 per cent in New Zealand. Group testing of pupils in privately operated schools indicated that their inclusion would not have lowered the percentage of gifted children.
Nice. Unfortunately, whilst these amazing statistics prove that in some influential way, Rhodesia would produce per-capita of the White population more famous writers than any other land; it is hardly likely that the likes of Phillip Pullman, Doris Lessing, Peter Godwin, Wilbur Smith, Alexander McCall Smith, Alexander Fuller et-al; would call themselves in anyway a ‘Rhodie’, real or otherwise…

The internet opened a whole new can of worms. Because as far as I can work out – it was the dialect with its own slang that makes you this so called ‘Rhodie’, and a real Rhodie had these qualifications and was also born there, even if he was a suspected morph, such as the well known T.V. personality, Geoffrey Atkins. It also helped if you fought in the armed forces.

It is only when you leave the country, when you suddenly need a national identity, and of course here lies the crux of the problem today. How can you identify with a place that, in all respects, besides the weather, no longer exists? Politically it gets really crazy. My British passport, issued by the British Embassy in Pretoria, 1977 (as a pariah State, we only had a South African embassy in Rhodesia), has my residence ‘Rhodesia’, that was at the time technically impossible! The Republic wasn’t recognised.
Multiculturalism is relatively new to our vocabulary. The 1970 Canadian Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, designed to explore French/English biculturalism, turned up a fascinating fact. Other immigrants had been starting to call themselves ‘‘hyphenated’ Canadians: Icelandic-Canadians, Polish-Canadians, Lithuanian-Canadians – and so on.’ (Paul, 2009, p 86). When Jesse Jackson used ‘African-American’ as terminology for people previously referred to as ‘black’ or ‘Negro’, the hyphenated ‘buzzword’ of the late 1980s to mid 90s became ‘so much part of the ordinary cultural scenery that it is taken as just being there.’ (Fraustino, 2004, cited in Paul, 2009, p. 85). Strangely, the hyphen seems to apply only to foreign immigrants – the indigenous populations of Canada call themselves Native Canadians and in the United States the grossly inapt term, ‘Red Indians’, has been replaced by Native Americans.
But only the Yanks could get it wrong with Afro-American, it’s the other way around! Or is it? In theory, the only ‘real’ Afro-American of note these days is Barack Obama.  So, is this the answer to the riddle? Does that make me a English-Rhodesian-German, whilst my Rhodie friends born there, but have been living in England for decades, are Rhodesian-English and so on for all those in Diaspora. Hence - Rhodie-Aussies, Rhodie-Canucks, Rhodie-Kiwis and Rhodie-Yanks? You don’t forget your roots, but as they don’t exist anymore, do you adapt to the hyphenated compromise? But what about the Rhodesians who stayed? Are they now Rhodesian-Zimbabweans? According to Mugabe and ZANU (PF), they are not Zimbabweans because they are Whites!

‘I don't belong anywhere…’
Jean Rhys (1890-1979) Dominican-Welsh-French-English- Creole of Scottish ancestry, author of Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys was an example of the phenomenon of losing her identity. She died a drunken wreck (must remember to warn myself about this).
"I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care."
— Jean Rhys (Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography)
And yet, I know many ‘Rhodies’ who are quite happy in their adopted new homes. They support football teams such as those wasters Chelsea, and call themselves English or British for example, but, till the day they die - the dialect will give them away…
‘Where are you from?’

Conclusion – Are White Rhodesians damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If we do not have Black friends, are we racialist, and if we have, are we  Kaffir-boeties?


Fraustino, L. R. (2004), cited in Paul, L. (2009) ‘Multicultural Agendas’ in Maybin, J. And Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Approaches and Territories. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 85.

Paul, L. (2009) ‘Multicultural Agendas’ in Maybin, J. And Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Approaches and Territories. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 86.


Tristan said...


don said...

Remember goffal was supposed to be derogerty.?? Well if you look under Bulawayo they appear to be proud of the word,strange hey.Was Mabunu,marungu sypposed to be bad whitey??

John said...

what does the word "china" mean in Rhodesian English? The character of Danny Archer in Blood Diamond uses it to refer to his fellow mercenary-buddy ...

Karl (aka Lore) said...

Hi John. In my book The Gokwe Kid, I supply a glossary after nearly every chapter. At the end of Chap. 8, I give the following explanation -
‘china’ – Bosom buddy, maybe not. Polite terminology for a Rhodie to greet and dismiss a Rhodie whether they like them or not.


China from the cockney for mate (Friend) china plate

Anonymous said...

Ah ! Sut ek se you owes are mul ek se ! Pssooo! mul like I chune you !

a proper owe said...

Hey Ek se I skeem you owes are mul ek se !! I choon you ! now I'm going to catch a dice with my cab , a stohp , a naai and then bail out ! you catch ?? PPSSOOO !!!

Anonymous said...

For Rhodesians it was idylic prior to 1976, despite the war starting in 1972. I remember going on a school trip to Maziwikadei in 1975 with no hint of security anywhere. 1976 to independence were the war years proper. In 1976 we travelled to the Vumba right next to Mozambique, but took a semi automatic Rhodesian uzi and several Browning Pistols. I got to shoot a few rounds at a range.

At my schools a morph was anyone remotely gay.

Anonymous said...

could someone please translate the beginning of the John Edmond song happy safari . The hey bonnie when de winna me boy part .

Another Don said...

John Edmond song lyrics - I can pick two words Kubani (who) and wena (you), so without trying to get the rest, the inferred sentence would be "who are you guys?" probably from a terr and the answer A company B company etc would be Rhodesian soldiers (maybe RLI or RR)- one can guess the result.
The Goffs referred to themselves as Goffs - I was never impolite or brave enough to do so myself - Goffs were always treated with respect.