Afrikaners Are the Descendants of Term Paper

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Having been prosecuted in Europe, they were inclined to severe all ties with the continent and considered Africa their homeland. Since most other immigrants in Cape were also Calvinists -- members of the Dutch Reformed Church, the French Haguenots were readily accepted as part of a common community and were soon integrated into settler society by intermarriage. Their emphasis on a 'pure' form of Calvinism and self-sufficiency, however, influenced the development of the Afrikaner culture and way of life.

The Afrikaans Language

Afrikaans is the language of the white South Africans that was largely derived from the 17th century Dutch language. It is estimated that about seven million people in South Africa and Namibia speak some form of Afrikaans, although 'standard' Afrikaans is spoken mainly by the whites. Until the end of the "apartheid" in 1994, Afrikaans was the official language of government and education. It is now one of the 11 official languages in South Africa and is the third most widely spoken after Zulu and Xhosa, the indigenous African languages. To many, the language is still associated with apartheid and oppression but supporters of the language are now beginning to emphasize the multilingual roots and diversity of its speakers and believe that the language has an important part to play in uniting a post-apartheid culturally diverse South Africa. ("A New Role for Afrikaans.")

There are different theories about how Afrikaans developed. One is that it arose as a bastard tongue out of a clash between Dutch (the language of the white settlers) and Malay Portuguese (the language of the imported slaves). However, Afrikaans does not show large scale influence of Malay-Portuguese and has incorporated only a few of its words into its fold. The more convincing theory about the origins of the language is that it gradually evolved from Dutch as a result of the interaction among people of various nationalities who settled at the Cape. It later gathered loanwords from other languages such as English, French, German and some African languages, and adopted a simplified grammatical structure to evolve into a separate language. As we have already observed, most of the early settlers at the Cape were Dutch. Even those who were from other parts of Europe, e.g., Germans or French had some knowledge of Dutch, being either employed by the Dutch East India Company or having lived in Holland; hence the basic Dutch base of Afrikaans. However, there was a need for simplification of the Dutch language at the Cape as the Dutch-speakers as well as the non-Dutch Europeans could only understand the others' language by conversing in a simplified version of the Dutch language. The large population of slaves, which soon outnumbered the whites at the Cape, also had to be addressed in a simple language. (Patterson, 44) the heterogeneity of the Cape society, therefore, was the major contributor to the development of Afrikaans. Other factors that contributed in making the Dutch language as the most dominant influence on the language of the Cape settlers was the fact that an overwhelming majority of women in the early days of the settlement were Dutch and the Cape officials were ruthless in the suppression of 'foreign' languages such as French.

Consequently a simplified version of the Dutch language, which would later evolve as Afrikaans, was in place by the mid-eighteenth century. At a later stage, when the Cape settlers came in contact with the Bantu speakers from the inland, the Cape Dutch language absorbed some of its vocabulary, and still later came in contact with a more formidable language -- English. The newly developing did absorb the influence of English in its vocabulary, syntax and phonetic structure but still retained its uniqueness. This was mainly due to the geographical isolation, especially of the areas in which the white settlers had immigrated away from the Cape, lack of formal education among the majority of the settlers and the peculiar climate and environment of South Africa that was bound to have its own influence on the language and culture of its inhabitants. Until the mid-nineteenth century Afrikaans was a spoken language only with standard Dutch being used for writing. For long periods of its history, Afrikaans was considered as a dialect of the Dutch language only but came to be officially recognized as a distinct, separate language in the early 20th century. Its significance lies in helping to provide a distinct identity to the Afrikaners and the importance of the Afrikaans language in South African history is paramount. It became identified with the struggle of the Afrikaners to establish their identity as a separate people and a nation. The resistance of the Afrikaans language to resist the formidable onslaught of the English language parallels the resistance of the Afrikaners to merge with the English-speaking people who occupied South Africa in 1795 and tried their utmost to Anglicize the Boers and their language. (Spooner, 146-147)

Afrikaner Culture and Society

The development of the Afrikaner culture was greatly influenced by Calvinism, the religious ideals of the Dutch Reformist Church and a craving for freedom. The Boers had always believed that they were the God's chosen people, like the Hebrew patriarchs of the Old Testament, who were divinely ordained to rule a new land and the backward natives who lived in it. They had an unapologetic racist belief about the superiority of the white man and deliberately turned their backs on the liberal ideals of Enlightenment that had a major impact on subsequent social and political development in Europe from the seventeenth century onwards.

The Dutch farmers who were stigmatized by the upper classes and the British colonists as uneducated and ignorant became wandering pastoralists to retain their freedom and developed their own subculture, based on self-sufficient patriarchal communities. The Boer society that developed in the rural South Africa was a homogeneous and egalitarian as well as highly patriarchal in nature. The head of the family was the husband, father, farmer, hunter, and frontier fighter. Theoretically, the place of the woman in the Afrikaner society was "beside and a little behind the male head of the household..." (Patterson, 240) in reality, she had an important role to play in the Boer society and was far from a meek housewife. She often had to work the land and defend her home while her man was away fighting wars. The 'ideal' of the 'pure white woman' was very important in the Afrikaner culture and she was idealized as the epitome of chastity. To protect her "purity" special legislation was enacted in 1949-50 that prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse between whites and all non-whites.

The old rural Boer society was centered around the institutions of the family, the Church and the commando and was homogeneous and egalitarian in nature. The Dutch society at Cape Town was an exception to this rule and had become highly stratified from the early days. As the Afrikaners became more urbanized, the fabric of their society and culture also changed. The urbanized English-speaking South Africans had always considered the Afrikaners to be somewhat beneath them but the Afrikaners with typical tenacity clung on to their own culture which was mainly cemented by the Afrikaans language and was also sustained by the strict application of the politics of Apartheid until the transition to the majority rule in 1994.

Politics and Apartheid

The politics of the Afrikaners was based on the assumed superiority of the white people. The Calvinistic philosophy of a 'chosen people' was interpreted to mean that the Boers were chosen by God to conquer the desolate land of South Africa and to rule over its 'uncivilized' indigenous inhabitants. The unequal treatment of the colored and black people did not bother the Afrikaners as they considered them to be of a much lower mental level -- at best at par with that of children, at worst comparable to that of animals. Added to their notion of racial superiority was the fear of the primitive people encountered by the settlers in South Africa. The whites who first landed in South Africa were appalled at the appearance of the blacks (who were so different from the whites) and falsely assumed them to be cannibals. This fear and abhorrence of the blacks gave rise to a policy of segregation and later apartheid. The Afrikaners' views about their politics were further cemented when the British colonialists arrived in South Africa and tried to force the ideas of Enlightenment down the throats of the Afrikaners.

Considering such 'liberal' ideas as a direct contradiction of the word of God, the Afrikaners withdrew into isolation from the mainstream philosophical trends in the world, adopted extreme nationalistic politics, ultimately leading to the politics of Apartheid. The apartheid laws were strictly enforced from 1948 onwards when the Afrikaner-based National Party came to power. Racial restrictions were tightened, marriage between whites and Africans or Coloreds was made illegal, and draconian laws were enacted to discourage dissent. A voting…[continue]

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