LUKE the Dude was the centre of attention at the local Pub and Grill, meeting place of the convivial conversationalists who dissect the more serious developments in our town and the world. All of us were staring at him with glasses half-raised except, of course, for the Big White Dog, who knew better and took no notice.
“Nothing!” exclaimed Luke the Dude. “Skin colour has Nothing! to do with who we are or anything else. It is an accident of genetics.”
“I agree,” said Big Ben with a wide grin of vindication.
The rest of us were more sceptical. “Wait a minute,” said Irene the Queen. “What about the history of this, our country where we were born and live?”
“I do not contest that,” nodded Luke the Dude. “That has been the way of our governments, whether South African Party or National Party – both of which applied the status quo as they inherited it – or the United Party after those two were united, or the Reunited National Party who did not like the other unification and went on its own – these Nats Mark II put the status quo and much more into laws, starting when they first formed a minority government in 1948 – and then they cancelled all those laws again from 1989 – which brings us to the ANC, who reintroduced their own style of racist laws and who now practice racist engineering on a scale that would have amazed Dr Hendrik Verwoerd.”
“What a boykie, Boyo!” admired Colin the Golfer. “Are you dating a history teacher now?”
“I am not always in the pub you know,” retorted Luke the Dude huffily, “I also enjoy educating you intelligent people except maybe The Prof. I take an interest. And anyway, your mothers were wrong; you can learn something new in the bar.”
“Useless!” opined Jon the Joker.
We were all momentarily silent, until The Prof, not sure whether his intelligence had just been questioned, spoke up: “Pray tell, young Lucas,” he ventured carefully, “the past being what it is and not in dispute, what do you make of the current government’s fixation with skin colour? As with Black Economic Empowerment and colour-based affirmative action, where even so-called coloureds are the targets of discrimination? Not to mention whites, including highly qualified and experienced whites?”
At this point the Big White Dog growled in her sleep, dreaming (no doubt) about unfair canine discrimination against whiter breeds.
Jon the Joker applauded. “You tell them BWD!” he encouraged, his face finally creaking into a smile. Luke the Dude was taken aback, but he was not giving up the floor that easily.
He resumed, somewhat louder, “Of course the ANC is doing all that and worse, but none of that disproves my point. The colour of your skin has no influence on who you are – how strong, how clever, how grumpy, how hard-working, how honest, nothing!”
“So what are you saying about our government,” worried Big Ben, “that they are all wrong?”
“That is exactly what I am saying, Ben my big mate, I have always said you have more brains than Bob the Book will give you credit for.”
Bob raised his eyebrows in surprise while Big Ben threw him a suspicious glare.
“You know the rules!” interrupted The Governor. “No politics or other aspersions leading to fights in the bar! Angela, please fill the glasses of these good people.”
“Fights?” exclaimed Jon the Joker in mock shock. “What on earth are you talking about, my good man? What kind of a bar is this?”
Suitably replenished with our various nectars of choice, the enlightenment continued.
“I think,” frowned the Prof, “it would be a generalization to say everybody in the ANC is wrong. Obviously, it is dangerous folly to base government policy on skin colour, as South Africans of all people should know. It is also evident that ANC politicians are doing exactly that – and that the majority of them believe that what they are doing is right. But it is also a fact that wiser people in the ANC realise that it is wrong.”
“If they know that their skin-colour politicking is wrong, what are they doing about it?” challenged Luke the Dude.
“Nothing fast,” conceded The Prof. “But someone like our president, Cyril the instant billionaire Ramaphosa, believes in the long game or, as he once said, boiling the frog slowly.”
“You could also say the long take,” added Stevie the Poet in obiter dictum, “if you are of a literary bend with a touch of melancholy.”
“Now you have lost me in my own argument!” complained Luke the Dude. “Please, before we take off into fiction, let me use facts to explain what I mean. I am going to tell you a true story. That okay with you?”
“You have the floor,” conceded Stevie the Poet gracefully.
“This happened while I was living in London,” related Luke the Dude, “I had a good job, I worked hard and I lived well. I also met many interesting people, including a German banker who sometimes dated an interesting Englishwoman. She was highly intelligent, keenly interested in the events that moved the world and spoke with a posh accent. I invited her to a party and we became friends.
“As happens when you live in London, South African friends, some of whom you’ve hardly met, call you up looking for a place to stay while they visit. I had a large enough flat, so I was seldom without visitors. One of those was a black political journalist I had known in Johannesburg. I looked forward to catching up.
“As soon as he arrived on the overnight flight, he phoned his ‘cousin’ who was in exile in London. She came straight over and the two disappeared into his bedroom.
“Given this romantic development, I changed my plans for a pub evening and called up my English lady friend. Did I mention that she was black? I explained the situation and invited her to dinner with my South African guests. She thought it would be fascinating.
“So we met at my home that evening and walked to a nearby Indian restaurant known for its good food. The Indians looked at me with new respect and from then on my reception there was always most welcoming.
“The food was tasty, the wine was flowing, the company was lively and a jolly good time was had by all.
“Afterwards we went back to my place for a toast or two of good Irish whiskey and a continuation of the gripping conversation. Before we knew it, it was after midnight, the buses and the underground were no longer running and taxis were hard to get. So I did the gentlemanly thing and invited the ladies to stay over. The cousins would have shared anyway, so I had a private bedroom for my lady friend.
“They agreed on one condition: I had to solemnly swear to wake them at six, so that they could get going for their busy days. We said our goodnights and went to bed.
“I got up at 5.30, had a shower, put on the coffee and got dressed. At six I woke my English guest, who said a friendly ‘good morning’ while I announced that I had fresh coffee waiting. Then I tried my other two guests, who groaned and waved me off.
“My English friend reappeared all fresh but with a worried look: ‘What about the other two,’ she queried. I shook my head, ‘They’re not interested.’ She looked astonished. ‘But they were adamant. She has to get to work!’ So I tried again, same result.
“As I walked my friend out to an already busy London, she gave me a serious look and said, ‘They’re not like us, are they?’
“I was stunned, but she was right. Colour has nothing to do with us.”