I was referred to this blog this morning, by someone I’d just met, a new professional contact and herself the child of immigrants from Africa. It’s a piece on the South African diaspora in Canada, based on research undertaken by the Southern African Migration Program, and it makes for depressing reading.
According to the research, the 50,000-strong South African diaspora here ‘maintains a very strong sense of themselves as South Africans [but] … Their depictions of the country of origin are extremely negative…. They have no desire to be involved in South Africa’s development nor the they ever intend to return.’
Slightly more positive is the fact that one in five Canadian South Africans, around 20%, ‘took a very different view of South Africa and their possible role in its future. Clearly, just because the vast majority are disengaged, it does not mean that everyone is.’
So let me nail my colours to the mast: it’s because of the first kind of South African (who, one imagines, are mostly white expats, though the piece I’ve linked you to doesn’t explicitly say so) that I’ve had zero interest in connecting with the South African ‘community’ here – though I have connected with some fine individuals. And it is as part of the 20% that I declare my commitment – critical, concerned, but hopefully still positively engaged – to the country of my birth, even as I stand on the verge of Canadian citizenship.
There is a particular odour that clings to those who, as this blogger puts it, ‘nurse a very strong sense of grievance, seeing themselves as victims rather than beneficiaries of the country’s past and present.’ And it isn’t pleasant.