|TRADUCTION FRANÇAISE ICI|
William W. Bostock
University of Tasmania
Majority-rule South Africa is confronted with the enormous task of building a nation that will support and maintain the viability of its State. This paper will show, with the aid of some concepts drawn from psychology and sociology, that language policy is critical to the successful performance of this task, that is, a bringing together of a state-nation through an ethnopolitical symbiosis (Breton, 1995: 75).
The link between state and nation is the psychological mechanism of identification, from which flows psychological strength, equilibrium and personal opening up (Breton, 1995: 11).
Identity can be defined as '...a person's essential, continuous self, the internal subjective concept of oneself as an individual.' (Reber, 1995: 355). Identity is formed by identification which Freud saw as the earliest expression of a tie with another person (Freud, 1955: 105). This position was developed by Erikson who saw a strong sense of identity as a necessary condition for a successfully functioning individual and for a society. Erikson saw a strong sense of identity as a generator of energy and a weak or confused sense of identity as a source of decline. When identity occurs on a large scale it becomes collective and underpins collective behaviour. The concept of collective behaviour was proposed by Le Bon who theorised that in a crowd, the individual's psychology is subordinated to a collective mentality which radically transforms individual behaviour (Abercrombie, Hill and Turner, 1984: 42).
Durkheim proposed the concept of collective consciousness as:
Durkheim described the mechanism by which collective consciousness came about as reciprocity: '...men in union can mutually transform one another by their reciprocal influence'. (Durkheim, 1970: 124). Durkheim saw the process as one of representations being passed by contagion.
More recently Kiev continued with this theme when he saw collective anxiety neurosis spread by contagion, analogous to an infectious disease (Kiev, 1973: 418).
The concept has until recent times fallen into disuse, possibly because collective consciousness seemed to mean group mind, or the idea of a hypothetical collective transcendent consciousness or spirit which was assumed to characterise a group or community (Reber, 1995: 323). The obvious methodological problem of how such an entity could be tested empirically has been such as to place it outside modern discussion, its pedigree notwithstanding, and have led one observer to comment that 'there has been practically no research directly assessing the reality of collective consciousness' (Varvoglis, 1997:1).
Without presupposing a group mind, it is possible to summarise a sense of shared identity, shared emotions as spread by contagion, with a particular cosmology and culture, with the term collective mental state.
Sudden and dramatic changes in the collective mental state, or even fears of changes, can be expected to produce violent reaction, magnified through the mechanism of contagion. . Erikson observed this in the crisis of identity when powerful negative identity factors are produced which '...arouse in man a hatred of "otherness."' (Erikson, 1968: 62).
One area where continuing attention has been given is the psychology of subjugation which is a necessary condition of coloniser/colonised relations. Some of the great writers who have dealt with this problem are Césaire, whose poetry rejected the conquistador (1969: 39) and Memmi, who described the situation of the colonised as abasement (1965: 67), as well as Fanon and Mannoni. In the light of these compelling interpretations of the colonial condition, it is possible to assume that collective humiliation will be an important background component with which the leaders of a new state will have to deal.
Collective fear is another violence-producing factor, as Lake and Rothchild suggested:
|Language Policy and Collective Mental State|
Language policy is one area in which the collective mental state can be accessed, modified and in other ways managed. This is because language is a mechanism of identification and itself a collective property: 'language expresses the collective experience of a group' (Herder in Smith, 1981: 45) and is a collective right (Breton, 1997: 47). Any downward change to the position of a language as a vehicle of group identity is likely to cause a violent reaction through what has been called language alienation (Breton, 1997: 76) or anticipated language grief (Bostock, 1997). This is because, as Breton has put it, language unity is a measure of political unity and psychological unity (Breton, 1995: 76).
The consequences of a mismanaged language policy can be a desire for nationalistic separation achieved through violent means, as seen in the case of Sri Lanka (Bostock, 1997). The collective mental state producing this kind of violent nationalist separatism has been described by the novelist Danilo Kis as:
|South African Language Policy|
The African continent has huge sociolinguistic complexity: more than half the world's surviving languages are found there and over 5,000 language names have been identified in sub-Saharan Africa (Spencer, 1985: 387). South Africa has nine major African languages which are spoken by 67 per cent of the country's population of 40 million, but not until the achievement of majority role in 1994 did these languages have official status which previously had been reserved for Afrikaans and English, though they were very much the subject of policy.
With colonisation by Europeans, Dutch was implanted in Southern Africa in 1652 and continued to have some official recognition after the takeover of the Cape Colony by the British in 1814 when English became official. When in 1910 the Union of South Africa was created as an independent dominion within the British Empire, Dutch was given equal status with English. Because of its isolation from the Netherlands and its contact with African languages, Malay, English, French and Portuguese, the 17th century Dutch evolved into the new language of Afrikaans sometime between 1800 and 1850. At first looked down upon by both English and Dutch speakers, it gradually gained respectability. In 1875 a group of teachers and clerics in the Cape founded a Society of True Afrikaners to stand for 'our language, our nation, our land' and produced a newspaper written in Afrikaans and stressing the uniqueness of their 'God-given destiny' (Worden, 1995: 88). In 1918 a secret society, the Afrikaner Broederbond, was established and by 1929 it was instrumental in creating the Federation of Afrikaner Cultural Associations with the purpose of unifying Afrikaners and propagating a strong sense of language, culture and race-based identity among them. In the meantime, Afrikaans had, in 1925, replaced Dutch as equal official language of South Africa with English, a situation that was to remain until majority rule.
|Language Policy Under Minority Rule|
The period of minority rule can be seen as battle between races but also as one between Afrikaners and White South Africans of British background, with the languages of Dutch then Afrikaans and English as the subject of contestation as the vehicles of identity within their respective collective mental states. This was particularly meaningful for Afrikaners: '...(I)n nationalist thinking, the peoples' very existence was manifested in the "living language" of Afrikaans' (Giliomee, 1997: 122).
The period can also be interpreted as an interface between these two colonial languages and the vernaculars. Here two distinct approaches to colonial rule have been identified: that of the Latin-speaking Europeans (French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish), and that of the Germanic speaking Europeans (British, Dutch, German). The former tended to be culturally and linguistically arrogant and dismissive of 'native cultures' and indigenous languages while the latter tended to be more racially arrogant insisting on a segregation of the races but more tolerant of vernaculars (Mazrui, 1988: 89). Moreover, while tolerating African languages, the British were reluctant to spread English because of the political implication of possible mobilisations through the common medium of communication, and also a desire to '...maintain the linguistic distance between the Englishman and his coloured subject, as a way of maintaining the social distance between them ...' (Mazrui, 1988: 98).
When the Afrikaners gained dominance through minority rule in South Africa in 1948, they used language policy as an important component in the total repertoire of policies designed to put a brake on the 'Westernisation' of the African population:
Bantu Education, the education policy of the Afrikaner dominated Nationalist Government, attempted to steer Africans towards Afrikaans. It did this through making as its central feature a policy called Mother Tongue Education, which meant that education for Africans was required to be in the vernacular up to and including tertiary level (Bunting, 1969: 273). This policy caused much distress and an official commission in 1963 received reports from an overwhelming majority of witnesses that '... the standard of English had declined considerably and was still deteriorating.' (Bunting, 1969: 273). Education policy did attempt to steer Africans towards Afrikaans in what appeared to be becoming more and more a choice between Afrikaans and English, where Afrikaans was seen as a symbol of White oppression and a language of racial claustrophobia whereas English was seen as a language of Pan-African communication (Mazrui, 1988: 90). It was the issue of the order for Black school pupils to be taught in Afrikaans and not English that triggered the explosive 1976 Soweto riots in which 600 people died. In addition, as the 'homelands' that had been created under the apartheid policy accepted 'self-government', they one after another chose English and an indigenous language as their official languages (Giliomee, 1997: 123).
As the future for Afrikaans started to appear insecure, a new ally was found in the mixed race people, a predominantly Afrikaans-speaking group almost as numerous as the Afrikaners themselves. In this way, after 36 years of excluding the mixed-race people from the Afrikaner collectivity, the ruling National Party changed its definitional criteria of an Afrikaner to include anyone who spoke Afrikaans (Schiff, 1996: 219).
It is thus possible to interpret South African language policy under minority rule as an attempt to influence collective mental state by division into a multiplicity of separate collective mental states, with an overall aim of securing and enhancing the future of one group at the expense of the others, to a major or minor degree. For Blacks, it sought through the 'mother tongue education' and the non-offering of English, to create a collective mental state of insecurity, depression, dampened sense of realism , exclusion and habituation to violence. For South Africans of British background, it aimed to create some feelings of insecurity, depression, and some hint of the likelihood of violence, but offered the possibility of inclusion in the Afrikaner collectivity as a viable solution. Among Afrikaners, it sought to create a mental state of a secure future and a mood of elation through the delusion of a God-given destiny based on an unrealistic belief in the sustainable viability of a policy of exclusion of Africans, underlaid with a habituation to a putative ever-present threat of violence.
The explanation of how South Africa went from minority to majority rule is the subject of much speculative analysis (Giliomee, 1997), but it can be argued that language policy has played a major part.
|South African Language Policy After Majority Rule|
The Constitution of the new South Africa was adopted in 1996 and Section 6 of Chapter 1 Founding Provisions laid down the principles of policy as to language. It recognised 11 official languages and stated that practical and positive measures' must be taken to elevate the status and advance the use of the indigenous languages, while 'all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and be treated equitably'. (South Africa, 1997: 1).
Although all official languages are constitutionally equal, there is great difference in demography, written literature and international use. The estimated numbers of speakers of each language as a home language and proportion of the population is
The fact that newly-independent Namibia chose English as sole official language, though with recognition of educational rights in other languages, (Namibia, 1990) was not lost on Afrikaners. In fact SWAPO had long made it clear that Afrikaans, the lingua franca of Namibia, would be replaced by English. (Phillipson, Skutnabb-Kangas and Africa, 1986: 78).
The ANC-led government may well have followed a policy of language retribution towards Afrikaans, destroying the language through the destruction of its status, but instead chose to follow a path of status enhancement for the nine indigenous languages, while offering to Afrikaans a continued place as an official language in the new South Africa. In other words, the choice for Afrikaners was between a policy of controlled status reduction or free fall into the abyss.
The post-apartheid position offered to Afrikaners was thus one of some security, limited depression, an end to delusion, some inclusion and a reduced prospect of violence, with language policy making a significant contribution to this: in other words, an offer far better than might have been expected.
An explanation of the highly complex political process called 'surrender without defeat' must include the role of the major players: de Klerk, Mandela and Tutu. De Klerk's role, after what has been described as his 'remarkable change of heart' (Lake and Rothchild, 1996: 16), was one of bringing to the Afrikaner mental state some acceptance of the reality of an untenable situation, though he was not entirely successful in this. It is reported that in a meeting, one of his Ministers angrily hurled at him the words, 'What have you done?! You have given South Africa away!!' (Giliomee, 1997: 140).
Mandela's contribution was to see the new South Africa as a larger collectivity through the inclusion of all groups in the new collective mental state where there would be a place and a role for even his former persecutors and their language. On this last point, one commentator has noted that (ex) President Mandela has been '...highly sensitive to the language issue' (Schiff, 1996: 221) and goes on to cite as further evidence the opposition of Mandela to the elimination of the use of Afrikaans in the South African military (Schiff, 1996: 221).
The third major player was Archbishop Tutu whose promotion of ubuntu, a traditional African communal practice of common humanity (Jaffrey, 1998), as embodied in the proposed and now realised Truth and Reconciliation Commission, provided a mechanism for inclusion in the new collective mental state.
The future role of language policy in the political development of South Africa will be critical. There are fears that have been aroused by the ANC-led government refusal to grant approval to either exclusive mother-tongue education or single language schools and universities (Giliomee, 1997: 137).
In the case of the African languages, it is necessary to de-stigmatise them from the hangover of their previously assigned position of inferiority and to give them an enhanced status by a process of what has been called 'reverse covert planning': Equality is not in itself enough to achieve the desired outcome (Kamwangamalu, 1997: 122). A cause of major concern in the post-apartheid phase is the effect of the 'all-mighty English language' on the survival of all other languages (Kamwangamalu, 1998: 122), and the implications of these issues is currently being assessed by the Pan-South Africa Language Board created in 1995.
The salient arena of language policy is education. In 1997 a 'Language in Education Policy' was unveiled after a process of extensive consultation and enquiry. The policy recommended the promotion of equal treatment and use of the 11 official languages including redress for those that had suffered discrimination and interestingly, a commitment to the non-diminution of the rights of language communities that historically had been favoured. (RSADE, 1997). But the implementation of this enlighted policy is confronted with many difficulties, as Mda has pointed out: specifically a movement towards English, yet 'the policy may succeed in promoting the use of African languages in South African schools'. (Mda, 1997: 374).
In the domain of radio and television broadcasting, tensions have arisen over the matter of the amount of broadcast time allocated to English in relation to the ten other official languages (Nando.net, 1996). A related concern among Afrikaansphones is the replacement of the Afrikaans acronym SAUK for the State broadcasting body with the English acronym SABC (Van Rensburg, 1999: 91).
In the domain of parliamentary politics, various of the official languages have been used, including Zulu by a member of European background. On occasions speeches in Afrikaans have received a reply in African official languages, but the genereal trend has been towards debate in English (Ridge, 1996: 26-27). Outside parliament, a tendency is emerging among public figures to use English on official occasions (Van Rensburg, 1999: 91).
South African Airways also reflects the changing situation of languge policy: for many years the company made announcements in Afrikaans and English only, and in that order. In 1994 it was noted on one occasion that passengers were welcomed in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans, instructions were given in English and Afrikaans but it was added that passengers could also be served in French or German (Ridge, 1996: 29). However it was reported in 1999 that the company was using only English apart from conventional greetings in other languages (Van Rensburg, 1999: 92).
Although Afrikaans must come to terms with the negative connotation of its earlier association with apartheid, there are signs that this is happening. In 1996, Matthews Phosa, the Premier of Mpumalanga, one of the new provinces of South Africa, published an anthology of poetry in Afrikaans (Van Rensburg, 1999: 88).
These considerations reflect the major concern caused by the hegemonic power of the English within the highly fluid linguistic situation in South Africa. Moreover, English is impacting on the discursive formations of the African languages (McLean, 1999, 10).
The situation confronting the speakers of languages other than English in South Africa is in fact no different from those in other countries, but the ethnopolitical symbiosis between state and nation requires that that groups avoid the psychological devaluation caused by the debasement of their languages Breton, 1995: 76).
In light of the above discussion, one could say that the maintenance and development of the new South African State depends upon the emergence of a new collective mental state to which language policy can make a contribution by avoidance of what has been called 'linguistic exclusion' (Ridge, 1996: 33).
The survival of languages is important to the survival of communities and to the State, but everything cannot be left to the State.
|Conclusion: Language Policy and the Management of the Collective Mental State|
This paper has sought to establish that the many and varied collective attitudes, beliefs, feelings and practices, which together can be called a collective mental state, have major implications for the viability of a political State. Governments and others try to control, shift or otherwise manage the collective mental state through language policy by using language to: firstly, define the collectivity, secondly, identify the collectivity through its prevailing ontology, and thirdly, adjust feelings, particularly by seeking to manage the fears, doubts and uncertainties and past humiliations that can undermine the viability of the State. South Africa provides an example of this process at work as an official language policy seeks to enhance the status of the 9 official African languages and to control the reduction in status of Afrikaans against a background of the hegemonic power of English. A successful outcome to this undertaking is thus of great importance to the future of South Africa.
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Dr William W. Bostock is currently Senior Lecturer in Government at the University of Tasmania. He holds qualifications from Monash, Reading, Tasmania, and Lumière-Lyon 2. He has written on language policy in the context of la Francophonie, Taalunie, Bahasa Indonesia/Malaysia, and the Lodz Ghetto. He visited South Africa in 1995. His recent publications include: "Classical and Modern Theories of Genocide'Peace Initiatives. V, 1 & 2, (January - April), 1999, pp.51-57; "The Global Corporatisation of Universities: Causes and Consequences" Antepodium Victoria University of Wellington, 1999. [http://www.vuw.ac.nz/atp/articles/bostock.html]; "Disturbed Collective Mental States: Their Impact on Human Behaviour" Perspectives. 4, 3, (1999). [http://mentalhelp.net/perspectives/articles/art110119992.htm].
|Paper presented at the African Studies Association of Australasia & the Pacific 22nd Annual & International Conference (Perth, 1999)|
New African Perspectives: Africa, Australasia, & the Wider World at the end of the twentieth century