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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Namibia's "Basters"
Created by John Eipper on 05/04/17 3:30 PM

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Namibia's "Basters" (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain, 05/04/17 3:30 pm)

It may be of interest here to point out that in Afrikaans the term Baster (from Dutch bastaard) can mean "bastard," but is also the word for "hybrid."

In the 18th century it began to be applied to the offspring of Khoikhoi and slaves, who commonly were called Bastaard-Hottentots.

Later in the 18th century and well into the 19th, Bastaard/Baster was applied to people who had Khoisan (Khoikhoi or Bushman) blood, most often the offspring of Khoikhoi or Bushman women and white farmers.

Thus a social and racial group emerged, people who had many of the trappings of European culture and lifestyle, yet were rejected by settlers of Dutch descent.

When the British occupied for good the Cape Colony in 1805, they were appalled by the fact that there were people who called themselves "bastards."

Possibly then the alternative "coloured" began to emerge, which in South Africa is still used to refer only to people of mixed descent, most of them Afrikaans-speakers.

(In Afrikaans kleuring, although a lot of people prefer to speak about bruine mense, "brown people.")

Rev. Campbell, of the London Missionary Society, managed in the 1820s to persuade a group of Basters living near the Great River to find another way of calling themselves, and thus the Griqua (or Griekwa) emerged.

This happened beyond the colony's boundary as it existed then, because Basters, fleeing discrimination in the colony, where it wasn't easy for them to own land, began in the 1760s to go in the Karoo areas south of the Orange river.

There many of them participated quite actively in the genocidal campaigns against the Bushmen, the original inhabitants of the area.

They did this often as accomplices of white farmers, only to be dispossessed by them after the area became "pacified."

In 1868 a group of them left the colony and settled in what today is Namibia.

They are still there, at Rehoboth, quite proud to be Basters.

Here is their website:

http://rehobothbasters.org/

To my knowledge, no community in South Africa identifies with the name.

JE comments:  Fascinating.  José Manuel:  did the mixed-race Basters occupy a relatively privileged position under the German colonizers of Namibia, or were they persecuted as ruthlessly as the other native peoples?

Non-Spanish speakers might be intrigued to know the term for italic script:  letra bastardilla.


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  • Bastardo, Batard, Dog-Brother (Edward Jajko, USA 05/05/17 2:00 PM)
    All this talk on mamzerut brings to mind food like zuppa bastarda and the Italian bastarda and French batard loaves. There is an Italian restaurant in Chelsea, New York City, called Il Bastardo.

    Antonio Francisco Bastardo Rafael, of the Dominican Republic, is a relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and formerly for the Mets and Phillies. He is known as Antonio Bastardo. I wonder what his teammates call him.


    On my phone I have a Polish dictionary app which shows a rich array of choices of words for English "bastard," available for suitable occasions. There are the literal "nie'slubne dziecko" and "nie'slubny" for "illegitimate," i.e., "unwedded child" and "unwedded." There is also "falszywy." These terms are no doubt for legal use. There is the loan word "bastard," as well as "bekart." There are "mieszany," "mixed, cross-breed," and the extreme "nienormalny," "abnormal." My favorites are "dra'n," which seems to be just plain "bastid," and "psubrat," which is literally "dog-brother," and "skurwysyn," "whoreson." These last three words are imprecations, cusses, not expressions of legal status.


    JE comments:  My Polish dictionary (Aldona) says that "psubrat" has a 19th-century ring, like "knave" or "blackguard" in English.  On the other hand, "skurwysyn" still gets plenty of air time in today's Poland--and occasionally at WAIS HQ.


    After zuppa bastarda, we should inquire about "puttanesca" (prostitute) sauce.  What's the deal with those Italians?


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    • Bastards Again; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 05/06/17 4:50 AM)
      Ric Mauricio writes:

      I would like to put forth that we desist in labeling a person a "bastard" in a negative tone when that person has been born out of wedlock. After all, it wasn't the child's doing that he or she was born out of wedlock. And yet, he is stuck with such a negative label. However, utilizing the term to denounce a jerk or an a**hole is perfectly fine.


      In response to Ed Jajko (5 May), I often wondered why Antonio Bastardo didn't go by Antonio Rafael. Those with surnames of Butt have to endure being the butt of all jokes. I believe there is a football player with that name.


      JE comments:  Didn't we desist from that a century or two ago?  The jerk/a**hole meaning of "bastard" has now fully taken over in popular parlance.


      Regarding butts, I had this experience recently at a local diner.  One of the featured pies was butterscotch.  A wise-guy patron had erased the "erscotch" from the whiteboard, to leave "today's special:  butt     pie."


      Delightful.

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      • Jake Butt, Football Superstar (Patrick Mears, -Germany 05/06/17 9:54 AM)
        In response to Ric Mauricio's recent musing: Yes, there is a football player named Butt, and a great one at that.

        And thank God he is a Wolverine. http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/jake_butt_843340.html .


        Among many other honors he amassed during his college career, he was an All-American tight end at Michigan and in his senior year was named Co-Captain of the team. Jake was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2017 and hopefully will be healthy enough to start this season, notwithstanding a fairly serious injury suffered in the Orange Bowl. http://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/university-michigan/wolverines/2017/04/27/michigan-football-jake-butt/100976186/ .


        Go Blue!


        JE comments:  Fortunately, the Butts resisted the temptation to name their son Seymour, or Fillmore.


        I fear we're destined to go down the road of funny human and place names.  This happens once a year or so on WAIS.  For his part, John Heelan has reminded us of the village of Apse Heath, Isle of Wight, which is frequently having to fix its signs when someone converts the "P" to an "R."


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        • Ric Mauricio on the Michigan Wolverines (John Eipper, USA 05/07/17 4:59 AM)

          Ric Mauricio writes:



          Yay! Go Michigan! Go Wolverines!


          Ever since the San Francisco 49ers unceremoniously fired Jim Harbaugh and he got his new head coaching position at Michigan, I've been rooting for them. Especially since we 'Niner fans hate, and I mean hate in capital letters, the Yorks and now-fired General Manager Trent Baalke. Hopefully, things are changing due to the hiring of GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. The way the draft went this year gives us great hope. But we sure miss Harbaugh.


          Did you know that Harbaugh is the highest-paid college head coach at $9 million? Yup, higher than Nick Saban.


          John, do you root for Michigan or Michigan State?


          JE comments:  My diploma's on the wall and I'm a Wolverine through and through, although the $9 million salary is one reason I direct my college donations elsewhere.  Having the world's highest-paid college coach is a twisted sort of prestige in and of itself, but couldn't a perfectly competent football guy be found, say, for one million?


          By way of comparison, Stanford's David Shaw makes a "mere" $4 million.  Given the rent in Palo Alto, that's almost middle class.  See below:



          http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/salaries/


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    • Etymology of Puttanesca Sauce (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/22/17 10:27 AM)
      John Eipper (5 May) asked about puttanesca sauce.

      In the good old days when officially state-regulated brothels were lawful, until 20 September 1958, nothing was more mannerly and friendly than these clean, medically checked and strictly controlled places.


      Pasta alla puttanesca, however, according to one legend, is said to come from the dinners that were arranged in some places in the countryside around Naples. Customers would bring in any kind of stuff and the young ladies would cook.


      The recipes, therefore, are varied. However, "puttanesca" will always be a sauce made with capers, olives, anchovies, garlic, tomatoes, hot pepper, marjoram and whatever you still want to add, such as parsley.


      It is also said that late one evening, a restaurant had run out of food when a group of customers came in and asked for anything, even for a "Puttanata" of pasta. The cook mixed what was left and it was highly appreciated.


      JE comments:  I like the first explanation better, but either one is convincing.  Folk etymologies are endlessly fascinating, and over the years, with enough reinforcement, they become "true."


      Eugenio:  what led to the closing of the legal brothels in 1958?


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      • Buonismo and the End of the (Legal) Italian Brothel (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/23/17 9:56 AM)
        John Eipper asked about Italy's proscription of legal and regulated prostitution in 1958. It was a result of the arrival of a democracy, "buonismo" (goodism?), one determined socialist lady, and perhaps some UN declaration against prostitution.

        So now all the principal streets around Italy have open brothels with no checks at all and every possible type of crime, illness, and drugs.


        JE comments:  It's hard to argue against goodism in theory, but in practice?


        WAIS doesn't shy away from frank discussions, but with a few exceptions we've never addressed comparative prostitution law.  Some nations with legal or institutionalized prostitution surprise me:  Turkey and Bangladesh are examples.  (This is according to Wikipedia...not personal experience.)


        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_law



        From the above, it's clear that policies towards prostitution cannot be generalized along a left-right or liberal-conservative divide.


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        • "One Determined Socialist Lady": Lina Merlin (Roy Domenico, USA 05/23/17 11:52 AM)
          In answering JE's question on the criminalization of prostitution in Italy, Eugenio Battaglia (23 May) mentioned some factors that may have pushed for it--democracy and buonismo, the UN and "one determined socialist lady." That would have been Lina Merlin--a socialist deputy from the Veneto. She gave her name to the "Merlin Law," ending legal prostitution in 1958. For all her trouble, however, the Socialists purged her from the Party, not supporting her in a 1961 run.

          She then moved over to support the Christian Democrats (DC) in their unsuccessful 1974 referendum to end divorce (which had become legal by 1970 parliamentary votes.) The DC preferred to leave these issues alone in the hope that they'd just go away. It would certainly be awkward for a Catholic party to support prostitution--although it had been legal in the papal states. Maybe better than others, the Holy Mother Church and the Christian Democracy understood weaknesses of the flesh and the sins they lead to--so in the fine Italian tradition: regulate it, turn away and hope for the best.


          JE comments:  I can see the criminalization of prostitution as a measure ostensibly in favor of women, but how could ending divorce be viewed that way?  Wikipedia says nothing more than "La socialista Merlin fu una convinta antidivorzista."  (There's no Wiki bio in English.)  I see no indication that she ever married--perhaps that's why she was against divorce.

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          • Attitudes Towards Divorce in Italy, 1950s and '60s (Roy Domenico, USA 05/24/17 5:11 PM)
            I am literally writing on this topic--part of my manuscript on Catholic cultural politics in the 1950s and 1960s.  So, if JE forgives me, I can strike here while the iron's hot.

            As to the reasoning behind women's suspicion of divorce, a few issues. First, this is pre-feminist Italy. Most women were socially conservative.  They followed Church teachings and voted Christian Democrat (DC). The two big arguments from the DC--often fronted by prominent DC women deputies--was that divorce victimized women by allowing the husbands to cut the ties and run; and it harmed the children. Remember, good Catholic wives were--ideally--mothers. All DC propaganda promoted "Mamma." In Italian mythology she's right up there with il Papa, San Francesco and Padre Pio.


            When divorce went through at least the Catholics got a 5-year waiting period, later, I think, reduced to 3 in the 1980s. But still, divorce remains at pretty low levels in Italy, much lower than the US, and with a big stigma attached to it.


            JE comments:  Social causes can create unexpected bedfellows.  We take it for granted that legal divorce is an issue of women's rights.  But who are the "we"?  Roy Domenico takes us to another time and place, in which an inviolable marriage was considered a good thing for women.  The situation vis-à-vis divorce it Italy is somewhat parallel to the 19th-century feminist movement in the US, where prohibitionism was a goal almost as important as achieving the vote.

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  • Namibia's Basters under German Colonization (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain 05/05/17 2:58 PM)
    According to David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, in their book The Kaiser's Holocaust (London: Faber & Faber 2010), the Rehoboth Basters were forced to fight with the Germans against the Herero under the terms of the treaty they had signed with the former when the colony was established, but refused to wage war against the Nama, who were led by a charismatic and capable leader called Hendrik Witbooi.

    Witbooi, say Olusoga and Erichsen, in spite of having heard about the atrocities committed by the Germans against the Herero, chose to play by "the rules and conventions that were a central part of Nama tradition."


    The Herero had also played by the rules and didn't target civilians, yet the Germans treated both them and Nama as decades later they would treat the Jews and the Slavs.


    As for more recent history, according to this 1998 article published in The Independent, in the years previous to the independence of Nambia, at least some Basters engaged "in an ugly ideological marriage with South African apartheid."


    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/we-may-be-few-but-were-proud-to-be-basters-1169179.html


    I don't know how this community deals nowadays with its fraught past, and if they remember at all that before trekking to Namibia in 1868 they had participated in genocidal campaigns against the /xam Bushmen of the Karoo.


    JE comments:  I read The Kaiser's Holocaust some years ago, at José Manuel de Prada's recommendation.  The historical record often paints Imperial German colonization as (slightly) more benign than that of the French, Belgians and even the British, but this was not the case in the nasty, genocidal campaigns the Germans waged in Namibia.

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