Chris Barker the cultural studies scholar tells us “identity is best understood not as a fixed entity but as an emotionally charged discursive description of ourselves that is subject to change.” I thought of this when I tried to make sense of Eusebius in self-identification.
Let me be emphatic, McKaiser is not the exception but mirrors us all in some shape, size or form depending where we are in the trajectory of self-defining. The struggle of self-identification is a struggle until you reach your own rhythm and afford no one to dictate your identity. When most of us had our personal struggle far from the public stage of daily voices, his wrestle plays out in a public sense and we are the soundboards.
I have taken the liberty to write on someone (Eusebius) I may not under usual circumstances do because identity is also a private issue, yet I felt obliged to do so as a natural follow-on to my first opinion piece entitled “Coloured Identity: Democracy’s Trojan Horse”.
I also did this because Eusebius McKaiser is a public persona and becomes an excellent example if not fulcrum for us to engage identity formulation and the reconfiguring of new humanities.
Eusebius McKaiser thrusts his presence on our social consciousness with his sharp articulated commentary on a plethora of things defining the canvas and fibre of a new South Africa.
In his first coming we were introduced to a decorated academic with Rhodes and UK credentials. For a while no one questioned the decorated claims of a PHD because in my assessment Eusebius is indeed a living intellect and simply don’t need a certificate that confirms the formidability of that. He certainly had credentials albeit not the much made of pinnacle of a PHD. He was definitely not the Zimbabwean Eugene Nyathi who at the dawn of democracy had everyone hanging on his lips as an economist when he had no certificates to prove the claim.
Then the DA machinery unleashed its usual onslaught on anyone to whom apartheid extended a denotation of black for their common humanity who claims academic credentials. Yes anyone that is too vocal, we were then told McKaiser has no PHD. This forced him to admit he never completed his studies for the said degree. What is undeniable is that Eusebius now at an academic level found himself having to answer integrity questions and at least the campaign of the DA machinery worked.
We therefore can confirm we meet Eusebius first in proverbial red academic gowns as a decorated intellectual, clearly a thin membrane of our society. The elites have always been a minority slice of of every society.
Our next new introduction to Eusebius was when he made known his sexual orientation in self-identifying as a homosexual. I still hold it’s everyone’s right to choose and determine how they self- define, the questions at the time were, why was he silent about this when he was so bold on many things?
The simple answer could have been, coming out in a hostile world is not easy and regardless of social standing remains a challenge for the individual. I therefore have no qualms as to when he chose to go public with his sexual identity and will even in a constitutional democracy defend his right for self-definition in this. Some even argued he was forced to out himself. I have no opinion on that and it is irrelevant from the focus and vantage point of my musing.
The interesting thing though is when he came out with this identity he now assumed again a minority, which means a natural victimhood, yet also a safety net. He was therefore embraced by the strong lobby of homosexuals who to a large extend control the media, communications and air space in most democratic societies the world over.
His new identity afforded him opportunity to still comment but now with much more power, venom for some a sense of vituperative accent. We therefore met McKaiser the most recent and public figure telling us he is colloquially gay and belonging to the LGBTI section of our society. We started hearing he’s arrogant, not that I take that seriously because it’s levelled to many including myself. I have come to accept intellectualism does not embrace any false humility.
From that platform McKaiser buoyed by the love felt from his camaraderie felt it important to start engaging with the subject of a party political identity. He challenged the DA and others to make their individual cases in convincing him to vote for them.
From his new 702 studio he piloted the debate on a party political identity. I will not share my view on 702, a station from the days of a Stan Katz and its veiled ethnic political agenda which often those who join must assimilate to, no different to other platforms – that’s for another day.
In 2017 McKaiser decided to have discussions on the Coloured identity. He brought a panel including some whose saviour he has recently become to engage the subject of Coloured or Colouredism. Clearly his intent was to engage an identity that has many complexities for its recorded history.
He proudly self-identifies in definition of being “black politically and Coloured culturally.” This identity on the cuff appears innocent, but it confirms more than a shade of a lighter melanin, or a less clicking tongue often with an Afrikaans spin but it really is his follow through on self-identifying in minorities, another step in his journey of self discovery.
We now know Eusebius as you can see, as the academic, LGBTI member, so-called satired EFF member and also now Coloured. On the score of the Coloured identity I have written about the Trojan Horse phenomenon and need not include that here again suffice to say, the prism of McKaiser on his personal identity defined in Coloured is suspect not from an external adjudication but from an internal one. It is equally suspect for the youthfulness of the construct dating back to an Act of an illegitimate apartheid State consummated in 1950. The challenge with this identity is that it veils the identity of people that existed centuries before this insulting injury on identity of a group.
What is perhaps noteworthy and indisputable is for each of the key identity blocks that defines in education, gender, politics and culture, McKaiser either consciously or unconsciously chose to involve the public in his wrestling. Thus his wrestling was public and self-evident. It is as if he was his own case study, the previous platforms, and the later 702 slots he used as his laboratory with society as his lab-assistants and soundboard.
Is it possible that Eusebius McKaiser at his ripe age is wrestling with the complex subject of identity no different to any of us?
Is it remotely possible that his constant identification in choice, a right that must be celebrated, confirms his handle on identity with a minority epistemology?
Could McKaiser be the evidence of a people’s struggle to make sense of who they are, a people that remains disenfranchised for an elongated period of time?
Shall we afford McKaiser to continue his research and go through the various stages of self-identification whom none of us know how many are left with the express hope that one day he will have his own rhythm in clarity of mind and sobriety of heart?
My father’s words are every day more profound, “I won’t tell you who you are, all I request is when you do find out who you are, afford no one the luxury of ever attempting to define you.” I have kept this promise made in innocence and with limited knowledge to me at the age of 16. I have sworn to honour this, hence my challenge with the Democratic State that continues its apartheid race identity marker for my common humanity.
What McKaiser is wrestling with some of us went through, perhaps not all the stages of a Eusebius but at the tender age of 19, whilst on the run from apartheid’s henchman.
Until then, please afford Eusebius McKaiser his inalienable right to self-define, a right on his behalf I will fight for.
Let us equally thank and celebrate him for this private journey of self identification playing out in a public space in which we have all played a role.
Clyde N. Ramalaine