Let me begin this article by saying that Aura Escher has never really cared much for opinions and perceptions of the vampire community beyond those that are strictly related to vampirism itself, especially if those opinions exist outside of South Africa. I have certainly enjoyed the international sites filled with information and discursive forums over the years, but all of a sudden, I am frequently feeling a sense of negativity coming from the international vampire community, negativity which is seemingly aimed at us South Africans.
One thing Aura Escher is, is proud and self-righteous, and after puzzling over perceptions from the outside world, I felt compelled to get on my soapbox and explain a few things, because I am South African and I feel a little put-out that these wrong judgements of the South African Vampyre Community are, by default, aimed at myself as well. That just does not sit well with this proud little vampire.
First of all, I should point out that I am not a member of the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) – a group started by Octarine Valur, to which just about all the vampyres (all the ones I know about anyway) in South Africa belong, so this article is not an attempt of its members trying to justify the way the group is run and the principles it has adopted. A member of SAVA writing this article would just be like an artist trying to be his own critic.
I was a member for a couple of months, but soon realized it was not my “cup of
tea” based on the fact that many of my views and personal beliefs clash with theirs quite dramatically – a fact which led to many a nasty argument, and my need to win every disagreement or debate put me in quite an unpopular position. Eventually, Octarine and I came to the mutual agreement that my being in the group was just counter-productive – but during my tenure as a member I became very well aquainted with how the group operated, and the individuals who were a part of it.
One of the main things about the South African community, which the international community fails to understand is that we are at a very early and basic level of development and, until Val built the structure and foundation upon which the relationships between all of us have become linked, all South African vampyres wandered around, lost, isolated, confused and spread throughout the country, relying on the internet and resources from abroad to find some sort of identity.
South Africa as a nation is also not the most collectively open-minded country. While the Salem Witch Trials of the United States is now ancient history, in South Africa, people are generally wary and even still terrified of witchcraft or anything linked to the occult – and these fears come from perceptions that are very far removed from reality – and so it is not uncommon for people labeled as witches to be murdered or exiled from their communities. Taking that into consideration, imagine the reaction if one were to openly proclaim to be a vampire!
With this picture now painted – the “backward” state of the South African Vampyre Community compared to that of some of its international counterparts, its speedy progression – and the close-minded perceptions of our country – you may begin to realize the necessity of a group like the South African Vampyre Alliance.
The group seems to reap a huge amount of criticism for their hierarchical structure, and the use of the term “Halo” to describe an area and the adoption of formal titles, but having an understanding of the country and the mindset of its members, their system works fluently for the most part. Many of its members need guidance and some form of authority and rules else it would not see any form of progression and would most likely degenerate into smaller groups of individuals led perhaps by ego rather than knowledge and experience, all trying to play “King of the Castle” – which, as one can imagine will result in contempt between groups and would eventually just disintegrate.
I think that eventually once the community was well-established, the need for authority figures would fall away, and that this would be agreed to willingly by those people – certainly the “leaders” (for lack of a better word) whose sole goal is to lead the group towards an established and self-sufficient community, shall realize when this is achieved their roles will become redundant, as would the hierarchy, leaving those with a natural inclination towards taking initiative to carry our projects and such.
In any functioning society, individuals demonstrating leadership will rise to guide those who prefer to follow – it is natural order. In a less developed society, those who have the knowledge and are able to teach, regardless of whether they possess the skills of natural leadership, because if the society is to
survive, a foundation needs to be put in place and adopted by all who wish to subscribe to it – too many different ideas only construct a fragile fundamental starting point or foundation upon which nothing can be built.
Having said that, while the established vampyres of the international community may peer down their noses at the system adopted by the SAVA, and also make inaccurate assumptions about it and the country in which the community exists, they must also reaslise that it works for us, and “if it ain’t broke why fix it”? Why try to conduct ourselves in a manner that is both alien to us and is for all intents and purposes levels beyond where we stand currently? Certainly, in general terms, each country in the world has adopted a sociological model to create and maintain order, that is tailored to their diversity or nature as a unique community.
To conclude this article, I only ask that before labeling the South African vampyres as a “role-playing dictatorship”, consider that while we have adopted a lexicon of terminology that may seem to be a blend of mainstream and fictional references and concepts, these are merely words which we have redefined to be appropriate and applicable to suit our community and in our own context. Look deeper, and you will realize it is only the words that you may associate with something not *real* – in the light of your own experience in your own context – but the things that they represent to us, certainly are real.
And if we wish our community to be laid out as a hierarchy, despite your preconceived ideas about it, it is there because it works for us at this point in time. Before you dismiss an entire community as not being “real” or “serious”, remember that as individuals, we are no different to you – so embrace us and support us and help us grow – because the international vampire community includes South Africa too.