Bring it on. Humour to the rescue.
Much ado about Rusty Markham lately. The honourable opposition member of parliament stormed out of the bulding during heated debate, evidently saying he was sick and tired of constant racism, prejudice and carping against him.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired. It happens all the time here. As the government media had it, Markham was abused from both government and opposition benches.
Why would the opposition be racist against one of their own, and one of their best MPs, unless racial prejudice is inescapably ingrained in this former colony more than 40 years after independence brought black majority rule?
Among other things, the admirable Rusty Markham was called a ‘murungu’ by a particularly unpleasant ruling party lawmaker. The word, spat out with malice, has connotations in local language meaning an evil deity, a pagan god, and therefore it is used as a pejorative recalling the control, god-like domination and cruelty of horrid white European settlers.
I don’t find it particularly offensive, depending on who uses it, in what circumstances and with how much venom, but it still remains on the flipside of the N-word.
I have been called many things in my time. ‘Revanchist’ sent me running for a dictionary. He or she is a right winger who wants to roll back the carpets of equality and progress. Then I am sneered at as a media hack of liberal persuasions, despised on several broad counts.
Prejudice is everywhere. Most people experience it in some form or another, but in Markham’s case it got out of hand in the parliament chamber as things often do. But where is any parliament dignified? The Australian assembly is sometimes called ‘The Swear House.’ Aussies are certainly endowed with a wide repertoire of bad language.
In the happenstance of nature I am red-green colour blind and left handed and I suffer all manner prejudice for it. Heaven forbid, as a bachelor I have had across-the-colour-line affairs denounced by my hypocritical murungu peers who’ve all had such dalliances, however brief.
I am a ‘doos’ (politely, a goat’s vagina in South African slang) who can’t enjoy the blood-red blooms of our Flamboyant (poinciana) tree. I am a ‘puss,’ vagina again, who must ask for help in determining if there’s blood in his stool. I’m a danger on the road – the dark one at the top is stop, the lighter one at the bottom is go when the traffic lights (robots in these parts) are working and sunlight isn’t shining brightly on them to diffuse the contrasts.
Computers and electronics victimise me too. Their warning or charging lights all look the same.
Left-handers, meanwhile, are ‘cack-handed.’ Internet cafes have the mouse on the right that can’t be moved. Left-handed golf clubs are hard find, though Zimbabwe’s international left-handed golf ace Nick Price played and won with ‘normal’ clubs. On a trip to London I bought a left-handed corkscrew in a shop called ‘Left Hand Liberation.’ I had to retire it when guests tried in vain to open the wine. The shop had left handed scissors too.
Can you imagine how a colour-challenged person gets lost on the London underground because of its colour-coded route map? ‘Bloody idiot, you are nowhere near where you want to be’ is the response from the immigrant minorities who run London Transport because the murungu ‘poms’ (pomegranates that go red in the sun) won’t do it themselves.
Part of life’s tattered tapestry. I might not see the tapestry in full colour but I can see prejudice in black and white every which way I look. An old man once said he was free of all prejudices. “I hate everyone equally.”
So humour to the rescue, then.
It’s Formula One time again and many in this far-flung backwater are enjoying the new season on satellite TV. The insufferable privileged mixed-race Lewis Hamilton has had his day. It is said one man’s insufferable jerk is another’s hero, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, one man’s jihadist is another’s saviour, one man’s dread is another’s joy and one man’s sexual pecadillos are anathema to another.
The late F1 boss Max Mosley was into sado-masochism at exclusive soirees in Europe, ‘hostesses’ and dominatrixes dressed in scanty Nazi uniforms etc.
A final word for the ‘curry munchers,’ the ‘elephant riders’ and the ‘wagon burners’ (a term in southern Africa borrowed strangely from war-like Red Indians of old, whoops, sorry, native Americans.) Driving the Tube trains in London they seem to think colour blindness means stupid bloody eejit.
Their ancestors were brought to Africa by the colonialists to build the railways. The ‘coolies’ – offensive bastardisation of the old Hindi/Urdu word ‘kuli’ for a day labourer or a slave – were the easy prey of wild predators, much easier to catch than fast-moving antelope, and they became tasty meals for the lions of Tsavo. Even today, man eaters must be hunted down and killed because once they get a taste for humans they can’t eat anything else. Over to Roshan …
I, Roshan, came to this country of Africa,
and did find it indeed a strange land;
many rocks, mountains and dense forests
abounding in lions and leopards;
also buffaloes, wolves, rhinoceroses,
elephants, deer, camels and all enemies of man …
Now from the town of Mombasa,
a railway line extends into Uganda.
In the forests bordering this line there are
found those lions called “man eaters.”
Day and night, and hundreds of men fell victims
to these savage creatures whose very jaws were
steeped in blood.
Bones, flesh, skin and blood, they
devoured all and left no a trace behind them …
The lions’ roar was such that the very
earth would tremble at the sound…and where was the
man who did not feel afraid?
On all sides arose weeping and wailing and the
people would sit and cry like cranes…
And now I will relate the story of the engineer
in charge of the line:
And after seeing what the animals had done,
the Englishman spoke, and said,
“For this damage the lion shall pay with his life.”
Patterson Sahib is indeed a brave and valiant man
Like unto those Persian heroes of old – Rustem,
Zal, Sohrab and Berzoor.
— from The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures by Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson
It’s a shame some of the railways Roshan and his pals built in colonial Africa no longer function after decades of theft and neglect. The destruction of Zimbabwe’s potholed, collapsing roads can, in part, be blamed on the mega trucks used to transport heavy goods while our trains rot in their sidings.
There’s a saying here: We don’t drive of the left of the road in the inherited British way, we drive on what’s left of the road. And yes, it’s the drunk driver who proceeds in a straight line, the sober one zig-zags to avoid the potholes.