‘cocaine for breakfast’

The reason why so-called third world countries exists is because the people have had their souls fractured by the trauma of colonialism. It’s not because of the violence or power struggles per se, but the existential uncertainty in having a foreign and unknown force not only take over but take away the familiar to transplant their environment. Even when countries became independent they weren’t given space, or rather they didn’t recognize the need to have some space to recollect and figure out an organic way to proceed. They jumped ahead into the suits and footsteps of the colonialists, furthering the soul fracture.

You can’t succeed mimicking someone else, nor can you heal.

Impair the imperialist

We do not know the size and strength of our own manias until they fall upon us and drag us down, or the barrenness of our inner deserts until real loneliness, fear, bewilderment and sun-madness have cast us into them. There is something huge and dark in the African world which can chew through the defences of white men who have not been harnessed to that continent’s almost mindless friendship with suffering and annihilation. Concrete buildings, clinics and city settlements can hide it, almost, but out in the wastes you never forget that the friendly hyena is there to clean you if you should die in the grey grass among the thorns. It is truly a mighty continent and you feel it when you lie down in darkness under the stars, your blanket around you, and you listen to its powerful silence, a silence made up of various small sounds become one steady background drone and clicking, of cicadas, insects of every kind, mosquitoes, all whirring and hissing in one silence peculiar to Africa.

Of all the desiccated, bitter, cruel, sunbeaten wildernesses which starve and thirst beyond the edges of Africa’s luscious, jungled centre, there cannot be one more Christless than the one which begins at the northern foot of Mount Kenya and stretches to the foothills of Abyssinia, and from there to the dried-out glittering tip of Cape Gardafui where the hot karif winds blow in from where the long sharks race under the thin blue skin of the ocean. You can never think of those wildernesses without thinking of daggers and spears, rolling fierce eyes under mops of dusty black crinkly hair, of mad stubborn camels, rocks too hot to touch, and blood feuds whose origins cannot be remembered, only honoured in the stabbing. But of all the races of Africa there cannot be one better to live among than the most difficult, the proudest, the bravest, the vainest, the most merciless, the friendliest; the Somalis.

I knew an Italian priest who had spent over thirty years among the Somalis, and he made two converts, and it amazed me that he got even those two. The Prophet has no more fervent, and ignorant, followers, but it is not their fault that they are ignorant. Their natural intelligence is second to none and when the education factories start work among them they should surprise Africa, and themselves.

I never saw a Somali who showed any fear of death, which, impressive though it sounds, carries within it the chill of pitilessness and ferocity as well. If you have no fear of death you have none for anybody else’s death either, but that fearlessness has always been essential to the Somalis who have had to try and survive hunger, disease and thirst while prepared to fight and die against their enemies, their fellow Somalis for pleasure in the blood feud, or the Ethiopians who would like to rule them, or the white men who got in the way for a while. ¹

Wandering in the Shag were Somalis with some of the sharpest intelligences in the continent, nomads who had been forced into being parasites of the camel, for centuries, and could anyone ever find a way of using all that courage and intelligence? This unique people, with their great vanity, and their touching bravery in the way in which they try and cope with their difficult life, have no palm oil, no cocoa, no coffee, gold, no diamonds to sell, only their camels. ²

The Somalis bitterly resent the white man, and struggle continually, and admirably, by lies and intrigue, to fight off his influence which spells the end of their peculiar world. You cannot beat them. They have no inferiority complexes, no wide-eyed worship of the white man’s ways, and no fear of him, of his guns or of his official anger. They are a race to be admired, if hard to love. ³

There is no one alive as tough as the Somali nomad. No one.
An askari wounded in a fight in the Haud country walked fourteen miles holding his guts in his hand, was sewn up and lived to soldier again. And the women are as spiritually strong as their men. ⁴

Hanley, Gerald. Warriors : Life and Death Among the Somalis. Eland , 1993. [Scribd version]

¹ pgs.29-31
² pg.73
³ pg.153

African timer?

Today I learned about a very interesting concept called Chronemics which is the study of the role of time in communication.

Turns out the way we perceive time and approach it in our lives depends on the cultural lens.

Case in point: The African timer.

This is used to describe ( often pejoratively) the lackadaisical and relaxed attitude Africans ( or black people in general) have towards time-sensitivity. This results in tardiness in meetings and appointments.

This negative connotation is due to African cultures being compared to Western ones, and using the latter as a golden standard.

This is catastrophic in many ways. Western culture is individual-oriented whereas African cultures are collective-oriented. In other words, the Western work ethic tends to one task at a time, whereas African work ethic tends to the personal relations and doing many things at the same time.

Names that have been coined for the respective time cultures are ‘mechanical time consciousness’ or ‘monochronic’ (Western) and ’emotional time consciousness’ or ‘polychronic’ (African).

The reason why it’s catastrophic is that it’s an internalized and accepted form of imperialism. It dehumanizes and invalidates the black person’s culture and temperament. It’s erasure of ancient traditions, and white supremacy.

If anything, the monochronic (Western) model dehumanizes the individual by treating them as automatons slaving away in the factories. Time is used to control the person. That’s why catch phrases like ‘time is money’ are a thing; they were coined with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. And it makes sense; factory owners need reliable labourers to ensure they get their money’s worth !

Polychronic (African) time is more fluid and less stringent. The focus is more on connection and shared experiences. This is also why the idea of privacy and boundaries is foreign.

“The contrast between African time and Western time is illustrated in the award-winning short film Binta and the Great Idea. The protagonist of the film, a fisherman in a small village in Senegal, can’t understand the new ideas brought back from Europe by his friend; these are symbolized by a Swiss wristwatch, which rings at various times to the delight of the friend, but for no apparent reason. The fisherman is shown making his way through the various ranks of officials with his idea, which in the end is a sharp criticism of Western culture’s obsession with efficiency and progress.”

The Somali culture is clearly polychronic, and I think if we look at it through this lens, we can come to appreciate our culture and unconditionally accept it as opposed to side-eyeing it as something backwards and defective.

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