We are Losing it

15 Sep

You begin to notice it in the eyes of the person walking towards you on the street. There is an indecision that builds to confusion and eventually a disconcertion. How you react to the emotional fidget unfolding with each approaching step is nearly always a mystery; do you avert your eyes pretending to suddenly notice the window display in the equally jumbled Chinese shop window; do you suddenly find that your cell phone needs your urgent attention with furrowed brows for good measure; do you surreptitiously clutch the pocket holding your wallet a bit tighter; or do you smile warmly and at least nod your head in greeting? These are the dying moments of a culture, or perhaps the assimilation of one culture by another. The simple and open face of what is now considered ‘traditional manners’ versus their more evolved city cousin… swagger.

In modern day Gaborone encountering people on the street at a less frenetic time of the day you are able to identify the Thabo-come-latelys by their ease in looking you in the eye with out suspicion, malice or a calculating glint. At times there is even some form of acknowledgment of your existence, a hand waved in passing, a greeting of Dumela rrra (Dumelang Rra for the less corrupted prospect) even a single word acknowledgment, RrrrrrE! which drags out the ‘R’ and features the final ‘E’ as an exclamation mark. The most beautiful greeting, however, is expressed by the people that both acknowledge you and identify their Nation by using their totem as a greeting, for example a moNgwato would say Phuti meaning Duiker, an animal no moNgwato is allowed to harm or even worse, eat.

Obviously no one really has time to greet every single person including strangers that you would encounter walking along the city street as used to be the case when times were slower and populations smaller; A time when travel tended to be more by necessity rather then by whim; A time when opportunities were measured in social interactions instead of potential financial coupes; A time when nations were not subdivided to the Nth using developed world definitions and concepts in trying to understand the various fragments that make up Botswana.

The changed times and situations are an indication of what is considered the modern thing to do; yet there is no clear destination as to where the present course leads. There are no clear directions as to where the leaders expect to steer the country except a Valhalla called economic diversification, accessible through the pearly gates of achieved Vision 2016 goals… one presumes. As for the people in Botswana we appear not to know where we want to be led either; at times we rally behind a 16% wage increase for government employees; or our love/hate-fear/respect sentiments for the current president; even our inexplicable fervour for the finally deserving national soccer team.

It may just be the case that in this diamond backed rush to embrace all things modern and prosperous as a country we have generally forgotten the little things that are Botswana’s foundation. It is also the same foundations that still persist even if they are taken for granted and remain openly unacknowledged. The world even reflects the same qualities which we find easier to identify in American celebrities on the Philibao rather than in the only knowledgeable and helpful shopping assistant at our nearest supermarket; whereby we consistently miss an opportunity to validate and encourage someone we can tangibly interact with even if it is only via a Facebook ‘Like’.

Pic – Daniele Tamagni, http://www.mon-tohu-bohu.blogspot.com, Francesco Giusti, http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/

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