Inspired (in part) by Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist.
Suck it: Yeah, yeah … and by the way, yo’ mama …
Banyakyalo: Anyone imprisoned by the deception that milking a cow is magical.
If you are a city-born African reading this, you’ve probably heard it before.
“Shame! You’ve never known the beauty of tilling a field and growing your own food? Shame!”
“Ah, how I long for the days when we shot birds with catapults and over an open fire roasted its succulent flesh.”
“How wide the fields were! How wonderful the nights slept under the stars. How aromatic the smell of fresh cow dung. How beautifully terrifying it was to search your way through the dark to the pit latrine out back. How magical the hours spent telling stories by the fire. How glorious …”
I’ve never done those things. So suck it banyakyalo.
I’m glad I was born and bred in the city with its pollution, culture-that-is-no-culture, burglaries, noise, dust, slums, mansions, high walls, no walls, pesticide-filled apples from South Africa, pizza deliveries, 24-hour supermarkets, imported milk from Thailand, garbage, road rage, telephones, books, air-headed celebrities, tapped water, banal TV programs …
And so are you.
We maintained the chaos for you. You heard of it, you aspired to know it, you migrated to it, bore children in it and you won’t leave because despite your nyanyanya about the village, you couldn’t wait to leave.
You couldn’t wait to leave the uncertainty of an unstable existence dependent on the rain gods. You were dying for more than light from a hurricane lamp to give your life meaning after 6 o’clock. Bottled water, a kafunda at every corner … you love it! The invasively loud discos/churches/mosques next to your home are music to your ears – really – because the silence of the kyalo is great for a day, a month, a year, but certainly not a lifetime.
You look at your hands in awe that the calluses from years of planting and harvesting millet have smoothed out. Yes, the oxen your family purchased were a relief, but not nearly as great as buying a hermetically sealed kilogram of flour from an air conditioned store.
You stay up nights thanking Fate that you don’t have to wait days before malaria drugs can arrive in your town to treat your sick mother. You brazenly shout blessings at the kiosk owner, the neighborhood pharmacy and the mobile drug store that blares its way through your street every morning.
Oh, refrigeration! Now you know what it really means to be a hunter-gatherer. Holy Internet! You can know it all, learn it all, become a star!
So suck kyalo! Come on, say it with me banya-of-there.
Forget organically grown tomatoes and slather your oil-soaked chips with ketchup.
Quit bitching about the village that raises a child and plunk Junior in front of Nanny TV. You’ll enjoy it as much as him.
Then, the one or two times you do go to the kyalo every year, make sure to stay in that beautiful brick-walled mansionette that the city allowed you to build on the highest hill in the village. Laugh good-naturedly as your relatives decry your offsprings’ local language ignorance. Don’t forget to pack sliced bread, freeze-dried coffee beans, insect repellent, sun block, baked beans, cereal and that generator because God knows! The village is bleak!
Tonight, fall on your knees. Thank God for saving you from the kyalo.
If you don’t, well. Buy a lemon.