Tuesday, November 13, 2007

value systems and insult systems

My first job in Nairobi 'jimbo' was as a computer teacher at graffins college sometimes in the late nineties. at that time, computer teachers were very much respected people, i was teaching some very simple things really like Microsoft word, excel etc. i was still quite young but my students were bit older people some from some tough offices. i remember one particular woman who took some rather uncomfortable though quite flattering liking for me. she would have some odd excuses to remain behind after class and have me hold her hand while she tried to use the mouse. it was my job to also teach the students how to hold and move the mouse anyway. well when we got rather close with this woman she started talking to me a lot about her family, her village and so on. at one point she said she wanted me to visit her people back in tigania . the only thing she feared was that i may not have been circumcised and if that were true then her dad would not have me spend the night with the other boys. i would be asked to sleep in the same hut with the goats since by their standards i was a kid. she said a lot of sorrys for saying that , which really puzzled me. it didn't matter to me whether or not someone called me a kid on the account of a loose skin. in fact by our value system, the only thing that bothered me was the prospect of being seen with this seemingly old woman. how would i introduce her to anyone who knew me. by the value systems of the place where i was born and brought up, its abominable for a young man to consort with such an old woman. i was even mortified that she had such suggestions. but to her all that mattered was my uncut status!

that was strange for me since i was a fresh college graduate and was meeting that thinking for the first time. back in college i had met many people but all that mattered was who was able to show the others how to work out calculus , Ordinary differential equations, molarity, probability and statistics and so on. the fairer sex treated all the young men the same and the man with the toughest tongue and sweetest style won the day.

be that as it may, the statement of the lady just reminded me of the time the white men came to Africa and hurled all sorts of insults. chief among them was the claim that Africans were pagans, primitive and uncultured. did that insult matter to Africans? not at all. why because, Christianity was not yet accepted in Africa so 'pagan insult' was as foreign as was Christianity western education was also lacking but there were other forms of education . thirdly most African things were very procedural, methodical and thus very cultural. after all culture is just a way of doing things. that our culture was different to theirs did not warrant an insult.

what am pointing here is that insults only work if value systems are shared. for instance, in my village i would feel really hurt if someone called me a thief, liar, coward,thug or a fool. but it will mean nothing to me to be called kihii, uncut, etc. in this country, i have traveled wide and i have met people who only need to mutilate their organs in order to be accepted in their communities. it doesn't matter whether they are rapists, murderers, rogues or just plain saints. all that matters is the genital mutilation for both men and women.

back to the woman from tigania, i never got to go to Tigania, she feared for me but it never mattered to me that i never went. i also never got to do any damage to my body in order to go after all i was already more than two decades old in this state and a proud father of two!


  1. Quote: " i also never got to do any damage to my body in order to go after all i was already more than two decades old in this state and a proud father of two!"
    Good one.
    I come from a community that circumcises. However, I have observed the fixation with the actual cut and it is sad. Circumcision was NEVER meant to be an end to itself. It was merely one rite of initiation into adulthood. And a very SYMBOLIC one at that. It would not matter whether you circumcised an idiot or person of no integrity. What they are, remains. (You probably have met a 45-year old whose thought process is at the level of a 12-year old and vice versa, the presence/absence of foreskin notwithstanding). Sadly, due to the prevailing ethnic intolerance, circumcision is discussed with no reference to its purpose. Those who are circumcised seek to show the uncircumcised ones that they are inferior in one way or another; the uncircumcised ones seek to show the circumcised ones how little the cut means.

    In my view, NONE of those groups is right. Ethnocentrism should be shunned by all.I may disagree with you but I have no right to impose my belief system on you; neither should you trash mine.

  2. @annon, quite smart! am happy you too hold that view of live and let live


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