Muckraker : Shitholes

Muckraker : Shitholes

FAST and furious. That’s how some countries reacted to Donald Trump’s shithole insult two weeks ago. Botswana screamed while South Africa fumed.
But the time they responded the Trump chariot had moved on to fanning new controversies on Twitter. Across the globe some countries took offense to Trump’s remarks.

Even those that were obviously not included in the shithole bracket jumped into the fray with angry statements and a few staged demonstrations.
Some of it was borrowed anger. Other leaders grabbed to chance to deflect attention from their incompetence and dictatorial tendencies. Here was an opportunity to remind their people although their governments might treat them as shitholes that they should not tolerate such insults from leaders of other countries.

African leaders think only they have the right to insult their own people.
They had found a rare chance to fire cheap shots at America and its slow president.
It was hilarious to see whole countries banding over a non-event triggered by a president whose low acumen has long been accepted by the people he leads.

The jury has long submitted its verdict on Trump. He is not that deep. In Lesotho some Facebook activists tried to poke the government to join the craze.  How dare our government goes on voicemail when Botswana is condemning Trump, they asked as if there was someone ready to answer their mundane enquiry.

In our exuberance and stampede to defend ourselves from the irritant called Trump we missed the salient message of his statement.
Africans should accept that theirs are truly shithole countries unable to feed their citizens. This is not about empty mantras about patriotism and national pride but reality.

Africa itself is generally a shithole. It just depends where each country stands on that shithole spectrum. Some countries are little shitholes while others are gigantic shitholes.
That Trump has called us as such does not change our sorry statuses as countries.
Muckraker suspects what really angered countries like Botswana and South Africa is that Trump put them in the same league with countries they view as hopeless shitholes.

South Africans, for instance, don’t think they are the same as the rest of Africans.
Batswana like to think that they have earned the right to be separated from the rest of the miserable African. It therefore riles them that even after their strenuous efforts to distinguish themselves from riffraff another president still cannot tell the difference.
The other point is that there is nothing new with what Trump said about African countries.
In fact each country thinks it’s is a better shithole than the next.

South Africans, for instance, think Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi are filthy places. They think all those immigrants flocking into their country are running away from their dirty countries. They are right but they conveniently forget that they too are living in a shithole.
No wonder they have no qualms lynching them when they feel like it.
It is not by chance that Botswana closes its borders at 10 pm. They want to keep out muck from grubby places. They too think people from many other African countries are slurry.

Even down-on-their-luck people like Zimbabweans had a similar attitude towards their neighbours when things were fine and dandy.
Back then when Zambia was suffering from Kaunda and Malawi had a long Kamuzu Banda-induced dysentery, Zimbabweans were a haughty lot that made cruel jokes about their neighbours.

That was before Mugabe humbled them with his excessive doses of brazen brutality, breath-taking incompetence and mind-boggling thievery that pushed them to the bottom of the gutter. Basotho too think those who come from the north are from shithole countries.
So while South Africans insult us we also have our salvos for other people.

It is good that Basotho largely refused to clamber the bandwagon to condemn Trump’s slur. It’s not that we are timid but because we know where our bread is buttered.

We know how America’s benevolence keeps people in the sweatshops we call factories and how many hungry mouths it feeds.
We know how the billions we received from the Yankees transformed this country’s roads and health sector.
Yet there is a much more compelling reason to explain our aloofness to the insult.
Deep in our hearts we probably know that Trump was right.

And even if we might feel a little bit of irritation we also know that there is nothing that Trump said that we don’t say about people of our kind.
Time and again we have referred to other political parties as shitholes. Indeed we have described other districts as shitholes. We even have villages we describe as filthy.

But worse of all is how we also describe other families as shitholes.
Muckraker cannot understand why Africans should be angry at all.
Surely a continent that cannot feed itself deserves no other description apart from what Trump gave it.

Muckraker also suspects that the anger at Trump comes from a simple miscomprehension of what the word shithole means. While the word conjures an image of a whole that is part of our anatomy, its meaning is entirely different.
The word, as used by Trump, simply means an extremely dirty, shabby or unpleasant place. There is no denying that the majority of Africa is a dirty, shabby and unpleasant place.

To argue against that description will be self-delusional.
It is telling that South Africa, a country where millions of people live in squalid shanty towns, did not see the irony of fuming over being called a shithole.
Now those are shithole heads shaking violently at being called citizens of a shithole country.

One of the biggest problems with the ABC is that it is too huge a tent. So in it you find the most sophisticated people and dimwits. That is to be expected.

What is however scary is that even when you think you have seen the worst of its worst there always comes one who startles you.
Muckraker is still reeling from her encounter with Montoeli Masoetsa’s virulent attack on Colonel Tanki Mothae, the Principal Secretary of Defence and Security.

Colonel Mothae was minding his own business when Masoetsa decided to call him a disloyal man hobnobbing with enemies of the government.
Masoetsa simply concocted that outlandish theory from a number of unrelated coincidences. The first is that Colonel Mothae lives in Ladybrand so he has to be consorting with exiled opposition leaders living there.

The second is that Colonel Mothae has to be a disloyal person because his bodyguards are from the military intelligence.
So according to Masoetsa one plus one makes eleven. The answer two has to be wrong because the plus sign between the figures is just meant to complicate things for nothing.

What is worrying is that Masoetsa did not see prudence in keeping such inane thoughts to himself. He just had to parade them at a market.
He was desperate to sell his pathetic ideas like a vendor hawking overly ripe tomatoes on a scotching summer day.
Had he kept his thoughts to himself he would have probably gone berserk. Judging by his eloquence it is clear that those ideas have been troubling his mind for months.

They were threatening to bolt out through the nose and ears. The man just had to open his mouth to let them out.
It is astounding that unmitigated disasters like Masoetsa are allowed near a microphone at public gatherings.
There should be a simple test for such men before they are allowed within the vicinity of a podium. A breathalyzer will be expensive.
So Muckraker suggests the tried and tested method of asking him to stand on one leg with his hands spread out. The other one is to ask him to count his fingers.

Muckraker has no doubt Masoetsa will dismally fail these simple tests.
Colonel Mothae should take Masoetsa’s rants as a fart in an August wind. He should also forgive Masoetsa for it is clear that it was not him but some substance speaking.

Muckraker’s late grandmother always said if you ululate for a fool at a funeral you should not be shocked when he starts molesting the corpse.
The old woman was a bit dramatic. Muckraker would say if you ululate for a fool taking a bath at a market you should not be startled when he swallows the soap.

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