Offbeat 17 April 2014
I am not an outside person at all. The idea of going outdoors to do anything fills me with a kind of awful horror, normally to do with the sun, and all that effort of stepping over thorns.
Far better for me to stay indoors and avoid skin cancer to mitigate my overall cancer risk which comes from smoking, eating processed foods and using household chemicals.
The now aging ministerial edict against smoking forces me outside from time to time, mainly when I go to the local pub, and sit outside on the wall to enjoy a cigarette with my beer, and all the other refugees from the dire threat of fines or being jailed for lighting up. This has interesting consequences. I get to see unusual stuff like sunsets, as well as people in the neighbourhood.
I like to think of my neighbourhood as fully inclusive. It includes Herero and Owambo people, some building workers, a whole bunch of Angolans, the old Austrian guy across the road, the young lovers who use the sheltering dark after sunset to sit in the playground and flirt, one or two young Americans, and it also includes me.
I thought that was about as inclusive as it gets until, sitting there on the wall, I saw a pair of Asian men jogging. Naturally I was tempted to attribute it to the beer, the first time, but I saw it again. I know that hallucinations don’t happen from beer, unless it involves everyone looking more attractive, including myself. I also know that the same hallucination rarely happens twice, other than that I am always handsome when I drink one or two too many beers.
So there you have it. With the inclusion of the Asians, the neighbourhood is actually, pretty much as inclusive as Namibia can be, and I am proud to live here and happy to obey the law by smoking outside the pub with all the other law abiding citizens.
The amazing thing is that there are no environmentalists muttering darkly about rhino horn, no lay economists complaining that all the uranium belongs to us, and nobody has said anything nasty about the potential harbour at Cape Fria whether it is a naval base or not. In fact, the only thing that is slightly out of place is the fact that they are running, but even that doesn’t seem so strange given that the Angolans and Americans run as well, and we all run when it rains hard enough.
Given the tenor of commenting on social media, and even the press, it feels as if something is wrong with the peaceful picture. Many of the people making noise on social media give the impression that rhino horn is beside the point, merely a justification for hatred. The same feels true of the lay economists.
If it really is that unreasoned, then it is a simple matter of xenophobia, and the masses are separated from South Africa only by slender virtue of the fact that nobody has the energy to drag shopkeepers out into the street so that they can loot their stores without the costly and uncouth demands of cash registers.
The other side of the matter is that Namibians, and indeed everyone else in the world, loves Chinese goodies. And what passes for Chinese food locally, some of which seems to involve matangara with an Asian twist, is fairly popular as well. And, in truth, not all Asians are here for rhino horn, just a few that have been arrested, or will still be arrested, hopefully alongside Namibian culprits who make it possible.
In truth, xenophobia is nothing more that the unreasoned prejudice of an in-group given expression in violence.
Historically, the hatred and anger that we see, here and in South Africa, and everywhere else, is completely futile. The history of the world is a long series of people moving money and resources from place to place. The hatred will subside as newcomers are assimilated and economies evolve, so the hatred will, ultimately be futile.
The real trick is to govern the process, put in place the sort of controls that lead to the arrest of rhino poachers and prevent undue economic exploitation. It shouldn’t be hard to get that right.