Offbeat 04 September 2015
Spring has happened again. I know because the veld is brown, there are veld fires all over the place and everyone is starting to worry about rain, same as the beginning of spring, ever year. There are other signs of spring though: falling leaves all over the place, high winds that blow sand dunes into the house if you forget to close the door, and the arrival of 1 September on the calendar.
I am not sure why we celebrate spring on 1 September, here in the middle of what is actually Namibia’s autumn. Spring actually arrives at the beginning of what foreigners tell us is autumn, according to the calendar, after the summer rains. Maybe the foreigners should rather try and instruct the rain about the seasons, rather than people and calendars.
For now, the actual Namibian order of the seasons is autumn (in March when the veld turns green), summer (from about April when the sky is blue and it is sunny but cold), spring (from about September when the leaves turn brown), and winter (sometimes also from September, when it rains but it is hot). Think about that for a few seconds, then carry on reading.
By now you should be properly conflicted. That’s understandable. The northern hemisphere assigned the dates, reversing the seasonal dates for the southern hemisphere. Somehow, in the early planning of those dates, people forgot to inform the weather of how it should behave. And in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary, those dates are accepted as gospel. Did you briefly wonder if you should wear something green on 1 September?
Here is something else that is interesting to think about. Just a few days ago, I met a woman who took off her high heels and put on socks in her office. I think she is halfway to deprogramming herself from the notion that those high heels are a mark of respectability, or part of the required and respectable office gear.
I am not sure how it happened, but somehow high heels have become part of the aesthetic of beauty and acceptability, in spite of the fact that they have a very bad effect on tendons, the back and posture, not to mention that they make it difficult to walk, especially up and down stairs. So how did we come to accept that as gospel as well? There are many questions that each need their own answer, but the truth of the matter is that people like to think in repetitive ways. It’s easier not to believe what you see. It’s easier not to think. And there is some kind or social order imposed by uniform thought.
Imagine if everyone had their own ideas, which led to their own actions and reactions? The result would be that there would either be a large number of conflicts between individuals, or that individuals would have to engage in cartel behaviour on their beliefs to reduce the number of conflicts. In other words, rather than question the phenomenon of the seasons in reality, it is easier just to go with the flow and wear green on 1 September, or wear high heels to satisfy everyone who believes that office and aesthetic culture cannot manage without stilettos.
On the other hand, people have an ability to layer beliefs. In spite of recognition of the Eurocentric approach to the seasons, Namibians know that the seasons consist of the small rainy season, the big rainy season and winter. And women enter offices and remove their high heels, without any loss of productivity.
It’s easy enough to conclude that there are two layers of belief: the one which is acceptable to state in public, and the other which is realistic, productive and far more healthy and comfortable than high heels. Obviously the two layers co-exist comfortably.
Where does this lead? Obviously maintenance of social order is vital, but we also have to accept that it is most likely superficial. Being superficial can be, and is most likely, vital. So a certain amount of dumbing down is important, as long as you keep an eye on reality and behave sensibly in spite of what you say in public.
Happy (rainy) spring, in spite of the fact that it is autumn.