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Offbeat – 22 November 2013

Namibia once had its own Gods. The character of these gods was primarily animist. Yet, just over 170 years after the arrival of the first Christian missionary, over 90 per cent of the country identifies itself as Christian with varying degrees of fervour.

Namibians love the great outdoors. Wherever you look, there are people who say they ‘love being outdoors in nature’. It should have been a line in the national anthem, though I suspect homeless people would not have been so happy about that, and their numbers seem to be swelling.
Personally, I think of myself as a bit of a vampire. If you have seen any of the vampire flicks before those sparkly creatures in Twilight, I can explain it to you quite easily. If I go out in the sun I get crispy fried in less than 15 minutes, just like a real vampire. If I spend more than 15 minutes in the sun over the course of three months, I get a tan that lasts all year round.

I avoid nature because it has the sun in it, at least during the day time. I’m fine walking around at night as long as I have thick-soled boots so that I can safely step on thorns.
Is there anything else that qualifies me as a vampire? I suppose a blutwurst once a decade can count as a blood substitute, but the idea of sucking a teenager dry has little appeal. I don’t like blutwurst much either, but I need to remind myself every few years.
I get a bit creeped out and walk away when people wave crucifixes and spout biblical verses at me, so that may add to the tally. There are quite a lot of them around, so I get creeped out fairly regularly. Now that there is Facebook, they don’t come and rattle my gate often. I can just ignore their online posts. My self-assigned scores aren’t high enough. I’m can only be half a vampire at best.
The twin phenomena of heavy handed Christianity and sunlight interest me though. I could go into a riff on melanoma as slow and painful route to meet your maker, but I won’t. The idea of those things as fairly homogenous national characteristics is interesting though.
Namibia once had its own Gods. The character of these gods was primarily animist. Yet, just over 170 years after the arrival of the first Christian missionary, over 90 per cent of the country identifies itself as Christian with varying degrees of fervour.
This rapid change of philosophy came about as a result of a few individuals talking persistently in an area that was more or less geographically enclosed by deserts, lack of water and the occasional war. Using this as a jumping off point, it is quite likely that in the absence of a shortage of influences, on influence can take over, completely.
This is more or less also echoed by the whole thing of being ‘outdoors in nature’ in spite of the evidence of melanoma, as well as the fact that one springbok looks remarkably like every other springbok. Here, my best guess is that the influence must come from a relatively small number of tourists who keep on telling us how lucky we are to be able to be outside in the sun, completely ignoring the drought and the shortage of libraries to shelter from the sun.
Interestingly enough, brewing of German-style beer began as a relatively limited affair, and it only takes two people to kick a football around. That explains a lot about the origins of the other national obsessions.
If you take this as even mildly reasonable, you can probably understand the concept that ideas have an ecology. The lower the number of ideas entering an environment, the easier it is for the few ideas that are in the environment to take root and become obsessive to the point where you have to hide behind curtains and unfriend people on Facebook to get around the general preachiness of things. And as these ideas take root, they become the orthodoxy. So, as someone who better resembles a wannabe vampire waving a blutwurst once a decade. I am seen as odd because I like staying in the shade and can’t handle people throwing the same Bible verses in my direction every day. What happens if new ideas begin to enter the ecology? Judging by Facebook, like finds like. And looking at the most common posts across the world, we are probably going to add an obsession with baby animals to our range of national cultural characteristics.

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