My client has just returned from a trip to Ngepi Camp and sent me this:
Dear Mr. Westerner,
My name is Potsotso Motchopi and my family and I still live in a mud hut near a great river you call the Okavango.
Many foreigners visit these last years to witness our country and even ask to buy our land, or for concessions to start businesses for tourism or other industry, saying that they will employ many of our young people and pay us money in exchange for long time control of large areas of our land, and over the years we have agreed to forfeit the land of our forefathers, and we have received money.
But our children and our lives, are no longer our own. Things have changed from our customary ways to that of the white peoples. We are not sure of who we are any longer.
Our children sometimes send money home, but we don’t see them any more as we used to. They prefer to live in the cities now, and have forgotten our culture and ways. They have become westernized, and who can blame them for wanting to drive a shinny new car and live in an air-conditioned house of bricks and iron?
But I do not see their happiness as I used to. I do not see them full of life now? I only see them chasing a demon they cannot catch. They are like the white men now.
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In our tribe, we understand that we need to stay together to survive, and that each person from the very small to the very old, has a purpose in the community, and that each person has to fulfill that purpose for all of us to be able to survive in this harsh place. Now when our young people, with new ideas, come and visit, they think that money can buy that survival, and it can most times, but it cannot buy our culture, and it cant buy our community, or our tribal ways – it only undermines them, just as we have been undermined by the money that has been paid to some within our tribe.
In our village we now have schools that teach western teachings and values, and we have children who disobey their parents just as they do in the western schools. Our culture is being eaten away from within. We are being cloned to be like the westerner. We wear their clothes and speak their language. We talk of business and profits. We fight over the money. Who are we now?
There are those that say that we are poor, and that they feel sorry for us, and that they want to improve our miserable lives by introducing us to ‘profits’ and ‘returns’, that we now suddenly need to survive!? They say that we should ‘invest’ and save money in the banks for our old age, and when we one day have ‘succeeded’ that we will be able to buy a Mercedes Benz car. They say that we should strive to do better, to improve ourselves, to uplift us from poverty. This they say is what they are teaching our children and young men.
Have you ever witnessed a monkey in a tree when he eats, and deliberately drops/shares some food to feed the other animals below who can’t climb? Have you ever seen how many animals benefit from the death of another? Have you ever seen anything wasted in nature? We know of these things, and we could not survive without this understanding. We are a part of the same whole.
We do not have a dogs dish in which we feed the dog– we throw our waste/sharing down, and it is cleaned by the dog/jackal/ant and we all rely on each other for this cycle of life.
There are many things that separate our culture from that of the westerner. For example we don’t have a jail. If we have a wayward person, we take him to the Kgotla/meeting place, and explain the delicate fabric of our culture and system, and the elders and all the people listen and speak of the problem, and administer the adjustment to bring the person back within the group immediately – even if you consider it be harsh. The value of the system is that everyone knows the truth of who this person is, and he knows that they know, and this knowledge forces him to behave in a manner that will benefit us all again as a community.
If I got a windfall, I would share it with my friend, my mother and others, because we understand that someone else would also share in my time of need, without even knowing me – our spirit is one. We understand the harshness of survival in nature.
And then you brought non-biodegradable shinny ‘things’ into our lives that entice our children away and pollute our lives, and destroy our environment. We don’t understand these things and they are not a part of our lives. We are loosing our power base and being belittled, and our fabric is collapsing. Who are we now?
A white friend of mine was describing how in London he would not greet passers by, and how every person would looks away or down when passing, and that he does not know any of his neighbors in any direction – he was confused when I asked, “but why do you do that?” He has no real friends and no-one to come to his assistance in a time of need. I sensed a loneliness of spirit in him, a great empty barrenness of his soul.
Who are you then Mr. Westerner?
I have seen that as a species, the westerner has managed to destroy as many natural things as he has managed to develop amazing technological advances. We now have pollution, global warming, weather out of control, rising tides and plagues that frighten, and the World is at war over greed.
Your prisons are overflowing and you have many thieves who care nothing for your life – it is cheaper to shoot you and take your wrist watch, as the cost of the bullet is less. Your legal system allows the criminal to be anonymous, fancy lawyers who can bend the truth, and ‘rights’ that the criminal can hide behind – this encourages the wayward mind to do it all again.
You are rushing around in that mad world of yours like a chicken without a head, and the aim seems only to be self destruction. Your money God seems to be a useless companion who has left you with only a great loneliness.
You plunder others for their resources …. and you say that I am poor!
I feel great pity for you white man, because all you have is money, and this money God of yours has given you the arrogance to call me poor without the slightest knowledge of who I really am.
I am a rural Africa still living unchanged the way we have for thousands of years, with respect for each other, and the environment. This is our culture. We understand that if you hurt one that you are actually hurting yourself.
Yours culture clearly seems to be one of dog eat dog.
Yes I live in a mud hut, and yes it is hard having to collect scarce food and water, and when the surroundings no longer support us, we move on to a new area and start again – it is all normal for us. This is why we move on, and the old area recovers – this is the cycle of life – we are a part of the cycle of life of nature. We don’t plunder resources from far away to sustain ourselves, and pretend that we are living economically. We live off this land.
We have our Gods who protect us, our sunshine, land, animal’s and water all free – we are rich and fulfilled.
And you have the arrogance to call us poor – you offer us your help and want to educate us to be like you, so that we can also become slaves to your money God.
I sometimes wonder if these ‘donations’, to better our ‘poverty stricken’ lives, is not just a way to appease you conscience, or just to give you a hold on us so that you can plunder our resources without conscience, or maybe in desperation you see it as the only legacy you will leave on the world?
Yes there is a poor person – he is the half westernized African who has lost his culture and his way – he needs all our pity and help. He is the poor soul who is many generations away from being able to compete with a long family line of western industrialist on their own playing field.
Can you not have the common decency to leave us as you found us? We don’t want your money, we don’t want your value system. How can the earth be owned by one at the expense of others – we each have our goats and cattle and that is our value, as it is our food reserve and that is our measure of wealth.
There is an interface where we could live with each other – we know what is done is done and it can’t be reversed, but if you showed us the common respect we deserve, we would be able to have a place where many people (even your white people) – where all people could live in harmony, as common decency would be our cord.
We obviously need to be able to read and write, so that we can interface with the world, but the lack of respect for our mud huts and bare feet is an extremely arrogant not constructive attitude.
Yes there are obviously times when small isolated communities need assistance to get back on their feet after a natural disaster – but only for the shortest time to get them to get back on their feet. Don’t give them what they never had – as you know you don’t value what you got for nothing.
It better to teach someone to fish than feed them.
On the subject of fishing – you westerners have given us fine gill nets from the goodness of your compassionate hearts. We then decimated the natural environment with your stupidity. We caught all the fish and bought the trappings of the west, and now that the fish are all gone, we are hungry – so now please feed us!
The poorest man is not without a dollar – but without a life.
A good story I once heard that explains my point was that a rich industrialist once found a lazy fisherman relaxing under a tree. The rich man asked the fisherman why he was not out there catching more fish as the day was still young. The fisherman replied that he had caught enough fish for the day.
The rich man patiently explained that if the fisherman worked harder, he would catch more fish and then be able to buy a motor for his boat, which would mean that the fisherman could catch more fish and therefore make more money. The fisherman asked…… “and then?”
Well said the rich man, you could buy more boats and employ people to work for you so that you could catch more fish and make more money. ……“And then?” asked the fisherman again. “Then you could relax like me” answered the rich man.
The fisherman replied “but I am relaxing already”?
In conclusion, we Africans, together with the Bushmen understand nature and nature understand us.
Everything in creation is not the same, but it was created to live in co-existence and this should be respected, and if need be, it should be protected from being ruined.
We are not interested into the White man’s type and style of development that complicate the man’s life and threatens the existence of nature and the balance of life. Leave the world and especially Africa to be diverse and distinct.
Perhaps you could use your spare money to buy yourself some time, come and learn about the real values of this world, and then you may have a life ….. and then we could all live happily ever after