A few days ago, President Zuma said we should stop thinking like Africans, although I am fairly sure that he meant to say we should stop drinking like Africans. It would have made more sense. Anyway, our fearless leader is not known for making much sense. It’s why we love him.
I thought he might be onto something, though. Just because we live in Africa doesn’t mean we have to think like an African any more than we have to speak, look or taste like one. And so I spent much of the past week thinking like other nationalities.
I started off by thinking like the English. This came quite naturally to me because I think in English and it’s easier to think like a particular nationality if your thoughts are in the language of that particular group. This sounds more complex than it is. I think this is what long-suffering spin doctor Mac Maharaj was getting at when he said the president sometimes gets his words mixed up because English isn’t his home language.
The problem with thinking like the English is that almost immediately you start complaining about things. It’s raining too much. It’s not raining enough. Blasted beggars at the traffic lights. Them darkies are making an awful mess of running the country. Good help is so hard to find these days. I also found myself nipping down to the pub a lot more. When I was thinking like an African, I’d go to the bottle store. I would get into conversations with strangers and moan endlessly about the weather and how David Cameron needed to pull up his socks if he hoped to get my support next year.
Then I tried thinking like the Germans. I woke up and reorganised my cupboard. After colour-coding my socks and folding my underwear into perfect little triangles, I went off for a breakfast of schlackwurst, bratwurst, blutwurst, schwarzwurst, leberwurst and rollmops. If I were in Syria, the UN weapons inspectors would have mistaken me for a biological weapon. The trouble started when I waddled out into the city. My brain began having miniature seizures. The littering. The jaywalking. The shouting. The hooting. Mein Gott im Himmel! And all of this to a German porn soundtrack in my head.
On top of it, I was struck by an unfamiliar urge to separate my garbage. Even worse, my sense of humour was slipping away. I had to think like someone else quickly or risk going mad. When Germans go mad, they put ads in the paper asking for volunteers to cook and eat them.
This time I chose the Russians and found myself waiting for the bottle store to open. I took my vodka into a park and it wasn’t long before I was going up to people and shouting at them about those bastard Chechen rebels, the gays in government, the tyranny of babushkas and the shocking price of potatoes. At one point, I was crying because I was in love with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the pretty one from Pussy Riot. That’s all I remember.
The next day I decided to think like an Israeli. After instructing builders to add another five metres to my boundary walls, I declared my house a sovereign state and annexed the neighbour’s back yard. His dog bit me when I tried to put up a flag. There will be retaliatory strikes when he least expects it. I stuck an ‘Occupied Territory’ sign on my bathroom door, locked myself inside and prayed for eighteen hours for the total destruction of my enemies. After that I felt guilty and tried thinking like an American.
This one suited me the most. I felt even more like one of God’s chosen people than I did when I was thinking like an Israeli. I began to find that the idea of oil – olive or engine – excited me more than it should. My voice went up several decibels and I was taken by conflicting urges to buy a gun, become a hippie, kiss a man, hurl abuse at homos, evangelise my suburb, torch a church, buy an SUV, save the environment, go to war, join a peace movement, fill up on hamburgers and go to gym.
It was all too exhausting. I felt myself drifting perilously close to stereotyping those who do not think like me. The last thing I needed was to be accused of bigotry and intellectual indolence. That’s the domain of Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr.
In the end, I found it easier to just go back to thinking like an African. Time to work on a new get-rich-quick scheme. But first a nap. Then something to eat. And maybe a post-snack snooze. Followed by drinks. And later, sex.
I’m feeling better already.