I just came from Wikipedia, where I had been doing some research on the Rhodesian national anthem, in relation to a possibly oblique reference in one of Marechera’s children’s stories. By the way, Marechera says the following:
“Let us eat him in a civilised way,” said White Baboon.
Black Baboon agreed, “Yes, let us eat him in a civilised way.”
They carried Green Baboon into the kitchen.
They cut Green Baboon into chops and steaks.
They cooked Green Baboon with spices and dry white wine.
White Baboon made the salad.
Black Baboon made the custard.
They spread the tablecloth on the table out on the verandah.
They set the knives and forks. They placed two plates
and two serviettes and two comfortable chairs.
They sat down to eat. The moon was up, big and round.
Black Baboon had put on a record on the gramophone.
“Ah, Beethoven!” sighed White Baboon, listening to the music.
The Wikipedia article was suprisingly forthright at coming up with actually a very similar sentiment to the one that I thought Marechera was expressing in the emboldened line above:
The unoriginal choice of tune prompted ridicule among foreign observers. The British writer Richard West, in his 1978 book White Tribes Revisited, remarked; “How can one not…squirm with embarrassment, when television ends at night with the Rhodesian national anthem, sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony?” adding that “white Rhodesians are notoriously philistine”.
It’s kind of like those Islamic ragheads that make you want to squirm for not being western enough, or those hook-nosed kikes who try to take over our banks. (They also make us squirm with embarrassment.) Prejudice and hatefulness are always in season, although the objects of rage and discrimination may change.
So that those who may take courage from such stereotypes in order to perpetuate their hate-crimes think twice, I emended the Wikipedia entry slightly. It now also reads:
The fact that a plodding funeral anthem is shared by England and the United States (“My country ’tis of thee,” and “God save our Queen”) does not imply any similar unoriginality, nor does this raise any question of the members of these countries not showing good taste.
While my sarcasm may be a little awkward, I also know now that opposing a sea of prejudice never quite ends it. The social and political sanctification of hatred towards a group really betrays a low-level mindset. It shows me that those who are politically correct are not so righteous as they want to seem to be.
But let me move on to the earlier point about Marechera’s children’s verse, and therefore on to something really subtle. The subtelty we have before us is that of Black Baboon and White Baboon eating Green Baboon in a “civilised way”. This is just after Green Baboon calls out to them to “stop fighting” because he finds it so distressing. Upon hearing this appeal, the baboons’ eyes become narrow and sharp. They beat Green Baboon all day, and it is “like thunder”. Once he is dead, these baboons decide that they want to enjoy the recognition from each other that they are both very civilised. They decide that the best way to achieve this effect is to cut Green Baboon into steaks and eat him in their preferred way, with dry white wine and dessert — whilst listening to Beethoven.
In terms of the verses above, the killer baboons listening to Beethoven signifies the false attribution of civilisation to processes that have nothing to do with being civilised. Listening to Beethoven whilst you are eating your brother is not just phillistine, it is barbaric. To those who want to use power in order to make others obey, Green Baboon says, “Stop! I cannot stand it!”
Those who write books or make articles suggesting that it is okay to be derogatory about a certain group of people because of their aesthetic sensibilities (or lack thereof) or for any other reason, are declaring open season upon that group of people, in all sorts of minor and major contexts. This is an act of war, which forces society to regress as people are forced to take sides in order to defend their putative identities. The people who perpetuate this kind of warfare are profoundly irrational — they cannot be reasoned with. That they take on the cloak of civilisation and believe themselves to be speaking on behalf of civilisation itself is only to be deeply lamented. They are defenders of Beethoven, no doubt, and like their Green Baboon very lightly toasted, with the subtle aroma of Dom Pérignon in order to express the state of their high mindedness as self-chosen appointees of Ultra-Civilisation.