Friday, January 14, 2011

And meanwhile I have had a bad day...
Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with the carelessness, filth and ignorance around me.
There was a stench of cadavre this afternoon.
It turned out to be a dead donkey, thrown to rot on the waste ground between the hotel and the school just fifty yards away. The children pass it merrily on their way to school. Noone notices it apart from the mad toubab woman at Hotel Djenne Djenno who has one of her fits again: ‘Can’t you see the bloody donkey? Don’t you care? Can’t you smell the xxxxxxxx thing? What sort of people ARE you who can let your children just walk past, and play next to that sort of abomination???
And I continue raving. Noone responds.
They do not understand, and they do not care. ‘No civilized people will allow this sort of filth!’ I continue undeterred.
Later on, this provokes a contemplation on the word ‘civilized’. What do I/we mean by that? And how long have we been ‘civilized?’ I have just finished the splendid biography of Catherine de Medici by Leoni Frieda. The French court of the 16th century was certainly not ‘civilized’ in today's sense of the word; neither with regards to hygiene- the court moved from chateau to chateau staying about two months in each since after that the stench became too difficult to bear and they chose to move on rather than clean up- or with regards to any humanitarian principles of mercy or tolerance in that vicious century of backstabbing and treachery. ‘Civilization’ seems to be just a veneer which covers more or less thinly the vagaries of human nature, in all places and at all times. Here and now in Djenne it feels very thin. ‘Civilization’ is also a luxury, because it costs something- someone has arrange things and someone has to pay.

I go to visit a woman who make jewellery for the MaliMali shop. Her two year old daughter is wandering around playing with a razor blade.
I say: ‘don’t you see?’ She looks at the child, then takes the razor blade away to please me and throws it over her shoulder into the heap of rubbish beyond where the child will no doubt be playing later.
No wonder child mortality is one of the highest in the world!

This sort of thing is hardly likely to endear potential tourists who may be reading this, but since my diary has never been a marketing ploy to attract tourists to my hotel, I don’t care.


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