Friday 13 March 2015

Shifting Sands

Multiculturalism gets a bad rap, especially when there is a preponderance of one culture over another. In Britain it is amazing we don’t pronounce it ‘mullah-culturalism’, given the self-inflicted death sentence we seem to have pronounced on the indigenous white culture in favour of all things islam. But it is important to impart a sense of who we are and from where we came if we are to keep our own identities alive. Thus, wherever you are, you will occasionally overhear the passing on of ancestral lore and the wisdom to survive life’s great mission intact.

Over there a young Scots dad is explaining to his son the rules of haggis and the playing of the Tam O’Shanter, skills essential to navigate the complexities of life over our northern border. In France, un père fier describes le coq sportive and how to get to La Marseillaise without falling foul of the complex rules of Huguenot. A German dad would never forgive himself if his son grew up without understanding how Vorsprung durch Technik works, or how to get the trains to run on time. Each unique culture carries with it the essential ingredients and secret recipe to perpetuate the line.

And so a young Arab asks his father “Father, what do we call this unusual shawl that we are wearing?” to which his father replies “My son, it is called a keffiyeh and it is an important part of our desert heritage. When the sun beats down it provides us with shade for our head and in sandstorms we can use it to protect ourselves from the fierce abrasions of the desert sand.” The son nods and thinks for a while. Eventually he asks, “Father, why do we wear this baggy clothing which flaps in the wind?”

“Son, this is most important. It is called a djellabah and it protects our bodies from the sun also. In colder climes, as in the high Atlas mountains of Morocco and Algeria, it can be wrapped doubly around the body and the hood can prevent heat loss through the head” He laughs, remembering a scene from his childhood, “and your grandfather used to use the hood like a pocket to carry home a loaf of bread from the market!” His son joins him in a chuckle but still he has questions. “What is it with these ugly shoes, father?”

“Ah, my boy, these are babouches and they keep us from burning our feet on the hot Sahara sand. Plus, as they are open at the heel they let our feet stay cool as well and if they fill up with sand we can easily take them off to remove the grit.” The boy looks pensive and the father adds,” You see ابني,, this is our heritage. Learn it well and pass it on to your sons in turn and our race will endure to the end of time; sons of the majestic desert sand.

Mad? Very mad? No, madder!
Who's got the bucket and spade?

There is a moment of quiet as the young man takes it all in and the father looks on proudly at the cogitative expression on his face. “You have more questions, my son?” The boy looks down at his clothes, his scarf and his sandals and says, “Yes, father. Why the fuck are we living in Luton?”

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