I attended a session last week, in which the theme was ‘inter-cultural romance’. Holding this conversation were a people from multifarious cultural backgrounds, but a big majority had one thing in common; they were married, some with kids. This lot was different, their thinking, more sober than what I am used to whenever I hold court with the analogue generation on the issue of culture and relationships.
I have had a lot of fun listening to the bigotry of parents claiming that they raise us to be better indiscriminate children, especially on cultural lines. I have listened to grown-ups speak with the reduced intelligence of an aborted foetus. Yet when they speak in open forums like the one I was in, parents speak with such melancholic passion about how deeply seated tribalism is in our society; so much so that it prohibits us of the younger generation from seeking inter-county love.
This lot was different. They shared my sentiments, which I found rather uncomfortable. Like they were hiding something. Their indifference toward inter-cultural dalliance was a tad emetic. The thing with pretence is that when cloaked, it reeks like a hyena’s morning breathe.
This is why;
A huge chunk of the younger generation, especially those that live in town areas do not give a shaved monkey about tribe, race or religion. By what name potential lovers call their God, or how they prefer their vegetables prepared, ranks least in their checklist of qualifications. University campuses provide a vast spectrum of cultural differences, yet Cupid has no problem playing target practice with them. Most college (and even high school) students who are not dating for love, are in a relationship because they find their significant others aesthetically pleasing, intelligent, powerful- financially or politically, or because rumour has it that he is a Mandingo in the sack. Which part of the country they hail from is not even a consideration- those are just details.
At least that is what we think until we introduce our spouses to our parents, and the first thing they ask is their surname; a euphemistic but conceited way of asking “what tribe are you?” That is when reality comes stumbling down upon you that the devil is in the details. Our folks are the ones who feed us these scary stories about how luos beat their wives, shave their widows and sleep with the dead. They tell us that all kuyus are kleptomaniacs, all luhyas are tough headed and that Kambas have no control over their debauchery.
“Why not get a nice guy/girl of your own kind?” they ask.
Of course there have been isolated cases of kuyus stealing from their men in the middle of the night, of unfaithful Kamba ladies, and brutal expression of love by luo men. But making a sweeping conclusion about an entire tribe from a sample of outliers, misfits and criminals does not pass for convincing research.
In any case, while in campus, these are the same people who we copy in exam rooms, borrow their pens and go raving with every weekend. These are the same people we call comrades; meaning, at the very least, they are our friends. So why can’t I date my friend, mum? (now I sound like Binyavanga, aye?)
Obeying your old folks is the only commandment with a promise, we know, but I believe God will understand our defiance this time. The antagonism between the analogue and digital generations is not merely a political riddle; it is an everyday social enigma. So bad it is that when our parents begin speaking on the issue of inter-cultural intimacy, I wonder who exactly the child in the room is.