Cultural Paranoia: The Machete

4 Feb

Though a pure breed and raised African, When you’ve lived in the west for a longtime, regardless of the endless civil liberties and freedoms one enjoys that are in abuse in ones homeland, for the reigning confessional reasons for international insecurity and belonging to a minority group not well integrated in security and integration dialogue, one becomes security over sensitive when strangers approach you and worse case if they carry an object of ordinary use like an ax, sledge hammer or knife. This is because some psychos have used these in gruesome public murders and the fact that most movies have villains using daily utensils as weapons against civilians, makes the carrying of objects that could be put to a third use a rare sight and regulated.
The Machete or cutlass is one of the most indispensable utensils to a Cameroonian home and farmer. It is used for a variety of tasks; clearing bushes around the home, cutting down trees, bananas, opening up foot tracks in thick forests, meat butchering at abattoirs and for personal security against home intrusions and burglars. However, this multipurpose instrument was the instrument of choice in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Rebels used it in the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone civil wars to maim and kill people. It is celebrated on the flag of Angola along with an AK-47. In Cameroon and Nigeria, vigilante groups cherish it. 
It’s the dry season here in west Cameroon. At this period farmers usually clear the bushes and thickets on their farmland with machetes to prepare for the next cultivation. This morning on a desolate earth road, I got very frightened when I met a group of about seven young men all bearing machetes. Scenes from the movie Hotel Rwanda filled my irritated and very imaginative mind. As they approached I recognized one of them and as it is customary in my area to always greet people we know or don’t know when we meet on public ground, I waived a hand greeting at this gang of cutlass wielding and singing brood, and said good morning. The guy I recognized stopped aside for a catch up chat with me. They were a social group hired or invited by a farmer to go clear his farmland. As motivation the farmer was to bring water, food and drinks to them while they worked.
As the guy hurried to catch up with his advancing mates, I began to reflect on how my perception of arms possession and security had been altered by my long sojourn in Europe. My narrative is drawn from cultural judgments of these two societies. A scene like the one above if in Europe would have got people in panic, with the police and rescue services rushing to contain this “gang”. 
People are good despite the presence of a dark force in them.

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