Books can’t bite you

55
I

F you drive into the village of Morija you will find an old building with the words “Erotic Salon” or something along those lines scribbled on it.

How someone came to name their salon “Erotic”, a word pregnant with sexual connotations, only they can tell.

If you drive into Maseru you will find shops with misspelt English names.

You can see the enthusiasm for high-sounding English names but that zeal also betrays our inability to spell properly.

The temptation is to blame our poor primary teachers who taught us English using Sesotho.

Some blame it on the treacheries of a language that insists on difficult spelling laws.

That would, of course, make sense if our ability to spell Sesotho words was above average.

The problem is that we generally cannot spell in either English or Sesotho.

Surely with more effort one can undo the damage inflicted on their minds by a pathetic primary school teacher or get around the intricacies of English spellings.

 

A

fter months of pondering why we cannot spell as a nation, Scrutator has finally found an explanation.

We can’t spell because we don’t read as a nation.

There is no reading culture in this country.

This hostility to books is the reason we don’t have a bookshop in this country.

The ones that claim to be bookshops are full of nothing but Bibles, motivational nonsense and maps for tourists.

It bothers Scrutator that this is the only country in the world where you need to have a passport, cross a border, drive 150 kilometres into another country just to buy a book.

Add the M30 tollgate fee you have to pay on your way back to appreciate the absurdity of it all.

We claim to be a country in the 21st century but we are still an oral society.

We get our information from the rumour mill, hearsay and half truths.

Tales are exaggerated and facts twisted because we don’t record our history.

Empty heads are revered as long as they are blabbermouths masquerading as smart people.

The result is a misinformed society that frowns on the written word.

You can hear it in the discussions on radio and see dire lack of current affairs knowledge in our newspapers.

The so-called political and economic analysts are nothing but pretenders because they don’t read.

That they are feeding their half-baked analyses to a people that don’t read makes the situation even more toxic.

W

e don’t read as a nation. We don’t even read documents that affect us directly as individuals.

That is why we take furniture on hire purchase from department stores and borrow from loan sharks then cry crimson tears when we keep getting squeezed out of our hard earned cash.

We don’t even read our employment contracts or the labour code.

We don’t even know our basic rights as citizens because they are written.

We don’t even know what is happening beyond Mohokare River.

We think local because our lack of knowledge has blindfolded us.

If you think I am lying then ask your colleagues or friends what book they have read in the past two years.

You are more likely to have blank stares or some lame excuse about the irrelevance of books in the internet era.

Some might tell you that there is no time to read or that books are a luxury in a country where food is a priority.

All those are lame excuses to justify their aversion to books.

The next time a minister comes to your village ask them what book they are reading but be ready to hit the road pronto because they might set the police on you for trying to embarrass them.

If you walk into any house in Maseru and find a novel of some sort please call Scrutator to claim your prize for you would have stumbled upon a rare scene.

We don’t have hunger for knowledge even in fields from which we earn a living.

Look at some of the pathetic judgments that sometimes come from our High Court.

Sometimes you can’t even make heads or tail of the verdict because the syntax is too atrocious to comprehend.

Did you read the speech the chief justice delivered during the High Court’s official opening ceremony early this month?

Oh my God! Phew!

L

ook at some of the pathetic arguments that come from our so-called lawyers. Don’t blame it on their training but their refusal to read.

A cursory look at the quality of the reportage in our newspapers will clearly show that our journalists have not made peace with books.

They and the written word, whether in books or on the internet, are still sworn enemies.

That also reflects in the brazen and carefree manner in which they mutilate syntax and misspell both English and Sesotho words.

There is no doubt that an average reporter in this country has never read our constitution, the most important document in this country.

Scrutator will strip to her skin and give a free striptease show if any journalist can prove they read a book in the last two months (I dare you reporters to prove me wrong and I will give you a free striptease show right along Main North 1. You like naked people, don’t you?).

Its ignorance all the way to the grave, I tell you.

W

e are under a spell of ignorance. Listen to the speeches of some ministers if you want to see what I mean.

Hear the empty sermons that are delivered in churches.

Listen to self-acclaimed Christians misquoting the Bible left, right and centre while pretending to be teachers of God’s word.

We just don’t read as a nation and we just don’t seem bothered by our ignorance.

As for the so-called professionals, you can be sure that their acquisition of new knowledge ended the last day they walked out of school, whether university or college.

After that they swore never to be bothered by books again.

The result is that they become professionally dead because they never keep abreast with the trends in their professions.

Worse still, they know little or nothing apart from that which relates to their profession.

That is why you find engineers, doctors and accountants who know zilch about current affairs or any other basic things.

It’s part of the reason why there are no think-tanks in this country.

Sunday’s church congregations are the most hilarious for Scrutator.

Before the preacher comes to the pulpit you find people gyrating like they are at a disco.

They will dance pantsula to any chorus.

But when the preacher asks them to open their Bibles to Proverbs 2:14 they will start fumbling through the holy book (read that verse for it will save you from ignorance).

That is because most Christians have made the church their only rendezvous with the Bible.

We don’t read as a nation. It’s as if our mothers used to discipline us with books. It’s like our mothers used to threaten to make us read a book if we misbehaved.

S

o who should we blame for this national “book phobia”?

Well, everyone from universities, policy-makers to parents.

How do you expect a child to read books when their parents hate the written word?

How do you get the young ones to like reading when the only proper public library we have in this country had to be donated by a foreign government?

How can our children like reading when the government thinks a school without a library is a fabulous idea?

How can we have a reading culture when the people from the only university in this country don’t write and the publishing industry is dominated by dysfunctional church-owned publishing houses?

The university has dismally failed to create a “factory of ideas” to provide creative solutions to Lesotho’s myriad problems (leave Limkokwing out of it for it is still too young and will never grow).

For instance, when was the last time a professor at Roma published a book?

Little wonder we don’t have any think-tanks in this country.

How can the young ones love writing when all the books they read are written by foreigners? Our children don’t have heroes and we parents have not given them any.

We still hide our money in books because we know no one will dare touch them. After all, books have teeth in this country.

Ache!

scrutator29@gmail.com

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