David J Smith
David J Smith

Roll like your ancestors

We are a nation of bitches. I mean bitches in the sniveling dog sense, not in the be-nasty-to-ladies sense. We are constantly moaning and whinging. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, stop it, or I’ll throw you with stone. Yes, we whine a lot. I’m even whining now, about us whining. Oh god, the cycle of despair we find ourselves in. And I definitely include myself in that we.

Yesterday, I came home from my Easter holiday. Nice house in the countryside, nice food, nice beer, nice company. So what do I tell my colleagues about? How chaotic the kids were. How I wished we had a nanny. Jesus, what a bitch. You know who wouldn’t have complained like that? Our ancestors. My ancestors. Your ancestors. They were just happy to have kids. Kids that were alive, healthy, with two legs, arms, and a head. They didn’t even mind one or two fingers missing or a wonky eye; they were just stoked to have some extra hands about.

Sarah Britten wrote this thing about a national myth the other day. It was a well-considered question. And I’ve got an answer.

WE NEED TO ROLL LIKE OUR ANCESTORS.

Because our ancestors were badass. They threw spears, stuck spears, shot bullets, rode horses, trekked, hiked, ran barefoot on thorns, cut cane, drank cane, ate hippos, smoked crocodiles on open flames, pushed ox-wagons up hills, beat the world’s biggest army, twice, survived malaria, dysentery, tsetse fly, tapeworms, threadworms, and pinworms. Yes, our ancestors were awesome, be they Zulu, Xhosa, Voortrekkers, cane cutters, or 1820 settlers. They were tough and hardy, and they did everything they could to make this place better for you. Ok, so that included doing a lot of weird stuff to each other, but this is a national myth, we’re focusing on the good bits, you whingy bastid!

I come from Durban, and, that place, for all its laziness, was founded by good stock. Like big daddy balls Shaka, who was so fearsome, he didn’t chuck spears; he stuck you in the belly with them. And then there was his buddy, Henry Francis Fynn, a man who liked nothing better than a stroll up to Mozambique. Bloody Mozambique! Who walks to Mozambique? I’m lying in bed, struggling to hit 400 words, never mind walk 400 kilometres. And after them came some small wiry fellas from the subcontinent, who, for the promise of a small bit of land, cut cane six days a week, 12 hours a day, in the sweltering heat of the Durban summer. I’m not sure if you cut cane in the summer, I wouldn’t know, I buy it from the shops in cubes. That reminds me; maybe I should make some tea. Can’t be arsed, the kitchen is downstairs.

Oh good, look, 459 words, what a bloody effort.

Roll like your ancestors. Their blood is in us, somewhere. It’s not a myth, I swear. And peace to my oldies, my grannies, my great aunties and uncles, and the other ones who came before them. I will try to honour your name.

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