We all dig in the same G-mine

My contribution to Finnish-African correspondence in My black and white Africa.


We all dig in the same gold mine in G-world

Boys rest in their cabins with one foot on the ground, the other folded under them. Abakwethas are the novices of manhood, guarded by the amakhankathas, whose first task is to paint the bodies of the novices with white ochre. During the night the novices have to leave their cabins in order to bury their foreskins in the ground. The burying is based on a belief that foreskins need to be buried in order to prevent magicians from stealing them and using them for the wrong purposes. At the same time the boys are symbolically burying their youth. They stay in the cabins until their wounds are healed and they are also mentally prepared for the future struggles on their path to be men. Afterwards, the cabins and their contents are destroyed. In this way the black and white boys learn the signification of white; it symbolizes goodness, pureness, everything good and highly valorized.

Several decades later in a much more Northern country, which is covered in the worst years with metres of snow during the wintertime, teenagers about 15 years old dress up in white gowns and prepare to step into the church hall. On the main wall is a huge cross reminding every spectator which church we are in. The teenagers walk in a line and reach the altar. They bend down in front of the priest and he (normally the priest is masculine, because in this country there is no consensus about women priests – some people are in favour and an even stronger party are those who are against female priests) begins the litany which is always said on these occasions. At certain points the teenagers repeat what they are told to repeat, and after that their parents and relatives also get a chance to express their belief in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the priest comes to his young sheep, bends down a little in front of them and lets his hand rest for a little while on the forehead of each youngster. They have not been painted in any colour; they were coloured with the help of their white gowns, symbols of pureness, too.

Arthur Wellington always knew his place extremely well. He claimed to be the successor of Duke of Wellington, walked on the stage and stated in his extremely clear voice: “I am the descendant of the great Duke of Wellington, aristocrat, statesman, and general, who crushed the Frenchman Napoleon at Waterloo and thereby saved the civilization for Europe – and for you, the natives.” This happened in 1937. One small black boy among the other boys applauded this man, who talked to the audience from above. However, this Englishman was a model for these teenage boys, and according to their beliefs the best government and thoughts came only from England. In the meantime, this small boy ate his bread without butter and followed a strict schedule, as was customary in these respected boarding schools.

About seventy years later in the same Northern country, where Santa Claus delivers presents every Christmas from his house in the arctic circle, there is a man with a slightly different approach from other people in the class room, with a lighter skin. In Nigeria they once called him Uluku pepe – a white man. I wonder what would they call him there? In the previous century he and his kind of people were called “yellow people”. Anyway, this man needs to attend Finnish classes, because otherwise he won´t ever be “integrated” into this society, which favours so much “work-based immigration”. But work-based immigration is impossible for someone who does not speak a language that many non-speakers call sonorous and beautiful, a language full of double-consonants and funny endings, because in this language propositions are replaced with declinations. Yellow men attend Finnish-classes probably for the rest of their lives dreaming about steady day job every day.

There was a time when electricity was a luxury in Johannesburg, just as butter on bread was. After the first goldmine in Witwatergrand in 1886, magic completely vanished: “all dirt and no trees, fenced in on all sides, a gold mine resembles a war-torn battle-field…Everywhere I looked I saw black men in dusty overalls looking tired and bent.” Gold mining was costly and only cheap labour was used to accomplish it. Thousands of Africans came to work in the gold mines for ridiculously low wages. Young Nelson got familiar with the signification of black and white in his country by visiting Crown mines, the biggest gold mine in South Africa well into the 20th Century. Nelson´s work has ended, but black is still black, and they still sit in their designated seats in certain public places. White is still white, and they are still more likely to occupy the upper seats than their darker counterparts.

Multinational companies will build at least a dozen uranium mines and three nuclear plants in future decades in Finland, and the home of Santa Claus will additionally receive a lot of nuclear waste as an unwanted present. Workers at these mines are recruited mostly from the nearby regions, and these men – and occasionally women – come to work on these huge power plants, because they want to bring bread to their families’ tables. All other European countries have prohibited these uranium mines mostly for environmental reasons and nuclear waste is exported to such places as Australia, to the home regions of aborigines, where it is believed they will not cause any harm to the mainstream population. Since jobs in general have become a real rarity in this country that used to be a dream come true for many people I met from the South, it has now become a battlefield for the well-educated and “civilized”. People fight to get work, hard to come by nowadays

Black is still black, and white is still white, and the significations of these colours still remains, though it also changes, but whites nowadays face the same gold mine that black people faced over a hundred years ago. We all work in the same gold mine, and it carries the same name. I won´t speak that name, because you all know it, like small South Africans once knew who their master was. This name begins however with letter G and it symbolizes something which ain´t equally friendly for everyone. This G-thing has spread all over the world, and it makes no distinctions between black and white. All the people are equally meaningful for it as parts of the machine, engine or motor, that keeps constantly running. We have no names and IDs, because it is impossible to make profit out of them. We have only hands and feet, because with these tools gold is dug out of the mine. Occasionally our feet and hands need to be doubled, because this G-thing likes that. The G-thing does not care about our religion or other values or attitudes, as long as they are not harmful to it, but in the meantime we are followed on the electronic highway and occasionally to our homes too – if the G-thing thinks it is necessary to prevent potential harm to the Firm.

In G-world we wear a common uniform, and it wears the colour of a one dollar bill.

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