Worshipping social status makes it hard for folks to tell real from fake
| September 11th 2012
By John Kariuki
It is said the first impression counts for a lot. This is more so in the village where people frequently look at the physical appearance of a person.
If you want to be taken seriously in the village, make a late and remarkable entry to a function and you easily become the main point of the social event! Anyone who drives a top-of-the-range 4WD vehicle gets a standing ovation.
Woe unto university lecturers who walk or ride in matatus to functions. For everybody concludes: “He owns nothing and therefore cannot talk about anything.”
Yet other villagers will take a person’s title, scrutinise their car and conclude that the guest ought to have driven a bigger and swankier one!
Ways to impress
Besides riding a 4WD fuel guzzler to a function, one also needs to be dressed in a showy Nigerian gown and matching cap. Sporting a flywhisk or walking cane earns one extra marks from the gullible crowds. And being accompanied by a more dazzling wife or mistress works magic. The mood of a ceremony changes to a palpable excitement as people shift gears to a welcoming mode.
Add a long title like ‘Dr Apostle Hideous Hyzone’ or ‘Professor Herbs Herbarium’ to your name and you will be assured of wowing the villagers. In deed, reeling off names of awe-inspiring companies that one has worked for and the illustrious tile of friends are other crowd-pulling techniques by many urban frauds.
I remember leaving one village occasions when the attendees’ collective ingratiation to a con reached an unacceptable crescendo. The invited guest was a breezy fellow who showed up in a spectacular way. Some boda boda motorcycle outriders, no doubt paid, lead his big 4WD car. And we were not even in a campaign mood! When the razzmatazz was over, the emcee asked us local people to give up our seats to the invitees who had come from far.
So, I stood for the entire ceremony and even queued last for the food. The jazzy chap who had stolen the show saw me from the high table and sent the MC to whisk me immediately to where he was. We had schooled together and were in constant touch, though I was suspicious of the methods he had used to make his meteoric rise to social prominence.
I told the MC that I had to obey his order, by making myself small and giving way to important invitees. “But that rule does not apply to you!” the MC insisted. When the gaudy guy began descending the steps of the dais to personally come for me, with a retinue of bootlickers in tow, I saved him further embarrassment. I quickly disappeared into the crowd and out through a gap in the fence.
In corporate dinners, as in village functions, often the jokes of a person who conspicuously flaunts some riches are always funny. The decibels of laughter that emanate from their hangers-on and other listeners go a notch higher.
Tragically, their two cents’ worth of advice on any topic is taken as the gospel truth by the gullible rural folk. And all waiters at such functions often serve such people obsequiously, reinforcing this social myth of the outside image being more important than one’s content.
The writer is a teacher in Nyandarua
Email: [email protected]
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