We are gossip capital of the world
Wednesday, 11 July, 2012I have travelled to different parts of the world, befriended people from other cultures and races but have noticed that none gossip with the same intensity and passion that Batswana do.
Our people have personalised tshele, hence the phrase, "tshele ya Setswana". What is so intriguing about this bastardized social condition called gossip, that reduces otherwise great men and women to pathetic 'commoners' who partake in imbecile behaviour?
A few months ago, a friend of mine relocated to Europe. In a phone conversation, I asked her what the best part of moving from this "huge village" to an upwardly first world country, was. She responded, "Most people here mind their own business, unlike in Botswana where people like to poke their nose in people's private lives. Batswana like to gossip; ke ikhuditse!"
Like a fart, gossip relieves and satisfies the one who lets it out, but is often pungent to other people. A lot of Batswana are often engrossed in the gross activities of "ditlontlokwane", "tshele", "lefufa" and "maaka" (pettiness, malice, jealousy and lies). This may well be a reason why productivity and success rate is low in the country. People are focused on the wrong things instead of attending to more interesting and important issues. There are people who always have something to say, even about people and matters they know nothing about; its a terrible habit.
When you talk about someone in their absence and don't want them to know what you are saying, it is gossip. Gossip is discussing the private lives or personal details of other people, whether through spreading rumours, lies or sharing private information of any form. Gossip comes in the form of the truth or lies and while 'there's no smoke without fire', many people have a wild imagination; motho o kgona go bopa kgomo ya mmopa gore e re moo. Gossip is a trivial form of communication and though often enticing, pathetic, for lack of a better word.
People gossip everywhere; in offices, at parties, restaurants etc, you will spot different people with heads bowed, mouths moving up and down, others with their heads shaking and eyes wide open, with stern expressions on their faces, concentrating on the rubbish tales they are fed.
People who partake in gossip lack the civilization to consciously engage in positive or useful activities. Its cowardice to go behind someone's back and say things one wouldn't mutter openly. Surely you know those people who smile to people's faces, only to utter rude or hurtful comments in their absence. They often smile and act polite; fake smiles, fake laughs. Talk about hypocrites!
In Botswana, many people like to refer to others as mmangwane waago (your aunt) while they poke and scratch each other, enveloped in their malicious banter. Some Batswana men gossip with the same passion that women do; bo phara meseseng. They can sometimes be spotted standing in groups as if in a 'witches convention', huddled together like sardines in a can, their eyes darting this way and that, like a monkey eating bananas; mouths moving like that of a cow chewing cud.
When I joined "some company", I created rapport with a colleague who surprisingly felt it fit to gossip with me, even about his seniors. I wasn't so much shocked by his easily trusting me, than the way gossip appeared natural to him. It’s surprising to note how gossip seems to bind people and create a form of "social belonging".
Gossip columns, magazines and internet sites are very popular. People want to know what celebrities and even 'normal people' are doing and with who. However, often times, gossip is perilous because it often hurts, discredits and humiliates people; it’s akin to emotional and psychological abuse, as it is rarely positive.
People who gossip often have nothing much going on in their lives and that is why they are entertained by discussing other people's affairs. Some people can regale gossip to you so passionately that you would think the person knows these things first hand. If you ask the person how they know the details they are discussing, motho wa teng o rotola matlho , ekare lelobu. Gossipers often try to make themselves seem/feel better or tarnish other people's image, that is why they will "target" what they perceive as a weakness of another person; whether their failing marriage/relationship, dire economic status, bad health or anything else that may reflect someone negatively.
On the flipside, people will always gossip. There will always be that one person who says, "Hee,a o utlwile?" Or "O seka we mmona a riana" Or "Heh, kana gatwe". We all sometimes get tempted to listen. One may argue, what should we talk about? Animals? We are social creatures after all and people are naturally interested in other people's lives, especially those they secretly admire, envy or like, because face it, why would you talk about people who don't interest you? Regardless of this, as my one uncle would shout whenever people were caught in the juiciness of gossip, "Maaka! Maaka! A ko lo tlogeleng maaka!"