Lost in Translation
Is it possible that truth imitates fiction? Or maybe fiction becomes its own kind of truth. The New York Times has this piece about the epidemic of rape attacks in the Congo.
According to victims, one of the newest groups to emerge is called the Rastas, a mysterious gang of dreadlocked fugitives who live deep in the forest, wear shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and are notorious for burning babies, kidnapping women and literally chopping up anybody who gets in their way.
What do tracksuits and Lakers jerseys have to do with forest gangs in the Congo?
A curious interaction often takes place when people like Congolese jungle gangsters watch the movies. What we see is not what they see. They combine Hollywood ideas of cool with their own ideas of murder. Concepts and words that have one meaning in the West sometimes assume a totally different meaning. The infamous General Butt Naked, for example, understood how to use the telephone. But someone else was on the line.
At age 11, he claims, the Devil called him on the telephone, commanding him to his later excesses. ... Blahyi has said he led his troops naked except for shoes and a gun. Apparently, he believed that his nakedness was a source of protection from bullets ... Some of Blahyi's soldiers — often teenage boys — would enter battle naked; others would wear women's clothes. In June 2006 Blahyi published his autobiography including pictures of him fighting with a rifle, wearing nothing but sneakers. ...
Maybe they were Converse, Chuck Taylor, Five Star rubber sneakers. Now he's been introduced to the concept of evangelism and pastoral care. I hope the words have approximately the same meaning.
Blahyi is now the President of the End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries Inc., with Headquarters in Liberia. He is married to Pastor Mrs. Josie and has three children: Michaela, Joshua Milton Junior, and Janice.
I've often told the story of cult militias in the Philippines attacking to the martial music of Tony Orlando's Knock Three Times on the Ceiling if You Want Me. And here's a classic I've posted before about the Filipino prison inmate take on "Thriller".
FWIW, Commander Robot of the Abu Sayyaf was so named for his proficiency at doing the Robot dance. Maybe one of the unrecognized skills needed for operating in the Third World is the ability to translate concepts in an effective way. This goes beyond mere language translation and involves creating attitudes and ideas that are equivalent to the ones one is trying to convey. Maybe in trying to explain the idea of secularism and democracy to the Islamic world it is necessary to use analogies and explanations wholly different from the familiar ones.