Monday, March 22, 2010



Monday, March 22 2010

Scores of Swiss men are dying in brothels —victims of heart failure “on the job,” according to the press reports.

It reminds you of “commercial sex workers,” the name that NGOs have given to the denizens of such houses.

NGOs, you must agree, are the nonpareil in euphemism.

But, if you find it embarrassing to call it “prostitution”, Okot p’Bitek, the sardonic Ugandan philosopher-poet, has a compelling name for it —“nocturnal commerce and industry.”

According to the report, even octogenarians and nonagenarians have refused to hang up their gloves.

They attack the job with such gusto and energy that the heart simply uncoils and never rebounds. They perish by the hundreds.

This surprises me a great deal.

Either Swiss men have been deceiving the world for all these centuries or we have always underrated them.

For – by reputation hitherto – the Swiss are by far the most unexciting European nation.

Sex and other forms of frivolity are the last things you associate with them.

They compare sharply with the Italians, their extremely excitable and extremely unruly neighbours to the south.

The Swiss compare, too, with the French, their western neighbours who spend a great deal of national time swaggering labout their finesse in romance, cuisine, haute couture, literature, suchlike.

Unlike our own Africans, who boast a great deal about their “Negritude,” the European in general does not boast about his “Euritude,” leave alone about his phallic ability.

He simply does his thing. Only former slaves —out of a profound inferiority complex — ever feel the need to advertise that they also have such wares.

As Wole Soyinka used to chide Leopold Senghor, Alioune Diop, Dundusu Chisiza and other African, Caribbean and North American Negritudists, a real tiger does not proclaim his tigritude. Only a paper tiger does.
And yet the biggest braggarts are also the poorest performers because cultural arrogance is like alcohol.

As Shakespeare knew, it has the strange ability to provoke the desire but to take away the performance.

A real tiger, said Soyinka, simply pounces. And he does it with passion and commitment.

Perhaps the Swiss have always done it.

Perhaps that is why they never feel the need to make too much noise about it.

Perhaps that is why you are never likely to find in a Swiss newspaper such headlines — common in London’s Fleet Street — as “Cabinet minister caught in extramarital affair.”

Perhaps that is why Swiss newspapers are not remarkable for the Parisian cherchez la femme in political intrigue.

Brainless things like “Kanu Briefs” in Kenya’s ruling party newspaper (after I had left it) — about who in the opposition was sleeping with whom — are not Swiss practice.

Yet our comparison of the Swiss with the Italians and the French raises questions.

For, in truth, the Swiss are all those things.

The Swiss are German, French, Italian and scores of other ethnic admixtures.

Switzerland is like an African state, a political entity carved out artificially and without any regard for ethnic boundaries.

Thus Switzerland is the only European “nation” without even a national language.

The three main tribes that compose it — German, French and Italian — live side by side with scores of other, much smaller, ethno-linguistic cultures of the kind that used to enthuse Jean-Jacques Rousseau — the most famous Swiss political philosopher — in his “cantonal democracy.”

So we are faced with a paradox. The Italian man is Europe’s most notoriously macho.
And the Anglo-Saxon world — Germany, Britain and North America — has long ordained the Frenchman as the world’s tenderest and most chivalrous lover.

The question is: If these two exuberant ethnicities compose two-thirds of the Swiss population, how do we explain the personal tepidity — the absence of warmth — that seems to characterise the Swiss as a whole? In what circumstances did the Swiss become so cold, so unromantic, so prim, so proper?

I wouldn’t call it prudery, the pretended chastity, with which Victorianism once nearly desexualised England, the sexual ambivalence and hypocrisy that is one of the Anglican Church’s most important legacies to England’s former colonies, including Kenya.

This moral duplicity towards sex is what enables the editors of Fleet Street tabloids to wax holier-than-thou in condemnation of personages caught in extramarital affairs, right after the editors themselves have lured men into it with daily pictures of buxom women in full nakedness on page three.

Sexually speaking, many European societies have never recovered from the psychological trauma inflicted on them by the witch-hunts and anti-women campaigns with which the Catholic Church tortured Christendom for centuries.

This Inquisition hit particularly hard the Iberian Peninsula, Central Europe and an offshoot of England called Massachusetts.

As Bertrand Russell demonstrates (in his powerful little book Sex and Morals), almost all European societies remain hag-ridden with a profound feeling of guilt about every sexual act, including even that most “legitimate” of them all — the one sanctified by the same priest who will be among the first to seduce the bride.

That was what may have intimidated the Swiss into their national absence of warmth about sex.

They were collective victims of such misogynistic bullies of the Reformation as Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, John Field, Thomas Cartwright and Switzerland’s own Jean Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.

But to be tepid outwards is not the same things as to abstain.

As the media reported, Swiss codgers go for it under cover of night with the same vigour as Grigori Rasputin and the author of In Praise of Older Women.

But Calvin, in particular, would have welcomed what is causing the free market to lick its lips so.

It is that Switzerland’s free market is throbbing because the Swiss brothel visitors are buying heartbeat control machines by the thousand.

And nocturnal commerce and industry is now more buoyant than ever.

The upshot is that, in a high-tech age like ours, you need no longer kill yourself by over-application during industry.
That is why Swiss women don’t need to worry any more about the rate at which their menfolk are dying.

For diurnal industry has long ago invented a machine called dildo that — like Isaac Asimov’s Robots of Dawn — can do all the hard work for a woman while she just lies there enjoying herself. What a humdinger the free market is!