It is in my teacher’s voice when he talks about his country Egypt. It is in my flat mate’s voice when he explains the situation in his country Mexico. My classmate uses it when speaking about her country Marocco. And it also sneaks into my talks about Kenya.
It can be entertaining to listen to our stories. They are real-life experiences and they reflect the unadorned situation in the particular country. They appear to be objective or at least not as glossy as the TV and traveling agencies try to sell them. They have these components that surprise the listener, something unexpected which turns out to be the usual practice there. Those stories deliver unusual facts about places we otherwise would misjudge.
Cynicism presents ourselves as experts and even heroes. It shows how strange and illogical the situation is in those countries and that we are used to these circumstances. We can manage the situation and survive even the weirdest incident. It proofs that we are not tourists but inhabitants of these places, that we can cope with difficult situations that seem unbearable to other people. But we have no choice and we are brave enough to live through it, to actually embrace those moments of strangeness and get so used to them, that later on we can even make fun of them.
But if we are honest, we are hurting inside. Our faces become sour. We already know too much about those countries. We intend to express something funny, meanwhile our hearts are cold and we have given up hope.
When my teacher shows the ridiculous headlines of Egyptian newspapers in their attempt to ignore and deny the ongoing protests.
When my flat mate talks about the elaborate Mexican food and the country’s high obesity rate caused by industrially processed groceries.
When my classmate makes fun of some ministers who recently got knocked down by stones while addressing the public.
And when I describe the public transport in Nairobi and the phenomenon of the fancy but dangerously reckless mini busses that cause bad accidents and get robbed regularly.
We make fun, but our hearts are bleeding. We have gotten used to it, but actually we wish it was different and we could tell more pleasant stories. Stories which are truly happy and funny instead of making fun at the cost of others. We might even have some beautiful experiences at hand that we could talk about, but then again they are not as fascinating as the cynical ones. Cynicism might be a solution for ourselves to deal with what we have experienced and still are experiencing. But it does not help anyone else.
Maybe it would be better if I remained quiet next time, instead of telling one of those funny, surprising and cynical stories, if I do not have one that is truly humorous instead.