It’s much easier to understand a culture when we generalize its people and reduce them to norms. This isn’t always a bad thing; it helps us navigate society and integrate. But I’m guilty of doing so in Botswana to the extent that I have been shamefully corrected for certain assumptions, like everyone here is Christian. Just because the majority practice is the loudest and most available, I grasp onto it and use it in my advice and reports. Usually they’re accurate, but once in a while I have to check myself.
Americans value diversity and emphasize our uniqueness to feel special. I know how angry I get when people here make broad generalizations about the United States. Why I haven’t flipped the roles on myself yet, I’m not quite sure. Parts of my identity are totally inapplicable to other Americans and the same is true of people in different parts of the world. In explaining the culture and lifestyle here, I’ve learned to preface with “it depends.” I experienced one version of a sub-culture this past weekend and it was perhaps the weirdest weekend of my life.
I’m told that in many predominately Christian societies, a sub-culture of death metal music emerges. Maybe it’s a balance thing. The culture at the Ghanzi Winter Metal Fest was what I picture shows being like in the US 30 years ago, or whenever that scene emerged. Nearly everyone there was dressed in studded black leather; everywhere I looked I could find chains and animal skulls, accompanied by cowboy boots and hats. It was like Halloween (even the weather reminisced of fall in the Midwest). One man told me about all the horses he owned; he was an actual metal cowboy. At one point I was wearing a leather-studded and fringed vest loaned to me by a man called Taliban Warlord Beast. He made it himself. People were mostly friendly, as they usually are in Botswana, but the atmosphere seemed to promote the release of some repressed wildness in them.
The music was metal in the growling classic sense, echoing old US bands. The event is still in its infancy, with this being the third annual. Maybe the popularity will grow. I don’t know if I’ll make the trip next year, but I’m glad I went once. It was a memorable weekend, if not the least bit premeditated.