Society & Culture | By Desmond Munemo, Relations | 23 June 2013
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

It is given that human beings, in one way or the other, adhere to a certain pattern of norms and values, commonly referred to as culture. However, there are those, who claim to be cultureless, especially the younger generation, but I find it difficult to acknowledge, simply because being cultureless is indeed form of culture. I identified what I call the Big 2 of Humanity: Greeting and Smiling. I consider these two to be the lubricant that smoothens the well running of any society.

After spending quite some time in South Africa I began to appreciate the importance of greeting, not only folks that one knows, but even the stranger next to you, be it in a taxi, metro bus, elevator, or the Gautrain. Coming from a society where one greets only those he/she knows, it took me some time to figure out why South Africans commonly greet not only the person next to them in a taxi but at times all passengers in the taxi. The moment the taxi door is shut after picking up a commuter you hear, “Sanbonani”, and the whole taxi in one accord respond, “Yebo”. I must say this is one form of tradition or culture that as Zimbabweans we need to adopt, simply because acknowledging human presence makes us not just human too but human beings with a cause. I promised myself that each time I am in Zimbabwe I will certainly greet whoever is seating next to me in a Kombi. However, I already have a suspicion that a tricky situation might arise after greeting an uptown girl sitting next to me in a Kombi, she will definitely be convinced that I am setting up a platform to make a move. Nevertheless, I still recommend individuals to appreciate and acknowledge the existence of fellow human beings by ways of greeting one another.

If you can allow me to generalize here, I have come to realise that in most cases white people (at least where I am from) have a tendency to smile at whoever come their way. The lesson here is not to praise the white race as super perfect, nor to totally dismiss other races. The point is that, it would be nice for one to wear a decent and warm smile each time one meets not only his/her fellow colleagues, classmates or workmates, but even those that are thought to be anti-social. I have observed that when a person smiles at the next person, it is almost impossible for that person not to smile back, an automatic smiling reaction usually kicks in, thereby reciprocating a mutual sense of oneness, security, and understanding.

Greeting and smiling are not the only means through which humans can express their sense of oneness. There are always other special ways in which the same message or emotions can be conveyed, through words such as “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. Although the ideas above might sound too simplistic, one ought to keep in mind the words by Booker T Washington that, “success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things”.