By Roy Gachuhi
I watched Brazil’s women’s football team lose to Sweden in the Olympic semi-final penalty shootout at the Maracana Stadium on Tuesday. I was devastated. And that’s when I confirmed that some the world’s most crippling diseases are not found in The Lancet.
Before talking about Brazil versus Sweden, let’s establish some context: The Lancet was founded in 1823. It is the world’s oldest peer-reviewed medical journal. It is the Bible of the medical profession, universally respected. Yet in The Lancet you won’t find three tough diseases that I enumerate hereunder:
One, Reggae Mylitis. Peter Tosh suffered and died of this one. When he woke up one morning “with a funny, funny feeling” and went to the doctor “to check out what’s the matter”, the doctor told him, “Son, you have a Reggae Mylitis.” And yet they didn’t treat him; he died still suffering from it.
Reggae Mylitis isn’t in The Lancet.
Two, Gregory Isaacs. His wasn’t exactly a disease but a situation, or a condition, whatever. His heart was broken in two. It was a case of emergency.
The pain was getting worse. Even then he knew that he didn’t want to see a doctor. He wanted a nurse, and not just another nurse, he wanted a Night Nurse. He wanted attendance around the clock. He said: “There is no prescription for me. She is the one, the only remedy.” What was so difficult about availing her to him?
Number three: My own condition, which for ease of reference I will call the Enock Syndrome. Enock was the Igbo native who was the in-coming colonial man’s enforcer in Umuofia society in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Enock was so zealous about implementing anything the white man wished and so aggrieved by anything his boss disapproved of that his fellow natives called him “the outsider who weeps louder than the bereaved.”
Upon landing at Galeão International Airport here, I could swear like Peter Tosh, I felt a “funny, funny feeling” although it was distinctly not Reggae Mylitis. It was being Brazilian. Language wreaked havoc with this feeling, but it didn’t dent a thing.
Since then, anything that merely irritates Brazil deeply wounds me. Lancet won’t explain what’s wrong with me, and I don’t expect them to, but my syndrome is real.
I was at a Samba party when Brazil women’s team defeated Australia on penalties to clinch their semi-final placing. I bit my nails harder than my Brazilian hosts when times were tense and I shouted the loudest when they won. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with being a total captive to one’s new environment, or if it’s an overwhelming desire to reciprocate the goodness of one’s gracious hosts, or the fear of doing anything that could offend them that causes this syndrome.
All I know is that when Sweden beat Brazil last Tuesday, I was more affected than Brazilians. I could have wept at the slightest prompting.
Enock was the outsider who wept louder than the bereaved in Umuofia. I am the outsider who weeps louder than Brazilians when they lose at the Olympics. And Lancet can’t explain my disease.
Roy Gachuhi is in Rio de Janeiro as a writer-in-residence with Agencia Publica, an independent Brazilian investigative journalism news agency.