“We laughed because we was kids.”
He fondled his black cell phone with his left hand as if he was trying to call someone.
He is not a kid anymore, 19, to be exact, and he appeared embarrassed to admit that, although a right hander, he was now more comfortable using both, especially the left one.
John, a former student of Old Naledi, says he started mimicking his friend’s use of the left hand as mockery.
In African culture, like in my Shona culture of Zimbabwe, using the left hand had no place at all.
For example, children are discouraged, or even spanked for using the left hand because one should not shake hands in greeting with the left hand; one is not allowed to receive or give anything with the left hand and one cannot convey food to their mouth with the left hand.
I remember all too well when we used to laugh at people who used forks and knives for they conveyed food to their mouths with their left hand in which they held the forks.
Even today, the use of the left hand in our culture is deemed to be very disrespectful and rather insulting to the person one is communicating with.
John also remembers how his left-handed friend’s mother hated his use of the left hand. In an effort to “train” him, she would ask him to have his meals with his left hand in his pocket all the time.
Such sanctions and stigma led to left handed people being able to use both hands at any convenience as called upon – a clear advantage over right-handed people.
The stigma attached to left-handedness can also be seen in the origin of words surrounding the practice.
People who are left-handed are technically said to be sinistral, and left-handedness is sometimes referred to as sinistrality.
Both words, says Yahoo Answers, derive from sinister, the Latin word for “left”. The word came to mean “giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening or will happen.” The word, in turn, derives from sinus, the Latin word for “pocket”, referring to the fact that the pocket in a Roman toga was on the left side, for the convenience of a right-handed wearer.
The BBC concurs and says the very language of left-handedness is pejorative, with “gauche”, “sinister” and “awkward” among the broad translations from French, Latin and German, compared with the right’s “adroit” and “dexterous”.
There is so much information and so many sites dedicated to left-handers on the Internet that one has to be very discerning when surfing.
“No-one has come up with a definitive reason for why some people are left-handed,” says Yahoo Answers, “but about 13% of the population around the world are, and it is thought to be genetic – it definitely runs in families.”
Yahoo Answers says a person who is left-handed primarily uses their left hand, more so than their right hand; a left-hander will probably use the left hand for tasks such as personal care, cooking, and so on. Writing is not as precise an indicator of handedness as it might seem, because many people who are left-handed write with their right hand and use their left for everything else.
In ‘The Left-handed Advantage’, ABC News’ Amanda Onion says that left-handed people may have higher health risks but they enjoy the element of surprise.
“It’s not easy being a lefty,” she says. “Statistics show left-handed people are more likely to be schizophrenic, alcoholic, delinquent, dyslexic, and have Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as mental disabilities. They’re also more likely to die young and get into accidents.”
So if evolutionary theory dictates survival of the fittest, why do lefties still exist?
She says according to new theories, what left-handed people (and other animals) may lack in fitness, they make up by being different.
Researchers in France, she says, recently took an interest in the disproportionately high number of left-handed athletes who thrive in sports involving direct one-on-one contact, such as baseball (think Babe Ruth), tennis (think John McEnroe) and boxing (think Oscar de la Hoya or the fictional Rocky Balboa).
The researchers, Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond of the University of Montpellier in France, figured the same reason so many left-handed people are successful in such sports could also explain a possible higher success rate among lefties in primitive combat.
This, they say, means that, back in the days when fighting was an important part of survival and winning mates, the rare left-hander may have come out on top more often.
They concluded that most left-handed people would be practiced in fighting right-handed people (since right-handed people make up the majority), while most right-handed fighters would not be as prepared to fight someone who favours their left side. Advantage: lefties.
“The fact that left-handers are less common means they have a surprise effect,” said Faurie.
They give further examples as when they singled out the Dioula people of Burkina Faso in West Africa, where the murder rate was only 0.013 murders per 1,000 residents each year. There, they found only 3.4 percent of the population were left-handers. Data from the Eipo of Indonesia, meanwhile, where there are three murders per 1,000 people each year, showed 27 percent of the population is left-handed
Reacting to the Faurie-Raymond research, a left-handed Ethiopian told ABCNews.Com that he had never felt so criminalized or like a research specimen.
“This was certainly the most horribly researched article I’ve read about lefties in a while. We are NOT an abnormality. Also, the statistics of handedness can’t be right…10-30%? Maybe in my dad’s time. That is one statistic I feel is completely cloudy and outdated. My theory is that if lefties weren’t oppressed for so many years with superstitious beliefs and what not, it would be 50/50. I run across enough left handed people in my daily errands that I am led to whole-heartedly believe it’s got to be up to 30-35%. Left-handedness isn’t as restricted and as misunderstood as it used to be even 20 years ago.”
Another said that the most suspect claim in the research is the one which associates left-handedness with violence. “Research is cited that finds more left-handed individuals in an African nation with high violent crime,” he wrote. “It is then insinuated that left-handers are the cause of the violence. But the opposite explanation is just as likely! Maybe the left-handers are pacifists, and that’s why there are so many of them; the right-handers, being violent, killed themselves off.”
In ‘Left-handed Liberation Front’, BBC Magazine’s Tom Geoghegan says left-handers have been called the “last neglected minority” and their numbers are rising.
“Recent evidence shows left-handers to be more creative, better at sport and even financially better off,” wrote Geoghegan. “The simplest of everyday tasks – using scissors, opening a microwave oven or peeling a potato – are all reminders to left-handers that this is a world designed for others.”
He says the frustration is reaching a new level, especially that the number of left-handed people is growing “as schools reject enforced right-handedness…”
The way the brain works is incredibly complex, says Anything Left Hand, and offers a simplified explanation that may give you some understanding of where our left-hand dominance comes from.
It goes on to say that the left hemisphere (RIGHT HAND CONTROL) controls Speech, Language, Writing, Logic, Mathematics, Science; this is the linear thinking mode.
The right hemisphere (LEFT HAND CONTROL) controls Music, Art, Creativity, Perception, Emotions, Genius; this is the holistic thinking mode.
Some famous left-handers include Bill Clinton, John Kennedy, Fidel Castro, F.W. de Clerk, George Bush, Mahatma Gandhi and Celine Dion.
“The brain is “cross-wired” so that the left hemisphere controls the right handed side of the body and vice-versa. Hand dominance is connected with brain dominance on the opposite side – which is why we say that only left-handers are in their right minds!”
Jack the Ripper and gangster John Dillinger were also left handed.