Nothing beats fantasy. In all of us, there is a fantasist fighting to make their dreams come true. If we did not have the gift for fantasy, the world would not be where it is today. All the major feats accomplished by man originate from fantasy. The fact that man landed on the moon came about because he first fantasised and then devised the means to get there. That is why, even today, many make a roaring trade from convincing other people that they are capable of making their fantasies come true. Con people and confidence tricksters are in the game of planting the seeds of fantasy, after which they pounce and leave a trail of tears. I am reminded of fantasies when I scan the classified pages of the papers. My favourite section is where the traditional healers place advertisements for all manner of things. Africans and medicine men come a long way. At primary school, we would hear whispers that some student had been seen visiting mysterious places in the company of his parents.
Often, these visits came at exam time when the parents would traverse the length and breadth of the many villages looking for potent medicine to ensure their child passed with flying colours. It never mattered that the child was a hopeless case who came to school only at break time to partake in the Gift from the People of the United States. Come exam time, a child would be taken to a doctor for rituals to transform them into a genius. I guess it was because of the rampant poverty of that time. A school pass was a passport out of poverty. If their child did well, the parents could fantasise about living in a brick house and drinking tea not from enamel mugs but from a china tea set, complete with milk and bread.
A really good medicine man would make sure that a brick house and tea with milk and bread was followed by a motor car. It is such poverty that drove parents to seek the assistance of doctors. At exam time, there were reports of children wearing strange bangles or other charms meant to fool the exam paper. Some children would be scandalised when containers of ointments would accidentally roll on the floor because they slipped out of a torn pocket. It was a hard time, I tell you. This fixation with lucky charms has not diminished. For the same reason that all those years ago they held out the prospect for fantasists to live in a brick house and drink tea with milk and bread, today’s medicine men hold out other prospects. Their advertisements promise a jackpot at the casino. Everyone’s fantasy is to become rich. Because chances of poor people dying poor are very high, the prospect of hitting the jackpot drives many to visit the doctor for charms. Because the doctors know that not everyone is into casinos, they also provide other forms of help.
There are charms to bring back a lost lover. At some point in our lives, we have all been ditched by a loved one. Alternatively, we have ditched a loved one, and when we want her back she is already taken. That is where the medicine men come in. As you sit there and fantasise about the things you would do if your lover were to come back, they hold out the prospect of her return. They even go the extra mile.
The medicine men boast that if you yearn to romance the man or woman of your dreams and don’t know how to, they can take care of it. They have the charms to hook you up with the girl or the guy you want. If your marriage is in trouble, then no problem, they can mend it in no time. Curing terminal illnesses is easy stuff to them. With their charms they can sort out any ailment that still baffles western medicine. They can also fix weak erections. Their powers are varied. If the white man at work doesn’t like you the charms can transform him into your best buddy with a promotion to follow. There is the more serious stuff. In our quest for a better life, we often end up in the clutches of the law. Now, this is the domain of medicine men that are only spoken of in hushed tones. They have the powers to make court dockets disappear.
These are the big players who can make a magistrate smile and tell the police to let you go, irrespective of the gravity of the offence and evidence presented. If it is a particularly irksome case, only this select group would, for the right amount, have no qualms contriving to make the magistrate die in an accident. And if the magistrate is well fortified by even stronger medicine, they simply resort to killing the prosecutor. This is the elite league occupied by strong men who can send a bolt of lightning to strike at your enemy. If you want, they can wipe out an entire family. In short, traditional medicine men can just about handle any problem. Many of us modernists dismiss them and take their claims for fairytales. But sceptical as we are, for many, especially men, doctors hold out the prospects of making the ultimate fantasy come true. No man will ever admit, unless to their very close friend.
Certainly, there is no way they will admit it to their female partners. But the thing that keeps traditional medicine men in business, and draws even the most cosmopolitan African yuppie to them, is that they offer what we all want. Those who don’t have the guts to go themselves send their drivers or subordinates. On this issue no man is ever sceptical. No man ever turns down the offer of a concoction to enlarge their manhood. This is the fantasy that most preoccupies the mind of the male species. This is the ultimate. Given a choice between winning the casino jackpot and an enlarged manhood, chaps will always settle for the latter. No contest. Do you hear, women?