Skip to main content

Our dudes of the 1950s, will they eat plastic meat?

By August 12, 2013June 6th, 2023No Comments

Sunday 11th August 2013

The development of synthetic beef reminds me of what in Kinyarwanda we used to call “nilo” or, more crudely, “niro”, in the 1950s. These were shirts that were worn by the heavyweights of the time; young men who never spoke Kinyarwanda without mixing it with French.

Those young men, who were not exactly young since they were college graduates who’d gone to school late, were the dudes of the time.

However, unlike today, a dude of the time was not marked by the chains hanging on the neck or how low below the hips trousers hanged (if it’s still in vogue). It was not marked by the spring in the walk; not by some fingers stuck out; not by how a shoulder hit another in greeting; not how English was mixed with an incomprehensible American accent.

Those days, being a dude was marked by one thing and nothing but: what dudes called “bulbe rachidien”, French for “medulla oblongata”.

Of course, what they meant is what you and I simply call “brain”! In their ridiculous attempt to sound as “savants”, or people of extensive learning, they had to look for words that sounded alien. Little did they know that in “medulla oblongata”, for instance, they meant the lower part of the brain concerned with high blood pressure and other complications!

Those savants did not assume complex language only. In gait, they walked leaning to the left to allude to the weight of their watches. Their kinky hair was stretched to absurd heights that allowed for a parting on the right side of the head.

And so, get a picture as described above and to it add an extravagant use of the French language together with a lot of sound-bites of Mathematics. Wrap the picture in pointed shoes, a pair of tight-bottomed trousers and top them up with a white nylon (“nilo”) shirt, through which you could see the outline of an inner vest, and you had your savant.

The nylon shirt was the rage of the time and therefore a must for any savant worth his “bonjour”.

Sadly, though, our savant who took that nylon material to be a new invention was oblivious to the fact that it was invented in 1935! He did not know, either, that what he took to be superior to silk was actually a cheaper imitation of silk.

During World War II, when silk became rare, and therefore too expensive, scientists resorted to the nylon fibre to make cloth, instead of only a variety of appliances like package paper, carpet, musical string, pipe, rope and others.

So, our savants who thought they were the cream of our society because of wearing the exotic nylon shirts could as well have boasted about wearing shirts made out of sisal!

Still, though, one thing was in their favour. They did not show off appearances; they showed off learning. They showed off their knowledge of French and Mathematics more than they did their nylon shirts. They may have inadvertently displayed their naïveté but, if you ask me, it’s a thousand times better than displaying undergarments!

Sadly, we are in danger of falling for worse than displaying naïveté and undergarments.

If you have been following recent events in the news, you may have heard of the launch last Monday of “plastic” meat. Yes, as there is that synthetic fibre called nylon, so now is there synthetic meat and soon we may find ourselves boasting about being able to consume it!

For two years, Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, worked in a lab to make synthetic, edible meat and a few days ago he announced that it was good and ready. So, last Monday enthusiasts gathered in London for the grand launch and now they are singing praises to it from rooftops. All sorts of reasons are being advanced as to why it’s the best invention since radio. And the reasons against our good old flesh are legion: cruelty to animals; environmental pollution; land scarcity; name it.

The implication of developing synthetic meat is frightening.

When synthetic fibres came into being, they sounded a death knell to sisal and cotton industries. From then developed countries stopped buying sisal and cotton, which were grown in the third world. Before these fibres tailors used to make new clothes from cotton but all this became history and now everything is imported. With introduction of nylon, for example, the price of a cotton shirt shot through the roof and it is only affordable in the developed world.

What that means is that soon shops may be flooded with synthetic meat, milk, fish, chicken, juice, name it. And maybe, God forbid, next it may be synthetic children; if you’ve heard of clones, you know that’s not at all farfetched.

In the end, then, the “first” world may make “a synthetic earth” and banish us there!

Leave a Reply