Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Protecting chickens from hawks

Do not throw an egg at the hawk who has just snatched one of your chicks. (Africa)

Dear Zayda,
Hawks exist in the world. They look for chickens not because they are bad people, but because they are hawks.

Many mothers learned to be chickens and passed on that message to their daughters. We think we must never talk back to those (usually male) who have power. We may believe that if we are nice, the world will be nice to us in return.

Hawks look out for nice chickens. They will tend to avoid the tougher chickens who will squawk and draw attention to the hawk in their midst. Hawks often don’t want to mess with hens that will peck at them and call down their barnyard crew to chase away the hawk. Most of all, hawks might not want to tangle with roosters who will use their spurs to defend the chickens.

So here is what some of the modern hawks do. They may be friends of moms and dads, and they may even be family members. They manage therefore to get between the chickens and those protecting the chickens. They may even get into the chicken coop and pretend to be just another chicken.

When the chicken cries out, a mom or a dad may say, “This nice person would never do or say that to you.” The chicken may also be told, “You are too sensitive,” or “You are being emotional.” Worst of all, those who matter most to the chicken may say, “You must be sick to be making up these stories. You are a liar.”

A hawk may threaten the chicken so she stays silent. He may say that terrible things will happen to the chicken or the chicken’s family if she ever talks about what is happening to her. He may even tell the chicken that it is her fault that he is attacking her.

Hawks often look for chickens on the Internet. In that way, the chickens don’t get to see what the hawk is like in person. The hawk can therefore pretend to be a chicken, gentle and sweet. Even if moms and dads want to protect the chicken, they may not know what is happening in an online chat room.

So what can you do to protect yourself, my grandniece? Trust your feelings. Act on your instincts. You don’t have to wait till the hawk has snatched a chick to know you could be in danger. You certainly do not have to do anything to placate the hawk, even if the person is a family member, your parents’ friend, or an online friend who says he is your age and in your grade at school.

Chickens need to learn to squawk. They may need to stop being polite as their moms and dad no doubt trained them to be. They need to yell, slap, kick, and bite if that is what it takes to scare off the hawk. If need be chickens need to risk going to the police to report the hawk’s behavior. The almost last thing a chicken needs to do is to hold the hawk’s secrets. The very last thing a chicken needs to do is to try to throw an egg to a hawk that shows signs of wanting to snatch a chick.

The world is a beautiful place, my grandniece, but we may not find all the people beautiful as they may seem. We don’t have to blame them for what they are, but we do need to protect ourselves by staying clear of danger, especially when our instincts tell us. “Watch out”.

I hope you will always listen to your instincts.


Your shangazi Nothango (Yvonne)

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

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