“Bros, are you following this nonsense? I’m incensed, man! On days like this, I just wish I didn’t sign up to be a professor in the humanities or in the US. Our people sell us short.”
So read the text message from my friend TJ. By “this nonsense” TJ was referring to an academic journal article—published by the African Studies Review—by two white women and the resulting social media furore about it and the responses of some African academic peers who were on social media defending the women’s right to free speech.
“You take these things too seriously” was my reply.
The article in question is titled “African Studies Keyword: Autoethnography,” authored by Kathryn Mara and Katrina Daly Thompson. The first author (Kathryn) is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the second author (Katrina), mentor and former professor to the first author, is a professor of African cultural studies, also at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The authors claimed that autoethnographic methods are scarce in academic research work on Africa and broadly called for its use when conducting (and writing about) research in Africa. The authors defined autoethnography as “a methodology that foregrounds personal experience both during research and in writing about it,”  and went on to argue that this methodology is a solid way “to decolonize African Studies.” .
Besides the apparent lack of rigour and depth in the article—notably its false claim that autoethnography is deficient in African Studies research—the assumption that a pseudo-/self-reflexive approach is decolonizing presents an interesting joke. It is not clear what the authors mean by decolonization but it is not difficult to guess because the underlying logic of their claims derives from the current trend of casting every supposedly ethical-sounding catchphrase and practice as a decolonizing framework. The way many Western-based academics use “decolonization” these days to validate their practices might be interesting to study. A few trendy examples from Canadian contexts may suffice here:
- recommending the works of a few non-white authors = decolonizing the curriculum or a decolonized pedagogy;
- mandating one Indigenous Studies course requirement for undergrad programs = indigenizing the university = decolonizing the institution;
- reading out an official land acknowledgement at university events (especially making noticeable efforts to pronounce Indigenous names properly) or including same on university websites and course outlines = indigenizing the university = decolonizing the institution;
- hiring a few non-white academics into predominantly white departments = equity, diversity, and inclusion = decolonizing the faculty;
- introducing oneself by way of demonstrating an awareness of colonial privileges = decolonized consciousness; e.g., I am a white, Canadian, cisgender woman, and professor of history = ethical awareness of colonial privileges = a decolonized consciousness.
These are just a few examples of what goes by the name of decolonization (or acts thereof) these days—a form of decolonizing by acknowledgement or performance of awareness—a confessional practice often put in the service of progressivist self-congratulation. That’s precisely the idea of decolonization one gleans from the article.
The authors described themselves as Africanists and appeared to be talking to other Africanists. Africanists, as some of us have come to know them, are white academics who are experts on that monumental piece of fiction called “Africa.” It is to Africanists we owe a lot of our “knowledge” of Africa. They tour “Africa” regularly and return to Europe and North America to supply academic facts and knowledge about Africa and its peoples, animals, geographies, and whatnot. Their knowledge of Africa is never in short supply: they’re stupendously widely published in major Western academic journals and presses. One finds them regularly giving interviews to mainstream Western media on this/that crisis in Africa. The media call them experts of Africa.
Africanists are well funded; they can easily afford to spend years anywhere on the African continent researching Africa. Africanists have theories for just about any African problem. In fact, they invented African Studies and over the years grudgingly made allowances for certain African scholars to be considered experts in African Studies—but only once the bloody African scholars can demonstrate some fluency in the theories and vocabularies of engagement produced and circulated by Africanists. When Africanists age or are getting tired of the humdrum of their Africanist practices they begin to speak about collaboration and other similarly self-congratulatory practices as a way to decolonize African Studies. They put up shows of working with African scholars, many of whom they will convert into disciples by hiring them into their research cohorts, dis/empowering others with admissions and scholarships, and collaborative publications.
The organizing ideology of Africanists is mindless Africanism—a belief system founded on a European fantasy about the savage and natural primitiveness of Africans, of Africa as a dark place, and Africans as modestly advanced orangutans with inferior mental capacity and in possession of some ancient wisdom that provides some clues of existence to the modern world. Little wonder the attitude of Africanists is often archaeological—one always finds them digging into the dark African wombs of their mind like vultures in search of customary and other carcasses embalmed from time immemorial.
They return from their excavation with powerful fictions told with the force of academic argumentation and authority. An authority founded on the impulse to sound authentic. The authentic Africanist has certain bragging rights: their length of stay in Africa; the regularity of their visits in Africa and their local connections there; the initiatives—including charitable works of humanity and animality—they have launched in Africa; the number of African informants and students and collaborators they have worked or been working with; the degree to which they have become nativized in Africa sometimes by way of marriage to so-called natives. Some of them who manage to pick up phrases, idioms or relative fluency in one or more indigenous African languages would regularly put up a show of their Africanity: often introducing themselves or their presentations in an African language, dressing up at conferences in supposedly African cultural attires and sometimes introducing themselves by their adopted African names or titles given to them by one or more African communities they have judiciously researched. They will always inject one or two African words in every paragraph or two of their writing or presentation. Nakupenda. Mzungu. Oyinbo. Or other similar tinges of exoticized African sounds rendered in italics. And when Africanists meet Africans at conferences in Western universities they’re always excited and would show off their Africanness by addressing the “natives” in Swahili or Yoruba picked up in their African research fields.
One more thing, Africanists always present themselves as authentic observers of Africa—in other words, as valid Africa-knowledge-brokers. They often speak about Africa in terms of insider-outsider perspectives and would present themselves as [near-]insiders or almost natives of Africa. The arrogance of those who call themselves Africanists just by studying a restricted number of events, traditions, and phenomena in specific locations on the continent—or, as TJ would say, by studying the oral poetry of Egungun performances in his hometown—is laughable. Wouldn’t it be awkward (at least, it seems so to me) to describe myself as an insider or a near insider of white/Asian/whatnot Canada or a Canadianist just because I have lived in Canada for nearly 10 years, carried out graduate studies and research here, established relationships with Canadians of different hues and experiences? It is the same way it will be awkward for me to call myself an insider or near-insider of Nigeria and Rwanda just because I study works of literature that may be described as Nigerian or Rwandan. What does it even mean to be an insider?
The practice of authenticating oneself as an insider of a place or a thing is the stock in trade of mostly white folks who go about calling themselves Africanists and other such “-nists,” or seeking to excavate supposedly insider secrets in the name of research. To these folks, Africanist research must be about exposing African secrets. To be believed, the expert revealer of African secrets must demonstrate their authenticity by how native they have become. By going native. This exercise in self-fashioning is what many of us know too well as the characteristically colonial mindset: always packaging and presenting itself as an authentic or authenticated specialist in other people’s lives and affairs.
The autoethnographic work of the second author of the article, Katrina Daly Thompson, helps one to diagnose the malady of the colonial mindset I tried to sketch in the previous section. My focus on the second author is only a matter of the clout they command as a full professor, and as someone well regarded in the field of Africanist cultural studies in the US, and very experienced in applying their so-called autoethnographic methodology to their study of Africa for over 10 years. Professor Thompson wears many identities—and I use “wears” literally here. For one, they used to be a Swahili woman but not anymore. As stated in their autoethnography article, some of their new identities/identifications now read: “I (Katrina) explore autoethnography from the position of a European American feminist scholar, a cisgender woman, and a full professor at a Research 1 institution [in the US].” 
This introduction is contained in a section of the article called, “Introducing Autoethnography Autoethnographically.” One might think the listed identity baggage would provide some useful insight into something incisive about the article or autoethnography as a concept and practice. But no. What one comes to realize, instead, is that the list is part of the tradition of empty signaling, a rhetorical exercise in acknowledgement of decolonization. The underlying logic here is that when one shows an awareness of what in the Western academy has come to be regarded vaguely as subjectivity and positionality, then one, by virtue of this awareness, is ethically conscious and hence doing decolonial work. Even when the signaled identity markers reveal really nothing usable in the context. What does it mean, for example, to be a European American feminist scholar? Perhaps “European American” is the professor’s way of saying white. OK. But what does the phrase tell us about scholarship or about “feminist scholar”? Again, one is left to guess: that the author is aware of their privileges? (OK, so what, if they’re aware? aware in what sense?); that the author’s scholarly orientation is limited on account of their European Americanness? (if so, in what way, exactly, and to what end?); or, as I see it, that the author is unconsciously acknowledging that their scholarship is racist, colonial, and imperialist in orientation (which are attributes one often finds in several Euro-American scholarship, anyway)? What exactly is a reader supposed to do with the signaled identity markers besides learning that this person sees themselves in these vague terms?
The professor goes on to talk about their deeper introduction to [auto]ethnographic work in Africa:
During ethnographic fieldwork in Zanzibar in 2009, I began a relationship with a Zanzibari man and soon converted to Islam. At our wedding later that year, my experience in receiving premarital instruction from Zanzibari women launched me into new research on how Swahili women talk about, and teach one another to talk about, Islamic marriage. Around the same time, an anthropologist friend was researching converts, and she interviewed me about how I learned about my new religion […] An arts-based ethnographer herself, she encouraged me not to limit myself to Zanzibari women’s experiences but also to incorporate my own, suggesting some readings on autoethnographic methods […] While speaking with Swahili women about their private lives and recording the intimate advice they gave to new brides, I made two realizations that profoundly affected my research. First, I realized they were talking to me not just as a researcher but also as a Muslim woman, as the wife of a Swahili man, and, for many of my interlocutors, as a family member, which meant I had a near-insider perspective on what it was like to receive such instruction. (4; emphases are mine)
I have quoted the professor at length to highlight not only the ethical problems that a group of African academics pointed out in a protest open letter they sent to the editorial board of African Studies Review about the article but also the mindset at work here. This mindset—as I came to see it and will show shortly—is guided by a funny imagination of “Africa” as a treasure island of hidden secrets, of veiled customs and traditions shared only with insiders or near insiders who have won the trust of locals by going native (via marriage and/or religious conversion). This mindset has been groomed to see Africa and Africans in primordialist terms, terms that whenever invoked are supposed to signal to the exotic. African men and women are not simply people; they must be seen in ethnographic terms as tribal/ethnic/religious people, people embodying the ontologies of ancient customs and traditions passed down orally or through some other means; they are bearers of customs kept secret from outsiders. And so, female relatives of the professor’s Zanzibari husband are not simply family relatives but must be seen as Zanzibari/Swahili/Muslim women with veiled marriage secrets. By the standards of this mindset’s imagination, African cultures are customary practices and traditions kept secret from outsiders. And once one can glean an instance of these so-called secret marriage customs/traditions, then one has known the marriage secrets of Swahili women.
Notice too the vague deployment of Zanzibari/Swahili/Muslim. To be Zanzibari is to be Swahili is to be Muslim. Yet again, these identity markers say nothing meaningful about these so-called Swahili people besides signaling to some vague Otherness whose meaning as an exoticized essence is already predetermined. It is also not clear whether the categories—Zanzibari/Swahili/Muslim—are used to signal cultural, ethnic, economic, etc. status, or all of these statuses at once.
What seems most clear, to me, in the context is that the terms evoke the familiar tropes of Africa as the abode of dark, secretive tribal/communitarian peoples who can let you in on their secrets if you know how to convince them. These tropes aren’t new. In fact, they are among the definitive tropes of the Africanism at the heart of European colonial imaginaries of Africa. They are prevalent in European writings even before Aphra Behn’s 1688 novel, Oroonoko, all the way to Rider Haggard’s 1885 sensationalist, lost-word fiction, King Solomon’s Mines. The tropes saturate such popular colonial exploration literatures as Henry M. Stanley’s 1890 book, In Darkest Africa, or the Quest, Rescue and Retreat of Emin, Governor of Equatoria, and Paul Du Chaillu’s Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, which was the inspiration for Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 King Kong film. These tropes of the dark continent of secrets are often underpinned by a peculiarly Western eroticized fantasy about Africa as one may find in European paintings, especially those by French artists. A notable example is Eugène Delacroix’s paintings, Women of Algiers in their Apartment [1834; 1847-9], which were celebrated across Europe as offering genuine glimpses into an Algerian harem—a European fantasy of uninhibited sexual pleasure—even though the paintings were based on popular European Orientalist imaginary of brothels. The fantasy of Africa as a place of secret pleasures, of hidden treasures, is prevalent and has proven exceedingly profitable, as the success of Marvel’s 2018 Black Panther shows. This is the fantasy at the heart of Professor Thompson’s autoethnographic Africanism.
The Africanists of Professor Thompson’s ilk often begin their queries about Africa on the basis of their fantastical imagination of African secrets—a practice in superstitious thinking, if you like. Their driving impulse is to excavate hidden secrets. And once excavated (by way of fictional narrative), they claim ownership, and with the wand of autoethnographic sorcery, authorship of that which has been excavated as a hidden secret. The ethical questions surrounding this superstitious practice (disguising as research) of sharing other people’s supposed “secrets” informed, as I mentioned earlier, the protest letter by the African academics who demanded the retraction of the article. The unethical practice at work here, as it were, is that this professor and their co-author are advocating for a practice of ostensibly revealing “secrets” shared with them in confidence because in the name of autoethnographic methodology they’re basically sharing their own personal experiences as they are their own research subjects.
Yet beyond these ethical concerns, for me, is the grand fiction at work here: e.g., the illusion of African secrets to which one can gain access. Having sold this illusion of secrets, Professor Thompson set themselves up as an authentic voice, whose authenticity has been bought through marriage to a native and on the basis of which they gained not only an access to these secrets but also an authentic voice to speak them. This practice in magical, superstitious thinking is designed to sensationalize by promising the spectacular: I have a never-before-known African secret to share with you outsiders.
Professor Thompson has been publishing consistently on supposedly Swahili secrets since 2011, at least. The titles of some of their academic journal publications tell their own sensationalist stories: “Secrets of a Swahili Marriage” (Anthropology and Humanism, 2017); “How to Be a Good Muslim Wife: Women’s Performance of Islamic Authority during Swahili Weddings” (Journal of Religion in Africa, 2011); “Strategies of Taming a Swahili Husband: Zanzibari Women’s Talk about Love in Islamic Marriages” (Agenda, 2013); “Learning to Use Profanity and Sacred Speech: The Embodied Socialization of a Muslim Bride in Zanzibar” (2015); “Beginnings and Endings: An Autoethnographic Account of Two Zanzibari Marriages” (Anthropology and Humanism, 2017); “When I Was a Swahili Woman: The Possibilities and Perils of ‘Going Native’ in a Culture of Secrecy” (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2019); “Becoming Muslims with a ‘Queer Voice’: Indexical Disjuncture in the Talk of LGBT Members of the Progressive Muslim Community” (Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 2020). These are just a few titles, which consistently gesture at the efforts to reveal the customary talks and secrets of exoticized subjects by way of autoethnography. These titles readily bring to mind the kinds of autoethnographic works on Africa by European colonial missionaries and ethnographers. One of my favorites is a 1921 title by the British missionary, George Thomas Basden: Among the Ibos of Nigeria: An Account of the Curious and Interesting Habits, Customs and Beliefs of a Little Known African People by One Who Has for Many Years Lived Amongst them on Close and Intimate Terms. His 1938 sequel is perhaps even more tantalizing: Niger Ibos: A Description of the Primitive Lives, Customs and Animistic Beliefs, Etc., of the Ibo People of Nigeria.
Professor Thompson’s articles were published in what we often describe in the Western academy as reputable journals. The process of publishing these articles often involves peer reviewing: a practice of sending an anonymized version of each manuscript to, at least, two scholars/experts in the author’s field of focus. These scholars would review the manuscript and recommend whether it’s publishable or not as well as provide feedback for improving it. In some other cases, the journals’ editors and/or editorial boards would carry out their own internal reviews of manuscripts to determine they’re of high standards. All of this, as we’re told, is to ensure that published academic articles are intellectually sound, well written, painstakingly worked out, and profoundly adding something of new knowledge to scholarship. One is, therefore, not mistaken to believe that all of these journals that published Professor Thompson’s Swahili and other secrets followed this process.
Out of curiosity, following my reading of “African Studies Keyword: Autoethnography,” I downloaded two of Professor Thompson’s titles that sounded the most spectacular to me: “Secrets of a Swahili Marriage” (2017) (which interestingly is an award-winning fictional narrative partly based on what the author claimed to be their own experience), and “When I Was a Swahili Woman: The Possibilities and Perils of ‘Going Native’ in a Culture of Secrecy” (2019).
“Secrets of a Swahili Marriage” is about a woman named Zora who during her wedding to a Zanzibari Muslim man (named Ahmed) chances upon the marriage secrets of Swahili women. Zora is a white American professor, a few years older than Ahmed. Turns out too that Zora has been previously married and has a child from her previous marriage. Ahmed, on the other hand, has no university education, and could barely speak English. The couple communicates essentially in Swahili because Zora knows her Swahili relatively well and has in the course of the relationship been “developing a Swahili voice.”  It’s not clear from the story the attraction between Zora and Ahmed to lead to marriage just barely one year of meeting. What is clear, however, is that they’re radically different people. Ahmed is the stereotypical African man: domineering, temperamental, conservative to a fault, unreasonably distrustful even of his own parents, and carries scars on his back that remind Zora of “the tree on Sethe’s back in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.”  By the way, he also has crooked dentition that Zora worries “about how much it will cost to get his teeth repaired when he comes to Boston.”  Zora, on the other hand, is intelligent, reasonable, a researcher par excellence, a tough feminist who, unlike Swahili women, cannot endure the violence of Swahili men for long.
The conceit of the story is built around Zora’s quest for the secret of Swahili marriage, which she finally comes to discover more fully in her own marriage to Ahmed. This secret, as it turns out, is captured in a dictum delivered to Zora by Ahmed’s mother: “You have to persevere […] That is the secret of a Swahili marriage.”  How perseverance constitutes a secret beats me. Oh, by the way, Zora also tells us that the secrets shared by Ahmed’s mother and other Swahili women constitute “wisdom”—wisdom as different from knowledge is not the work of research or experience per se but that which like cultural heritage or customary tradition has been handed down generationally from time immemorial. Anyway, let’s leave that matter aside.
What matters is that Zora comes to appreciate the intimate details of the secret of Swahili marriage when Ahmed settles with her in the US and transforms into an exceedingly abusive and overbearing husband. The climax of his abusive behavior came during the couple’s visit to a clinic to see a doctor concerning Zora’s pregnancy. The doctor is male and Ahmed disapproves of this. Zora ignores his protestations. But once the session with the doctor is over, the outraged husband storms out and drops a “Fuck you” text message to Zora, apparently his first-ever message in English to her. Long story short, Ahmed issues an Islamic divorce to Zora and then an American court drama follows with an injunction barring him access to Zora and the baby about to be born. When the baby finally comes, Zora is grateful it is “pale-skinned with straight hair, eyes almost green”  and she names the baby Alice. The story ends on a note of Zora’s friend (Susan) asking her whether she is sharing “your secrets” with Alice as Zora whispers a song into the baby’s ears, to which Zora replies, “Not yet.”  What exactly is the secret deferred here?
The only one the story makes apparent—which isn’t a secret by any stretch of the imagination—is the inherent barbarism of Alice’s biological father, a barbarism that the baby must be shielded from and potentially taught to overcome. Alice—the daughter of the beauty and the beast, the child of tomorrow who must learn her mother’s secrets of “taming” the African beast of a father—“tame” is the exact word Professor Thompson used in another sensationalist article titled, “Strategies of Taming a Swahili Husband.” Except in Zora’s case the African beast cannot be tamed with love; the scars on Zora’s mouth are there to prove that kissing the beast’s crooked mouth is a bad idea. The wild beast must be tamed with stoic, pitiless separation. Put him where he belongs—in a cage.
This story, as Professor Thompson puts it in the abstract, draws partly on the author’s “autoethnographic work on [their] experience as the wife of a Zanzibari man.”  Besides the obvious power imbalance between the professor and the estranged “Swahili/Zanzibari/Muslim” ex-husband—the fact the ex-husband lacks the social and probably economic and other capital to speak his own viewpoint and it’s possible he doesn’t even know about (nor able to read) the story this woman has been telling for years now about him—the point, for me, is that this kind of fiction is what this professor has built a career on, published widely on, and received several awards on (e.g., “Secrets of a Swahili Marriage” was awarded First Prize in the 2016 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Writing Competition, sponsored by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology). This kind of fiction has consistently and successfully passed the supposed rigorous peer-review scrutiny of Western academic journal publishing.
I couldn’t read the second essay (“When I Was a Swahili Woman: The Possibilities and Perils of ‘Going Native’ in a Culture of Secrecy”) beyond the abstract when I realized the whole point of the article was to “demonstrate how I was lured into ‘becoming Swahili’ because of the relationships ‘Swahiliness’ enabled me to build with my interlocutors in the field and thus the access to ethnographic secrets it gave me.” The abstract read counter-intuitive, to me, and I wasn’t ready to endure another agonizing reading. I had seen enough already to form a firm opinion.
In case it’s not already so obvious: All I’m saying is that this professor’s Africanism is bone-deep racism. The issue is not so much to do with the viability of autoethnography as an Africanist research methodology as it is about the racism that has defined and continues to drive so-called African Studies research, especially the African Studies of Africanists. This racism produced this professor, empowered them with resources and voice to produce “knowledge” about Africa, and rewards them with platforms and prestige. Here’s an example of the Africanist who wears their identities like clothes to use and discard at will, yet conveniently fixes the identities and experiences of other people in primitivist, essentialist terms as an archaeological site where hidden secrets of one’s own existence must be dug.
Professor Thompson’s autoethnographic methodology appears to follow a well-rehearsed pattern of nativizing themselves in their supposedly research field, sometimes by marriage or other intimate relationships. The process of their nativism propels them to “become” part of that which they claim to be researching and once they have convinced themselves of their complete or near transformation into a native (i.e., an insider), they become their own research subject. This exercise in extreme narcissism that is built around the fiction one tells one about oneself may have been a curious malady to study seriously, except that the reality of this fiction has proven time and again to be dangerous. It’s what Chinua Achebe in his essay “The Truth of Fiction” described as malignant fiction—the work of “a sick imagination” that “assert[s] their fictions as a proven fact and a way of life.”
In reality, what goes by the name of research in Professor Thompson’s autoethnographic world is nothing short of a deep dive into the pool of racist colonial fantasies. Africanists like this professor bathe themselves in this fantasy pool and emerge with long-winded claims about African secrets. More often than not, the supposed secrets they tell about Africa point to the dangers of “going native” and how this practice can violate the Africanist researcher. Except it’s not told as a cautionary story but instead as a heroic adventure that has accorded the adventurer with the rights and authenticity to voice research knowledge about Africa. The story is generally about their heroic survival from the fatal or near fatal attraction to Africa. That’s the moral of Zora’s secret find. That’s what Chinua Achebe in “An Image of Africa” calls out in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness regarding Kurtz. Kurtz who gets too close to Africa, becomes infected by its barbarism, succumbs to it, and dies down there. Zora, however, survives and escapes this barbarism, and is now well positioned to share the secrets of her escape/survival, autoethnographically.
I return to TJ’s message: “Bros, are you following this nonsense? I’m incensed, man! Days like this I just wish I didn’t sign up to be a professor in the humanities or in the US. Our people sell us short.”
What about those that TJ called “our people [who] sell us short”? The ones who read this woman’s work and gave it a pass, the ones who were on social media defending the nonsense of white racism in the name of tolerance and free speech and academic nuance and complexity?
I find no need here to rehash the potentially misleading assumptions of the “our” in “our people,” or the “us,” for that matter. I really find no interest in the trickery of English pronouns and pronominals (our, us, we), or the ontologies of cultural identities hailed into existence with these pronouns. I lack the mental energy, at this point, to elaborate my thoughts on this “our people” business and so will pass on the matter.
What I find of more import in TJ’s text message is an implicit recognition of one’s own ab/use in a perhaps inescapable academic system and practice structured on malignant fictions.
“Days like this I just wish I didn’t sign up to be a professor in the humanities or in the US.”
It’s an expression of helplessness. The apathetic groan of one who recognizes one is a functional part in a system that taints and sustains one all at once. It’s not so much a paradox as it is the reality and the condition of existence of those progenies of peoples conquered and colonized by Europe. Those who recognize the harms of racist fictions of the Western colonial academy wherever it may be—Canada, France, Nigeria—but cannot do anything about it other than to groan their pain. By way of an open letter of condemnation. Because to act against it—to even critique it as I think I’m doing—works invariably to advance it, to regularize it as a point of reference, as a subject of discourse. It’s for this reason some people asked for the retraction of the article—an ask that, in and of itself, comes after the facts of harm done, and invariably works to consolidate the mess as a viable discussion topic.
These days we keep our sighs low
To get by!