Nti parliament has awarded MTN a contract to provide data and pay monthly OTT Tax for each member. That is why, O, Uganda, I now offer myself to you as a candidate for the next parliamentary elections. I don’t want to pay my own OTTT either. I think that qualifies me.
I rarely ever pay OTTT. And I don’t use VPN. I mainly use social media on public wifi because Facebook is not worth 200 shillings a day and Twitter is worth less… Mostly, though, because it is unpatriotic.
It goes against the grain of my Ugandan soul to pay for free things.
We have weighed the pros and cons of ascending to the house of laws:
Con 1: I’m not against taxes:
There are three things at the bottom of the list. They are at the bottom because they are the literal least you can do as a citizen. This is the absolute ass-end of the requirements for a basic citizen to not suck at it. Every inch below this is scum. These three things mark as low as you can go without being categorised as a failure at being a proper Ugandan. This is the passmark.
Don’t pee on the roadside in front of schools, restaurants and churches.
The second thing is: Don’t steal, murder or commit any of the major felonies (you can bribe, utter sedition and jaywalk on KCCA grass while still getting by because Uganda zaabu, we have no choice and the system made us this way) but don’t break laws that directly harm your fellow citizens.
The third is, pay your taxes– grudgingly if you must, but pay them.
These are the basics.
But if I become an MP, the way things are going, I will gradually have to stop paying apparently all taxes ever and will no longer be able to contribute to what scanty little functioning our nation ekes out of its gnawing poverty. Instead I will be a drain, a waste, I will switch from being a victim of the problem to being a part of it.
Pro 1. Social media tax will be among the taxes I will not pay.
Cons. I will be a myopic, scavenging, self-serving piece of shit for taking advantage of you like this.
Pros: As an MP in Uganda today, that is pretty much the job description. If you are shameless, remorseless scum underneath the scum of the scum mines of scum district, you meet the professional requirements perfectly.
Cons: I might be one of those people who aspire to Parliament because I want to be a voice for my people, to help legislate ways to help Uganda solve her many problems, to provide checks and balances to the power of the executive branch. Then if I stand for parliament and win a seat I will be winning what will be my inevitable failure. I will come back after my term having done nothing for Uganda but multiply her griefs. Of course there are some people in Parliament with their nation’s best interest at heart, people who went there to make a difference, to make things better, to do what they can for Uganda.
I am sure they are already showing symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Cons: If might have to unmute @nyamadon.
Pros: If I become an MP I won’t have to make seven more trips to NIRA only to end up with an ID that declares me female and married yet, in truth I am trash and was dumped two weeks ago. MPs don’t line up for anything. They have sirens. And I will have my phone number back.
I think it is settled. On the balance, I will stand for Parliament.
Now where? I am not going to wait for next election season. Someone is going to drop out when they find their fake academic papers and I will slide in through the bye-election.
How are you? I am positive that you are blessed, that the favour of our Lord is manifest in you. I believe this because sometimes I look at you and wonder if anything that is not perfection can muster the audacity to associate itself with you in any way. I am sure that when it rains, the drops first hold a conference in the clouds to pick which ones are going to land on your head. At this conference there are meetings and subcommittees to plan how they will not ruin your hairstyle per se, but rather will dishevel it in a manner that makes it look sexier and more rock ‘n roll. I am certain that one of these subcommittees is tasked with finding ways to avoid messing up your make up, with the understanding that either the drops in the committee avoid the front of your head altogether or they wash everything completely off, with the result that we have a classic Alicia Keys situation. Either you are gorgeously made up or you are gorgeous without a lick of makeup.
Never with streaks of black and brown crisscrossing your countenance.
Having established that you are fine, let me draw closer to the point. I will get there in the end, but first, I must remind you of which of your doubtlessly massive horde of admirers I am. Tis I, Baz, the Silver Fox, Earl Grey, the middle aged gentleman with the self-deprecating wit, the dashing smile and the understated but nevertheless unique style– known to favour vans and pumas over Balenciaga. I hope that narrows it down. Yes. The cool one. The best choice you have out of all your suitors.
We have been in a few social situations over the past brief period of time, during which I have attempted, with as much grace, class, restraint and respect to make it clear that I am feeling your shit, girl. Not just because this is the era of MeToo when trash behaviour will no longer be tolerated but because, if I may say so myself, with as much humility as is due, I’m just a classy kind of guy. I don’t do trash stuff. But you, nevertheless, mwana, wankuba.
I have endeavoured to avoid vague hints, as far as my intentions are.
The series of cues including but not limited to me outright saying “I’m coming to vibe you by the way. You wait.” culminated recently in my asking you out on a small date.
If you have any queries about the choice of magnitude, it is not because I am cheap (I am not cheap, I am just occasionally broke, a state of affairs that will not last. I have ambitions plus the talent and drive to translate those ambitions into liquidity. I am not saying this to brag or peacock like those shallow little men who dangle their Mercedes keys in the bar hoping to attract your attention. No. I know you are not moved by such superficial things as that. I say this to reassure you that we are equals. You, too, have ambitions, and the talent and drive to make greatness.) The reason I chose a small date as opposed to an opulent, magnificent extravaganza of flowers and violins and Italian cuisine lit up with enough candles to put UMEME out of business is that I don’t have a lot of self esteem. I have confidence, I have self awareness, I have a bit of arrogance and I certainly have unassailable unfuckwitability, but I don’t have enough self esteem to be sure that you would say yes when I asked you out, and so I decided to keep it simple. Simple rejections are easier to take than enormous and flamboyant ones.
You made the right choice, of course, and did say yes. You are an intelligent woman, with impeccable taste, foresight and the talent to see good things ahead from the signs before you.
Our date was scheduled for this Friday.
But the best laid plans of mice and men, cheri, There are no netflix stand up specials in heaven, so if we want to have God laugh, we just make plans,
An ENT infection has struck. It began in my right ear but its effect was so pernicious that it soon took the entire eustacean tube (refer you to your S3 biology) and now parts of my mouth are involved.
I need not belabour the obvious. Germs in the mouth, even those that originate in the ears, do not lay out the conducive situations for dates on which swave gentlemen make moves on their becrushed ladies. The mouth becomes unhygienic and therefore not only dangerous to your health, but also, due to the fact that germs smell, uncomfortable to you. No matter how witty, smart, charming my words may be, and the would be very much so, they would smell too much for those attributes to have the desired effect.
My options were poor. I could take you out and gush foul stenches at you for a whole night, sealing the doom of my budding affection.
I could tell you a lie so that I can buy myself some time (A work emergency? A family emergency? A less embarassing ailment? A call from the Agency asking me to come back and handle one last job even though I made it clear the last time that I was out of the game and just want to settle down and have a normal life?)
Or I could just tell you the truth.
This is the truth, Swee’thang. I have to ask that we postpone our date until these antibiotics have done their work and my breath smells better.
In the interim, I am aware that I take the risk of being relegated to a lower league. I could be decategorised to “Unserious”, “anjagazaa ki?” and taller, more good-looking men than I could gain advantage in this high stakes competition. I am afraid though that I have no option but to take that risk. Because, even if it means losing you, I like you too much to breath bad smells into your face.
Now, you ask, how does that become a horror story? Because of this…
Cultural Privilege is like air. It is so everywhere that no one notices it. Until recently, human history didn’t know it existed. Air, that is, though, much of human history still doesn’t know privilege is there.
Air was only discovered when an ancient Greek philosopher got her head caught in an ox bladder and could not breathe. She realized that wait… Something is wrong… Something is missing… I am dying, not as one usually does, from something bad, but rather, from lack of something good.
One cannot asphyxiate and name things in the same breath, as it were, so we don’t know what she called her discovery but others eventually named it oxygen.
Privilege is like that: something so pervasive that most people don’t feel it, some even go so far as to not believe in it.
And the only time you are aware of it is when you don’t have it.
Take white privilege, which happens in places like America, Britain and malls in Kampala, where one is treated excellently, and leaves believing that the people there are warm and hospitable and kind. Little realising that they are only that way to you, the person who had the foresight to be white while on the premises. When you are not around, unbeknownst to you, they are assholes, and treat others like shit.
Basically, being white makes your life easier and does that so much you don’t realise it.
Male privilege is a bit less subtle, in the sense that you have to be a bat with big black beans blocking up your skull holes to fail to see that being a dude means several things are easier for you than they would be if you were, say, women. Not just opening jars (Which I still find suspicious. It doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t they open those jars? I think it’s a trick. They can, but they just pretend. Next time a woman hands me a jar I will just tighten it before handing it back and we will see.)
Not just that — I am talking about the good stuff. Like jobs, career, education, business, getting basic levels of respect…
And the way we pee can’t be overrated either.
However, one very crucial element of privilege is this: You tend not to notice its extent or power or significance in your life. It is a pernicious little bastard that sneaks up on and over you and you don’t even see it. So here is the tricky part: You think you don’t enjoy cultural privilege? That is quite possibly conclusive evidence that you do.
Makes you wonder what other forms of privilege there are that we enjoy but are not aware of yet:
Okay, if white people go to the posh cafe they will say, “Oh, my, security guards are so friendly and polite! Waiters are so quick and attentive! The flies are so deferential and well-groomed.”
But they also buy tomatoes at 5,000 shillings each in Nakawa market.
Not only does black privilege allow us to not get robbed on sight at in the market, it also enables us to do simple things like just being yourself without having to apologise to everyone twice a week for slavery and colonialism.
White Ugandans and white people in Uganda are constantly expected to beg for mercy because they are descended from the perpetrators of these acts.
But a kingdom comes about through the process of empire-building, which involves martial conquests, stealing land, disenfranchising local populations– often slavery, too. My ancestor could easily have been one of the guys who came storming down the hill with an army of Bunyoro-Kitara marauders to mow down your ancestor’s village and subdue all y’all under the crown of my Mutembuzi king.
Do you hear me saying sorry? Of where. All I do is call you an asshole cos you parked too close to me. I am not white, so I am privileged to not give a rat’s bum about your history.
Also, if you look at that illustration of white privilege again, where white customers are slavishly kowtowed to at a restaurant while the black ones are ignored, it brings another disturbing thought to light.
I am educated, middle class, wear glasses and drive my own car. Those waiters treat me better than they would treat Bulayimu, my boda guy. They treat me as if I am their muzungu. Meanwhile Bulayimu gets the full Jim Crow treatment, of if he wants to buy a pizza he has to go round to the back and collect takeaway.
Rich people have white privilege in Uganda.
Man, imagine if, in addition to male and middle class, I was light skinned and had an accent. I would have even more privilege!
So now this muwawa here, what is it in aid of? Am I, middle class male, speaking in defence of cultural privileges?
First how do I defend privilege as if it is a crime? It’s not even an act. One does not do privilege. It’s a circumstance within which one finds oneself. One may be held culpable for things one does to perpetuate the state of affairs, like the café situation, but in that case it is those snivelling uncle Tom ass waiters doing it, not Casey-Ann Schmidt.
What do you want her to do? Ask the waiters to be less polite? Request a few sneers? Of course not.
I kind of am speaking in defence of privilege though. I like my privileges and I don’t want to let them go.
Yes, I know it is unfair that some people get to enjoy them while others don’t, but the next move should not be to eliminate them, it should be to spread them further and make sure even more people get them.
We need to make the waiters treat everyone, regardless of their colour, the way they treat Casey-Ann, like they are the almighty goddess of tips. We need to make it so that police smile and call all of us “boss” when they arrest us, regardless of colour. We need to make it so that we can all carry out our job interviews without being propositioned for sex. Except when I apply to be Tiwa Savage’s gardener, in which case, the only reason I want the job is because I hear showbiz stars use their gardeners for sex.
But in short, we don’t need to remove privilege, we need to make sure everyone has all of it.
I have not been well lately. I had ice cream on Easter and it has taken me this long to have my bowels settle. A bit longer for my mind to do the same. I have no new post to write. But I have been thinking about planes and national pride and that brought me to thinking about this. I wrote it many years ago, when bodas were still green Mates. I hope you like it.
Kireka is one of the ugliest suburbs of Kampala. It is crowded, noisy and the sight of it jars the soul. The whole place is filled with the clutter and the litter of squashed-up, broken, makeshift, unglamorous buildings and people. Dingy shops with chapati wallahs frying their wares in the dust outside squat indecorously on a large slab of uneven, bare soil. All the fertility seems to have been eroded away decades ago, and what is left of the soil does not stay on the ground. It floats in the air as dust, choking the flies.
There are so many people here, and they all seem to always move with a terrible sense of urgency, mixed, in some curious way, with lethargy— a hectic uncaringness about what they do. It was nine o’clock in the morning, and already the Ugandan sun was beating down, harsh and violent, making the roads and the rough dust burn with a cruel heat. The faces of the people who lived their days out in Kireka were knit at the brows in the way the brows of faces twist when there is too much light coming at them from above and, courtesy of the upwards-beaming sunlight reflected off the ground, from below. There were hawkers here and there, carrying broad sheets of cardboard on which a multitude of cheap and shiny things were hung: plastic jewelry plated with false gold, polyester bands for holding hairpieces in place, hairpieces, baby booties, handkerchiefs… They had sunglasses on their boards too. Sunglasses that cost three thousand shillings each (though a bit of haggling could bring the price down to two thousand— the cost of two return trips between Kireka and the city centre) but the Kireka crowd did not wear shades. The wearing of sunglasses was left, in the scheme of things, to other people, people like me. When I stepped out of the taxi and onto the soil, the half-a-hundred eyes which had been mixing their frantic kinesis and their resigned inertness suddenly changed gear. They spotted me and turned to me. I’m not really into the things like designer clothes and things like sunglasses, too showy, too ostentatious. Why demand that people pay attention to you when you have nothing for them to see? But Kireka hawkers can still smell something in the way I dress that tells them I am a potential customer: a “Tajiri”, a person with enough disposable income, a guy who could probably afford two return trips between Kireka and the city, and therefore, perhaps, who could buy a pair of sunglasses. Or maybe, a pair of socks, or a music cassette, or a set of cotton handkerchiefs from China. Hawkers began to edge towards me. A woman wrapped in a threadbare leso shouted something rude at a man in a fading t-shirt who she had been arguing with when he abandoned her and started walking towards me, brandishing his large and heavy-laden cardboard shield. He shouted something rude back. I cut my way past him, through them and the dozens of others like them screaming the day out of their dirty Kireka existence and headed for the file of boda boda scooters. The drivers of the scooters, who had been lounging lazily before I appeared, abruptly leapt into action, starting their engines and calling out at me: “Uncle tugende?” “Chief tugende?” Men my age calling me uncle. If I was passed out in the middle of the shining road, they would stand over my body and laugh. But if that’s what it takes to get a buck, they will pretend to think something of me, and address me with overblown expressions of respect.
I sat on the cushion on the back of one of the scooters and gave the driver another coin so he could carry me up Namugongo Road to home.
The boda boda moved resolutely up the road, unaware of how sharply it was rising from the bottom of the ocean to the light above. I could sense it, though. We were leaving Kireka behind and coursing up Namugongo Road, and the mud and dust was receding, giving way to long patches of wild and playful grass, and rows upon rows of trees. Up there, a jacaranda was shedding and the ground below it was a carpet of purple flowers, with an old man standing like a statue beneath the tree, unaware too. Making this journey, brief as it is, was a refreshing thing. It’s like when you drink a cold bottle of passion fruit juice, and the flow down your throat washes out your thirst, leaving your body free and unshackled. Open.
We zipped past a group of children arguing, and I noticed, even though the scene was passed in just a few seconds, that the boys were on one side and the girls on the other. Just like we used to do when I was that age.
There are so many trees here. If you stand on one of Kampala’s hills and look out at another, it looks like jungle to you. A vast canopy of green, broken only intermittently by a roof here and there. There are so many trees in Kampala. I used to love this city.
There is a website (or, depending on how much you care, a mobile app) in Africa… or not exactly in Africa… let me start again. There is a lot of ambiguity about the subject.
There is an electronic entity that can be accessed by internet connection devices within Africa that is called Jumia.
It took me eight drafts to settle on that.
What Jumia does is many things. Among them, it communicates, through metaphysical agents in the ether called “cookies”, with the spirits of our forefathers. When the ancestors hear you saying something like, “I feel like the beach this weekend” they report immediately to the cookie on duty, which then slaps an advert for a bikini into your facebook feed. It happens to me every single time.
Another thing Jumia has done is hire the most tedious, slow witted, dumbmule ever, one with not only a dry mango seed instead of a medulla but also a PTSD-level phobia of reason to act as a customer service representative at their call center.
But these are incidental to their main purpose. What Jumia mainly does is connect Ugandan merchants to Uganda customers through means of website or app (If you have the time and MBs to download and keep an app for buying a desk lamp. Nobody should have that time).
I have complained once or twice about Jumia, but to be fair, I use their services a lot; frequently enough to be regularly satisfied, to rely on them and to instinctively find myself thinking of Jumia before I even think of physical shopping.
Jumia operates like that in various countries most, if not all of them, African. So you have all these shillings, francs, kobos, naira, kwacha, cedis and mitwaalo swooshing up and down its veins and arteries. But, in spite of all its lifeblood being official African legal tender, it isn’t African.
One of the Jumia capos said it was during an interview about its listing for the Grand Altar of Western Capitalism– the NYSE, but a few of us quickly spotted discrepancies in the utterance, such as: its founders are French, it is incorporated in Germany, a significant aspect of its day-to-day computer maintenance is situated in Portugal and a few other offshore attributes were brought up to contest the claim that Jumia is African. It apparently isn’t.
I am not here to argue about that. I am here because I am scared now. The implications of this. The ramifications. The permutations! If Jumia isn’t African, what is?
Let me tell you the story of Bridget Namuli. I can’t forget the day I first saw her. She was at the boda stage calling each of them a different cattle disease and singling out the last one on the left for that ailment where the rectum collapses inwards. She was both threatening and preparing to throw some bricks at their stupid faces, and the prolapsed rectum was frantically reaching for his helmet. Street harassment, boda bodas need to learn, is a game of Russian roulette. With Bridget Namuli it is played with Vladimir Putin’s very own ssassi limu.
I said to my heart, “Dude, Don’t. Don’t.” But it was too late. Heart was already through the three states: Paltipates, accelerate and syncopate. It was over. Brain just gave up and instructed mouth to sigh wanly. I was looking at my next few years of therapy. I was looking at my next nervous breakdown. I was looking at my future baggage.
After the bodas had apologised and she allowed them to get off their knees, we got to talking and chatting and I began the rapid descent into love with her.
Bridget was awesome. I thought I was the Tony Stark of kitchens, but she cooked better than I did. She had mastered luwombo, kalo, malakwang, … I thought I had a forked tongue, but Bridget could curse a nigg at considerable length and with sufficient impact in eight different languages: Runyankore, Langi, Lubara, Luganda, Lusoga, English, and Kikamba.
Kikamba because,in spite of the fact that Bridget operated entirely in Uganda, she was actually incorporated in Kenya.
Her dad was one Mike Mutua, a roving loser with unruly testicles who knocked up a Ganda girl, one Janet Namuddu, while loitering through Uganda. He tried to do the right thing and take her to Nairobi with him to and raise the family but he was still a loser and had to be ditched and dumped. ‘Twas ever thus with trash. By the time Bridget was four years old she was back in Kampala being raised strong by her single mum. Bridget was so Ugandan that she knew the lyrics to every Radio and Weasel song. And she knew what they meant. All the double entendres.
She has bribed LDUs, drank kwete, spent a night in Dangala, fired an AK47…she is way more Ugandan than a lot of us.
I on the other hand, grew up in Kenya. I was there from age two to adulthood. All the processes: the germination, the opening of the cotyledons, the first bud and leaf, the processes that lead to the emanation of the roots that a person will dig into the land beneath him or her happened to me when I was on Kenyan soil.
The thing that makes the love of home did not come to me in Uganda.
Now I have been in Uganda for as long as I lived in Kenya, I feel I am a part of Uganda, but not in the same way. Home is a part of you as much as you are a part of it. And that part of me is elsewhere.
I am part of Uganda in the way that I am a part of the enterprise that is Uganda, I am a part of the mass endeavour to draw this thing to success. I have a strong commitment to making it work. I want Ug to win because then I will be part of a winning country. So I pay my taxes, I abide by the law, I complain about government and I buy Uganda build Uganda.
But that raw, deep down, love you have right at the centre of your spine where the roots begin, that love that connects and lights up the whole self when the skin of the feet touches the earth of the land? I don’t have that. Not in Uganda. I have not felt it for 20 years.
So, how Ugandan am I? I am not even actually incorporated here either. NIRA sent my forms back twice because I fill in forms like a trained journalist: that is, I answer the question asked with the immediately available fact, not whatever you had prepared yourself to hear.
And I can’t get my passport renewed until I get that national ID, so I don’t have one of those either. I have no documentation establishing my Ugandanness.
Which means, if the minister who seems to have said it wasn’t just belching that when they withhold citizens’ rights from those who don’t hold the magic cards, I will be as good as a German, Djiboutian, or Wakandan.
There is also the fact that I am bailing on you guys.
Look, I’ve been here for 20 years and I have tried my best, but it’s come to the point where I just have to admit it. You are doomed. Uganda is set on an exponentially steepening incline sliding irreversibly into the darkness of Stalingrad at midnight. By the time I am celebrating the first anniversary of my escape you guys here will be surrounded by Stazi, Gestapo, the SS, KGB, Bureau of State Security, state informants, youth brigades and will have to greet each other saying “Long Live Our Dear Leader.”
Social Media clampdowns, press stress, party militia, and then ID cards? ID cards? Smells like Stalingrad, walks like Stalingrad, quacks like Stalingrad.
But I will be in Germany at the time, running a blog/podcast/video African dissident web platform from a flat in Wilhelmstrasse, Berlin. We will broadcast under VPN to whoever has balls that haven’t been ripped off by torture. There will be an entire collective of us. Tanzanians, Burudinands, Egyptians, Sudanese, Zimbabweans, Algerians..
Radio Free Africa. Incorporated, staffed, and funded (from our salaries as fast food workers) in Germany. Will we be African?
Turning 40 is the most significant change since turning 20. You’re not just chasing a horizon, you are crossing a border. New freedoms open up.
Twenty meant I could drink, drive, default on tax, renege on contracts and it was no longer illegal to let you have sex with me.
30 was a tepid non-event.
Turning 40 was more momentous. I woke up to realise that I was just better. The protracted activity of growing up was at a palpable culmination at last. Yup. Bodas call me muzeeyi now.
I put on weight, for starters. For all my adult life I have been lean as a snake– 70kg and 32 waist, and those were my proportions and vital statistics. Until the 40s arrived and I got a paunch.
I could finally wear a suit like a boss
You don’t understand how important this is.
A slim man in a suit can look good.
A slender man in a suit can look good.
A svelte gentleman can look dashing in a tailored ensemble outfit, but without a significant, well-earned well-nurtured and properly-cultivated roll of belly fat that is all you get: a pretty boy.
A portly man in a suit, though, looks impressive. He won’t fight you, he will have his lawyers file a lawsuit against you. He won’t pick your pocket and steal your phone, he will embezzle your ministry’s millions. He won’t get fired. He will be asked to resign.
And I am almost there. There is just one problem…
If you have lived right then, compared to your twenties, by your 40s you should have more money, more power, more you, more other people, more skills, sense, direction, clarity; all the important things an intelligent human needs.
But there’s this: you become an adult at twenty. Up until that point you are in development. Larvae is infancy, pupae is adolescence; you think you are old just because you have been alive for 20 years, but they don’t count. The first ten you were a child. The second ten you were a teenager. Now, at 20, you are out. Product launch. Brand new. Adulthood. You have just started now now.
However, for the next bunch of years you are going to abuse, poison, neglect maintenance, and wreck that body and mind of yours with bad sleep, poor diet, insufficient exercise, drugs and alcohol and, from what I gather from these statistics among millennials, repeated infections of multiple STIs.
Plus your body isn’t bouncing back as fast as it did when it was still in building stage. Now it’s accumulating the damage. That stuff is building up. You are getting weaker. Then when you are 40 is when it starts to show.
I used to do four weekly columns for Vision when I was younger, including Bad Idea. That requires a lot of cortisol, so four or five times a day I would scoop a fisftul of ninja-black coffee grounds and dump it onto the biggest kasengejja I could find. But then, given the amount of sugar I would have in the cup, I couldn’t fit much water into the concoction. In the end I was imbibing noxious black syrup all day.
The smell was so strong that the sub-editors would call me all the way to their bullpen when I had just brewed a cup. I thought it was because they loved me and my charming ways but they would send me away as soon as (Name withheld) also left. I later found out that they were using the smell of my coffee to mask the smell of his kavubs.
I think that is why I have IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It means you can’t digest certain foods, so you get bloated when you eat them and get this massive buildup of gas. It can leave a man looking pregnant.
I can’t socialise after nine thirty because that time is reserved for flatulence.
It’s the only reason I am not Forty-fat yet. Because I can’t eat as much beef or drink as much beer as is necessary, but still…
I’m in my 40s, and I still have the other benefits. Like you are aware of more. By which I don’t just mean you know more– A lot of the things that make us wiser than kids are things they already should know. They have been evident, right in your faces, and will be for the next two decades. It’s just that youth can be so narcissistic, so self-obsessed it never looks beyond itself long enough to see them.
But reality doesn’t need your acknowledgement. It will wield its fist regardless. You will bear its impact. You will feel its blows. And if you are smart then by the time you are 40 you will have learned its lessons.
You can not just see but understand and become aware of what you are, what things are.
Youth thinks people who act different are weird. When in your 40s you see people acting different and ask, “What does he/she know that I don’t?”
You learn that love is a lottery and the odds are against you, so you stop feeling entitled to it. The best you can do is make yourself someone who can be loved, then love yourself, love others, and if the angels’ blessing falls, hope you are ready not to screw it up.
Another boon of turning into your 40s is having left the last rat’s ass I had to give on the last day of my 39th year. In your 40s you not only don’t care what people think as much, but you actually relish the look on 20-year-old’s faces when they see you dare do something sensible instead of something conventional.
You realise that money is a confidence trick which only works as long as you believe it. Value has nothing to do with price and wealth is not about what you buy, it’s about what you have left after what you buy.
It’s the moral of the story kids. Take care of your body, take care of your mind, take care of your heart. Drink thunderstorms of water, take in the evening walks, read and learn, open your mind and eat your vegetables.
I was a kid when it happened but already old enough to understand too well that this sort of thing isn’t an African or a Rwandan or a Hutu or a Tutsi thing.
I had just been watching it on CNN, nearly every day there was an update on how far along Bosnia was in murdering itself. Plus I was an inquisitive kid, always reading things that should have been kept beyond my reach, so I knew about Stalin’s Gulags, China’s genocides, Americans wiping out native peoples, Amin’s purges of Acholi and Langi in the army. And I was to see it again and again. Both LRA purges and Anti-LRA purges, then Kenya was set on fire…
It was clear that this thing was not ethnic or tribal or racial. It was a human thing. That is what we were like. It is always easy for us to decide to kill each other.
I grew up anxious because I knew it was always there somewhere, a flammable undercurrent beneath us just waiting for a spark.
The thing that can so easily one day turn into a machete at your neck.
And we could be going for anyone, because anyone human can be dehumanised and “othered”. The poor. The NRM government staff. Muslims. Balokolole. The rich. Indians. Mixed tribe kids. Residents of Kulambiro. Another tribe.
But this sort of thing could easily find you in spite of yourself. A small mob barges into your house and puts a knife in your hand and says those words that underscore the acts of tyrants and warmongers and demagogues all throughout history: “Either you are with us or against us.”
So you have to protect your life. Or your family. They will threaten your family. They usually do that sort of thing.
You can’t talk them out of it, you can’t appeal to their reason. You’re asking for what? Mercy? Compassion? Goodness? These guys are not being fueled by evil that can be convinced to convert to goodness. The worst evils are done by people who believe with an unshakable passion that what they are doing isgood. In their eyes, you’re the evil one for asking them to stop.
We can all love our people enough to die for them. But loving them enough to kill for them? That person you are trying to plead with already proven to himself that, in his estimation, he is better than you. You are the evil one, the traitor, the coward, the turncoat.
But it’s not as uncomplicated as good people and bad people. It’s as complicated as genocide.
That’s why Kwibuka means so much to me. It means that while we are at peace we can grow our kindness towards each other. We can love and share across the superficial differences. Eat together, dance, give hugs, miss one another, laugh and exchange the joy in each other’s hearts not in spite of our differences but in full, certain, absolute, knowledge of our sameness, that stuff that runs along the heart and is felt in the blood. Our abiding, eternal sameness.
And if the madness comes and burns? This is what Kwibuka means to me: It means that it ends. And the ashes settle, and we remember ourselves and we return to ourselves and we sit at our table and 25 years later, we don’t forget or pretend it never happened, but we can be kind to one another, see ourselves in each others eyes, and avenge those fallen by doing what should have been done instead: sharing.