CoronaVirus: Misinformation spreads faster than the germ itself

Someone coughed in the supermarket last night, so I walked out. 

My exit was calm and orderly, but rapid and deliberate. I steered my cartful of whiskey, toothpaste, Oatbix, and antiseptic dish-washing fluid to a corner of the nearest aisle, clicked my heels, adopted a straight posture and strode out, fast. 

I walked out the way you leave a supermarket when you see your ex in an adjacent aisle and she is holding hands and giggling into the muscly arm of someone taller, more rugby and more beardy than you.

The way you leave a supermarket when you see someone you owe over 50k and you have a bottle of black barrel Jamie in your cart.

The way you exit a supermarket when you see someone who just tweeted something despicable and you don’t want that energy in your lifespace at that time. Like, you don’t have the gas for confrontation, but you don’t want to pretend that you don’t know that they are the scum of the trash. You know the feeling. We all do.

That is how I exited. Quick steps, rapid and firm, back as straight as it would be if there was a literal stick shoved up my ass right next to the perpetual figurative one.

Someone coughed and I left.

I didn’t raise the alarm. I could have yelled, “That nigga’s got the Rona! Everybody, run!” Or at least been civic-minded enough to discreetly DM alert the @MinistryofHealthUg, but nah. I just got out of there as fast as I could. I was only trying to save myself. 

Some of us are only out to save ourselves and will let the rest of you fester in Covid contagion. It’s not like there is only one source of Black Barrel.

The Coronavirus outbreak has revealed a lot of things about Ugandans, like, mob panic is different from individual panic. Consider for example this question: How do you get a global outbreak, a global emergency pandemic that spreads far and fast enough to set the whole planet in panic, out of a disease that can be prevented by merely washing hands with soap?

All Covid-19 needed to get from one province in China to every continent on earth was a reliable string of unwashed hands. This is a plague if not caused, then perpetuated by dirty people.

Uganda should have learned by now, being the host of regular cholera scares, that dudes, you need to wash your hands a lot. 

But then again, we don’t really take cholera seriously, do we? Every time it rears its ugly head, we just shrug the shoulders that carry our filthy hands and proceed as if we didn’t see said familiar face of pestilence. 

I always picture the ugly face of cholera as grey and long, with cockroach tentacles instead of eyebrows, with sunken eyes and a hollow, echoing laugh emanating from a toothless mouth. I imagine its ugly head looking unsettling enough to cause cholera symptoms like vomiting, sleeplessness and racing heartbeat, something that will cause the viewer to shit themselves rapidly and forcefully– instant diarrhea.

And those are the more tolerable symptoms of cholera.

Others are, if not death itself, then rectal pain. That symptom alone should be enough to scare anyone into washing their hands.

And yet Kampala has never treated cholera with as much respect as it is treating Covid-19.

Cholera breaks out and the most you blog-reading elites expect is a few weeks of headlines about other people in slums somewhere in a faraway shadow otherworld beyond the reach of cafe wifi. We don’t ever think it’s going to get us.

Spreading faster than the virus itself is the gallows humour and the gossip, the memes and misinformation. There is a lot of talk about Coronavirus, to the point that, and though I am no mathematician I have a lot of confidence in this calculation– if everyone washed their hands every time they said the word “Coronavirus”, the pandemic would end in x²(b⅔√π)=43.25 minutes.

Many of us, eager to contribute to the conversation, are reading and repeating what we saw in whatsapp forwards, even though we should all know by now that if anything comes to you via a whatsapp forward, it is a lie. 

Even when BelovedOne sends nudes, do not believe them. She is probably wearing a transparent skin-tight gomesi if she sent them on Whatsapp.

And it is not as if the actual facts are that hard to find.

Every day another reliable news outlet, medical site, health organisation re-releases the same list of facts and an updated list of accompanying myths to be debunked.

And every day we spawn a new myth.

I was one of those that scoffed, but if you had seen how I whooped when someone tweeted that Sevo had banned night prayers… I wanted to believe that the Pharisees would let us sleep in silence for just a month, I didn’t even wait to see if dude had actually banned them.

I am looking at a mythbusting graphic now and feeling like quite the hysterical idiot for the way I hotfooted it out of the supermarket last night.

It doesn’t say that I would have had to french kiss Coughy Olumidde at the supermarket for two hours in order for the infection to take root, but it does suggest that I was a bit hasty in the way I ditched my whiskey so fast. 

What I have done now, and I suggest you also do, for the sake of our health, our next few months, and our black barrels, is subscribe to the WHO Covid-19 page. Keep checking for updates, crosscheck any story you hear.

Wash your hands a lot. Avoid crowded places. If you feel the symptoms, get tested right quick. And Check For Accurate Information Regularly.

Here is me and Suki Social Distancing/ Remote Working.

The Youth Are The Leaders of Tomorrow? Since When?

If everyone is a killer where is all the chumps? If everyone is a gorilla where is all the chimps?

That is a line from one of the more delinquent gangsta rap songs I waste my time with now that I am a curmudgeonly old man with no more conscience, compunction or reservations about dancing to songs that glamorize wanton violence and murder.

There are way too many random rap phrases in my mind. And they keep popping up at the least conscionably appropriate times.

Like today. I saw a young woman (lower twenties I will presume, and if books can still be judged by their covers, she is a church-affiliated, NGO volunteer. That sort of look.) She was wearing a t-shirt that said “Leader of today”, by means of having the word “tomorrow” crossed out and replaced.

Leader of tomorrow. Today.

I looked behind her and there was no one following her. I was amused by this. As I have said, I’m old. Old guys amuse ourselves very easily.

I also chuckled to see the adjustment that had been made to a slogan that is older than even me and my crotchety, weather-worn decrepit ass. “The youth are the leaders of tomorrow is a slogan that has been around since I was a youth myself.

And that is what makes me qualified to tell you it isn’t true.

I was told that I was going to rule the world when I was a youth. Because I was a youth, they said, tomorrow, I will be king. But look at me now.

The phrase needed updating, obviously; and the honest thing would not have been to change the word “tomorrow” to the word “today” because the youth are not the leaders of today either.

The youth today are flotsam and jetsam, blown this way and that, powerless against the true leader of any day. The youth are not the leaders of today, they are the chumps, being manipulated by agitprop like that T-shirt to fall in line to be financially, ideologically, and socially exploited by the very opposite of youth — the ancient age-old forces that actually lead the world. Call it fate, call it capitalism, call it tradition: whatever it is, it is not young.

It is been like that since the world itself was young. When Adam and Eve were the only young people in the world, they were manipulated, through flattery and false promises by agents older than them, the serpent which was working for the fallen angel, who was older than the earth.

The youth are not leaders of today, girl’s T-shirt. No they are not.

Okay, okay, let me stop being a smart-ass. I do understand that the phrase doesn’t literally mean that the demographic between the ages of sprouting pubes and sprouting grey are the tyrants who will jackboot and fist-slam their will over us ancient frail and helpless relics.

It is a slogan meant to inspire and motivate young people to believe that if they take the initiative they can change their world for the better. If they don’t resign themselves to be passive victims of circumstance, but rather, actively pursue decisions to alter things, they can improve the world. That is, that if they believe they can lead, they will be able to lead the world. Tomorrow, though. Not today.

And this is true. But, true like the words of the serpent in Eden were “true”. Deceptively true.

Where are all the chimps if everyone is a gorilla?

If everybody is a leader, where are all the followers?

Youth and others in Gorilla form

Even as a youth, when they first told me I was the heir to the throne of the future, I was quite sure I would want to abdicate. I didn’t want to lead anything. I was, and still am, undisciplined, spoiled, lazy, quite greedy and as you can see, prone to cynicism… qualities that do not make a good leader.

And here is the dangerous thing with leadership: it can be good, yes, but it can also be bad and still be leadership.

It also takes special qualities, a special set of personality traits and a developed arsenal of skills to be a good leader: you need empathy, vision, patience, conviction, faith, selflessness, wisdom and humility to be a good leader.

And that is not all. On top of this, you need to be able to learn how to use these attributes, how to mold them into something that can be applied practically to the purpose of taking your society somewhere: skills and training.

To be a bad leader, however, also takes a particular set of traits. Narcissism, entitlement, cruelty, greed, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and the will and readiness to destroy.

Now, give this person the same skills and opportunity that you give Barack Obama and what do you have? Trump.

The Youth Are Leaders Of Tomorrow is the motto of a movement to equip young people with, not just confidence, but leadership skills: not just motivation, but the ability to move.

However, someone equipped the leaders of today with the same skills and this is how we ended up in this mess.

I look at the leading capitalists, politicians, religious shepherds, media gatekeepers, industrialists and lobbyists today and have to shake and scratch my aching head while at the same time trying to shove an another anti-anxiety pill into it. And while asking myself, where did they get the audacity, where did they get the balls, where did they get the gall to do this to the world?

Yeah. Someone gave them the skills. Someone who shouldn’t have.

I am not saying Leaders of Tomorrow Organisations are to blame for today’s tyranny of incompetents.

I don’t believe finger-pointing is the right response when your lack of foresight leads to unfortunate results. Everyone’s lack of foresight does that. And everyone lacks foresight. Even people who blame others for lacking foresight show a lack of foresight in doing so.

Maybe we would have been better off if we had not given assholes the skills to become leading assholes, but that is too facile, too easy, too simple. Complex questions don’t have simple answers — it can’t be that obvious.

Perhaps if we compensate for the lack of foresight with the application of hindsight, a quality us old people have in abundance, we can find a clue here.

This is what I suspect: The problem isn’t just that we can’t sift the good from the bad when we are making leaders — truth be told, the really great leaders, whether they are going to be great in being good ones or great in being evil ones, are quite capable of making themselves. There is such a thing as a natural leader — The problem is us, we have not become better followers.

The youth of today, along with the overwhelming majority of the oldies of today, are the followers of today.

And we are shite followers.

Because we follow bad leadership, that makes us bad followers. Because we let them get away with it. We let them take us to the worst places. We allow them to lead us to the wrong destinations through the wrong paths. We are shite followers.

We never learned, no one ever taught us, not since I was a youth, and not now, how to be a follower. So instead me, my age-mates, the youngins that came after, we are just so much so much debris in the winds blown about by other more powerful forces, so much unresisting, uncomprehending, uncomprehending victims.

I could give examples here. Theft of public funds. Incompetence in public office. Lake Victoria is shrinking. Why do we still have a gender pay gap? The Najjera road. Cops. Political oppression. We are not citizens of Uganda, we are helpless victims of Uganda. We are the grass that is trampled underneath the feet of warring elephants of the proverb. We are the detritus, the collateral, and the fault is not in the stars, but in us that we are underlings.

The youth are mostly, most of them, are going to be the followers of tomorrow, even as much as they are the followers along with us, of today.

The difference is that we can make them better followers. We can teach them to be citizens, to know their rights, to know their duties.

We can teach them expect and demand more from those who come to lead them. To not fall for that transparent ruse of the emperor who claims to be clothed in superiority but to say it loudly, that he is just naked, vulnerable flesh like the rest of us.

To respect themselves and demand that their leaders respect them, too.

To respect their respect and never waste it, understanding that it has to be earned and deserved before it is given.

Most of us, and most of the youth, are not going to rule, govern, guide or lead. We are going to wake up, have breakfast, spend a bit of time with our loved ones, go earn a living, spend some time with our friends, go home, spend more time with loved ones, go to sleep and do it again and again and again until youth is gone and old age has come.

Most of the youth are going to be ordinary people living ordinary lives tomorrow. But to secure that, they need to be able to defend themselves from that tricky, duplicitious and trecherous thing called leadership.

Kids, follow better tomorrow. Don’t be like us.