The worst of us were not able to bring down the best of us.
Cowardice did not quell courage.
The serpents hissed from their gutters, “Shame! Shame! Be humiliated!”
But she said I reject your shame. And by rising above this, instead of humiliation, I have earned pride.
We knew her as a funny girl.
Now we know her as a strong woman.
You know I was a writer ten years ago? I am not a young man. No need to kneel. But I am not exactly a writer today. I have deadlines that have caught up with me so I have no new post. Can I regale you with this instead?
Our hero was sitting on his verandah yesterday when up toddled the four-year-old from next door. She was dressed in a heavily starched kitenge with a long high headwrap.
Amandla, my brother!
How many times do I have to tell you, Lizzie, I am not your brother. I know we are not sure who your father is, but my dad was in Nairobi the year…
I meant brother in the sense that we are all Children of Mother Africa, Baz. It is Africa Day today, a day when we renew our commitment to the Pan-African cause.
We have a commitment to the Pan Africanist cause? We?
Are you one of those brainwashed neocolonialist pawns who does not care about the future of the motherland?
I think so.
Well, it’s a good thing I showed up then, isn’t it? Let me open your eyes which have been blinded by the oppressor. Let me unlock the shackles that have imprisoned your mind.
By the way, on this day I refuse to answer to that colonialist imperialist English name. Please use my African name.
What is your African name?
I have chosen Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti.
Um, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nevertiti …
Get the hell off my lap.
Oops. Sorry, Baz. I forgot that you have this “thing” about personal space. But you don’t have to get cross about me sitting on your lap. I am an infant. That’s what we do. We sit on people’s laps and knees.
Not on mine, you don’t, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti. Where the hell did that come from anyway?
Thandiwe was the mother of the Great Chaka Zulu, mighty Warrior Emperor of Afrika. Nefertiti was the Queen of the Ancient Afrikan Civlisisation of Misri.
I thought she was like the Queen of Egypt or something.
You’re playing with me, aren’t you? You seem to think this is a joke.
You’re the one who has decided to call herself Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti. I swear Mama Chaka sounds like a chocolate bar. I would eat a Mama Chaka.
Why are you unwilling to embrace the glory of your heritage? Why don’t you desire to search the footsteps of your ancestors, the noble warriors of Afrika, the cradle of civilization and learning? Did you know that Afrika invented mathematics?
In 700BC, when the white man was still in caves!
How many years ago was that?
It was … you know what? Fuck you, Baz.
Hah hah! You haven’t learnt how to add and subtract in school yet, have you, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti? Hah hah. If Africans invented maths while Europeans were still in caves, you are still on the UK system! Hah hah! Whooo!
You think Africa is a laughing matter, Baz?
No, Lizzie… I mean, TMCN, I think you’re a laughing matter. Look, no matter what you call yourself, no matter where you go, you will always be who you are: an African. You don’t have to take on a fancy name, or wear a towering headdress. You and I are, and always will be, Africans.
Really? Is that true, Baz? I guess I have learnt something today. That we should always be ourselves no matter where we come from. Because we are all special.
What is the cause of malaria? Is it the germ, the mosquito, or the dwanzie who did not bring us the nets? What is the cause of this?
Nti parliament has awarded MTN a contract to provide data and pay monthly OTT Tax for each member, to quote myself.
Parliament is supposed to be a defense line: To protect the powerless from the power-hungry, to keep the hungry safe from the greedy. But we messed up. We should have put up the nets, but instead we sent mosquitoes full of germs to our nation’s bedroom, in this analogy, parliament, and now we have fevers.
Yeah. I think I am the one at fault here.
I am urban middle class generation X. I live in an apartment in Kyanja and drink whiskey out of a tumbler, not a satchet. I have several pairs of shoes, glasses and wristwatches, even though I only have one pair each of eyes, feet and wrists.
I don’t know who my LC is. I don’t even know what: Male, female, Jedi, Sith, kree, skrull, sponge, starfish, Ironno. As for my MP, if it’s not Bobi or Semujju, it’s an amorphous, abstract concept. I am that type of person.
But it is negligent of any citizen to not pay close attention to elected leaders. If we are not watchful, they do things under our noses and get away with it, and we gradually, slowly but inevitably end up… well, we end up where we are now as Uganda, where we know that constant vigilance is the price of freedom but vigilance just shows us how little we have left, how derelict the thing became while we were slacking in our duty to watch, while we were buying slacks and watches. The type of person cannot remain hopeful after watching Parliament for long. We give up in despair. We just allow.
We don’t believe in parliament, we don’t trust you. We don’t expect anything from you. So when we read such stories, me and that type of person don’t feel any actual real outrage. Not even surprise.
This type of person that I am, this limp, ineffectual, damp-tissue, waste of a citizen, looks at parliament and says, “We know that type of peron.” We went to school with some of these MPs. Especially the younger ones. When we were in S1 they were in S6 and we can be bold in stating that the type of person who ends up in Parliament is usually smug, self obsessed, entitled and spoiled, their personalities made up of only two elements: greed and narcissism. They were the kind of fucks who would bully us and expect us to feel honoured by the attention.
Our MPs told us that the reason they constantly drain the little granary of this poor country, is us. We are needy.
They need to constantly re-up because it’s expensive being an MP. Many live under massive debt, they lament, because there is pressure from constituents who expect the MP to fund all the funerals and weddings and graduation ceremonies and baptisms and cleansing rituals and curse ceremonies in the area they represent. They spent truckloads of coin getting elected, and spend more staying elected, they need raises. After raises. After raises.
Followed by tax exemptions, and allowances, and increments, and more and more and more money.
But if I have identified the problem, perhaps I should take a stab at identifying a solution. It’s going to sound like I am being flippant, but stick with me. It might actually work.
Here’s the question… If it is so unrewarding being an MP, why do you want it so bad anyway? Why don’t you just, not be an MP?
Is it because you are scared so shitless of the prospect of an unchecked tyranny that you can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t live with yourself if you are not out there on the frontlines fighting day after day, session after plenary session, holding back the hand of Thanos, so frightened that you will sacrifice everything, even plunge yourself and your people into ruinous debt just to make sure that he power of the executive branch is kept in check? Is that it? Is that why?
What’s the deal? What’s up? Is it that the Angel of Destiny, the Archangel Uriel, did appear unto thee and spake thus, “Lo, thou art anointed to save Uganda. Go forth unto parliament.” And now you, personally, must be there to help steer the budgets and the resources and the diplomatic relationships and the laws and freedom of your people, no matter how much it costs you, us, and Uganda, so you really have no choice?
Is that it? Is that the reason?
If that’s the case I am sorry. I have sorely misjudged you. I thought you were a selfish crook bent on draining your nation. Kumbe instead of offering blind insults like a hayra I should offer some helpful advice.
Let me offer helpful advice. I have learned my lesson.
How about, instead of stretching our nation’s thin financial resources even further, instead of getting cars, get the Safeboda app. Or a pioneer bus pass. That is way cheaper. I barely ever drive my own Spacio, not since I got the safeboda app.
Also, there is decent housing here in Kyanja for much cheaper than those bloated mansions you guys seem to be trapped in. This will free a lot of money to pay off constituents handouts.
Or…wait ..or… Wait. Hear me out… Or…
Just tell them no.
“O honourable member and Lord, majestic beyond the ken of a mere peasant like me, mighty and blessed, noble and graceful, I throw myself at your feet, fling myself at your mercy to plead. My son must wed his maiden: 17 million Shillings please. May the pagan gods of our local shrines bequeath upon thine lush beard even more luster,” they grovel.
Just say no.
“If you don’t give us money we won’t vote for you again,” they will say?
You reply, “Good. Then I can get out of this penury trap and get a real job.”
Here’s the thing. If everyone refuses to be extorted like this, that threat loses it’s sting. If they won’t vote for people who they can’t blackmail, who will they vote for? They will have to vote for someone.
I think they will end up voting actual honourable people instead.
Here’s my Idea. You know the saying, “If you really believe in what you are doing you will do it for free?” Or at least you will do it for as little money as you need to stay alive and fed enough to keep doing it? You know, like those raggedy UPE teachers (the good ones, not the sex offenders) or those raggedy village priests ( the good ones not the sex offenders) or cops (as previously parenthesized again).
If MPs are poor, their constituents won’t expect anything more from them than an honest day’s work. Shiiiyet if you are any good they will be the ones sending you matooke and a chicken or two once in a while.
So, slash mp salaries allowances and incomes. Place these donations and stuff under the category of vote buying or voter influence and outlaw them, repeal that stupid OTT tax and let us proceed.
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.