Let us not be swept away by the negative proceeds of development
By Deo K Tumusiime
In olden days, people lived in huts situated in homesteads. They had no perimeter walls, shared grazing lands and water points, supported each other at time of planting, weeding and harvest, and shared, each according to their endowment.
Children had unlimited access to a neighbor's house and were welcome over lunch anytime. They played, hunted, fetched water together and learnt from each other. Neighbors invited each other over local brewed beer and community elders were on hand to resolve conflict. When these things prevailed, Uganda was considered underdeveloped.
Fast forward, and pricy iron sheets came into the mix, replacing the cost-free grass thatched houses. People started amassing individual property and saw the need to jealously guard it by building raised concrete walls.
Resultantly, they became cautious of each other. Children who once freely played together on common community spaces, are now required to remain indoors for security reasons. In fact, even adults that once lived happily as members of the same community, now live each in their own enclosure, and life seems ok! The gates are only opened when bereaved.
Conflict is now resolved before judges and it's a winner takes all bias. Religion after religion has sprung up, and leaders of various religious sects fight each other for supremacy. "My God is stronger", they say, in total neglect of the inalienable fact that creator God is one and the same. Uganda is thence a developed country!
While I do not dispute the fact that all the niceties we see today are positive attributes of our time, there's not been deliberate effort to guard the social values that once enabled us to live as one human family.
Everyone in the community now yearns to drive a car, many driving singly in 5-seater vehicles; building mansions with several rooms to spare; and those with some food produce, want to send it all to the market in exchange of tinted paper called money. And while this happens, an immediate neighbour starves. We ask….How do I know you?
History has it that at a time T, employers flocked Makerere University and booked students for employment before they even graduated.
Today, with more and more universities and hundreds of courses, the situation has changed. Graduates walk door to door in search for opportunities. At one time, having qualification was enough for one to compete for a job, but now employers demand several years in experience and increasingly a question is key….How do I know you?
Talking of the how-do-I-know-you business, I feel inclined to share some personal experiences:
The tribal question: I was lucky to have worked with former Uganda Vice President, Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe. As far as I know, she chose to associate with me on merit, based on her interaction with my literary works.
A Harvard schooled senior Citizen, Speciosa did not interrupt my Independent writing during my service to her. I retained my absolute freedom to analyse and critiqued some government inconsistencies on top of my other writings. Even if she's a Musoga by tribe and I, a Munyankole-Muganda, at no time did our tribal differences show up in our professional interaction.
Time and again though, I was faced with people who sought to find out just how I (a Munyankole-Muganda) came to work with Speciosa, a Musoga of such high status! One day a guy bumped into the office and straight away jazzed me Lusoga. He looked disturbed when I told him my tribe.
In his view (I suppose), anyone working closely with Wandira-Kazibwe, had to be a Musoga! Hmmm. He may not have said so, but it was implied. And increasingly, the question…How do I know you, seems to be a key determinant for jobs across the country today.
Life in Kampala! My life in Kampala and later in Entebbe showed me just how people want to be left alone. Someone does not know a neighbour next door, and they are not bothered at all. Sometimes one even passes on in the neighbourhood and close neighbors don't know or they don't care.
When I moved to Entebbe, I looked up phone numbers of my neighbours and asked to visit them. Many were shocked, but receptive. I told them, that for as long as they look up to the sky and the sky is blue, it did not matter where each of us came from.
Provided we lived in the same village, we were now members of one family. Resultantly, I and my family had Easter lunch at a neighbor's home; and we now occasionally exchange foods and other pleasantries with at least 5 other homes.
I coordinated an outing on May 13th 2017, attended by 26 members of Bubuli village at the Garuga Resort Beach. We shared lunch as one family, played games and had skits to depict our oneness before God despite our diversity.
Let us not be swept away by the negative proceeds of development. As long as we all live under the Blue sky; each of us has red blood running in our bodies; we are all born babies of a woman and we al(lso) die.
We, therefore, must live together and act towards each other as brothers and sisters. These are our central identity and must be used to define our relationship to each other. You need not know everyone in order to identify with them, for as long as they are human like you.
I love meeting new people and I get surprised when many ask…how do I know you? Often I reply with a smile---You don't know me, but I am happy to identify with you, because we are both human.
Receive people into your hearts not because of what they are but who they are---Human beings. Often we hide behind the excuse that human beings are bound err, but to be human is our greatest strength and not a weakness.
The writer is communications consultant