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How I feel when I travel to Europe and America

Every time I travel outside Africa, and sometimes within, two nagging feelings preoccupy me.

First, there are many things one may easily take for granted about this small country that can only be appreciated while away. The wide variety of natural foods that are relatively easy to access turn out to be among the most expensive in Europe and America! 

You enter a special food store and look at the tiny wrinkled avocados and low-taste bananas with price tags that would fetch a full truck of jackfruit back home. All these grow unplanted and un-watered in many parts of Uganda!

You start flashing back to the fruit stalls that beautifully line our highways all year through; meanwhile, you are eating bread after bread, with leaves in-between. It’s partly a matter of cultural difference that should be appreciated; but even with the relativism of taste, what beats natural foods? 

Except the occasional excesses of heat, Uganda’s weather that is bearable with little extra effort all year through also becomes an object of emotion when winter sets in. No need to warm houses at any time of the year, and also possible to survive comfortably without air conditioning. We are nature’s pampered children.

One theory of underdevelopment holds that perhaps the excessive favour that we were given by nature sent us into relaxing and using less of our brains – call them temptations of abundance. Just like a child from a rich family may not learn to toil, for they will still eat, anyway. In the logic of this geographical determinism, we are not pushed to deeply exercise our minds to innovate, because we can survive at nature’s minimum, anyway. 

For those that found themselves in harsh places, innovation was not an option. As is the evolutionary principle (survival for the fittest), you either adapt or nature flushes you out. But in the process of thinking hard to survive, the mind gradually acquires more innovative abilities and grows even sharper. In such a society, innovation becomes a way of life.

One of the uncomfortable implications of this theory is its inherent suggestion that geographies determine intellectual abilities, which could as well be extended to race (as by Timothy Kalyegira). The theory is also not helped by the fact that some peoples living in very hard conditions haven’t similarly innovated to overcome them. Exceptions?

In line of the spatial differences in innovations to make people’s lives better, this is where my second feeling is located. In admiration of the hosts’ social services and obvious commitment to selflessly making their people’s lives better, you wonder what is wrong with us.

That we often resort to projecting nature’s gifts to showcase what is great about Uganda is a sign that we don’t have much human achievement to tell. There is credit in conserving the foods, wildlife, hot springs, falls, lakes, rivers, and the mountains we boast about. But all this loses meaning where the lives of millions of people remain of poor quality. This is the unpolished side of the ‘Pearl of Africa’. 

One would argue that it is lack of exposure that in turn limits our imagination. Maybe that too. But that might only apply to the people ‘below’ in the sense that their expectations are so low because they may not only lack knowledge of their entitlements but have also not seen better. Their only experience for comparison is Uganda’s past. Hence statements like: “let them steal, at least we can sleep”. This way, having an environment permissive of sleeping became one of our key development indicators for three decades – until we wake up to realise that we were robbed while we slept.

Our leaders have seen much better; theirs is not lack of exposure. On our money, they are always traveling to better-managed countries. They have seen health systems that work, and prefer to be treated there. They have seen effective education systems, and prefer to send their children there. They have seen justice systems that work. They have seen civilised police services. They have walked organized streets. They have gone to visit tourist attractions in countries that care to meticulously conserve and memorialise their heritage.

Yet still, they return to business as usual in this boda boda chaos, a broken healthcare system, corruption, rule by might, a UPE mess, a loose Constitution, presidentialism, and the like! Sometimes you are desperately pushed into agreeing with biological determinists that perhaps there is something inherently wrong with us. Yet this view wouldn’t account for places in Africa where significant progress and commitment have been recorded. 

The lived realisation that we have been cheated for so long is partly the reason why many diaspora people are bitter and often eager to join any strong anti-government initiative. It is also the reason why on some occasions government officials have suffered embarrassing hostility from Africans abroad. Where do they even get the boldness to introduce themselves while enjoying others’ functional systems!

All societies have evolved from lower stages (or the reverse), some without good examples to emulate but only having to dream and forge their destiny through hard lessons, experiments, and sacrifices. Generations that have had a chance to know better should do better; not seeking for a chance to make their own mistakes. 

The idea is not that Uganda should be like European countries or at the technological and services level of America. But, notwithstanding the fact that we are a much younger country with a complicated history, we should be far ahead of where we are. That is not debatable. It is also true that certain imperialistic barriers remain in our way, but the contribution of our own greed, myopia, selfishness, lack of integrity, and incompetence is evidently a much bigger factor for our underdevelopment.

Do these questions ever concern our leaders when they travel?

jsssentongo@umu.ac.ug

Comments

-2 #51 Akot 2019-09-22 19:47
Quoting Winnie:


Lysol was right. Dr. Is caught bragging about a trip abroad. I do not care if he is here or there. Only about the arguments he makes.

There are people who have built this country. They do not talk much. But the ones who have done nothing but extract benefit only notice what is wrong.

It is a culture of entitlement. Expecting others to sacrifice themselves for you while you watch from a safe distance and criticize. This is why they stop helping you and help themselves. It is what you deserve.


Thanks.

Ugandans must by now know that as long as tribal leaders are in posts, USA/Europe won't say a word against Museveni or how he treats them!
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+1 #52 Opolot O. 2019-09-22 23:09
Winnie, it is true that the quality of debate here is so low, especially because of the presence of people like you and Lysol.

It's mostly the two of you that brought childish ad hominem attacks and insults instead of engaging. And you will not convince anyone by insulting them.

You simply attract insults in return and hatred for what you stand for. You have been on record insulting Yusuf for a while now, sometimes without responding to any of his arguments.

And you do this to anyone who expressed disappointment with government... Which debate standards do you have a right to talk about then! No one owes you any standards. You and Lysol belong to fora like Mama Tendo where you can be unbotherdly silly
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-1 #53 Winnie 2019-09-23 00:31
Akot, please interpret me correctly. What we speak about has nothing to do with USA, Europe, Museveni, or tribal leaders.

It has everything to do with you, us, we. The conditions on the ground, whatever they may be, are who we are. Some things are good, others terrible. That is who we are.

Nobody but ourselves can make the changes we desire. We do not need permission. But we do need to accept the responsibility.

Most people do not want responsibility. They want benefit without effort or sacrifice. That cannot work. If Dr. likes museums, let him open one. If he wants better services he can join the public service and serve.

This business of long range 'analysis' without getting hands dirty is for children. Once you engage properly and see how difficult Ugandans are, you will not be so critical in public.
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+4 #54 Jacky 2019-09-23 07:48
Winnie, except if you know EVERYTHING that a person does, don't rush to assume they are not doing anything practically apart from analyzing. Do you want everyone to announce what they've done as an introduction to their analysis?

It is also childish to suggest that everyone who wants better service delivery by government should join politics. Shall we all join politics?

Leaders must always be brought to account. Whoever doesn't like that should quit. It's not private business where you do whatever you want with your money without expecting criticism.

Think. It doesn't hurt
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+1 #55 Lakwena 2019-09-23 08:22
Quoting Lysol:
Trying using other better phrases next time. ...


In other words, everytime Lysol says something, he invents new English words and phrases. E.g. how many words has he repeated in his bile above?

FYI Lysol, repetition is the most important thing in existence/life. Since he was born, Lysol breaths in an out until he dies:

Everyday Lysol eats and Sh*ts the same way but he has not yet invented other ways of doing it.

It is boring and sickening to see Lysol walks left-right, left-right: a repetition which he will perform until he one day kicks the bucket.

In other words Lysol, there is nothing new in life/words. You either had bad teachers or you are bad learner.

The only new thing in the universe, is the history you do not know. So, shut up or start learning.
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0 #56 Lysol 2019-09-23 23:33
In response to the so-called messenger (aka Lakwana (in your language) You will kick the bucket before me(believe me).

Using your own common/boring phrase "in order words" the real courageous Lakwana died/killed a long time ago (RIP) You're nothing but a mere phony here.

You have never posted any original comments at this forum, except trying to interpret or criticize; with that boring/repeated phrase "in order words"

Either you luck ideas of you own or a total moron and luck creativity. As a teacher you're too boring to your students and dirty due to luck of personal hygiene.like your Spire..
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-1 #57 Lakwena 2019-09-24 07:32
Quoting Lysol:
In response to the so-called messenger (aka Lakwana (in your language) You will kick the bucket before me(believe me).

Using your own common/boring phrase "in order words" the real courageous Lakwana died/killed a long time ago (RIP) You're nothing but a mere phony here.

You have never posted any original comments at this forum, except trying to interpret or criticize; with that boring/repeated phrase "in order words"

Either you luck ideas of you own or a total moron and luck creativity. As a teacher you're too boring to your students and dirty due to luck of personal hygiene.like your Spire..


Lysol, I told you already that you are a bad learner. E.g., as above you can't even repeat "In other words", which you write "IN ORDER WORDS"

In other words Lysol, you have flunked a simple kindergarten test of repeating after me, "in other words"!

Go home.
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+1 #58 Opolot 2019-09-24 08:09
The more Lysol the piglet talks the more he exposes his emptiness.

His comments sound like one is just beating a tin. I have never come across someone this daft and terrible at writing.

The must be the people who write on toilet walls! At least Winnie writes poorly reasoned stuff but with proper writing skills
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+1 #59 Lysol 2019-09-24 21:39
Opolot, don't get hypertension because of me. I'm here to annoy some of you and I will drive you nut/crazy. I know more than you will ever know from inside out including the regime.

I'm not here to look for friendship or empathy, but to speak out my mind whether you agree with me or not.

But don't call me names if I don't agree with your views. That is not an healthy debate. Next time I will expose you. I can find anybody/ or anything if I want to Don't get personal with me You will come to regret it.

God does not like ugly. "Lysol" is not any individual but many individuals/groups. Go on with your life if you get any.
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-1 #60 Opolot 2019-09-25 08:19
Lysol the piglet, I'm here trembling that you are going to find and punish me. I'm so scared sir.

You are now doing what your government does best: intimidating opponents. Little punk, if you don't want to be called names then don't start it. Otherwise we will choke you on your medicine.

And don't cry for us, no body cares how you feel. Enjoy your mud dear piglet of the platform. If you want decent debate, be decent (which I doubt your small brain can afford). I even doubt you understand the articles you respond to. A fool (pig) can't identify wise stuff, it takes an intelligent person
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