Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tackling Tough Questions

I am a cynic. And that is a bad thing.

It is hard to look at life with knowledge of what is, knowing how good and loving human beings can be, and observing how cruel we can be to one another. A few days ago, I was standing in the KPC entrance. Was approached by a man. Told me a sad story, a refugee, from a Western African country, with no food to eat, and begging for a bit of money. I looked at him, and felt for him.

But I did not give him a cent.

Begging in Uganda is an art, a gut wrenching business that is lucrative. I have lived too long in Kampala not to realize that that is the truth. Yet with no social system, or net in the city, life can be very cruel for one who does not have a fallback position. So, begging, like all other things, is abused. And those who are in real need suffer for it.

When I see the families that come from Karamoja. Kids less than 2, seated in discipline on the street, a hand out, dozing. Bored, but for the knowledge of what mum will do if the child runs away to play in the busy street; that makes me feel. Yes, even me, my cynical mind sometimes does get touched. But if I give, then those children will never leave the street. Life’s vicious cycle.

The Obama speech.

It was not politics. It was life. And a hardheaded look at a contentious issue that he used his celebrity status to focus the attention of the nation on a subject that is not discussed. Race is not discussed in the US. Well, in Uganda, sex is not discussed, except the ‘good, moral’ sex of a married couple. And that marital bed is reputedly free of discord. You wish!

In Uganda, we are having a very destructive dialogue. We are a fractious nation. During my lifetime, I have noted that we have grown more into a unit than we were before. But the land wars that have spilt over into the national dialogue are reminding me very strongly that we are not a unit. We are Ugandans. But our tribal and ethnic groups are the root of out identity. And the president seems bent on reminding the whole of the nation.

The Obama speech resonates with me.

Why do we fear to talk about some things?

When I was seething with anger at Christianity, I was doing my best not to talk about it. Because I was sure that it would anger others who believed, for me to pour out my ire at faith. Yet, doing so on this blog made me realize that it was a problem, and then going ahead to solve it, letting the anger go.

Will this happen in the US? Maybe. Seems as if something is happening.

And for me in Uganda? The charm of Obama is the fact that he seems to be bent on challenging the stereotypes of the self serving politician. And ready to go out on a limb. Of course he is a human being, so he has failings. But that is a great thing. He may be elected, or not. He may be the democratic nominee, or not. But for all that, that speech makes me want to give him a kiss. (Err, no, not a romantic one, though…)

Sigh, is someone smitten?I assure you not!



Princess said...


The beggar question is a tough one.
Is this one beggar for real?
Should I , should I not?
Cynicism becomes a necessity, especially when you see the same guy trying to sell his story to different people everyday...

DeTamble said...

Once I gave a beggar $20, didn't know if I should or not but I did. It was a lot of money. I've never seen anyone looking so hopeless. He wasn't even begging he was just sitting on the bridge and he was so thin. I saw him when my bus drove by and then I got off it and walked back and handed the note over. I still don't know if it I should have or not, but I did. So lucky him.

gayuganda said...


more than likely that was the right thing to do.


DeTamble said...

Well, I'm glad you think so. I went hungry for the next day. I hope he ate something though.

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