Compassion. Empathy. Patience and chill. Oh, also music. What do these things have to do with politics, you ask? A lot.
Last week’s article used Duterte and Trump as stand-ins for the Big Men in my region who have displayed less than kind behaviours. I did it because a well-raised African woman would never directly critique her elders and chiefs in public.
We have a crisis of followership, in the sense that there is a habit in our East African communities of blindly obeying authority figures who inherited oppressive power structures from the colonisers. And I have been obsessing about what philosophy can counteract this. While trying not to read 1960s African literature too much.
With all due respect to our elders, we just can’t bow down to them anymore. When someone who doesn’t know what Twitter is tries to legislate your life, it is okay to step back a little. Yes, in their time they were lions. But that was in their time. In this time, they just are.
I say that with respect, though. My generation grew up in the times when men had square chins or magnificent beards and women smelled like honey and stung like bees. They forged their destinies with calloused village hands and sheer grit.
Good for them. We are just as much in need of reasonable, measured and humble communal service as anyone else is at the moment. And yes, maybe a little attachment to land. Taking care of plants and animals makes one a bit easier, a bit sweeter.
So how do they not see that our own quests for freedom involve the same needs? Calloused village hands and the hope of a better future. Yes. Our modern calloused village hands and soft city hands want universal healthcare and education, just a touch of peace, clean air and a chance to maybe not starve or feel enslaved.
When did that become too much to ask between us as Africans?
My peers and I are raising children now. This is not an intellectual exercise at all. My peers and I are raising children and the question is: How? What values? What future are we building for them? How do we get there?
The philosophy part is in the use of the word we. How did we lose the word we? We used to do stuff for we. It was a privilege to respect the we in We The People. It was good to dance.
It was good to be young. It was wise to be old. Compassion. Empathy. Patience and chill. Oh, also music. What do these things have to do with politics, you ask? A lot.
I don’t think we shall triumph at all with our newfound obsession with money.
I think modernity is tricky in a way we haven’t explored because we let donors and colonisers define it.
I think the long slumber of forgetting our histories is coming to bite us. And I think it is okay, nay, exciting to see the present that Africa 2.0 is inventing.
I don’t want to deny the dark sides, the creeping terrorists and the weird evangelists trying to kidnap girls or monitor your phone for pornography or murder their girlfriends.
I just want to say we are and always have been better than this. But articulating Neo Utu and African Renaissance is proving to be a challenge. Next week again?
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. Email: [email protected]