Online, East Africans are fighting like family, offline we are living in a Bond movie

Friday January 12 2018

Feud

East African countries have been fighting like family. Teasing and dissing and hurt feelings all over the place. But a heck of a lot of knowing or informing each other about the current situations on the ground and their complexities, if you know where to look. FOTOSEARCH 

By ELSIE EYAKUZE
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Hello. If the world was run by women, do you think we would be witnessing a situation where two powerful leaders of nuclear capable countries were taunting each other over the size of their... um... “button?”

No, seriously. Just close your eyes and picture your mother right this minute. Okay, now open them. Think about it. Yes, that was a bit of a cheat: Every culture venerates mothers for a reason.

About 72 hours into this new year, and Donald Trump was engaged in a you-know-what measuring contest with Kim Jong Un over exactly this. On a social media platform.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a James Bond movie! Unfortunately the scriptwriters had a minor stroke while working on our draft so things are a bit off.

What’s the saying? Oh, yeah: Every nuclear mushroom cloud comes with a silver lining. I am determined to embrace at least one aspect of this fever dream we’re living in: The casualness of it all. As we speed toward extinction, at least in our collective communications with each other the human race is becoming a lot more egalitarian. And along the way we’re getting pretty chill too.

You know how much criticism the internet gets, and social media. Rightly so: It has been mutated from its relatively innocent and well-meaning roots to what it is now.

Oh, you know, the usual boring story — first came the money then came the corruption that comes with monetisation and then came the socio-political manipulation blah blah blah now we’re here and Vladimir Putin is going to find a way to use it to hold the world hostage or die trying (remember: We’re living in a Bond, James Bond movie.)

But on the other side of that, where it is not all fake news and advertising, there is a beautiful communion going on. These platforms are more often used to share more than anything else. So it has been fun to silently observe how the East African Community handles mutual conversation on important social and political matters on the platforms. In our EAC, the past year has been instructive.

The litmus test is always how we regular folks talk about two things: Our Heads of State, and economic matters.

Online, because people aren’t forced to kneel and clap and call people “your excellency,” it is easy enough to get a sense of how near or far we are to each other.

How we all react to our neighbours talking about our resident Big Men says it all. Better still is what we choose to express about some country or other announcing the building of a port, or a railway line, or the abolishment of work visa requirements.

Lately, East African countries have been fighting like family. Teasing and dissing and hurt feelings all over the place.

None of the formality of that EAC institution with it’s trying-too-hard attitude and its completely incurable tone-deafness. But a heck of a lot of knowing or informing each other about the current situations on the ground and their complexities, if you know where to look. It is a contradictory piece of evidence that we might just be getting the community part of things right.

Online we are organic and probably only a few steps away from that ludicrous kumbaya technosocialism I am hankering after. This gentle disappearance of formality is a rather nice effect of globalisation.

I like to think that we were egalitarian societies once, and have watched a few documentaries about pre-technological societies to confirm this cherished bias.

Through the aid of infotech we are going back to that beautiful albeit probably completely romanticised way of life. One that includes drum circles and friendship bracelets.

Offline, though? Not so much. Offline we are very firmly in that Bond, James Bond, world of struggling with the quality of leadership and wondering if seriously in 2018 we’re going to still do the generic African despot trope as our contribution to this Bond, James Bond world. Mildly ridiculous.

In the meantime, just to bring up how feminism is seriously needed right now: Has your mother ever compared the size of her button with another woman within earshot of you?

Honestly, we need to talk. This plot could use a refresh.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, http://mikochenireport.blogspot.com. E-mail: [email protected]