Fun quiz time: Do you know all of Mobutu’s names (the ones he gave himself) and what they mean? If you do, there’s something not quite right with you. And if you don’t, you are reaching for your phone right to get onto the internet, aren’t you? Because that’s what a person living in the 21st Century does.
Isn’t the internet great? Imagine, people have created one of the most comprehensive libraries in the history of humankind. Better than Alexandria, Timbuktu, and on top of that it is interactive.
You no longer have to only consume the carefully curated musings of 90 per cent men and five per cent women who have had to be approved by a publisher. You can just read whoever shows up. And my goodness, isn’t humanity interesting?
The internet or some iteration of it has been predicted for years. All technologies have, from robots to spaceships and perpetual energy. But it used to be hard to actually get hold of this kind of historical — and also futuristic — information for yourself. It took effort, cunning, and unfortunately, a lot of privilege. Like, education privilege.
So many of us grow up believing that there is a correlation between education and intelligence. That’s what I was told, and that’s what gets rewarded in my society. In spite of warnings to the contrary like akili nyingi huondoa maarifa (too much thought kills creativity) and "common sense is not that common."
As a result, far too many men believe that they are better than they are with their four doctorate degrees while calling themselves Dr because a university gave them an honorary degree.
I hate to admit that it took me a while and a deep interest in politics to find out that intellect and success do not go together all that often. It is what it is.
The internet is partly to thank for this. Yes, yes — everybody knows that social media is a cesspit of horror and vileness.
And eventually we’ll talk about the deep and dark nets. But the internet is mostly made up of regular people and if you pick the right social media you can have the world on a string… or a wireless bundle to be more precise. Even ugliness can be beautiful and instructive: You may observe people and situations that make you want to do better.
Or maybe be more courageous, take a risk, start a business, have an idea, learn how to contain a tear-gas canister during a peaceful protest. The possibilities are endless either way.
This is what makes the internet the most valuable library we have ever built to date. It’s entry fees are low, and with a bit of effort almost all knowledge can be at your disposal.
It is addictive not because people only want to escape reality, it is addictive because our brains are created to crave knowledge.
Every so often when a story crops up of an African youth who has built an engine out of mud and spit, I wonder how much this nearly free sharing of skill had to do with it. Society is not, and never can be, a one-man show.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]