Elders: Perhaps you think that we have not been paying attention to your lives and stories. I cannot imagine why, since they set the context and complications of our own lives.
Institutional memory is something that you have in spades and that we are beginning to document, with the help of technology. This is an excellent time to be a historian and as with any African country, Tanzania has a fascinating contemporary history to explore.
Yes, history. It is hard for people to think that they are living in history as it happens, the language of modernity discourages that. We are constantly bombarded with propaganda about development and mired in the unidirectional futurism it demands.
I am guilty too, I once worked to be part of the machine of development. But then I started listening to the news, reading it, filling in the blanks with anecdotes from friends and acquaintances and clients and that was that.
The continuous present was revealed as the moving moment of story weaving the past with the future.
Institutional memory is a key component in this continuous present, giving shape to situations and context to decision-makers that they really should not ignore. I trust that the machinery of State of Tanzania does its best to honour this.
Things have only gone wrong because my State seems to imagine that we the people are not privy to this same institutional memory. Perhaps this fiction is upheld to serve the separation: Those in power and those who are ruled.
Those who know and those who don’t. The in-groups and the plebs.
Deliberately giving rise to what Jenerali Ulimwengu called “a cerebral brushland, tended by philosophical Lilliputians.” As if.
That would be the dream, wouldn’t it? Jenerali fears that Chachage’s “collective imbecilization” is at play. In the dynamic I have described of the continuous present, the forces of stupidity have failed to establish a permanent grip on Tanzania — yet.
After all, Jenerali is still working to inform and berate us and tickle our striving intellects with literary references from authors of yore.
Contemporaries of his like Issa Shivji move amongst us, revered whenever they open their mouths to remind us academics need not be remotely confined to ivory towers.
They inspire fresher crops of thinkers and doers to emulate them, and we are legion. Intellectually speaking, those of us younger than them and burdened with ambitions of power and future presidency must withstand their scrutiny.
This is Tanzania after all, the land of storied socialist suits and historical files kept in family closet. Even a minister can be crushed with a simple socialist statement: “You know, when your father and I were building the country during Independence years…” Eh waaah.
We might have technology on our side, but we don’t have The Struggle of Independence on our Curriculae Vitae and it haunts us in this continuous present. How else will we write our names in the annals of Tanzanian history, if not through the valiant cause of patriotism as we see it? Hence we take on DP World as the current iteration of the eternal march forward.
Yesterday, Loliondo. Today, DP World. Tomorrow, the next thing. For better, for worse — Tanzania pulses like our beating hearts because within her bloodstream flow citizens rich with institutional memory.
Next week: leviathans and the schisms they create. After that maybe let’s talk how we really use Kiswahili to cleave together and apart.