Tuesday, June 18, 2013

After the Uganda Cranes win, the Abimanyi Tribalism Antidote

His name was Emmanuel Okwi.

And as a result of his deed on Saturday, people whose names end with Mukasa, and Mbabazi, and Isabirye, and Mugisa, and Chandia, and Lokodo, and Odeke, and Cheptoyek, and Katuramu, were treated to a night of sheer ecstasy, when their flames of hidden patriotism were rekindled, brought to life and they proudly flaunted that famous blend of black, yellow and red.  

People like Tony Mawejje, David Obua and yes, Stephen Kiprotich had managed to do so before, to bring joy and a sense of united purpose to a country so divided along the volcanic fault lines of ethnicity, as ours is.

And yet, after the music had faded, the dust settled and the DJ had packed his plates and headed to his next jig, the sense of united purpose evaporated into gaseousness. We quickly returned to our old self where we define ourselves along the lines of ‘we’ and ‘them’. “Those Baganda” and “Those Bahima” and “Those Northies” returned to replace such wordings as “We Believe” and “We go.”

It feels like we were grunted a siesta in heaven, and, just like that, we had been banished away, back into the damnation that our existence really is.

But no. Just like we are good enough to forget our tribal differences, and, on the terraces of Namboole, hug whoever is in sight without considering what the size of their nose is, or the colour of their skin after a Cranes win, I believe we are better than the combined negative energy that our innate susceptibility to segregation brings forth.

We can take this opportunity to choose to look for the good in people from varying ethnicities, because we now know, only too well, that when we look hard, we will see it.

It has to be a choice. We cannot depend on our nature for this.

Human nature is probably one of the most corrupted forms of existence. Vices, such as hatred, anger and bigotry, are signed into the human signature like a seal. It occurs naturally to humans to resent, hate, and segregate. And if we are to defeat segregation, we need to accept this fact.

That is how humans act in their natural state, the state of the jungle, because essentially, humans are animals. The difference, however, is that we have advanced so much beyond other animals, we, literally, do not stay in the jungle anymore. We have devised means of beating our natural state of living in caves and trees to preferring the warmth of a duvet and the coolness of an air-conditioned office. What we have not fully done yet, is to manage to beat our innate nature that easily falls prey to such instincts as hatred and bigotry.

That is where the strength of informed will comes in. The negative stereotypes that exist about various ethnicities, may have a ring of truth to them. But they are not all there is about the people from a said group. It is probably true that there do exist arrogant Bakiga out there, and insincere Baganda and foolish Basoga and sexually immoral Batooro. But, hey, there are just as many in every ethnicity. And yet, each one of these ethnicities has something good to offer. All you have to do is look for it. And choose not to see the bad.

Our nature will drive us to see evil and hate people from different ethnicities. Our intelligence should drive us to tame ourselves, to bring ourselves into check and neutralise the wild jungle-man in us.

It takes such acts as tolerance, knowing not to laugh at a foreign language because you think it sounds like gibberish, forgetting that yours too, sounds like gibberish to them. It takes accepting that our cultures are different but that if we live and let live, we can improve each other and learn a lot from each other’s cultures. It takes openness to listen and learn and the serenity not to fall prey to the dangers of the false airs of ethnic superiority, where imperfect as you are, you can write off people from a certain region as ugly. It takes accepting that we cannot live in the pre-1880 ages anymore. The British came, screwed us, and like the masters of pragmatism that we are, we must learn how to live in a republic that does not reflect our ethnic roots.

And here comes the importance of intermarriage. I find that if a child is born to parents from diverging ethnicities, it is easier for that child to tolerate other ethnicities than one born to parents from the same tribe. A lot of the views that shape our attitudes towards certain ethnicities, start at home, on the dining table and behind those private doors where small family talk is made.

I cannot exactly ask you to look for love out of your tribe because love has no formulae. But yes, if at all you ever, ever fell in love with someone from another tribe, do not let the bigots wear you down. And yes, if you are a parent, teach your child that there is more to the world than the tribal boundaries they have been born into. You will have done all of us a whole lot of good.

The next time a Uganda Cranes win is registered, I will want to be there. I have been there before and would not exchange any other Ugandan experience for that. It is the ultimate Ugandan experience. I will want to nourish my nerves on that sense of oneness that has so badly eluded this country. We will be all so happy; we will be one tribe.

But I think waiting for the next Uganda Cranes game is too long a wait. So I will not wait till then. I will choose to beat down tribalism and leave it behind just like my race left the uncouth mannerisms of walking about undressed, in the past.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Look Where My Head Has Got Me

They said use your head; but look where my head has got me.

They said think before you leap, or you will slip.
They said think before you speak, or else you will spend your life eating your words.
They said be guarded, be disciplined, learn to manage your urges, to control yourself, get a hold of yourself for crying loud. Do not let your nerves stray out in the prickly wild unattended, they said. Hold your nerves on a short leash, a very short leash so you can learn living a life of restraint.

So I used my head.
I thought before I leaped.
I thought before I spoke. (tried to).
I held my nerves on a short leash and the long result was that every time they warmed up in such a natural rise of excitement, I held them back in vehement defiance, submitting any decision to risk analyses and profit and loss speculations and quadratic equations where I searched for the tangent and the coefficient and balanced the books to make sure the assets outweighed the liabilities. I am now an expert on human risk analyses.

But look where my head has got me.
The natural reward of fulfilment on following one’s instincts has been replaced by the metal-nerved lifelessness of insurance policy sellers who suck the very life out of life by seeing everything through the faulty spectacles of profit and loss.

So I do not want to use my head, this time round.
The tide is high and the risks are even higher.
The sea is blowing with a fury of an angered evil spirit. So maybe the ship could sink, heck, it actually may sink. But I will choose to go out to sea. And not sit by my laurels on the shore, watching for the sailors surging majestically on a billowing tide.

They said use your head; but look where my head has got me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Come, let’s breed the next generation of thieves

She walked back home with a leap in her step. Her toes, hard, crusted and baked under the heat, kicked and tossed up small clouds of dust along the way, for she had no shoes.

She held three exercise books in her right hand. Her left hand, holding a red lead pencil, was busy, caught up in the complex task of holding her blue hole-riddled skirt from slipping down from her waist, for the skirt had no buttons.

She finally made it home, a journey which included jumping across the one-metre-wide trench of waste and filth, and jumping over saucepans and basins and babies crawling towards inflamed cooking stoves.

She sat in the one-roomed house that was a living room during the day but a bedroom during the night for both her three siblings, and, their parents. She’d been dismissed from school. Again. And this time round, signs were that it would probably be the last time.

She was 12 years old now, soon making 13. Her breasts had started tearing straight through her chest the way shoots germinate from the soil. She would never go back to school again because there was simply no money to pay for the tuition. In fact, her elder brother, now 16, was already out of school. He was now at a video shack watching movies. Later in the day, he would go to town to meet a friend who had promised to enlist him in a gang where he would learn how to make money very quickly.

Three years later, she would be pregnant with her first child after becoming a regular in the slum’s prostitution circuit. She would have followed straight into her mother’s steps. Her brother would be a bullet-scar boasting burglar, furnishing his skills in lock-disabling. He would have followed straight into his father’s footsteps.

Ten years later, she will have three children. Twenty years later, she will have six children, maybe more. But she will still be too poor to take them all to school. And at 12 years old, her first born child would drop out of school. By 16, she would be a mother. And by 32, she too would have six children.

The bullet-scar boasting burglar would graduate into a hard-core criminal, with a CV boasting of high profile murders and kidnappings, in 10 years’ time. He too would have six children in 20 years’ time, or more, but from five mothers, or more. And at 16, his first born son, already dropped out of school, would also join his first gang, and start a life-long career in thievery.

And the cycle of poverty and crime and destitution would continue, unhindered, for this section of the urban poor. While the country's thought process bothered itself on how it would provide the next generation of scientists and innovators, there would absolutely be no need to worry about where the next generation of thieves would come from; because with every pregnancy conceived, a steady supply of robbers and thieves, for generations to come, would be maintained.

And maybe, just maybe, you think poor people should not be allowed to give birth.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The tragedy of the introvert with extroverted friends

You know them. Extroverts, I mean. I am talking about fellows who will walk into a restaurant, and after collecting their cup of juice, will ignore all those empty and primly located tables and chairs in the lounge, and head to the one table that has one or even two occupants. The fellow will very unashamedly choose to distort a romantic conversation, all in the name of being social.

Chances are, about 6 out of 10 of the chances, that you, the dear reader of this very despicable gibberish, is an extrovert. So, yes, I am writing about people like you.

Extroverts thrive on energy. They seem to be so full of life. They seem to live life like a seedling in its sprouting season in the nursery bed. They are the focus of the party, focus of their cliques, the ones who talk and others listen. You know them.

They can be very weird. The guy, and yes, girl too, will walk into a taxi, and straight away, start conversing to whoever it may concern, about anything, even the colour of the tarmac road, even if you have your ears plugged in.

Every meeting is a chance to start a 30-minute or longer conversation. They have no respect for the peace. You know those times when you just want to sit there and reflect on this empty world that we live in. I am sorry to say you will not have the peace to reflect with an extrovert by your side. Just when you think they have finally shut up and it is now time to engage your mental faculties, the fellow comes up with this “very interesting” jazz about a friend of theirs who is going to get married and that it will be very interesting. And then they will come up with something else that is equally interesting for you to hear all over again.

Have you ever looked forward to watching a really good movie? You know what I mean, one of those intensely grabbing romance acts whose trailer you saw last month and have finally run into the DVD. You know what...run like hell if one of those overly extroverted friends of yours wants to come and watch it with you. The fellow will commentate the entire thing, from the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion roar, to the closing act, making you feel like you have been watching enjogerere.

I tend to find all the above easy to deal with because, well, the extroverts are only acting like their nature drives them to.

Now, there are times when they are simply being sons of, for luck of a better word, a she dog.

The extrovert, very well knowing that you don’t very much fancy public functions and parties and dinners and luncheons and breakfasts and reunions and the entire kaleidoscope of  harres, will come, all hands and voices raised high, and scream. “Uhh, chiiiiillllllyyyyyyy, man, guess whattt! There is this party going down tonight at Cayenne!!! Cindy said she is coming too. I hear even Keko will come too. Man Chilllyyy it’s going to be hot. We will have so much fun. You have got to be there. You can’t miss this.”

Chances are you will have already heard this kind of thing. You know it will not be hot. You know there will not be fun. You know that you can miss it. But this fellow practically drags you to the event by the noose.

So you go. Being the more reserved, quiet and introverted type, you will enter the party and calmly sit by the edges, where there is probably a bit of fresh air, or where you can scan the horizons and catch the beauty of the hills, without grossly getting in the way of the merrymakers, who you don’t even know in the first place. The fellow who dragged you to the party will forget you as soon as you arrive there. He, or she, the very life of the party, will proceed to hi-5 with everybody that cares to raise his or her hands up. They will scream alongside the other people who are so high on life, they nearly infect you with their ‘happiness’.

All the while, you will endure the pain, and torture, and virtual terrorism of having to scream when you want to yawn. You will not get the chance to enjoy your beer in the deep refreshing serenity of quietness.

And at the end of the party, when the walk out of whichever bar you have been at feels like Nelson Mandela’s walk out of Robben Island, your extroverted companion will grab you by the hand and exclaim how they have had the time of their lives. You will think they are joking. But they won’t be joking. “Ahhh, Chiilllyyyyy, I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun! Lawwd have mercy! This was greaaattt!”

And if you are unfortunate enough to be dating such a person, the answer to the question of whether you will get some on the night, will depend on how you respond to these exclamations. So, you will say, “Yes, that was great. I had so much fun,” yet, if you could, you would delete the evening from your memory.

The other thing is that extroverts love to talk, even when they are supposed to shut the screaming hell, up. Extroverts should know that they are not the only ones with “shit” they have to share to a “close friend.”

You know those times when you are going through real shit and you need to just unload it onto a friend. Well, woe betide thee if all your friends are extroverts...because they won’t listen, even one small bit. Hell, they may not even hear you. This is because extroverts act like they are the only ones with stuff to talk about.

Every time you meet them, they will jazz you about how they woke up late that morning, or how they did not have good enough breakfast, or how their neighbour has malaria. They will tell you all about their plans, to build houses, buy cars, become CEOs, give birth to twins, become a member of parliament, learn how to drive, buy a new phone, join Twitter, everything and anything.

But they will never, not even once, give you the chance to say just one thing that is happening in your life...it is like your life is not happening. At all.

You will approach the fellow to let them know that you have been sacked from a job. But the fellow will instead go on talking about how they discovered a new way of loading airtime faster on the phone. You will not get a chance to talk. If you do, they may say sorry, and straight after that, go on about how the new method of loading airtime is also more efficient than anything you have ever seen.

You will feel cheated. You will feel like the fellow does not deserve your friendship. Extroverts will make you feel insignificant. Like you don’t matter. But you have got to understand them. They are only living as their nature drives them to. It is the tragedy of the introvert with extroverted friends.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That guy is from Africa. That shit doesn’t count

Everybody has their first time. My first time was just a few weeks ago...when an American blogger told the rest of the world that my views are so unimportant, they don’t matter... because I am African.

Let me start from the beginning.

A few months ago, after experiencing outages with my Google Chrome browser, (I still experience them, especially on slow connections), I opted to use Internet Explorer 9. It worked. In fact, it worked way better than previous Internet Explorer browsers had worked, and, it worked better than Chrome was working.

So I decided to tweet about it. This is what I tweeted in lower case. “I think I am starting to have trouble with Google Chrome. And for the first time, I am finding IE a better browser. IE9, that is.”

A fellow who operates Internet Explorer’s twitter account picked it up and retweeted it. Weeks or months later, Internet Explorer used my tweet in a marketing campaign for its browser. And that is when all hell broke loose.

Users who find Internet Explorer to be irredeemably so bad (and they are quite many), wondered just who on earth could endorse the browser like I did. They rushed to a social news website, called reddit.com, and proceeded to tear me into pieces, bit by bit.

So they did a search for my tweet and finally landed on my account.

I had 666 followers on twitter by then. So one quipped. “The only person who approves of IE is Satan.”

That was funny. I even laughed when I read it. But other comments were not so nice. No. Actually, I withdraw that statement. Other comments were a little more colourful.

I rarely use sentence case when posting on social media. So I do not capitalise sentence beginnings and Is. It is a personal choice. It is a personal style. I know grammar rules probably better than those snickering Americans do. Social media is not an English grammar examination. But some Americans wanted it so. And commented to the effect that I do not have a proper grip of English grammar.

Another looked at my profile picture – which is of a half-dressed boy from Paidha District, near the Congo border. He simply could not resist the temptation to comment. “Dude, he has an impoverished kid as a background. You can’t start criticising him!” as if I am some poverty stricken, aid-seeking 25-year-old who spends my time writing proposals to Americans for financial support.

Another, probably thinking I am so poorly paid (which is not itself a lie), said I must have taken a bribe from Microsoft (which owns Internet Explorer). “He was probably paid a year’s wages to tweet that,” read the comment.

Another took the opportunity to say I make scam email and pages, which would thus be the reason why I hated Chrome, simply because it prevented me from doing exactly that. “It keeps trying to block him from making 419 emails/scam pages, what an asshole chrome is!” he commented.

Another said that when they searched for my comments in Bing, “it brought up a ton of porn.”

Another said I was a computer pirate because I made this tweet. “It feels funny when a website blocks you access to a movie, song or book, and another gives you the entire thing...for free.” As if that in itself means I pirated a book or movie or song or whatever.

And then there was the winner. It got 40 points (or should I say likes) from the readers of the blog. “Dude is in Africa. That shit doesn’t count.”

Yes. I am born, bred, and living and working in Africa. And because of that, my views on what browser works for me, just don’t count.

I found a very strong rotten sense of prejudice in the comments that were made about me by those egoistical contemptuous Americans. It is deeply embedded in the view of some people in the West about what Africa, and Africans are. The idea is probably one of broke destitute people, roaming around in the savannah, sharing lunch with monkeys and running away from the big cats for survival, as Americans go about the more important things in life like landing on mars or shooting cinemagoers dead. I am actually surprised no one commented that they are surprised someone in Africa knows an internet browser.

Just so those guys know, I am not destitute. I am lucky enough to be employed by the very best newspaper that journalism has given this country. At my level, I am one of the best in my industry; I graduated, to use a language Americans understand, magna cum laude at university. I do not spend the night awake, wondering how I will pay my college loans like many Americans my age do. Yes I am African, but I am happy and proud to be one.

I have absolutely no problem with someone disagreeing, and saying Internet Explorer is actually not a great browser. I do not think it is a great browser myself. But hell, at that very moment, it was better than Chrome...by far.

But you see, when someone chooses to look away from the content of my views, to my origins, and decides to use those as a basis of dismissing what I say, it is not just plain simple disagreement anymore. It is the false feeling of superiority. It is even racist. It is stupid. It is where you stop and ask god for forgiveness because the only other beings who have a thinking like that are the very scum of the earth and deserve to dine alongside Lucipher at the feast of the wicked.

But no, I am better than getting angry at these comments. If my shit didn’t really count, they would never have commented. But alas; they did.

Monday, May 21, 2012

actually, the job market wants students that cheated exams

The Observer today carried a thought-invoking story about how pre-entry exams for Law students at Makerere University (it has been done before at, in my opinion, the better university, UCU), showed that national school leaving examinations for High School bare little relevance in telling capable students from the rest.

It showed that although the johnny-come-lately breed of private schools that usually has a huge number of A-students has been providing many entrants to the course, once this basic exam was given, most of their students struggled to even get past the pass mark.

The story was basically saying the case of Uganda’s education system of modern times - that private schools simply teach to pass exams, and nothing more. Worse, they probably simply cheat their way past the exams.

And that has been the moral dilemma...that our schools give us half-baked products that are not good enough because they simply cheated. But maybe we have waved these cheaters off too soon. I think we may have over-looked a key point here.

But we should ask ourselves what exactly the job market wants out of students/graduates. We are here insisting on honesty at school and yet we are not very sure the market wants honest graduates.

Students who are able to cheat and pass their exams possess very strong qualities that i am sure most employers want in their staff. It is a quality of thinking on your feet. All employers want that. While an honest student/school, while staring right in the face of failure, for one reason or another, will choose to go “live” into the exams, the cheater however will take extra ordinary measures...like taking the risk of carrying notes into the exam room, or in the case of a school, getting copies of the exam questions before hand. Such people will not hesitate to pull even under-hand methods just to save the company, like electronic firm, Olympics’ former executives.

Cheaters are risk takers, once again, a key quality that employers want in staff.

The big issue here is honesty and morality and all that crap. We need to ask ourselves here, just how much does the job market want honesty? Very very very little, if you ask me. The marketing firm that is trying to sell a beer will make its profits from singing the false praises of a certain beer, even when they know the thing is a plague to human health.

Out there as I write this, one sales-executive after  another is knocking upon doors with a well packaged piece of deceit, trying to encourage a business executive to either buy media space, or insurance or whatever. Some of the finest lawyers in the land are going to make a living by telling big lies, in open court, the temple of justice. The richest journalists in the land will cut it by choosing which lies are more profitable to tell over others.

When it comes to procurement, the most successful firms, those that will land all the right contracts, are those who will have the guts to step up and offer a fine incentive, aka bribe. If you are a firm with strong moral obligations, you will watch on as the rest win every single tender on offer. And if you are in an office of influence, you will likely only get rich if you can make a massive kick back off a tender or two.

This is the case in every sector of the economy, even religion, and that is part of the economy too.

I believe in the theory of evolution by natural selection. And i know, nothing can survive on this planet except if there is a need that has sustained it. And that includes all manners of vice. So as we complain about students that cheat exams, we may want to remember that some parts of the economy need these very type of workers to survive. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When death comes calling, I will not shy away

I am a pessimist. No, I am a realist. I prefer to look life straight in the eye, to see it for what it is and not for what I wish it is. And because of that, I always do my damndest to take in the things I know that I can never change.

Death is arguably the one single constant in life, one that will happen to every single human being on this planet. Not even Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who the Bible says is the son of God, survived it. It is the one thing you can bet all your money on, and 100% certainty that you will win. And yet we live life, every single little tiny fraction of a second, trying to not only avoid it, but dread the day it will come calling out our name.

But I will be different. When death finally comes calling my name, I don’t want to stand in denial, and act like this earth is my home forever. I do not want to dread death as if it is a bad thing. No, it actually is a good thing, because life is a hard to place to be. Death thus comes as the natural remedy for life’s troubles, as the final crown handed down to you, the ultimate resting place when your heart puts an end to the strenuous life-supporting and lays you down for eternal rest.

Death is not a favourite subject for people. It is not something that people want to talk about. But as I will discuss later, death is only terrible for the rest of us who remain mourning after someone has passed on. Because after they have left us, they have no worries anymore. It is only us, who after having built relationships with those people, are left with a hard-to-fill vacuum.

Below, I will make an attempt at showing just how hard the life we live is, how tough, how rough, how dangerous, how much of a jungle this life is, and why by the time death comes knocking at your door, you should not stutter with trepidation, but embrace the only everlasting form of rest  you will ever get.

Tortured place to be
“This world is a tortured place to be; so many things to torment me,” is the opening line on Christian band DC talk’s song, Supernatural. And without trying to be custodians of positive-living about the issue, we will by and large come to the same deduction about this life, as did the three gentlemen that made up the band above.

It is nearly impossible to treat life the way it is, to define it in its true brutal state, to characterise it as that bile dripping beast, because doing so is likely to have far reaching effects on the inspiration on which your life feeds. So we will live through this life choosing to see the glass as quarter-full instead of three-quarter-empty.

As soon as a baby is born, the act that will prove that it is alive, is crying. And so it is that the journey into this world is flagged off by tears. If you are lucky to be born in a family, one that is loving and is financially able to give you a safe landing on earth, you will go through the first three or so years with little trouble. But by the age of three, you will have tasted hunger, thirst, disease and pain. And you will have learned by then that that is the natural order.

At three years old, your mother will grab you by the hand, and walk you to school. And the one human being you have come to love and trust will throw you in the hands of another human being, and together with 30 or so other children, you will compete to get the same kind of treatment you got from your mum, from this teacher.

But of course that will not happen. You will watch a few of your fellow children win the favour of the teacher, without deserving it one bit. You will watch teachers pay special attention to ‘special children’ in very special ways. School will introduce you to competition, an interesting ball game whose rules are simply that either you are good enough and you take part, or you are chicken, and you back off.

You could be a Muslim living in a predominantly Christian world, like most of Kampala. But as soon as you step out of home, say into school, you will learn the shocker that the rest of the world does not treat your parents’ religious values as the ultimate truth. A whole range of religious groups who think they have the right version of what God is saying will bombard you with their teaching. Some will be nice, humbly asking you to denounce everything you believe in because their holy book says you are going to hell. Others will not be so polite. They will accuse you of devil worship, of idolatry, of apostasy. And you will stand there in total confusion.

Life is a system of inequalities, blatant inequalities. You could be a simple plain average girl just getting by and studying hard. But you see, we live in a world where beauty, especially physical beauty, is a commodity whose price is always inflated. And because you are human, and you are a girl, you will crave attention. You will want to be noticed by teachers, superiors, but most especially, by boys. So, you sit there in a class where your plain, ordinary self is pitted against charming, pretty, cute little girls who have boys falling over each other for them.

And you can bet your life on it, the difference in attention you receive will not be lost on you. However hard you try to avoid it and act like books is all you care about, the idea that a girl who is prettier than you and gets noticed by boys and ends up winning favours from them, and from teachers as well, will lead to countless hours in the mirror, seeking reassurance, if not to hours of utter psychological turmoil, as you ask why it is not you that they are crazy about.

Society always wants to keep you in line, in its line. It will want you to behave in a certain way - to walk like this, to talk like that and to sit like the other way. You will realise from very early on in life that you do not have control over your life, and that society, through its representatives, (teachers, parents, authorities, friends, etc), will want to have a say in every single thing you do. Every single one!

Teenage is a time of self discovery, when who you really are slowly starts to take form. It is in this age that many people discover their sexual self. And while all other boys are meeting and talking about sexual conquests, you may not be as lucky so as to take part. You may actually turn out to be homosexual, caught up in a single sex boys’ school where you are sexually drawn to people you share dormitories with. And that will be the start of a whole new zone of trouble.

By now you will know what society thinks of people like you. You will know only too well what people say that God says about homosexuals. And the first step will be denial. If you are a Christian, it will descend into months of prayer, and fasting, and counselling, and watching heterosexual pornography, and dating someone from the opposite sex, just so you can fend off these ‘demons’ that have cropped up in your system. But it will not stop the urges. And so you will live in a society that is fundamentally made its mind up against the very urges that define who you are.

At one time you are bound to meet the girl or boy who will drive you nuts. It’s called falling in love. Few things will grip your life like that does. They will creep into every little tiny detail of your life, arrest your nerves, and make the verdict of whether you will have a good day wholly dependent on how they treat you.

And if you are a boy, falling in love will get the very best out of you. The surge of testosterone within you will see you employ a hitherto unseen sense of humour, an improvement in your public appearances, all just to impress a girl. You could be lucky, as she may be doing her part to impress you too. But, as very often happens, she may not even want to have a single thing to do with your sorry ass.  And so you will spend the money on pints of milk (in school), or nights out and shots of tequila or cups of capuchinno for someone who does not even slightly come close to feeling half the way you do.

Instead, it will turn out that her affection is geared towards a totally different person. And so you will be caught in a state where you love someone so entirely, and you are even sure you can love nobody else that way, and yet they just cannot replicate the same.

It will all seem like a movie. Because in most of these cases it will turn out that there indeed are people out there who like and want you, and yet, you just can’t return the love to them as well. The girl you want may also find herself wanting a boy who does not care a cent about her, and yet for some reason, she just can’t turn to you who truly loves her.

It is the mishap of romance that grips many, with many ending up settling down and getting married to people who are for all intents and purposes, simply an opportunity cost, and not really the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

Soon school will be done, and you will head into life. There, the capitalist dragons will be waiting with their tongues dripping. The lie you were sold at school that if you read hard, you will get a good job and live happily ever after, will be undone to you when you finally realise that your academic papers are not a ticket into bliss. You will learn that for every job that opens up, there are 1,000 pairs of hands that want to do it, for half the price. But when you finally get the job, you will realise then too that you are barely given enough to bring you to work and take you back home, with little if anything left to allow you buy the cell phone you want, or even a pair of shoes.

Maturity comes with the desire to settle down, to start up a family and have children who will sort of act like a lasting memory of your work on earth. So you will get married. But in the great institution of marriage, you will find the frustrations of a loathsome man who as soon as you get pregnant, will run away and cheat with your co-workers, if not best friend or sisters. When the children are a little older, he will not come back early to help with homework or even share quality time with you, but will return in the wee of the night, drunk and demanding food.

It is the desire of every parent to give their children something that they were not able to get while children. And so, if you were one of those boys who did not have a Nintendo 64, you may want to buy your 8 year old boy one. But you see, life changes. While the N.64 is what charmed 8 year olds at your time, your son may instead be clamouring for altogether different things, like a car that will chauffeur him to school every day.

Parenting takes on the troubled state where you only get to know your children for the first three years. From then, the parenting duties are taken over by the combination of teachers, dormitory supervisors, maids, and the television. You are way too busy ‘working for their future’ that by the time they are 18, you have hardly sat down and got to know them and can hardly recognise them. And right after school, they will seek to run away from home, and go on to start their families. And just like that, you realise you children have passed through your hands like pedestrians. What follows is that you will grow older, soon become a grandparent, an old frail human being who is sickly and is avoided by your very children because you have now become a burden.

It is not so bad
Trying to tell a story of just how hard life is can be very futile business. You just can’t grasp all, the troubles that come with being orphaned at an early age, of living below the poverty line, of being born with HIV/Aids, of going to school but failing to get a job, of living in debt, of being raped, of being tortured, of living under oppressive regimes that milk your every cent but offer no services, of having to offer sex before you get a job, of watching the girl you love cheat on you with your best friend, ad infinitum.

In the end, life is supposed to wear you out by default. And yet if you live life for even a day, you will realise that it is not exactly a very bad place. Laughter, joy and happiness are a profound feature in life. But it is also worth noting that that too comes as a result of overcoming the natural hurdles life expects you to overcome.

The joy of living is derived from man’s ability to overcome troubles thrown his way by life. We will celebrate landing a good job, not because we got it, but because we struggled to get it. We are happy when we mark 25 or 50 years in marriage because it is not easy to achieve such a milestone. We celebrate in life because we manage to make it in a place where we have had to beat the odds in order to make it. And that makes living every bit worth the while. Living is itself an honour upon mankind because for every bit when we manage to do so, it is a conquest of some kind.

The trouble however is that we have treated death in the same way as many of the troubles we face in life. With the help of religion, we see it as a curse from God, as punishment, as a sort of exiling from this good earth that supports our existence. But we are wrong. Death is not bad. And death is not punishment.

Part of the reasons people fear death is the fear of the unknown. We just don’t know what lies on the other side, if at all there is another side in the first place. Religion has stepped into that void of knowledge, and erroneously, given one account after another of what happens after death. Some tell us there is heaven and hell and punishment and everlasting death. Others say we become spirits who reign over the earth and roam around. Others say we mutate into animals. But no single dead person has come back and given us copper bottomed proof of what awaits us after death.

Secondly, we assume death means the same thing to the dead, as it does to the living. And that is wrong. For the living, death robs somebody they love. It occurs in gruesome forms like murder, disease and accidents. Seeing all that is not likely to make living people assume death is a good thing.

But one thing we can be sure of is that life is a draining event, one that will sell you toil by the minute, and redeem you with a little joy to keep you running. I have lived for quarter a century now. And I know that life is hard. But I am choosing to take it all in stride. I have chosen to sit back and enjoy it all. I am choosing to value the life I have, for as long as I have it, knowing well that the only feeling of gratification I will ever experience is through beating the odds thrown at me. But more importantly, I will choose not to worry about death, because if there ever is any form of rest that I will ever have, it is definitely it.