By Dr Ian Clarke
I attended the opening of the East Africa, EU Film Festival at the National Theatre on Tuesday evening where Meme Kaga, a Ugandan producer, made the comment, ‘In Uganda you have to do so much to get somewhere’.
This struck a cord because it is my experience that nothing comes easy here, and if you want to achieve anything you have to be very focused, work hard, pay attention to detail, and you will still find that as Murphy’s Law states ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’. I think there are two types of Ugandans – those who understand the principle of having to do much to achieve something, and those who don’t get it.
Basically it depends on a person’s mindset. There are those who have a passive mental attitude and those who think proactively. Or put another way, there are those, who allow life to happen to them and those who make life happen. A person may have a passive mental attitude either because they feel entitled, so they don’t have to struggle, or they feel disempowered so they can’t.
Such people wait to see what happens to them. They are a victim of their circumstances, they do not control them. Those who have a proactive mindset may come from the same circumstances, but they decide they are going to take control, even though they find that they have to do so much to accomplish anything or get anywhere.
Unfortunately our politics has increasingly bred a passive mental attitude where people feel they are victims and their only hope is to wait until the government takes some action. In a strange twist, many Ugandans do nothing to improve their lot because they have a sense of entitlement – that they are entitled to government help.
Another mindset, which is common in Uganda, is that one doesn’t need to struggle and put in the work, one just needs the right connections. In this way of thinking people have found that the easy way to get somewhere is through hitching oneself to the political establishment. The size and scale of the political machine in Uganda has spawned both dependency and a sense of entitlement that has taken over a large swath of society.
All one has to do to tap into the politics is organize oneself into a group that promises votes or ‘mobilization’ and one can then make ‘the ask’ for some kind of handout. The most hilarious organization put together for this purpose was the ‘Union of the Unemployed Youth’. A few unemployed young people formed a pressure group to leverage their position, though one would think that the unemployed could not have much leverage since they are not productive members of society. But someone saw the opportunity to threaten mobilization of the unemployed in order to pry a benefit out of the government.
One can be excused for thinking that there is not much genuine political conviction around anymore and that politics is simply a means to personal gain. We are trying to teach patriotism, but patriotism is simply doing things for the love of one’s country, which is the opposite of doing things for personal gain.
I do not have a victim mentality and I have not used politics for personal gain, which means that I am in the category of having a proactive mindset. I have always had aspirations and dreams, which I have crystalized into goals that I have worked to realize. There has been nothing magic about what I have done, and it has all involved hard grind, failures and disappointments. But when I look back I realize that I have achieved things I am proud of.
Four years ago I started farming and it has been difficult. I could have sat back and done nothing since I am at that age when people take it easy, but I wanted to go back to the land. Nothing about establishing my farm has been easy, everything has been more expensive, and harder than I expected.
But as I walked through the farm today I thought – it is the most beautiful farm in the world. I may not be objective, like a mother who has gone through the pains of giving birth and says her baby is the most beautiful baby, but that is the satisfaction one gets from achievement.