Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. On the day of independence, our nationalist leaders said that it was time for "Change", now that we are running the show. Changes and progress, on many fronts, surely came. But then, we still have people living in stone-age conditions 47 years later. Change is slow. When Mwinyi came in, the theme for his election was Change. When Mkapa came in, the theme was change. And in the 2005 election, the theme was Change. You can bet that in 2015, we will be talking about Change. But the good thing is that the 2005 election laid a good foundation for Change. The next generation of leadership in Tanzania has to seize the moment.

2. The war on corruption is taking an interesting twist here at home. We see in the papers everyday politicians of all stripes calling press conferences to argue as to who really have got anti-corruption credentials. The whole thing may lose its meaning if it is seen as a self-promotion device. This is a very important cause that has to do with what the society values, and not simply who we should see hanged at this hour.

3. I was in Washington DC in August last year and got to visit the National Press Club. In the hallway, there was a placard with a long quote from the legendary Joseph Pulitzer. A sentence in the quote caught my attention: "a cynical, mercenary and demagogic press creates a people as base as itself". Then I thought about the state of our press. The Tanzanian citizenry is unsuspecting that what we read in the press each morning and see on TV at 8 o'clock is what less than six people in Tanzania (with their interests at the forefront) decide that we should read and see. And the interests of these people are not always in sync with "national interests". In short, we are really breeding a cynical and demagogic citizenry.

4. In all countries that have experienced civil wars, it is the political class and business elite that started it: by insulting each other in the press, by sabotaging each others' business interests and political aspirations, by dividing the press, by rallying support in their particular constituencies, and eventually by dehumanizing each other. The peasantry eventually follow what the elites say (even if they were not involved in the initial emotions of the elites' squabbles). In Rwanda, the Hutu peasants sometimes killed without having comprehended their interests in the extermination of their Tutsi neighbors. It was simply because the Hutu elites rallied them. We must guard against these things here at home.

5. There are a lot of stuff being written about the state of our economy and the reasons for our underdevelopment. I think it is wrong to approach this complex matter of poverty and underdevelopment as a technocratic matter in which some inputs and competent leadership will be able to solve. I think there are certain sociological conditions for progress. And there are certain propensities for progress that have to be cast in people's psyche. And there is a certain "ethic" that will ensure progress. People are not simply a subject of economic development.

9 comments:

Inno said...

January,

These are indeed excellent, poignant random thoughts. They touch upon the state of our nation's social capital.

On the issue of political class vs business elites in Tanzania, I think these two clubs agree more than they disagree with each other.

Post Nyerere era, our social networks in Tanzania are unfortunately becoming hierarchical where political class and business elite groups are increasingly dictating the terms. The business elite group is increasingly gaining an upper hand over the political class and thus the political process. So the crash of political class with business elites from time to time may very well be the expectation issue/gentleman's agreement. It is often difficult to understand the nature of such tensions from the outside because the motives of the relationship is private. Such ulterior motives of politicians and business elites (connivance) will not lead to good social outcomes. This is eroding the social capital that Nyerere put in place.

Inno

Anonymous said...

Inno,

Are you suggesting that, we should revert back to the Mwalimu Policy.???

I think may be you should question, the government not the business, Business flourishes within the framework, which pretty much determined by the policy makers.

Nyerere passed Azimio la Arusha, and killed business all together, so what are you actually suggesting, Inno, talking about class who doomed the WASHAMBA, till today, listen to this, I sometime wish he could listen and stop talking over us!

January,

Changes in 2005, May be yes, may be NOT, a lot work still to be done!

By Mchangiaji

Iddi Mwanyoka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iddi Mwanyoka said...

January,
I understand your frustration toward Tanzania journalism credibility. However, I total acknowledge that there is progress compared to Mwalim era or even Mwinyi and Mkapa. At least now people can receive news from different sources; however it’s up to the reader to separate between junk and pure.

History proves as the gap between rich and poor get wider and wider, the political stability of such community become in jeopardy. For the past decade we saw few Tanzania become richer, while those who at the bottom become poorer. The sad part is those people at the bottom finance the expenses of those few at the top.

I strong believe economic development is very complex issue which needs multilateral approach, however to this point we not putting enough effort into it. I am concerning about the future of Tanzania, if we continue to travel on the same path I believe the future of our nation will not be in dilemma. If few people will continue to develop strategic plan which will benefit their families and not the whole nations, then it will get to the point those at the bottom will rebellion.

The positive side of the magazeti ya leo, ni development of new debates among citizen, something which is very important for any nations.

Anonymous said...

Iddy,

".... The sad part is those people at the bottom finance the expenses of those few at the top. " , I could not agree more with you on this, and that includes squandering of our wealth, not mines wealth, but the tax, VAT, and everything that the government received to finance its own budget on multitude of institutions and ministries, including ufisadi, once we have those loop holes, closed, monitored and benchmarked, then we are asured of at least fiscal discipline. and we can then move over from there to whats matter most PRIORITIES, which should be left for debate as we progress as a nation.

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...

Iddy,

Freedom of expression, I think that is the part of the changes which underline my thoughts, but still remain as pop culture(News papers) which lacks credibility and moving progressive AGENDA foward.

But the sad thing is that, it has not moved to rural areas, and still remain in Urban areas. I guess, despite its lack of intensive approach(well informed and understanding of issues), if we are able to find a means of conveying the same message to the common villagers, then in my conscious there is a great hope of REAL CHANGE, in perception and hopefully change socialogical aspects of its people. Hapo tena, ukiongea na mtu anajua hichi MBICHI na MBIVU, right now it is NOT LIKE THAT, I guess that is part of what January intend to portray on the 5th point.

By Mchangiaji

Inno said...

Mchangiaji,

No, I'm not saying we should revert to Mwalimu Policy. And I'm not a socialist either.

The big achievement of Mwalimu Nyerere, at least that's how I personally see it, was the establishment of a horizontal social network of equals as opposed to a hierarchical social network of unequals. As time goes on, the social network of equals is eroding in Tanzania while the social inequality is increasing. That is the point I was trying to make earlier.

Horizontal social networks create more social welfare than hierarchical social networks. I call Nyerere's horizontal social equality "social capital" because it was devoid of tribalism, political class, business elitism, etc. The horizontal social network is more stable (no wonder why Tanzania is so far peaceful and politically stable). The social capital we inherited from Nyerere is the foundation upon which we can build a liberal-oriented economy that would actually be more stable and capable generating socio-economic development for the majority of Tanzanians. Neighboring countries such as Kenya, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Sierra Leone lack this social foundation and that's how they don't have firm political stability. Neighbor nations envy us because they don't have that social stability.

So Nyerere's horizontal social network foundation is capital. And like I said before, it is being eroded and the hierarchical social class is taking over. The hierarchical class has its unpleasant effects and our country will have the price to pay as the result of this sooner or later. We are heading to the path of trouble that our neighbors are trying to disentangle without much success.

Inno

Inno

Anonymous said...

Inno,
I am glad you are engaging on this debate,

I could principally agree on you on this, but hey, we must have the foundation model, which sparkles those trends, Where does it starts ? and thats a big question, which I have been advocating for quiet sometime now !, it seems to me the government and majority of our inheritated leaders loose faith on this principles or in somehow sabotages, if you will, by creating those greedy, selfesteem, trends, you mentioned.

I want you to think hard, before comming to me with any theory, that would pop up on a snap.

I live in a country, where, the government have a fundamental responsibilities on its citizen, of all ages and background, ie. from a child to an adult, and never once those principals are allowed to be compromised or eroded on this society, whatever the circumstances, and the government and its people trying their very best to revolve around them for PROTECTION, but that doesn't feel the same in Tanzania.

you suggest, we are loosing at least basic bedrock of that foundation, hence the question!

Clue,
Those instincts, which you forementioned, of Honesty of Mwalimu never realized, I would say to majority of Tanzanians, or just remain words.

WE NEVER HAD THOSE FOUNDATIONS, I am afraid! just illusions.

By Mchangiaji

mwanakiijiji said...

The state of our press is directly connected to the state of our politics! You can quote me!

It is the politicians who have created this press, and are the one who have spoiled it like little military brats!

It is the politicians who meddled with it to the point that it has become an illicit affair in our political bedrooms where the rulers have slept with the press and have in a weird way borne us a corrupt press and corrupt politicians as twins!

So, don't blame the press.. blame the politicians some of which are well known to be the corrupt people who have corrupted our infant press and now they stand idle watching how the press is corrupting our infants!