Letter to My Fathers
(read at PEN & MIC event on 6 February 2011)
Because you have not been listening to me, I have decided to write to you – so that my children’s grandchildren may know that you are I were made of different cloths.
I have a lot of bones to pick with you. But the bottom line is this: you have failed to realize the mission of your generation, you have failed to inspire my peers to greatness, and now you want to drag me into the schizophrenia, the insecurities, and the dwarfed ambition of your generation.
I do not understand why you have not managed to be as selfless as your father, who continues to inspire me even though I haven’t met him.
I am disappointed not because you have not set the conditions for my kids to be astronauts, but because your greed, your narcissism, your hypocrisy are setting the conditions for me to be cynical – and therefore underachieve.
I do not expect you to build a Space program. But the least you can do is hand the country over to us in one piece. We will take it from there.
But for that to happen, I am going to have to say ENOUGH. So, I write today to tell you ENOUGH.
ENOUGH with your obsession with being vindicated at all cost – you embarrass us by insulting each other in newspapers each morning.
ENOUGH with extreme verbal rhetoric and fire and brimstone in explaining your differences with your peers – you remove the possibility of compromise; you corrode the hearts of those of us obsessed with reason.
ENOUGH with licking the boots of those owning the media – you bestow legitimacy to shadowy figures of questionable moral rectitude.
ENOUGH with your daily proclamations that you are clean, you are for justice – while we know that what you own and what you have could not have come from your income, that you took a concubine, that on a trip to China, you flew first class and drank whisky more expensive than mathematical sets of the entire school.
ENOUGH with your habit of theatrically and hypocritically hugging and laughing with a person we all know you detest. We don’t understand it.
ENOUGH with your reliance on the false crutches of witchcraft to ostensibly brighten your face, sweeten your tongue, and neuter your adversaries.
ENOUGH with pleading and waiting for Santa Claus to come and fill your coffers so that you can pay my teachers and buy my textbooks.
Of course, we see some things that you have done: more roads, more clinics, more skyscrapers, bigger budget, bigger parliament, free and frenzied media. But then these are managerial stuff. What about the stuff of leadership: Community. Society. Arts. Culture. Truth.
ENOUGH with everything: with your love for ambiguity; with your distaste with clarity.
Before I go, I want you to help me with few things:
Why did you get Tanzania to be called an experiment?
• Your embraced multipartism at one point, you dropped it, and adopted it again.
• You embraced capitalism at one point, you dropped it, and adopted it again.
• You change curriculum everyday – at one point you dropped history and geography – the essence of self-knowledge and knowledge about the world. You even dropped chemistry and physics – the essence of conquering the frontiers of the unknown universe. Then, you reinstated them.
• You started the East African Community – at great cost. Then you killed it – at greater cost. Then you restarted it – even without really being sure that you want to be in it.
• You waited until 2004 to build secondary schools in all corners of Tanzania. Seriously, where were you all these years? A generation of my peers BEFORE these new schools could not earn a living with their secondary education. A generation of my peers AFTER these schools can’t earn a living with this education.
Perhaps it is not your fault. I know you have had to contend with the harsh realities of your era – in which you were denied of as simple pleasures as a television broadcast. Perhaps the shoes you have had to fill were too big for you – and the might and the sacrifices of the pre-independence generation dwarfed you, and made sterile your art of possibility.
So, time is now for us to run the show. In fact, we already run stuff. Back in the days, you were the most high-tech person in the house – when the cassette player was the most high tech gadget in the house. Today, when gadgets are more complicated, you call on us to “configure”. This means we are wired for this complex world than you can appreciate. We run a lot of stuff around town. We make stuff work – at the banks, at the malls, in server rooms. We design, we create, we execute: from banners to ringtones. We tweet - and I may need to explain this: that is, with our fingertips, we talk to the world. Surely, we can steer our country forward.
Of course, we are not perfect. Just as you, we are prone to intellectual laziness. Some of us are tempted to live beyond our means. And, for some of us, something that is not “fasta” – including a university degree – is not good enough. But, despite this, we are good enough to create the future we want. And time is now.
I have to go. In the meantime, if you ask me what exactly do I want, I will tell you this: I want stuff to work. Full stop. We care less about your tantrums that you were right yesterday and your certain peer was wrong; that you are for truth and justice and your certain colleague is not; that you killed the lion with your bare hands – and there are no more heroes these days; and that, me and my peers, are impatient and undisciplined, and that we are embodiment of moral decay. Maybe. And, if so, we learnt from the best. Still, hand over the country to us in one piece. It is not too much to ask.
February 6th, 2011
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