Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Progress With Twisted Logic? Impossible...

I don’t intend to open up a can of worms (as this has been one of the hottest debates), but I am strongly convinced that Tanzanians (generally speaking) are struggling mightily because of the twisted mindset. From my observation, an average Tanzanian would rather draw their arguments from cultural norms and not from pure logic.

I must agree, culture defines what people are. Culture is one’s identity. So I’m not despising drawing one’s arguments from a cultural perspective. Nonetheless, leaning so much on one’s culture has its disadvantages. One of them is being locked mentally in a cultural box, particularly when one is not equipped to think critically.

Being on cultural lock-up is particularly difficult when a particular culture is forced to interact with other forces. As much as Tanzanians like to ignore it, there is a cultural war going on right now. Opening up borders for free market will not only bring it quality goods and products, but also a change in “how to”. That is a blanket concept, because it encompasses how a person will conduct himself or herself in the labor market, for instance. At the end of the day, those who are quick to think outside their cultural box would benefit the most.

I believe that changing from one’s culture and assimilating to the new environment is one of the ways one can make a cultural reconciliation. Nonetheless, I believe that there are aspects of life that are common to every culture. Furthermore, there are certain things that a reasonable human being, regardless of cultural assimilation, would do. I think that’s where the word common sense kicks in. I believe common sense stands for knowledge, concepts, issues that EVERY reasonable human, regardless of race or culture, is expected to know. For instance, you don't have to be Chinese or a white person to know that when you are hungry you eat, or when you have to wee wee, you go.

Is common sense so common? I don’t think so. We still have idiots in every culture.

Are Tanzanians (generally speaking) lacking in at least an ounce of common sense? I don’t have an answer to that. But sometimes I wonder if that could be true. I am not trying to be ridiculous, and I will try to present an evidence to prove my point.

Recently, Minister Philip Marmo contended that expensive and luxurious sports utility vehicles that the Tanzanian government (despite being one the poorest countries in the world) has employed for the use of high-ranking officials are not luxurious at all, but tools for work.

Pose for a minute. Take a deep breath and think.

I am sure you got it.

That is load of crap. You know what is soooo sad? Ordinary Tanzanians just swallow that crap and zipped their mouths. I am not suggesting that they could have rioted, but at least a journalist, a member of the parliament, somebody who is acting in the capacity of representation of the larger mass could have asked this dude this question: what defines a luxurious vehicle?

See, a luxurious car is not defined by what it is used for, but rather its make, model, costs and other bells and whistles that move it from a basic status to luxurious. Mr. Marmo, simply because somebody like to Bill Gates can take a Lamborghini to run errands does not diminish the Lamborghini’s status as a luxurious car. Some lunatics have taken their expensive, luxurious cars and smashed them in Hollywood. Does that reduce these cars to meaningless toys?

Was Mr. Marmo just acting dumb for political reasons or was he really escaped by common sense? I think he is in a better position to tell. But from my point of view, we (Tanzanians) are really making a fool of ourselves as a nation. If I were the president, I would tell my ministers to at least come up with seemingly complicated cost-benefit-analysis to sound intelligent than provide cheap explanations that could easily take one to the top of the list of idiots.

If we have a Minister who can’t tell what a luxurious sports vehicle is, what makes Tanzanians think that we can get where we want to go? I strongly believe that progress starts in the mind. What Minister Marmo demonstrated is a twisted logic that you could only find in Tanzania.

And you wonder why we are still poor?

Photo Credit.


kifimbocheza said...

"cultural lock up", nice turn of phrase.

In general, it is frustrating what can pass in Tanzania without comment. I can't work out what causes. Maybe an overriding desire for consensus that stifles lively debate? Is part of it fear latent fear of the authorities? What does it mean to say 'cultural'?

and thanks for the link

wayne said...

It is sad, really, that what Mzee Marmo is saying is nothing more than a simple "clouded" statement so as to justify his (and others) use of Watanzania money to get these luxury vehicles. It is a very simple, but apparently effective, lie. People must always question their government - accountability to the people is paramount to good governance. This is grossly lacking in the current situation - therefore things like the use of luxury cars, when vehicles like Toyota hardtops would serve quite well will continue unabated. One can almost see a creeping Mugabeism is wananchi continue to say nothing.

Omar said...

If one thinks of the alternative to a Toyota Land Cruiser, they might be 'cheap' but they are no match to the Cruisers. Except may be the Daihatsu Rocky, which are rather small and not that practical. Land Rovers? Jeeps Hyundais? Suzukis? GMCs? All are not the work horse that a Land Cruiser is. And Toyota parts are relatively cheap.

I can't think of another vehicle that provides the same all round, trustworthy services that a Land Cruiser can. And it pays, and serves well. It's how the officials use them that matters. They should use them ONLY for work and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Today there is two classes of people emerged in Africa, namely the elite and the peasants with differential life style and cultural attitudes. People like Metty belong to the elite class which they do not value their own heritage and the significant of their indigenous system. The problem the African development faced in terms of using cultural as the basis of formulating economic models stemmed from this incompetence to appreciate and make cultures more creative to address poverty. According to Metty, it is necessary to copy alien cultural system to develop our own societies and countries, and not doing what is best in terms of applying the tools of culture in development. Hence, he prefers to recruit foreign ideologies and revolutionaries. It appeared in his mind that an African society is somewhat a ‘tabular rasa’ where new cultures will be transmitted.
I am sure Metty you have culture inferiority complex to the extent you think finding and promoting our own alternative ways to solve problems and manage poverty will not work, unless we follow ideas and models from the west. I just want you to realize that the native Africans had always used their cultures and helped themselves. Despite of their shortcomings, lack of modern education and alleged backwardness in the argument, they had proved capable of great achievements and economic experience of resourceful subsistence. They used their imagination and cultural intelligence to devise their own practical solutions and solved problems. These natives did not copy or transplant alien solutions to Africa to prove anything. Metty, Bringing models from overseas is an attempt to mock the features of cultural wisdom.

Jaduong Metty said...

I agree with you. There are always less expensive alternatives to ways of doing things. Particularly when a country is a poor as Tanzania.

Shouldn't the government be able to provide a cost-benefit analysis to justify their decision? Given that Marmo didn't provide such an analysis and given what we know about the political culture in Tanzania, one is left with no alternative but to conclude that the Shangingi are bought for no other reason than maintaining a luxurious life at the expense of poor farmers.

And you know very well that your call for "using the vehicles for work and work only" to be a futile attempt...experience tells us that.

@Anonymous 3:52PM
Wow. Why is it that everytime someone challenges Bongolanders he has to be this crazy, sell-out, less-than-average African?

Please pay attention to this: I don't have an ounce of elitism in me. As a matter of fact, I didn't grow up in Oysterbay, Upanga, Mikocheni and all the pretty places. I didn't attend International School with fancy English teachers. As a matter of fact, my mom lives in the village and depends so much on me. If I don't send a few buck, the poor lady is doomed.

So did I call for Tanzanians to embrace European ideologies and culture? Hardly. I am guessing that Mr/Ms. Anonymous decided to have selective reading.

I'm just quoting one of the lines from my post:

" I must agree, culture defines what people are. Culture is one’s identity. So I’m not despising drawing one’s arguments from a cultural perspective. Nonetheless, leaning so much on one’s culture has its disadvantages. One of them is being locked mentally in a cultural box, particularly when one is not equipped to think critically"

What did you miss in that to accuse me of things I didn't say?
I don't have reason to feel inferior, culturally that is. I am very proud of my African roots, but that does not stop me from challenging certain aspects of that culture that are harmful and that victimize the poor and the uneducated.

So if you think I'm fighting for the elite group, you are missing the point of this blog.

wayne said...

no culture exists in a vacuum. those cultures that thrive and continue are those who are able to sift through what other cultures have to offer and are able to adopt those features which enhance the life of the culture in question. If you are saying that the acquisition of "foreign" luxury cars is a natural result of indigenous African culture, then surely the benefits of such cultural ideals benefit only the few and not the society as a whole. The adaptation of the idea of accountability within the African context surely cannot be seen as an evil from the west (or east, or wherever)that should be rejected outright, especially since the failure to do this is an imposition of the "culture" of the few matajiri in Tz upon the masses of maskini. Sometimes cultures should (and in fact, must) change for the faida ya wote. I fail to see how the idea of accountability of wasiasa (?) can be detrimental to utamaduni wa watanzania. If you have a reasonable explanation, I would be very interested in hearing it

luihamu said...

Metty try and open this blog