Tuesday, July 24, 2007

While Accusing Me On Culture...

You know what? I thought communicating verbally was more difficult compared to communicating in writing. My rationale wsa that there are so many factors that could affect the listener's ability to fully comprehend what is being communucated, when communication is done orally. As I continue to grow in blogging, I have come to realize how that theory of mine is not working. Man, it is hard to believe that folks could actually misread you. What I like about ideas put down in ink and paper is this: you can always go back to a sentence and quote it as it is, leaving no room for such excuses as “that’s not what I heard…err…read”.

Just on my last post, one of the readers just decided to take my post out of context and put words in my mouth…well in my writing hands. That is sad. I don’t want to school anyone in reading skills, but I believe that understanding the context in which the writer is writing can always help the reader understand the message. But I take the challenge also as a writer to be more articulate.

Going back to this particular reader, he or she accused me being an advocate of the importation of the Western culture and ideologies. I am hereby, ladies and gentlemen, vehemently denying those accusations. I know, I know…it might sound like I am pro-West. I am not. I am actually a pro-progressive African. The difference is this: I am proud and bold enough to say that in order for Africa to make any meaningful progress, the continent has to embrace formulas that have worked. I believe that is being realistic than political.

I know that is troubling some folks, because the point of reference, with regards to the working formulas, will always be the West. To some people, making such a proposition is equivalent to selling the continent out. To some folks, that sounds like that poor Metty is suffering from inferiority complex, that he can’t see any other alternatives, but to embrace the Western ways.

Wait a minute people. When was the last time Tanzania had a self-sufficient budget without foreign aid? For Pete’s sake, we can’t even fight malaria unless Bill Clinton visits town! You know how pathetic that is? This is my position: pride without substance is stupidity. Sadly, my observation has been that Africans who like to be known as “super patriotic” also like to portray this hypocritical, meaningless pride. This is so sickening; because on one hand we pretend to hate the West, while on the other we are so proudly begging for their money.

My call is very simple: let’s stop begging for fish and learn to fish. If that makes me a sell-out, I will accept that.

Going through the Tanzanian news, I learned that Tanzanian’s national television (TvT) has secured the rights to broadcast live English Premier League (EPL) matches. Well, the underlying force is the available and adequate demand for the English soccer in Tanzania. But how did we get here? What is the message?

I think it would be very myopic to define culture in terms of traditional dances alone, for culture is more than that. Google defines culture as “the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization”. If I understand this definition correctly, culture includes why and how a particular society does certain things. If that is the case then, all aspects of life, including economy, sports and entertainment, economy and politics are greatly driven by the underlying culture.

How is that related to the EPL then?

Obviously, random forces do not drive the quality of the EPL. It has to be the British culture that emphasizes organization, accountability, quality, creativity and all the good things that are lacking in the Tanzanian context (if we had those qualities, we would have been exporting Tanzanian soccer to England instead). I have not heard of a scientific research that has concluded that Tanzanian soccer players are less talented that the European or South American counterparts. The difference, therefore, has to do with culture (And not money, as some people would quickly cite finances as a reason. This is a whole new topic on it's own).

I always emphasize critical thinking for a reason. I do that because it is very easy to be swallowed in the general wave of life to the extent that one fails to decipher the underlying messages. As such I chose to think and not just go with the general crowd. If one decides to hate me for challenging our (Tanzanians) thinking, go ahead and be my guest. Nonetheless, as you admire the British soccer, just remember that there is a culture and a mental attitude that brought the quality EPL football on your TV screen.

As you watch the EPL too, remember that you are celebrating not only the game, but you are being a consumer of the British culture. And it wasn't Metty who called for that, it is the very Tanzanian national TV, that is doing the importation.

Which begs the question: who’s better for Tanzania; Danstan Tido Mhando who decided to import the British culture, as it is, or Metty who’s calling for learning how the British created the EPL so that we can create our own? Furthermore, what’s wrong with copying positive aspects of the British culture for our own benefits as opposed to blindly embracing the EPL like stupid cheerleaders?

So while you are accusing me of being a pro-West, the national TV is importing the same very culture through the back door. Go figure.

Amkeni jamani!

12 comments:

kifimbocheza said...

did you know that Simba used to be known as Sunderland? And ten years ago there was a team in the lower divisions in Tz called Blackpool?

Otherwise, I'm not keen to get involved in the culture debate today. But I am shocked that TVT, a division of the Prime Minister's office, is spending no doubt great amounts of money to bring us the football. Supposedly 'free', but we are paying for it eventually.

Bread and circuses.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Kifimbocheza
The matches will be shown free to the audience, but TvT is going to pay BBC. TvT, in turn, expects to recoup their expenses through local advertisement.

I don't have a problem with that business aspect of the EPL games, but I'm up and arms against the glorification of the Western culture, while we pretend to hate it.

That's what is called unafiki, isn't it?

kifimbocheza said...

unafiki? I'll take your word for it!

It'll be free to air, of course. But the PMO will be paying for it and taking a risk that advertising will cover the costs and then some. Our taxes will pay for this, whether you like football or not. At a risk. As it is, the private sector is happily satisfying demand for EPL from the posh hotels who'll get their money back via over priced beers to shacks uswahilini with a small cover charge. These business guys have worked out how to satisfy the demand. I can't trust the Prime Minister's Office on such a venture.

Happily, I can just go to my landlord's place upstairs and watch it free.

Patrick GK said...

Metty,

Deep down I am tempted to think that we do not really want to change for the better, I mean we are not serious, if you think about it, really!

We know what we should do but for some reason we don't do it. Could it be that we are so comfortable with the state of affairs we're in, we wouldn't dare rock the boat, as it were? I mean we even look for lousy excuses clothed in seemingly patriotic phraseology.

Didn't our very own good President literally ask the Norwegians to come to teach us how to read and sign contracts? Didn't he essentially ask them to come and help us with our house cleaning chores?

At least from this standpoint, arguably nontheless, the President realized that our ways haven't worked so let's try other ways that have worked.

Bottom line is if it works, regardless of its origin, let's give it a shot. I guess that's called using common sense.

Haya mambo ya kufa na tai shingoni hayafai

Jaduong Metty said...

@Patrick,
I think we, Africans, want progress, but we want it the easy way. That's not going to happen. We've got to make some sacrifices, including tossing out some of our attitudes and pride that is meaningless.

And I think you nailed it headon. If other societies are progressing (especially those that were in similar situation years back), we have to "spy" on them and "steal" their blueprint.

As you said it, it doesn't really matter where a workable idea came from. If it works for us, we shouldn't care whether Mozambique or China are the originators.

That's just common sense.

SIMON KITURURU said...

After I developed interest in religions, that is where I discovered that folks could actually misread the writings.I believe many people read what is written and understand what their brain is programmed to grasp.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Simon,
I think people like select what they want to hear/read. As such, even if you are clear in your writing, they would still go ahead and misquote you.

Unajua napenda nini kuhusu kuweka wosia kwa maandishi? I can always go back and pull my original script and put the arguments to rest. That would have been difficult in a verbal exchange. It would just end up in a "he said, she said" string of arguments.

Anonymous said...

Leaning so much on one’s culture has its disadvantages. I believe that changing from one’s culture and assimilate to a new environment is one of the ways one can make a cultural reconciliation. The above statement caught from the post. However, the owner claim that one of the readers decided to take his post out of context and put words in his month. Nonetheless, with respect of his opinion, who told him there is a cultural war going on. Culture is something that shapes our view of ourselves and how we fit in the world. Hence, to change and assimilating new environment will be a catastrophe.

I believe sustenance of African development exertions should be primarily constructed on what we have and what we know, than indiscriminative or free-wheeling borrowing from external sources which are often only putatively well meaning or eleemosynary. Moreover, certainly, as Africans, we should take responsibility for our own failings; inept, corrupt, inane, dictatorial and undemocratic practices, which have been the hell-mark of life in almost all African post-colonial states. But, why the gentleman refuses to accept that not everything that is happening in Africa are under the control of Africans. We do not control the prices of the commodities we sell on the global market; we do not have any real say in the setting of prices at which we buy from developed world. Despite the endless propaganda trumpeted from the west about free markets, the reality for us is that most market for things, largely agricultural, which we can produce cheaply and easily are closed to us. The European Union is the supreme case point. What we face are quotas, tariffs and cartels. My dear Africans, for Africa, free trade remains a pie in the sky.

The mineral we produce in abundance are controlled by western capital from source of production of the raw materials, their sales, and destination of sales, with no value-added at source. Our economies are perpetually under siege through pernicious and unequal trade practices managed by west and the related Bretton institutions. These latter institutions have become the facto parallel governments in many African states. In summary, a concert of internal and external factors is responsible for the current societal malaise in Africa. However, the deep structure of our malaise is largely entangled with general impact of the colonial experience. So, any strategic conceptualisation of Africa’s future trajectory would need to confront these realities as point of departure. We do not need to change our culture and assimilate to new environment at all.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anonymous 5:27PM
Thanks for a thoughtful response. Nonetheless, I believe that your response is based on the same old and tired excuses that Africans, particularly Tanzanians, have embraced for ions.

Worse, you (either unknowingly) contradicted yourself. For instance, while you are saying this: Moreover, certainly, as Africans, we should take responsibility for our own failings; inept, corrupt, inane, dictatorial and undemocratic practices, which have been the hell-mark of life in almost all African post-colonial states , you went ahead and said this: We do not need to change our culture and assimilate to new environment at all .

Which begs the question: what is culture to you?

wayne said...

It seems that several "side issues" have cropped up in the comments, that, at first, seem disconnected from the original EPL issue. However the EPL question seems to be a simple reflection of a bigger issue. From "budgeting foreign aid" to "buying into" foreign cultures, the roots of all of this seem to go back to the period of colonialism in some peoples minds. There may be *some* truth to that, but to dwell in the past seems to me to be counter-productive. To learn from the past is a good thing - to dwell there can be harmful. If I have fallen into an old choo, then certainly I need to learn to avoid it in the future - but to go back there again and again and cry about what i did in the past really does nothing to help me along the path of avoiding the stink of mavi on my legs into the future. Avoid the pitfall next time and move on - that is the answer. Use the experience of the past (falling into the choo) to guide your future steps (AVOID that particular area/path) - unless, of course, you enjoy the stench.
While I believe that the west has some things to offer to Africa (medical research into new and better malaria, AIDS, TB medicines, availability of technology [just look at the cell phone use expansion in the last few years], etc..), it needs to be the job of Waafrica wote to decide how to best adapt and adopt these new tools to fight disease, improve business and personal communication, etc... The problem has been and still is: 1) strings attached to the help from the west - in the past most aid had ulterior motives as the underlying source - either military, or a desire to control, etc... Hopefully that is changing. It seems, at least on the surface, that aid coming from private foundations (e.g., Clinton, Gates, etc.)seem to be much more sensitive to the issue of local implementation procedures. 2) Money coming from governments (USAID, Japan, China, etc...) probably are not yet "disconnected" from the ulterior motive issue.
In the past mistakes were made when foreign aid was actually 'budgeted" into the national budgeting process. I quite clearly remember Rais Mkapa severely criticizing this some few years back - obviously he either did not take his own words seriously, or he fell under outside influence (or both).
Here's the current problem: The government cannot simply refuse all foreign aid cold turkey - they are far too addicted to it. And yet to continue to rely on outside help, continues to feed the addiction and perpetuates the beggar image and mentality. People want roads, people want reasonably cheap medicines and health care, people want (I assume) good governance (free of corruption), people want a decent education system for their children and on & on the list goes. So how does Tanzania move toward self reliance, or at least a proper use of foreign aid that does not perpetuate the addiction? Is the answer to tell the US, Japan, China, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and other "no thanks, take your money elsewhere", or is it possible to say "thank you, but here are the conditions under which we will accept this" (CAUTION: corruption, graft, 'official' thievery), or some other answer?
Allow me to just "throw that question out there" for some discussion
Wayne

wayne said...

OK - I just have to return with one more comment reference the comments about "We do not need to change our culture and assimilate to new environment at all "
YOU ALREADY HAVE - adaptation of the culture of technology, for one. I could list several others - the raunchy videos on ITV and others showing girls "shaking their bootys" in western dress, the current fad of music - both dress and music style being adaptations of American rap and Jamaican Reggae, dress in general, use of slang (swahiliizing of American gangster slang and profane words), food, drink, greed for material possessions, the deifying of pop culture icons (Marley, 50 Cent, etc..) from the west, etc.. The list could go on & on, but the point is this: Waswahili have already been changing their culture and assimilating influences from the outside - so why not admit that and then decide to be more discriminating and choose to adapt and adopt those things which actually add value to the culture - things like accountability, honesty and transparency in government, etc..

Anonymous said...

Guys,
By the end of the day, it's all business. I appreciate the culture debate and all, but if you look at the business aspect of it, the TV station is trying to make some money since most Tanzanians like European soccer. i do not see anything wrong with that. Do you see it otherwise as far as business is concerned? c'mon, look around you man, it's everywhere. It's about the money, brother.