here’s how to deal with the glums in your midst, and keeping them at bay


There are those among you who are too young to have ever watched the TV cartoon titled ‘The Adventures of Gulliver’, and therefore miss any reference to the character “Glum”.
The show was a 1968 production by Hanna-Barbera Productions, and was based on the popular novel Gulliver’s Travels (by Jonathan Swift), which detailed the travels of Gary Gulliver and his named dog, who end up shipwrecked on the fictional island Lilliput.
Please note that Gulliver is the traditional Englishman muzungu of the days of our upbringing and someone’s colonial devices, who is adventurous, smart, resourceful, lucky, strong and all those other adjectives we came to associate with these great people. And the people in Lilliput were little midgets just a few centimetres high, even though they were also white and apparently caucasian, and appeared to have the same trappings as Gulliver and his people (clothes, royalty, cities with fountains, and so on and so forth).
The politics of the two types of people aside, I distinctly remember that Glum fellow because even at my tender age back then he irritated me very greatly for always taking a defeatist attitude, before I even knew the phrase existed.
Glum
Pic from lightcyber.com

I was only a child when I first watched ‘The Adventures of Gulliver’ and even then I detested people like Glum.

Now I am an adult and the cartoon is not showing on any television station near me, but the keenness with which he comes to memory is stark because of our social media arguments and discussions.
Why?
Below are a few choice comments that Glum constantly made every time he made an appearance:
“It will never work!”
“We’re never gonna make it!”
“You will never do it!”
“Don’t be too sure!”
“I wouldn’t be too sure…”
“This will never stop the flood…”
“We’re doomed!”
“Oh no, not again!”
“Told you he’d never make it…”
“It’s hopeless…”
“It’s all my fault!”
“It’s me to blame…”
“Like I said before, we’re lost!”
“This is terrible!”
You can watch them all here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqALm_rmM1g
It was obvious why he was named Glum. But just in case the viewer was slow to catch on, the producers designed him such that his facial expression was always downcast (glum). Plus, they positioned a floppy hat over his head in a manner that covered his eyes so that you could tell that he didn’t have a good view of things as they really stood.
To make matters worse, his head was sunk deep into his shoulders as if he was engaged in a non-stop shrug.
You had to dislike the fellow.
Regardless of what the situation was, that little, small-minded, depressing, negative Lilliputian called Glum quickly declared the most negative mantras. He always spoke up before the others could discuss at length, which in a way was good because they could then get past him and out of whatever pickle they found themselves in.
That was the good side to the cartoon – regardless of what situation Gulliver and his people were in, Glum quickly identified and declared doom and hopelessness but they always pulled out and arrived at a happy ending.
Even when we got used to that, we still found Glum to be irritating, depressing and to be avoided; which strategy came to me over the weekend, during a number of social media arguments and “discussions” and “debates”, so I slid off to re-visit ‘The Adventures of Gulliver’, off the mighty internet.
Glum, unfortunately, does not exist today only in that old cartoon and locked away in TV Reel canisters; the fellow is re-incarnated in very many people with access to the internet, smartphones, and apps like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
Whether it’s a Rolex Festival or Uganda appearing well on an international stage, the disciples of Glum are rather too active around us.
If we had mute buttons back then I’d have activated it every time I saw Glum’s low dipped cap begin to move but as I told some friends over the weekend, we have many ways of dealing with Glum today, just as Gulliver and his mates did back then in cartoonland:
First, make sure there is no more than one Glum in your entourage or your surroundings – and that’s only if that character must exist.
Then, ensure they don’t become too senior or influential; that way, they can declare doom and negativity all they want provided your leader can push ahead with those who believe in the mission at hand.
And, crucial to the general plan, keep Glum’s floppy hat over his or her eyes so that they don’t see too much of what is happening around you – giving them less to be negative about.
Keep Glum at the back of the group rather than the front, so that they don’t get too much attention. And, most of all, stay focused on your mission and perspective, and on top of your horse; DO NOT, under any circumstances, descend to Glum’s level.
Suppress your inner Glum, and when your chum or the random person next to you on Twitter or in a WhatsApp group can’t suppress theirs, steer clear of them.
Instead, be the Gulliver.
After writing this I found another, more scholarly article on this fellow here. Enjoy that.

i’m off for crime preventer training #UgBlogWeek


I’VE BEEN reminded by a couple of kind, caring friends in socialmediasphere that I need to lose weight.

One of them used some brilliant metaphor as you will see here:

White Boer Pig

Which made me think about something else – someone wise within the family came up with a suggestion a few weeks ago that struck home the fact that he is a sensible young man who has been raised quite well – and I will soon be sending his parents a congratulatory card to that effect.

You see, we have this family gathering every August at which we generally celebrate many events all rolled into one. The preparations and set up energies have increased in complexity over the years as everyone got hitched and hatched kids, so these days the run up to the main event is quite frantic.

So this young man suggested that instead of us running things the usual way and gathering up all the family contributions a month or so to the celebration, what if we invested in something like a piggery (other religions, read goattery <—eh, that doesn’t exist…make it goat herd) right now, and every month contributed small amounts towards animal rearing?

That way, since we all consume meat one way or another, we could make our regular purchases off our own investment at a profit, and then closer to the celebration day we could sell off all we need to fund the fete.

Very wise – if only we thought like this every day we would be wallowing in hard cash, animal slop aside.  And if what Mr. Wapa above suggests is true, then we should target white boer pigs (real ones, not the likes of me)…

But back to the point of this – I need to lose weight – the second gentleman who raised my weight issue did so in passing, referring to the wrong size of my trousers.

My trousers are okay, though, it’s my shirts that are a little bit tighter these days.

So I am signing up for some heavy duty exercise – by joining a Crime Preventers Training Programme.

I saw photographs from the pass-out parade in Mbale last week and there is no doubt that the training works wonders.

Of course, I am already aware of the types of exercises I need to undertake in order to give my shirts some independence – see, I even have proof:

White Boer Pig response

And I know how to do sit-ups, and crunches, and other exercises reputed to do wonders for the abdomen – I know that people refer to “abs” these days, but I don’t think I am fit enough to say the word so and make it believable.

I feel I am so overweight that if I said “abs” in public I would elicit the type of reaction you get when you hear a child say a swear word.

So, back to my remedy: I’m off to enlist as a Crime Preventer.

From what I’ve seen, they don’t have t-shirts in my current size so even if my only motivation is a free t-shirt I will have to get with the programme.

There should be benefits besides the smaller belly and free t-shirt. Security in my neighbourhood and around the office will improve; I won’t be taking any nonsense from the askaris who don’t check cars properly at entrances, the definition of crime might soon include spelling and grammatical errors, and I will save money rather than spend on the gym.

I just hope that there is an evening programme, so that I can still go about my daily struggle and then fit the training in after that (including the children’s homework).

Yye how many days or weeks or months does the Crime Preventer’s training run for?

About seven weeks, according to one media report – meaning if I started in two weeks I’d be done by Christmas Day.

(Cue thought of approaching Christmas lunch with a flat stomach and zero judgemental statements in the air round my ears. Bliss.)

And while I went through these idle thoughts I decided to google the arrangement and found that there is a surprisingly up-to-date (relative to most others) website for this programme – http://ncpf.ug/.

I’ve sent an email – I’ll keep you posted on developments or invite you to my pass out ceremony.

Social Media & Radio Katwe: what’s your source and how seriously do you take it?


THIS week two ‘stories’ filled up the online conversation on Twitter and Facebook in Uganda, and both made me think of the Katwe area at the start of Entebbe road.
Actually, referring to the two as ’stories’ is to elevate them to a level that used to be respectable, reliable and trustworthy.
Back in the days when we relied only on traditional media, a story was something you read in a newspaper or heard on radio or watched on TV and had the confidence to discuss, analyse or even repeat.
If we heard about a story from a third-party we tried our best to go and read it ourselves, or to catch the next radio or TV bulletin. Such was our need for story validation that libraries stocked newspapers for people to go and refer to, and there was even a thriving business enterprise behind Uganda House that sold old newspapers.
I remember checking with that business enterprise to establish whether the old newspapers were mostly being sold as kabalagala and mandazi wrapping, and the proprietor telling me they weren’t. Many of them were bought by people who had missed their personal copies or needed to double-check one story or another.
That was then.
Back then, you were respected if you could hold a conversation about current affairs or a topic on which you had knowledge and withstood any challenges to your quantity of knowledge. I even recall quiz games played in school corridors in which people showed off their knowledge of different topics and current affairs – one such game was called ‘Bwino’, which in some vernacular means “ink”, further testimony to the level of respect we had for print as a concept. The participants, school children, took themselves quite seriously and dreaded taunts such as ‘Radio Katwe!’
The term ‘Radio Katwe’ meant you had just made up a fact in your head; it originated in the days when the official media was forced to go underground due to the politics of the day, and we relied on unofficial information – the grapevine or rumour mill – ‘akatwe‘.
The name was a play on the Katwe area of Kampala where ingenious artisans fabricated things locally out of metal and other materials. In those days of scarcity and shortage, it was impossible to find new Katwe Workersdevices, gadgets or implements such as we needed in homes and even offices, and that led to the rise of Katwe. Similarly, with official news sources being scarce, we were forced to rely on word-of-mouth as a medium, ergo Radio Katwe.
And in Katwe they fabricated these things quite well without any professional training, it seemed, but just by looking at or studying an original and then copying its parts or altering it.
But that absence of professional training is an important factor, because whereas you could get a locally fabricated machine that did the basics of what it was intended to do, because of a small omission such as earthing you could kill yourself while making popcorn or ironing a handkerchief…
And that’s why I was thinking of Katwe, because that absence of professional training is what differentiates a journalist from any character with access to a Facebook, Twitter or blogging account. Professional training that gives a journalist the ability and skill to double check facts and present information in a clear, lucid, accurate manner, for instance.
Which is why anybody who gets their news from only social media sources should be as careful with it as the person who buys a popcorn machine fabricated in Katwe. A nail could come loose and shatter your teeth while you munch away at your salty snacks.
It may be accurate, and might work just fine, but there is a high likelihood that it’s not all safe.
Both of the stories that caused excitement this week contained major inaccuracies that didn’t make sense right under the surface, but the chatter on social media was torrid, angry and spread like a wildfire amongst people who didn’t even read them fully but just took the headlines and developed strong opinions.
And this is not about the media; rather, it’s about the consumers of media. Radio Katwe should continue fabricating stuff, but when you buy a device fabricated there, please use it carefully.

ignorance is NOT bliss, get out there and play YOUR part in wiping it out


For the record, that phrase “Ignorance is bliss” is NOT justification for one to remain ignorant in order to attain happiness.
I double checked it this week and found that it goes back hundreds of years into Europe (no surprises). But it was most famously used in a poem by an old english fellow called Thomas Gray (1716-1771), titled, ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’, which carries other lines that should be of interest.
I read the entire poem after encountering a concentration of incidences where people displayed ignorance quite blissfully, particularly about Uganda and the continent of Africa in general; and worse, many Ugandans and Africans respond with blissful ignorance to what is going on around us.
In Gray’s poem, the phrase actually reads, in full, “No more; where ignorance is bliss, ’Tis folly to be wise.”
But, wrote the poet Gray in the same poem, “Alas, regardless of their doom, The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, Nor care beyond today…”
That was because he is talking about how young children are so happy simply because they don’t know much of the world…yet.
My incidents these last couple of weeks in which people displayed such stark ignorance with bright bliss occurred mostly on the internet, which is dominated mostly by North Americans and Europeans (led by the President of Spain who invented #SpainIsNotUganda).
Many of them actually believe that this continent is just as it was back before the 1800s when the first white man arrived to deliver the savage from pestilence and death in the jungles. Their understanding of this continent is infantile, and most simplistic.
The internet queen of blissful ignorance had to be Jessica Tidwell, the wife of a missionary who came along with her husband to Kenya to save the savages.
Her blogpost ‘It Didn’t Happen Like I Thought It Would’ took our little world by storm because of her stated expectations and how they were not met.
“Today was going to be the day that I fell in love with Kenya,” she began, but after her narration ended with, “So, did I fall in love with Nairobi today? No. But I fell deeper in love with a God who uses all the things, including the safe and affluent, to change my heart.”
You see, she boarded a plane to Kenya expecting to land in the jungle amid welcoming emaciated, dancing savages warding off lions and diseases, but on that first day she found herself in a shopping mall just like any in her homeland, where fat people (including white Americans) were buying mayonnaise.
“My heart was prepared for dirt floors. For dirty laundry hanging everywhere. For kids that were half naked and covered in bug bites. People who couldn’t speak English,” the poor girl lamented.
The Kenyans, shame on them for disappointing her so vastly, eventually helped her with her mission and provided some poor Africans for her to help, and the rest of her other blog posts she returns to her normal mode where she says Africans selling their wares are “desperate” to make a sale, as if Walmart and Macy’s and all the American stores are NOT desperate to make sales when they advertise and market their wares.
Luckily for Kenyans, their society is quite quick to respond in these instances, and within a matter of hours they had converged on her blog and soundly told her (and any American who held similar ideas and was drawn to that blog) off for being so blissfully ignorant.
But those who do not respond to these people to educate them are somewhat as blissfully ignorant, and unfortunately the majority of us, Ugandans, are on that list of blissfully ignorant themselves.
The other incident online to which we did not respond was an article posted by Comedienne Judith Lucy of Australia who came to Uganda under an Action Aid programme a while back. The general article is alright, as usual, but my hackles rose when I read, “I never stopped feeling white and lucky while I was there. I never got the hang of squat toilets and despite the lashings of sun cream I basically got around looking like a beetroot and smelling of urine but I was also struck by similarities; I had conversations with women about boys and hair.”
Judity Lucy All Woman
Never got the hang of squat toilets? Okay, I sympathised with her on that one, but the conversations with women about boys and hair should not have been a surprise, since our women are as human as Australian women. If one went to a zoo and had conversations with female species there about anything, it would have been worth mentioning, but this?
Well, she went on, “I could talk about the woman who was set on fire or the one who had her back broken because she refused to have unprotected sex with her HIV-positive husband. It’s hard to really appreciate the suffering of these people when we are so removed from them in every way.”
What nonsense! A Google search about domestic violence in Australia revealed a paper published by the Parliament of Australia that actually reads, “We do know, however, that domestic violence in Australia is common and widespread. We know that a woman is more likely to be killed in her home by her male partner than anywhere else or by anyone else…”
That study quotes an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey done in 2005 (the most recent they have – http://www.domesticviolence.com.au/pages/domestic-violence-statistics.php) that found that: a) almost 500,000 Australian women reported they had been physically or sexually assaulted in the last 12 months; b) more than one million women in Australia had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male partners; and more.
The statistics for Uganda in 2007 put the figure of domestic violence victims between 60% and 70% in 2007, and in Australia it was about 64%.
(Take time off to read both:
Yet Madame Lucy there found that the domestic violence situation in Uganda is “so removed” from that of Australia!
This is where we are supposed to jump in with our comments, all Ugandans, to help rid these people of claims of ignorance, and shake them out of their ill-attained bliss.

In a third incident, an American was arrested for getting involved in some scam – NOT as a victim, but as a willing participant – which the internet announced as ‘Northern Michigan man used as accessory in Uganda Internet Scam’.

Very few of us responded to protest the labelling of the scam as “Ugandan”, allowing those who read it to think we have a national claim to whatever fraud it was, yet it involved a Ugandan woman AND an American man.

Making comments at the end of these articles and blogs is free and takes only a few seconds.

To quote another great man, besides Gray, “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery…” and go to the internet, read these articles and blogs, then make your comments so that the ignorant people cease to be blissfully so.

Of course, it would also help if we all did our jobs better so that there are fewer shacks, better hospitals, better roads, more serious education, and respectable leadership.

But in the time being, stop being silent; silence simply fuels this ignorant fairy tale of savages in the jungle dying violently of pestilence and disease.

For you and I ignorance is not bliss. Instead, think of the line, ‘The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, Nor care beyond today.’