Distrust in Uganda is a potent chalice killing cooperation
The amount of time we spend protecting our integrity and reputation in a paradoxical society is testimony of a crisis.
Liberalism has taught us to detach from everything social and adhere to a pursuit of materialism. To undermine the public for the private, and the social for individualism. Incidentally, we attempt to adhere to traditions while denying that these changes have shifted power bases.
As a people, we build our public profiles over years. Integrity and reputation are about consistency. Individuals validate these values by socialization. These values are the current to procure social capital.
I first heard about social capital from Amb. Ngoma Ngime. Ngime at a Serena Hotel during a human rights conference I attended in 2000.
The concept had been in circulation since 1890 and used in social sciences until about 2000 when American political scientist, Robert D Putnam popularized the concept in his nonfiction book: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and revival of America. The book, widely used in health studies, highlights the perils of neoliberalism in perpetrating social isolation.
Basically, social capital is the networks and relationships among individuals who work and live together. This relationship is what drives cooperation so that society can function efficiently.
Aspects of social capital are everyday values such as trust, reciprocity, information sharing, and cooperation which is associated with cohesive social networks.
A strong social capital highlights strong social inclusion factors – that people trust each other and make deliberate effort to do good or less harm to each other.
Information they generate is intended for the good of society. We anticipate that low levels of distrust, for instance, would make a community confident and trusting with each other to accept reciprocation. A cooperative society is a progressive and often healthy society.
The reverse is true – Putnam demonstrates scenes of social isolation among seniors in respect of low levels of social capital. In addition, distrust for one another and apathy towards social institutions engenders social isolation. Distrust is a potent chalice for killing cooperation in society.
Cooperation is diminished further when information is subverted, concealed, distorted or apportioned to manipulate society for the good of a few.
Information is the string that coordinates society, communities, families and relationships at every level. Without a clear information sharing system, distrust and anxiety fetters, and that can collapse a society (crime, war, discrimination, xenophobia etc.).
This is the case for Uganda – low levels of social capital – distrust for one another that has stifled cooperation at every level of society.
Everyone in Uganda is a suspect by default.
You do not have to do anything. Just show up in any social gathering or town looking different or speaking with a unique tongue. Everyone in an office is precisely a suspect of corruption; anyone doing better than the other is a suspected mole of the regime.
This mole labeling affords this regime a right of hegemony and unnecessary credit for greedy politicians who scheme for opportunity to benefit individually out of public efforts.
Distrust is most intense among those in opposition. Besigye, Mao, Bwanika, Muntu and everyone underneath their ladders are all painted with the mole brash.
What is the purpose of this labeling, and who benefits? What is the basis of this charge?
Uganda’s society is where Police officers are highway robbers, exhibits thieves, illegal guns traders; where bank tellers steal customers’ deposits; teachers de-school students by defilement and a sitting president is an exhibit!
This is a paradoxical society where everyone is distrusted. Ironically, business goes on as usual.
Distrust is an ideological device being used artfully to prevent opposition from organizing at any level of society. Students of political science could interest themselves with this phenomenon.
Mr. Komakech is Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org