It is our culture that we are trading in the liberal market
As a country, we have become accustomed to deception as a gateway to success. The target of the extortion is the developed western countries and donors who are paying for decisions that should be made voluntarily. The payment, though, is not in vain. It serves an imperialist or patronage purpose. In that case, the deception and patronage feed off each other in an atypical predatory-cum-symbiotic relationship in the liberal marketplace.
In Uganda, the level of deception is stupefying. As a society, we have reached a point where we desire for privileges but never accept its responsibilities. To evade responsibility, we employ deception. But the more we succeeded through deception, the more we become powerless.
Ugandans have learned to put up faces under this phony Museveni-orchestrated liberal market which is full of duplicitous vendors but “empty stalls”. It is in the context of this market that Europeans, Americans, Russians, and Chinese buy our bad cultures and we sell to them our willingness to transform or abandon our “risky”, “outdated” or “primitive” traditions, cultures, identities, even faith.
Over the last decades, the west has been buying us out on many fronts, and we have been selling our cultures, traditions, and identities in that liberal market. Their goal is to speed us up on advances in Eurocentric and pan American type liberalism.
It is not hard to understand why America and Europe are keenly paying us out of our cultures, traditions, beliefs, and autonomy. The West has always acted as the patron of our civilization. If they can pay to sustain their imperialist agenda, then why not? The irony is that every sociocultural item that they buy us out of, and we sell, these people carefully repackage and preserve at home. For instance, America pays for us to end cultural practices that are deemed risk averse such as female genital mutilation, the same practice they would call surgical vaginal design. Do we need Americans to bribe us to stop hurting women in a place most sensitive? Well, the trend has been consistent. Once they pay, we immediately end the practice. They have been paying for us to dig and use pit latrines, bury our dead ones, treat our ailments, and many have even been paid to visit a health center!
There is a danger of dependence on this harmful cultural purchase melee. Americans pay us to plan our families, to use condoms, to take HIV medications, to make clean water available. We have reached a point where the whole country is paid to live or die, how to live and how to die; and what we should do when still alive?
It is comprehensible that liberalism strives to undermine the state to privilege market dynamism. The Ugandan case, however, is a new phenomenon because even the state is now paid to undermine itself. The state itself is captive to an illegitimate government that is constituted by a sham democracy that is paid for by the donor. The so-called experts who validate and legitimize the government are also donor funded.
Why should USAID, UKAID or EU pay our people to stop mutilating or pulling their labia. For them, women are “vajazzling”, undergoing vaginal rejuvenation or labiaplasty and others. I get it. It is the procedure and the practice that are risky.
It is not surprising that the recent government intervention to stop over pulling or elongating young women’s labia is also donor funded. The donor also funds our men so that they stop beating their wives (gender-based violence), pay men to begin taking care of their children and to send their children to donor-funded schools.
The more they pay, the more we slip backward and become helpless. Yet, those who engineer this social helplessness judge their success by how much their deceptive or folly enterprises have paid off. These are elites in small private sector agencies, and some linked to the discredited state functionaries in their folly to bring every aspect of social life in Uganda into the liberal market.
I am not even sure whether such a labial maneuver is a popular culture with serious sexual value, but it is on the market stall for selling to a donor.
Unfortunately, you will not find a lot of manufactured goods on the “stalls” of our liberal market. It is our cultures, traditions, identities, and autonomy that we are trading. We have lagged in every competitive aspect of the global liberal agenda. We have no industries, lag in scientific and technological innovations, lack control over our natural resources and environment; we cannot produce or add value to our agricultural produces enough to access North American, European, Asian and other markets. We have retreated to our quarters to wait for the market spoils to reach us. Even our begging hands have retracted at the elbow.
The sad part is, in the west, liberalism has made it possible for individuals to circumcise, mutilate, elongate, design and sell their bodies or body parts, redesign their private parts, change their sexes, deliver in tubes or through surrogates, die and get cremated.
The Europeans and Americans are already preserving our historical artifacts in their museums, holding our history and knowledge at ransom. In every Zoo, you find more tropical animals indigenous to Africa than you could find in some national parks in Africa.
In our deceptive ways, it is our ingenuity, the very essence of our “Africanness”, that we are trading in the liberal market.
Mr. Komakech is a Ugandan scholar based in Canada. Can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org