Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: Science, Already.

It all started when CERN scientists announced that they were about 99% sure they had found the Higgs-Boson earlier this month. And I thought: go Homo Sapiens! One step closer to figuring out how this universe of ours is actually put together. And then it was suddenly deadline day for the EA and I wanted to write about it but I hit a wall. I didn't want to expose my nerditude for the whole of East Africa to laugh at. I know the rules of the game. Talking about theoretical physics in a public space is exactly how to get yourself socially lynched. Blackballed. Avoided at gatherings for being the queer girl. I already wear glasses, for God's sake.

So I sat and thought it out for a minute and realized that I was actually furious about this. Deeply furious as in: why the fornication do I live in a society that's so hostile to intellectual pursuit? Why am I ashamed to read a book in a public space and casually insulted with the collective derogatory term "nyie wasomi" whenever it suits a person to do so? Who the hell made Tanzanians so excrement scared of knowledge, of deep, broad, rich, beautiful knowledge? Who mislead us to believe that education is about schooling and degrees? And what are the implications of all this willful ignorance for our survival?

That's the article that I ended up writing instead:

"Our traditional methods of addressing questions of human development are letting us down. We've been getting excited about our so called resources- speculating in gold, producing gems, rubbing our hands over the fossil fuels lurking underground, and getting ready to rape the Serengeti so we can bring more Uranium into the world.

We're not up to managing these resources. Not when we have ignored our most important factor: people. Not when students are “graduating” from schools unable to read, or write, and this has been going on for years. Graduating? Ha! Where do we imagine the skilled labor to master a complex economy and a complex society is going to come from, exactly? How many of us even know what Uranium is, let alone what we'll be mining it for? Our system has created a nearly unbridgeable divide between those who can read and those who won't be allowed to contribute their natural talents to the polity. I used to believe this to be just another effect of our broken public sector, but I am beginning to suspect it's worse than that."

I think that this Africa 2.0 business is only a fart in the wind unless we can leverage this "emergence" to garner real investment in the stuff that matters: African grey matter. No amount of Vogue Italy special issues will convince me otherwise. We're fashionable now, and our exploitation by the rest of the world will be "gentler" and more participatory but it will still leave us at a disadvantage. We can't take control of our destinies without knowledge. China arises because they have science and technology and a gajillion Chinese who can think, think, think as well as do everything else that builds a solid economy. Japan rose on the power of it's ability to innovate and sell us stuff we didn't know we wanted. Korea. India. They all invest heavily in the knowledge industries. But Africans? We're still trying to sell raw commodities and act like this is a great idea. We need to wake the fuck up. Uninformed choices is not the way forward.


  1. I see no problem in being a msomi. I believe that is your right and knowledge itself will never sideline you (the politics around knowledge might, but what came first, knowledge or politics?). Forget rights, we're humans and we seek higher ground, constantly. If we're afraid to put out, who will? All the very best in these pursuits!

  2. Tanzania is not the only country to suffer so. It has long been lamented that in the UK it is cool, even amongst the chattering classes, to not understand science. About as cool as being a crack addict if you ask me, you brain-addled f***wits.


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