Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: George Orwell Was Visionary

There are things that we're good at in Tanzania. Efficient administration isn't one of those things. For all the time we've had government, it has been on a slow downward spiral of decay into Byzantine inscrutability and chaos. Which is why Jay Kay looked so damn good about eight years ago. He was a Modern Man! He'd bring us the future, things would work, the economy would grow. Ari Mpya, Nguvu Mpya, Whatever Else Mpya. We were going to emerge triumphant, covered in newness, modern in every sense, as slick and plastic as a flat-screen TV! 

Well. I think the last eight years speak for themselves. My particular concern, as a nationalist, is what I perceive to be the encroachment of non-Tanzanian interests in our general politics. I don't mind that my Celebrident is so xenophilic- he did spend a huge chunk of his career as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He's got that great smile, he's photogenic. If he's the posterboy for Tanzania abroad, I am not going to complain. Look at what Kenya has to work with. But then again, this is international relations. Nothing for free. Exactly what kind of attentions, relationships and interests are we attracting in return for gifting the world with Jay Kay's scintillating company?

Perhaps... National Identity Cards? Listen: Tanzania has never ever been good at keeping basic information about her citizens. Our government knows who we are, when it needs to. As a liberal, I find that charming. Less is more, as it were. So where is this coming from, this NID business? Is it, like biometric passports, another gift from the American people? Is it conveniently going to help the powers that be keep track of everyone during the elections, in case they need to apply a little suppression or retribution for disloyalty to the Grand Old Party? Probably both. Either way, it's unwelcome. George Orwell was right, and we need to be more resistant to any efforts on the part of the state(s) to monitor or control us. Totalitarianism isn't just a right-wing flavor these days:
"It may sound extreme to call the NID project totalitarian in its politics, but that's the trouble with certain 'reasonable' requests to enforce administration. This is not a reciprocal relationship request, and it gives a touch too much power to the authorities. So we get cards today, with that assurance that it's good for us. Tomorrow every person with a gun will feel quite entitled to demand identification, if for no other reason than to exercise a little petty power of their own. We're going to become increasingly rigid and racist about notions of citizenship- any non-Bantu, anyone with a funny accent or a poor grasp of Kiswahili will be targeted. It's going to give our creeping xenophobia manure on which to flourish."


  1. um, did you eavesdrop on lunch with my sisters????

  2. Nice piece, Elsie. Though I wasn't sure how to react to "... he's the posterboy for Tanzania abroad, I am not going to complain. Look at what Kenya has to work with... ". You know, seeing as I'm Kenyan and I kind of like our President.

  3. @jetsetter: um. no? :)

    @CK Njuguna: Like your President all you want, you patriot. But you can't tell me he has a chance against mine in the Presidential Beauty Pageant. But if you can offer up a better 'contrast' by all means I shall change the country named in the offending phrase. Deal?

  4. Ha ha... ok, you got me there. Deal. We have our presidential poll in March 2013. There is a presidential candidate called Kalonzo Musyoka. If he wins the elections, I'm pretty sure he would beat JK hands down in the Presidential Beauty Pageant. THEN, you will have to choose another country with which to compare. Deal?


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