QG Group

All is Well

“A society grows great when [people] plant trees whose shade they will never sit in.”

– Greek Proverb

It’s 2011, and the final Harry Potter film is premiering in London. My sister and I have spent 4 of the last 7 days camping at Trafalgar Square so that we can meet the stars, and above all the creator of Harry Potter, but now, at last we have watched the film, and said goodbye to Harry and co for the final time. We are distraught.

We arrive back at the flat wholly inconsolable. My father is flummoxed. “You know they’re fictional characters,” he hedges, cautiously, eager to believe we are mentally impaired if that should mean his words bring us some relief. “Yes, dad, we know,” I reply disdainfully, unwilling to be comforted by someone who doesn’t understand the trauma of what I’ve endured, “But they’re our friends and now they’re gone! Some of them died, dad!”

Heroically, my dad attempts one last stab at empathy. “You know, when I was in the bush, I lost many friends–” “Nobody cares, dad,” I interrupted. I did not want this commiseration in the form of stories I had heard too many times to count long before their true meaning could have any impact on me. My poor, beleaguered father wisely left us to our grief.

My father’s attempt at compassion harkened back to the Bush War — also known as the Luwero War, the Resistance War or the Ugandan Civil War— fought in Uganda against the oppressive Obote regime from 1981-1986. It’s a sign of our overwhelming privilege that I can take such a viewpoint at 30, having celebrated this milestone just 2 months before Uganda’s 60th. It is perhaps emblematic of the success of the fights fought, the wars waged, the policies passed that I could perceive rights and freedoms that people fought and died for as owed to me. That I could so easily identify with characters in a novel, and not with my father’s true and lived experience, says much about how far we’ve come, how vast the difference between the lives of my generation and my parents’. he sad cost of us being more connected today is a disconnect from the history that brought us here.

So, as a younger millennial, born when Uganda was the age I am now, what does celebrating Uganda’s diamond anniversary mean for me? Well, firstly that I would refer to myself as a “younger millennial” via a blog post suggests that the overwhelming change and progress that Uganda has experienced in the intervening years has pervaded not just our mode of communication, but our very sense of self, language. Does Uganda today have any connection to the Uganda of 60 years ago?

Surfacely, maybe not. Maybe infrastructural change has rendered her unrecognisable. Maybe the digital revolution has formed an unbreachable divide, maybe socioeconomic discontent makes such questions moot. But Uganda is not just buildings, its technology, its politics. Uganda is its people. Constantly learning, changing, growing – but maintaining this unique sense of self.

Ugandans are a people of contradictions, hungry for more, but somehow concurrently content; entrepreneurial and ambitious but also laid back with a taste for leisure and good times. We’re the most diverse country on the planet, a flavourful concoction of a multitude of languages, cultures, tribes, religions, and yet we are all united under the flagship of being Ugandan.

In other countries, there’s the belief that to be patriotic, you must defend it with stubborn overzealousness, unwilling to entertain any criticism or perceived flaw in its history; as if to love something truly, you must be blind to its faults. Ugandans do not humour such notions. We do not shy away from viewing our Uganda as it is, acknowledging what it has been, so that we can build the Uganda we want to see.

When I hear my dad’s stories, my grandparents’ – stories of war, stories of revival – I file them under “family history”, and I stand by that designation, although the descriptor refers to a broader community than my mind first realised. Uganda is a family – chaotic, variegated, sometimes cumbersome – but a bonded unit nonetheless.

So for those millennials that may be wondering what we should reflect on this Independence Day, I will be pondering upon the possible stories I’ll pass down to the coming generations; the potential changes in our family’s future history my chronicles could immortalise, and how – whether they care or not – the choices I make now are defining who and Uganda will one day become. What a tale that will be to tell.

This article was written by Sonia, a Content Guardian at QG Group.

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