To all of you who have followed us online since we began using this channel in 2017, I wish you all a happy 2023. I began teaching in the physical space in 1992 when I was a young university student. I thank God that all through these years, He has given us the ability and resources to keep doing this with young people, especially now with the changed circumstances in our country. There are many more young people than before in our country, who are educated, doing business, and engaged in politics but there seems to me, less and less concerted collective teaching effort that encapsulates what really matters in building a responsible, values-centered Ugandan yet this is the kind of Ugandan with a keen sense of what the country needs that we hope to rely on for leadership tomorrow. So, we will keep adding a brick slowly hoping that, some of you will take over and expand this work we do at the enterprise, country, and community levels.
If you are alive today, you must thank God for life. Those who died in accidents during the crossover of the year or in their sleep did not do anything wrong and you are not special that you are alive. It is simply that God has had mercy on you. In the book of Romans, chapter 9, verses 15-16, Paul, the apostle and a good communicator of all times, quotes what God told Moses and writes that "…I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. Then it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs but of God who shows mercy". Therefore, please don't take your life for granted. Thank God for it.
I would like to ask you for three things this year as we begin our journey together.
I begin the first with an example:
The Bantu people called the Wakamba in Kenya who live in Kitui and Machakos counties and around the Tsavo area (Does anyone of you remember a pair of Tsavo lions that were a menace to the construction workers of the Uganda Railways line in 1898? It is said they killed some 35 people). The Wakamba live in this area and in Embu northeast of Nairobi. They have a very interesting saying and I am told it is shared by the Ibos of Nigeria. It says, "Kioko kya Muntu, nibara wa Mukeera". It means whatever time you have, wake up, it is your morning.
Whether 4 am or 11 am, as long as the pores of your mind know what to do, this is your morning. It means this is not about time, age or circumstances. It is when you learn something and put it into practice that you wake up.
My advice is that we forget what hurt us yesterday or what didn't go well and focus on a new year as if it is a new day. It is what the Wakamba people teach us in this statement. Whatever pains, whoever disappointed you, whoever didn't measure up, this is your Kioko! Again, Paul the apostle here gives us some instructive thoughts about starting afresh and forgetting yesterday's pain and learning from them. So, I want you to think of a man who was very educated for his time, studied in the most prestigious schools, able to communicate well, and had a great influence on his generation. He said in Phil 3:13, "Brothers I consider that I have not made it my own, but One thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward towards what lies ahead".
Paul was even a good candidate to hold on to grudges and the heartaches of yesterday. Listen to what he says about his situation in another letter he wrote to the Corinthians, a first-century people living in a bustling commercial city at the intersection of a route to the Balkans and Asia Minor (Turkey) and Greece with a number of trading ports connecting the East and Western parts of the Mediterranean Sea. He says, "…five times, I received from the Jews 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, Once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked and a day, I spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren, I have been in labour and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure".
Reading this, one can see Paul had all the reasons to not forget the past that he went through. As a matter of fact, he had many potential candidates for hate and dislike and would never have forgiven and moved on unless he was humble and intentional in disregarding the past and focusing on a new day. That is what I wish for you. The most effective people are the humble ones and to those, leadership and authority in their area of gifting come eventually. Stay with your Kioko!
The second thing I wish you this new year is self-direction. When you are able to find a path to be productive in an environment that is often full of looming uncertainty, distraction, negative competition, constraints, and sometimes absent authority leadership in your sector, use your gifting to more even with less and less resources. If in business, these aren't very good times given the contraction of the economy with the last two years of shutdowns, constant taxes, the need for skilled staff, disrupted supply and logistics chains that have pushed commodity processes like fertilizers and urea for some of us, find a way to work. We used chicken litter last year and we have lost almost 50% of our output but we will work. It is our morning and we will keep on. I want you to adopt systems thinking. To see things from end to end and find solutions for your community and country. We need all we can get from you as an entrepreneur especially if you are young. You are creative and you can make it wherever you have been placed. I need you to avoid selfishness. Always think, "will my happiness bring hurt or shame or ridicule to my community and in the end, undermine the greater good of my society?" This is because we don't live alone. The universe is larger than us but we can bring glory and honor to God if we bring all our plans early in the year and seek direction and we will then impact our universe. Solomon in the book of proverbs 16:9 says, "In their hearts, humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps".
The third request early in the year is that you should begin to develop your cultural capital. Think of yourself in your area of calling as a filmmaker who writes a script about what he wants to communicate. He digs deep inside and researches to bring to your screen what holds you and often impacts you for many years to come. This is why Americans and their Hollywood have had a cultural grab of young people over time in the world. You are on screen too and people are watching and you can impact them with your actions – whether young or old. Karl Marx introduced to us economic capital and out of it he said the entire society moves and changes social classes. But I speak of cultural capital because it shapes morals, and ethics and often gives the context and direction of society when a few of the leaders act wisely and build this capital for the country. I call these national collective values by other means. Why would we for example have multiple road accidents killing our people in one week of holidays and there is no sense of revulsion and creating an act of parliament together to penalize those who do this and strongly enforce this penalty?
Why would we continue to sell food with chemicals knowing it causes diseases and stops our exports yet there is no sense of urgency to penalize both the public officials who allow it and the private sector that closes one eye in order to gain short terms advantage? Why would we tolerate an insulting youth generation, one that insults leaders, lying to create fake news and we all keep quiet? It is because we are not serious about building this culture capital as individuals and as communities to give us a sense of a collective conscience. When a country has a collective conscience, it can act together against evil behavior. The French philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu, who popularized this concept of cultural capital said it comes from three sources. He called them Objective - meaning you learn it from books and art, embodied - meaning that you learn parts of it from language and mannerisms picked from your home with your parents, and Institutionalized - meaning educational credentials and qualifications give you cultural capital.
But I have an Odrek Rwabwogo theory of my own sources of this capital to share with you. These sources, in my opinion, are:
Study and reflection. We need to see more and think more about our actions and understand that we are here for a short time even if we live for 100 years. This should give us a sense of humility.
Having a teachable spirit. The idea that we want to appear to the world as if we know it all or have it all together is wrong. Sometimes, admitting one's weakness and saying 'I don't know', is part of leadership. We don't have to prove anything and sometimes being vulnerable, can be a source of learning how to live higher than self and learning from others.
The fear of God and having a sense of spirituality, NOT religion. Your spirit is higher than your religion. It forces cooperation often whereas religion would bring divisions.
Have a great weekend