You get tragedy, where a debate instead of continuing breaks. There has been a lot of occasions to think about questions of happiness and the behavior of MP’s in Uganda. Partly driven by the fact that there have been significant increases in demand for sleek wheels by MP’s in recent months. Though, the lives of a great many denizens have remained severely deprived that is one factor long run.
There is short time factor. The inflation we are facing has generated a kind of challenge in the cost of living that lots of people who are normally well off at least in comparative terms, are now experiencing difficulties on how to cope with the prevailing high cost of living. And yet, Uganda government is planning to spend millions of dollars on procuring sleek vehicles for MPs and arms purchase without knowing who it’s trying to deter or going to fight.
But, why does Uganda stuck with budget deficit continue this type of planning and budgeting? It seems what politicians need and want to spend their money on differs significantly from denizen’s aspiration of happiness and a Uganda that works for all.
Barrier one is that for a politician to spend money on things which is not immediately needed and no one will notice appears profligate, since, it’s not like buying school food or building a hospital. The political demand requires imagination and it requires political vision which often some of these MP’s and government doesn’t have.
Barrier two, regulators are sleeping on the switch. Partly coming from confusion, we should not underestimate the power of confusion. Confusion can make people think that Ugandans are the happy with MP’s and government behavior. And yet, denizen’s like Kalule Mustafa and others are jumping from rooftop of the six – storied building due to biting economic challenges.
Barrier three, the general level of understanding of happiness is limited. People always say can you measure happiness? Is happiness a good way of getting an index of success in Uganda’s economy? Then you get into a completed shunted off to a by-line as it were to use a railway analogy.
You are no longer on the main-line but then some MP’s and government officials live quite comfortably on a by-line. However, from time to time people on the main line go past them and actually wave at them and they get a little worried about it. It becomes a debate. The by-line people say they are in the main line. Then you get into a complete unnecessary debate of whether these MPs will hold government to account or protect the constitution or anything in parliament.
So there is a fair amount of public liturgy and public lack of clarity as to what kind of MPs were elected and the kind of happiness denizens are seeking. But the question is, what can we do? Do we want to be a statesman? To a politician or statesman, you need to look beyond incidental statistics of happiness. Does the government have our priorities right?
I think it’s easy to answer the question. The government does not have our priorities right. If so they would have done much more about deprivations in Uganda; even in areas where government has limited interest. So I don’t think the government has our priorities right. But the question is why not? And I think quite a lot of it comes from lack of engagement, and lack of public discussion. In fact the importance of public discussion is central.
It one of the biggest themes of Smith’s book on the theory of moral sentiment. Smith argues that people have to discuss moral and ethical issues; where he brings in the ideas of the impartial spectator. That people have to discuss moral and ethical issues with much greater clarity; asking such questions where he brings in the idea of an impartial spectator. what would it look like to people far away? MPs trying to lead their own life by demanding for sleek rides.
While a great many denizens are starving. MPs might forget it but if an impartial spectator might point out to them that it’s a wrong thing to do. So smith was trying to generate an argument that this is not the right thing to do.
This is a trend in what I would call practical reasoning that goes back a long time ago. It’s presented in Immanuel Kant’s work as well. It’s a fact that by reflecting on public issues, we can make ourselves much more sensitive and quite often MP’s and governments inability to do anything for the poor and deprived stems from the fact that they don’t have enough understanding of what’s going on.
The same way, Uganda police have been bundling and torturing the poor youth voicing their dislike against MP’s selfish demands because they don’t know what pain is like. The lack of understanding is one reason for cruelty and real negligence for deprivations across Uganda. I will get back this towards the end of this article.
Allow me to make a very enigmatic statement about Ludwig Wittgenstein, ‘I work quite diligently but I wish I was a better and smarter person’. And these both are one and the same thing. But the question is; what is smarter is one thing and being a better human being is another. The thesis there is that a lot of MPs and governments inability to be a good person relates to their not being able to understand the issue.
Smarter not in the sense of basic intelligence but in a sense that they may come to understand that public reasoning is a good way of making a citizen smarter about a problem. So I would attribute MPs demand for vehicles and other additional remuneration to basic valueless of humanity and their inability to think about other people and sympathize with others which requires thought has to be fostered by effort, through writing, talking, arguing, by broadcast and by public discussions.
What denizens need is public engagement for clarity of thought and a recognition that freedom is important not just happiness. Public discussion is also an important way for us to understand each other’s deprivation and enable government to ask questions like, what can we do to make our Uganda much more liberal. A Uganda we can be proud off.
And I am second to none in defending debates against selfish demands by MPs. I think reasoning with oneself and reasoning with others are the two basic tools we have to get our perceptions rights and appropriately adjusted in contributing to debates geared towards reducing deprivations in Uganda in which we live.
Walter Ochanda, the author is an international development specialist