Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not Traveling

At least, it doesn't feel like traveling to be confined by my own better judgment and the UN's safety recommendations to the hotel in which I have been staying for more than a week. And, frankly, it didn't feel like traveling before that. The restraints of finding a hotel with fast wireless internet, a hotel that you can exit and enter in nice clothing without exposing your property to risk, are homogenizing ones.

Violence continues in central Kampala as a result of . . . wait for it . . . tribal politics and the egotism and self-interest of a few powerful men. The last I heard, the king of the Baganda people, after two days of rioting and shooting that caused as many as ten senseless, bystander fatalities, attempted to calm things by postponing his inflammatory visit and making a sort of "be calm" proclamation. My guess is, this just didn't sound sincere to the followers that his radio stations had already whipped into a fury. Or, violence and the opportunities that it can offer to looters and grudge-holders, is just too hard for some people to resist at the moment--not because Ugandans are less rationale than other people; but because rapid, highly visible economic progress that is concentrated in the hands of people who aren't sharing and may even seem to be members of exclusive groups breeds its own instability and fuels this sort of outburst with the provocation of its daily existence. (Cough! Excuse me.)

The worst rumors involve roving groups of Ugandans stopping other Ugandans on the street to ask about their ethnic heritage: Why are you so light skinned? Why are you wearing pants if you are a woman? Nice. Rather than take a bunch of cheap shots at how deeply retarded this is, I suppose, to be even-handed, it must be said that while the king in charge of these exemplars of human behavior is one of the biggest land owners in his country, some of his followers may feel excluded from the alleged nepotism of Musevini, the Ugandan president who comes from a minority ethnic group with a vested interest in undermining the larger kingships.

Both he and Mutebi (the king in question) almost certainly have enough comfort at their disposal to spread the tranquilizing influence of food and employment a little more equitably and farther afield; but, that's true of a lot of people. Hell, it's true of me, which is why I didn't run out of my hotel yesterday and try to smash my way into an electronics store for that new Macintosh computer I've been so craving.

Don't worry. By all accounts this is not a general run-for-cover type scenario, though I'm looking forward to my flight out of here on Monday morning. (Which is sad, because this country is rightly beloved of almost anyone who visits.)

I apologize if any of the information in this post turns out to be less than totally accurate, or if my populist assumptions are in fact out of place. Prove it to me and I'll modify the post.

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