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Reflection on the ghosts of my humanity

Among other things, I read philosophy as an undergraduate student at Makerere University.

This is a subject so important in the liberal arts, and general foundational university education, yet overly shunned and often confined to the basket of ‘useless’ subjects.

For many people, undergraduate years tend to be critically formative. It is the time of working out how to find one’s location and standing in the immediate community and in the world further afield. It is when some people forge their views of the world, both political and social, and deepen ideas about the environment around them and beyond.

This crucial aspect of university education is lost in the maze of viewing education in rather narrow and purely instrumental terms: as the path to earning a paper qualification and getting a job or joining a profession.

Earning a living through work and productivity is a necessity of human life. But one does not have to go to the university and earn a degree to achieve that goal. In fact, one need not have formal education at all.

So, there is something quite intangible yet extremely crucial that can be gained from years as an undergraduate student. This is the advice I give to young folks I get the chance to speak to, and it’s something I have inculcated in all those directly under my care, and will seek to do to others in future.

Reading philosophy at Makerere exposed me for the first time to one of the most deeply philosophical questions: what is the purpose and meaning of life? It is a question that fascinated me then. Fifteen years later and a search for answers has yielded little if any definite and convincing answers.

While I did not find answers to this question, it nevertheless helped me come to grips with many related questions and has shaped the way I perceive the world. If I have failed to understand the meaning of life, I have at least conceded a related fact: that life can often be quite meaningless. This is integral to our shared humanity and transcends nations, races and classes.

Consider the fact that, theoretically, just about everyone in this world can someday lose his or her freedom and end up in jail. Or look at the fact that everyone, including the Holy Father (Pope), has absolutely no idea when and how they will depart this world.

This is the mystery of life that knows no bounds and is indiscriminate. It is a sobering fact that no one has an overriding control and absolute determination on their destinies, more so the ultimate destiny of life. Some try to confront this reality through suicide and assisted-death, but it all comes down to unavoidable helplessness, resignation and the absence of viable options. 

Now, this evidently chilling fact of life produces at once excessive misconduct in some human beings and empathetic behavior in others. It drives people like Yoweri Museveni to want to rule for life, afraid of a possible trip to jail or some other humiliating life-experience.

But it also propels philanthropy in the world’s richest such as Bill Gates (a position now apparently taken by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) who realize that even with their billions, they are human beings just like the world’s poorest person somewhere in an African or Asian country.

Both streams of behavior are driven by a similar attempt to wrestle with trying to understand the elusive purpose of life. Closely analyzed, more than those who care and empathize with fellow human beings, it is those individuals who exercise raw power and brutalize others who, especially in the subconscious, have a deeper sense of powerlessness, insecurity, and inadequacy.

Hubris, bravado, display of opulence, and showy stunts are all acts that are put to work to conceal the innermost struggles to deal with the limits of every individual, whether rich or poor, black or white, young or old, man or woman.

No rich man or woman can pay a poor person so the latter may answer nature’s call on their behalf. And no powerful ruler can pay for more time to rule or ostensibly to solve the day’s problems of his people when the random course of nature comes knocking hard on the door.

If I learnt anything from my alma mater, Makerere University, it is that I should use my ability to reason to decipher bad from good, wrong from right and always strive to do the right thing. If there is any one reason why I had gone to school, this is it. To play my role in making possible a just society.

This, to me, seems to be the way I have attempted to come to terms with that foremost philosophical question that captured my imagination as a young university student. It may well be a cowardly way of facing down the many ghosts of my humanity that constantly and unfailingly always remind me to stop, reflect, and act.


The author is  an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.


+3 #11 Lysol 2018-02-24 03:11
Moses, I will always be here to call you out when you write misleading articles with misleading headlines.
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+2 #12 Lysol 2018-02-24 03:35
Moses, now that you have accepted your narcissism may be you need mental therapy.
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+1 #13 Lysol 2018-02-24 21:21
Quoting Julius O.:
Khisa, learn to treat rubbish as rubbish. Being a columnist doesn't mean you always have to keep your cool and politeness, even when a deluded cyber idiot assumes the role of a psychoanalyst.

This forum would be much more educative without such cynical diversionary petty pseudo analysts like the so called Lysol.

Julius Obituary, you don't contribute anything to this forum, except for attacking me.

So you're the biggest idiot here. You sound like a retarded individual void of ideas, with a personal vendetta(as if you know me).

Bring it on! You can waste your time and have sleepless nights over my comments but I won't stop. The Observer likes having me around, otherwise they would not post any of my "idiotic" comments. Go hang yourself, hater.
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-1 #14 Mkhisa 2018-02-26 02:58

Why do you read a column written by a narcissistic author?
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+2 #15 Remase 2018-02-26 18:25
Ejakait, "SO, as far as I am concerned, nothing wrong telling us once in a while about yourself, but humility dictates that sometimes you do not pay tribute to yourself, and some people may construe it as blowing that trumpet." One of my best friend is David Etu.., a very sharp guy. In high school we used to call him Ejakait. Back to the point.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Moses's telling us about himself in illustrating his point. Sometime one has and/or could use himself as an example.

The fact of the matter is that, Moses is highly educated and he has mentioned that one doesn't need to be educated to earn a living. As a matter of fact, most of the wealthiest people in the world do not hold any degree.

W. Buffet, B. Gates and others do not hold any degree. Buffet said that he didn't not even complete primary school. Gates dropped out of Harvard. Buffet and Gates have written books and given us advice of how to succeed. If Moses is blowing his own trumpet, so be it.
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0 #16 Ocaya pOcure 2018-02-26 19:03
Ndugu Khisa,
Just leave these fellows those are quite afraid and quite fearful those cannot spelt their own names.

These are deplorable fellows who use fake names even when they know what they writes are below standards!

The Social media forum, I think is for being educative but not for abusive innuendos!
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+2 #17 Julius O. 2018-02-26 23:39
Khisa, why waste your time with an obvious lunatic?

When you wrestle with a pig you both get dirty, yet the pig likes it. Simply ignore that heap of flesh
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-5 #18 Lysol 2018-02-27 00:17
Quoting Mkhisa:

Why do you read a column written by a narcissistic author?

People like us are here to check on the likes of you.

Hitler and others would have been prevented if the internet /social media was there. You cannot get away with it.

If I was one of your so-called students, I would disenroll from your class. You need mental help.

You're not doing any good to your students. and others here at this forum , like one Julius O who defends you (by attacking me). He too may need mental help.
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-2 #19 Lysol 2018-02-27 04:11
Those brothers with last names ending with O. Shame on you if you defend the status quo as house slaves.
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0 #20 Remase 2018-02-27 11:55
Ejakait, Moses conceded that Uganda is a shithole country. You and I are constant readers of his articles and in his subsequent article he called Uganda a rouge state, which is synonymous with shithole country.

Therefore, we should let that go. As a matter of fact he also stated that M7 is a shithole leader who has made Uganda a shithole (rouge state) country, as he has pointed out above, and has continued to open our eyes.

What I have taken from Moses's article is that based from his expertise, knowledge and education M7 is the root cause of Uganda's problems and is a power maniac whose greed is what has ruined Uganda, and has made certain that he will continue to ruin Uganda until he dies.
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