Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Righteous Indignation; Things That F***ing Piss me Off and Give Me Hope

Last week, the Ugandan social media was awash with the #UGBlooggers7days [collated by the dutiful and obsessive Joel] hashtag. A conversation that started with a one Raymond’s insatiable greed for Ugandan reading material thereby plummeting the whole blogosphere into a blogging frenzy. Suffice to say I’m glad I was there to suggest the 250 word limit because certain people were talking 600 and 400 words as a minimum. And that had its own deliciousness. Savour it

More interestingly, in the course of last week, I read a post by SamiraSalwani where she explained a phenomenon called white privilege and colonial mentality. From thought provoking to downright alarming at the state of affairs in my country. I couldn't believe my eyes as I read it. More, I couldnt believe the directness of it all. It was as if she was being fueled by that calculated methodical anger you get from serving a revenge ice cold. Under the surface but seething. Cold. Calculating. Then I realized that the ghosts I was imagining as racial anger was her razor sharp intellect.

Throw yourself upon it and die.


Die cut up in pieces from it.

Die with your ignorance bleeding from every crevice in your body.

It was not only sharp, it was steady and abiding. Diamond hard. Never goes blunt. So I looked up several of her other articles. Yeah, diamond hard intellect. But I digress.

“White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, or economic circumstances.” - That is how Google describes it.

This is what Samira had been talking about. How Ugandans or Kenyans were more likely to treat people of Caucasian extraction in more privileged ways; quicker service at restaurants, more attention in service queues, etc because of the colour of their skin. Because of a perceived superiority.

No sooner had that storm subsided than Simon released the mother of all hailstorms. The blog post can be read here. At 11:00PM he was livid and frothing at the mouth. Imagine a bull mastiff with rabies and an itch. Tearing into the New Vision and its editors. Asking pointed questions and causing uneasiness all around. He was taking names and no prisoners. 

But what he did do was raise once again the question of how a colonial sport for which every single element (riders’ kits, horses, saddles, jumping bars, etc) had been imported was able to get a page and a half of coverage in a country where our national netball team, which is going to the world cup by the way, couldn't even afford to buy water last week. I swear I think I saw a swear word in Luganda.  

And as if the night would not end just like that. At one 1:00AM someone posted this scan from a newspaper advert yesterday. An advert for several jobs and an administrative assistant. The admin assistant had to be a foreigner!! What the f*** were they thinking? Can you be more disrespectful than that? How dare you?!! Is this your father's house?!!

Now I was frothing at the mouth. I wanted to say something. To write to these people. To say to them they couldn’t be so stupid. You can’t feel that untouchable and hope to get far ahead. Then I realized that it wasn't just me. Its like all the media I had been exposed to had riled me up, had made me think of all the opportunities that people had missed and all the mistreatment people suffered because of this stupid white privilege.

But also I felt a sense of relief as I dozed off.


Because my anger was a sign. A sign that there is a new wind sweeping across Africa. People were questioning these “practices”. And they won’t stop because the awakening was happening. Yes, the good jobs might continue going to the less educated less experienced white people and their lackeys. The projects will end and they will have to go back home, or not. But us here, we are building our country. One brick at a time. One step at a time. And hopefully through blogs like this, one story at a time.

I'm off to lunch

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Challenge: NO, YOU ARE NOT GOD - Day 3 Post

When you work in any communications and advertising business especially an ad agency you learn quickly and swiftly how the work flows.

Account manager or client services
Creative studio.
Account manager

That is how it works in almost every industry. There is an interface between the specialist and the client. Someone who interprets the jargon for both ends. In certain agencies, studios and indeed workplaces they pay it a little differently

Account manager or client services
Account manager

The creative people have such a refined sense of what their communication should be doing that they consider themselves gods. They are the final word on photoshop, layouts and headlines and punctuation. All this is fine until it isn't. Ruling with no mercy or empathy and a fist of iron they have no place for bickering or talking back. No matter what the client says or wants. That’s not what THEY want. But mostly it isn’t about the client and what they want. Its more that someone in the universe doens't want what they want. 
Someone differs with their approach to things. 
Someone differs. 

The argument can be made that creative people have been over indulged and therefore have over sized egos. That they are paid higher than most people in their age range or that they tend to have specialized skills which make them as good as they are. Which is all well and good. But the truth is they are human. They shit. They breathe. They err. And that should be enough. However, their inflated sense of self doesn’t allow them to see their own humanity. Their fallibility.

The last point is most likely as a result of how long they think they have worked to get where they are. The truth is the trenches in advertising are grueling and cruel. Starting out it is impossible that one can even ever hope to make it anywhere worth mentioning. The hours are atrocious, there is no credit given for work and no work you do is ever good enough. Ever. There is always a guy with a better script. A better ad. A better layout. A faster computer. And so the thick skin develops from early on. Merging and morphing with complexes (some from as early as childhood) to form creatures no one recognizes in the end. The long work hours make these people impervious to the level of exhaustion that will normally tire out ordinary people. They will push and push hard. Warping their reality of what the people around them can and can’t do. And eventually warping their own minds about their own abilities. They think they inexhaustible, indefatigable. Untouchables.

At this point you must put the dog down. Because they cannot be saved. Why am I tirading like this? Because a person of meagre standing in my office said to me recently “Just because you know the answers doesn’t mean you will get asked the questions. The truth is people hate a know-it-all.”

As I sat back and ruminated on that it hit me for all the reasons creatives were revered and feared; they still were people. More seasoned, yes. More exposed, yes. But still people. Their years of working like slaves did not entitle them to treat the rest of the world like lesser people; especially because they are lesser people. They willingly applied for these jobs. They signed up for the pain and suffering. Thhy chose this path for the glory it promised. That was the price.  Their genius isn't a validation for their behaviour. In fact it is their greatest undoing.

By being as great as they were, they were inadvertently not as great as they were. Because they missed out on the simple stupid moments of being human. Of being fallible. This made them Outliers. Observers of the human experience and not partakers. Like the orphan child looking into the home of a family unable to comprehend how people can have so much emotion. They are in fact relegated to the observer status. Watching other human beings to do their work better. And thus the sadness of it all; foiled by their own genius they come to terms with their humanity. And accept they are not god. They could be. If they could walk away from it all. They could be. But alas. Without it all to look at and do great ads. They are nothing.

This is a message to all creatives: you are not god. But you could be.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Challenge:The 4 Stages of Mentorship: A Quick Exploration Of The Inevitable Conflict Between Mentors & Their Charges

Back when I was but young and naïve I was mentored by a young man who was only but slightly older than I was and who my friends derisively called “The Shark”. He was in the 95th percentile of intelligence of anyone I had known at the time. Even to this day, The Shark is in the top 5 most intelligent people in the world I have met. He was astute. He worked like a demon. He was driven. He was many things to many people but above all he was torrentially unrelenting. He would not quit and could not be out performed. He wore you down with the sheer amount of energy and work output he brought to a single project or even a conversation. These things made him unbeatable but also unforgiving. Of any insurrection or disloyalty. Or any perceived slight done to him.

He was what I wanted to be. I attended law school so I could learn how he thought. I dated law school girls so I could see women through his eyes. I even went as far as mimicking his gestures to achieve the demagogue like – power he held over rooms when he spoke. Oh, how had I been patient.

One day as we walked from his hostel to Wandegeya to get some rolex for supper he said something to me “There are 4 stages to any mentorship Identification, Bonding, Conflict, Resolution. We are heading into the conflict zone. Be prepared.” I was confused so I asked him and what follows is the transcript of that relationship.

Identification: There is a stage where the mentor and the mentee evaluate each other. Each one assessing their prey. Each one thinking they have the advantage on the other. The mentor driven by some egoistic need to impress upon someone young their skills and their wisdom. The desire to get unquestioned loyalty and attention. The mentee thinks he has found a gold mine. Where he can learn without question, slack without rebuke and be treated with favour without end. At some point in this stage the decision is made to enter this dance to the death.

Bonding: The bonding process was essential as after discovery the mentor and mentee got to know each other, spent inordinate amounts of time with each other. The mentor sees all their own promise and achievements in the mentee while the mentee hopes that they can be up to and maybe even more than the mentor. They will adopt their mentor’s speech patterns, diction, choice of reading material and even dress elements or overall approach to fashion (grungy, rugged, formal, sharp, clean cut, etc) It was in this space that the critical mistake of crossing boundaries was always bound to occur. For the mentee, it was out of naiveté but for the mentor the decision was almost always borne out of some misguided sense that they could trust the mentee and after all, if they were “showing them the ropes” why couldn’t they “let them in”. The result was a mismatch between expectations and reality. This is of course naturally aided by the process that it’s only the people who you care about who can hurt you.

Conflict: And then it finally came. It’s confusing that people who can be so obsessed with each other can so quickly devolve into near mortal enemies. Why? Because in most cases what draws people into mentor mentee relationships is what revolts them against each other. In the bonding process above the “deep dive’ that happens allows people to look deep and what they often see is a reflection of themselves. And they don’t like that. They quickly notice traits that are way to familiar with, either taking advantage of others, a mean streak, a penchant for exploitation, taking others for granted, a knack for ingratitude, etc. These things trigger a separation of swift and decisive proportions.

Resolution: In the time apart both parties think evaluate and weigh the mentorship and what it could do for them. Whenever the mentee repents (as the mentor has no need to and will never feel the need to and more importantly is bound for the sake of the relationship dynamic never to apologize) and sees the folly of their ways, they re-approach, this time with the hindsight of wisdom and the cautious shield of distance; careful to never be too clingy or appear too eager or too keen. Tempered. Tamed. Mentored.

Today I have mentors but I make the deliberate effort not to work with them. On projects yes, over the long haul definitely not. Because they are human. Because they are fallible. Also, idols like mentors are better seen on a pedestal and never up close. Whether that is because to not show the cracks in the idol or the flaws in the mentor, it’s a practice that serves to protect both of them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

REPOST: Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Blogging Challenge: Calling All Ugandan Bloggers

This is a call to all Ugandan Bloggers, all protocol observed.

There has been a decline in the blogging habits of many erstwhile Ugandan bloggers. We do not know whether it is because you guys got jobs and went abroad but that is not the point. In a bid to renew the blogging culture of many of us RaymondNevAllan with the input of OliveRuthDan Lynn and I, decided to challenge ourselves to write each day for at least 7 days starting today.

You can write about anything and everything as long as it is not less than 250 words.

Please share you blog on Twitter so we can comment and experience your experiences with the hashtag #UgBloggers7Days.

Let others know.