DR SR NAJJUKA SOLOME: Poverty is a stubborn culture that can only be supplanted by a deep and dynamic development culture

Sr. Dr. Najjuka Solome is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Victoria University (PHOTO /Courtesy)

Here is another brief moment to deepen our imagination and understanding of development before the country rolls out the Parish Development Model (PDM) (2021/2022) soon. Can you fathom that Japan, China, and Uganda were opened to the Western world around the same historical time? The impact of this encounter with the West or the meeting of cultures on these three different states is as interesting as it is variegated.

The bamboo curtain was ripped open after the opium war with Britain around 1839 to 1842, and the tumultuous invasion of the West soon made China realise they had no choice, but to follow the development design of the West, especially in the arms and warfare development: “we can only beat our enemies by copying and outdoing them in their own ways”, said the emperor. And this he did!

Japan faced the West in turn in the 1840s, and Europe showed it was the master of the world. In the face of the growing tumult and unrest, the Tokugawa regime was beleaguered and paralysed. Japan, however, learnt the lesson quickly too and they began the road to modernization and industrialization; “if we have to save our land and culture, we must copy their ways – it is only then that we may have a chance of survival.”  Europe was at the height of its industrialization at this point in the 1800s – Britain leading the way.

The nation of Japan impressed the whole of Asia with its development feat. Japan was phenomenally successful in emulating the West, industrializing rapidly prior to 1914, and then again before 1939; it colonized a large part of East Asia by 1945 and then overtook much of the West in GDP per head by the 1980s. Not surprisingly, Japan served as an influential economic model when the East Asian tigers began their economic take-off from the late 1950s. It is Japan’s development model and miracle that would still interest countries like Uganda.

Very important to note here is that around these same years that Japan and China were invaded by the West, Uganda was similarly opened up to the West. The first explorers Speke and Grant and the subsequent administrators appeared in Uganda in 1862, declared the queen’s intentions, albeit in vague but resolute ways – and like in China and Japan the colonization and exploitation of the West began to unfold, take shape, reach out to the resources and the minds of the Ugandans like in the rest of Africa. The beginnings of a menticide (the killing of the mind) in Uganda and the rest of the continent were henceforth registered.

The quizzical question here is, If China and Japan suffered the same onslaught of the hegemony and exploitation of the West at the same time as we did, why is it that the two countries are far from where we are regarding development, even as we claim our lands were progressive, had a lot of potential and set on the right truck: “… if only our paths were not littered by the unjust machinations of the West!!”

Here is the reason why – this among others of course. The intervention of the Western nations in China and Japan found strong nations with civilizations that had lasted more than 2000 years. But nonetheless, we have to realise that with these civilizations or not, both countries had proved weak and had been subjugated by the West. So, whence came the strength of Japan and China to make the steps they have made in development in comparison to Uganda or Africa?

The answer comes from only one strong reason that both countries realized early enough that more than laying down strong, practical, and physical strategies for development, they needed to tackle the issue of culture (which includes people’s mindsets and attitudes).

For it easily became apparent to them that poverty and weakness is a culture that can only disappear by being supplanted by a counter and strong culture of a cocktail of strong values that must cement any practical endeavours to bring lasting change. In this way then, Uganda should realise that in the new Parish Development Model (PDM), pillar seven assigned to mindset change, should instead be relegated to the first place so to read and be valued as pillar one.

Attitudinal or mindset change is in truth the bedrock and founding pillar of development in any state. Why would it be number seven or last in this seemingly promising model? Mindset change is a process that lasts years of regular teaching, mentoring, and imprinting values deeply in peoples psyche and being. A herculean task but an inevitable one!

During the period of the Western invasion and exploitation of China, Mao Zedong firstly and promptly declared a cultural revolution that was supposed to fundamentally change people’s minds leading to holistic development in the state. Even though Mao Zedong’s “four Cs”- cultural revolution did not go as planned (turned violent at times), at least the message had reached the people that change is wholistic and that they had to re-identify and deepen their values in all aspects of life.

Remember now, China was building on a strong cultural foundation that the Chinese state went to great lengths, in both the Ming and Qing periods, to inculcate in the population; a sense of shared values and culture based on Confucian principles. The Chinese state saw moral instruction, amongst both the common people and the elites, as both desirable in itself and also as a means of bringing about the much-needed change and development. This truly, is a great stop-over point for Uganda and other developing countries in their quest for development- and in this country we have the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity to work with as we roll out the Parish Development Model (PDM).

In Japan, the Samurai (privileged and specialiesed soldier group) seeing the threat of the West, became leaders in teaching selflessness and love for their state. For as the country was transitioning to modernity, they were the first to sacrifice their own privileges (land entitlements, food, and suchlike) and render themselves to free service and to great patriotism. The forfeiture of their old feudal-style privileges, namely their monopoly of the right to bear arms and their previous payments in kind, were a great inspiration and fire towards developmental change and its concomitant values in the “New Japan”.

This spirit propelled the Japanese to become loyal subjects to “advance public good and promote common interests” always ready to offer themselves courageously to the state and its new programs. When I visited the Meiji monument in Tokyo in 2018, I could not miss the spirit that brought about the Japanese development miracle that so much evades us in Uganda, as we plan to roll out our Parish Development Model (PDM) – that means to deliver public and private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the parish level as the lowest economic planning unit (PDM, 2021/2022).

The ethical landscape developed in Japan – the moral backbone of Japan, and the moral efforts in the other tiger economies that encourages the population to honesty, selflessness, and a great sense of patriotism – that may erode the sense of greed and personal gain, is what should make content of the “FIRST”, but now the “SEVENTH” pillar of the Parish Development Model (2021/2022).

This Asian example is presented here to underline for our country, the power of the “moral backbone” – the change of mindset, the ethical underpinning of all national ventures that must be cultivated and must be the fundament of all strategies and programs of development. Whilst we think and finalise the parish model, we should also have plans to help our people meet to discuss and device ways of developing ethics that support our grassroot efforts towards inclusive development.

If corruption that is almost a psychic epidemic in Uganda continues to reign freely, putting resources at the local level will only be changing posts to give the lower echelons chance to “eat ko katono” as the Ugandans have learnt to say. If we do not give mindset change its central role, and if we do not see a real ethical revolution as eminent, all our efforts of forwarding this new model may only keep its laboratory-like purity in explaining developmental change, but go nowhere near its realisation!




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