Opinion: Public debate in a Uganda full of anger

By Joel Mukisa

I made the "mistake" in a debate in our WhatsApp group full of intellectuals of questioning the general Ugandan antipathy towards people  who describe themselves as gay.

I wanted to debate whether being gay, or a homosexual, is as bad as many religious and political leaders in Uganda will want us to believe. I was keen on an intellectual debate. I did not get an intellectual debate back.

Persons, who until that topic, had sounded like the most rational, logical, sensible people turned apoplectic. Suddenly there was no reasoning. From arguing about the pros and cons of whatever was on the table for debate, I was being labelled a closeted gay person, immoral, beyond the pale.

They were not interested in any scientific evidence but the urge to show me that it not palatable with their cultural and religious beliefs.

The intolerance in my WhatsApp group seems to be part of a spirit that is hovering over Uganda. It seems it is almost impossible to have a rational, civilized debate in Uganda right now.

There is no incentive for truth or facts . Many across the spectrum have formed “ echo chambers.“

Lately, it can be terrifying for anyone who utters a controversial view without the benefit of powerful institutions. The result has been the self- silencing of much of Uganda.

Social media and what Niall Ferguson called an Emocracy (rule by emotions) have delivered tools of reputational annihilation (without means of petition or redness into the hands of millions, so that no comment except than most private is entirely safe from the possibility of instantaneous mass denunciation.

Yes, to a degree I agree some opinions are unmistakably shameful. Thinking before speaking is always good practice.

The partisian, sexual orientation, religious or ethnic divides are more imagined than true. They are always an invention of those at the apex of the pyramid (our elites).

I don’t belong to a political party. I subscribe to project Uganda and its success whether under Muhoozi, Kampala or Anslem.

Increasingly though there is little space for centrist voices. Your favorite columnist will be out of businesses next week if he ( rarely she) doesnt understand whats “politically correct”.

We disagree on everything except 25th December and Museveni’s old age!

Polarity is much more digital and electronic than say geophrahic perhaps because of our monolithic geography. Ugandas increasingly inhibit the filter bubbles of news and social media to correspond to their ideological affinities.

Writing this is 2019 feels like the spirit of 1789. “Armed with the truth Jacobins could brand any individuals who dared to disagree with them as traitors and fanatics.”

Today you have been “bought” or are “a sellout” is the language.

Our disagreements may frequently  make our voices hoarse, but they rarely sharpen our thinking much less change our minds. Debate to change minds seems to be dead in Uganda.

Joel Mukisa is a freelance journalist

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