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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: How I have Gained And Lost By Integrating Myself In The...

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: How I have Gained And Lost By Integrating Myself In The Digital Culture

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula
Digital culture is the antithesis of traditional culture. I was born way back in the 27 July 1949 in the traditional culture of the Basoga, and among the Mulawa Clan, one of the many clans of Busoga. Busoga is the most clanned group, with some 300 clans of the nearly of the total 6000 clans in the whole world. Traditional culture was the only culture then.

There were no computers, internet or social media which have taken the world by storm.
When I was growing up at Nawaka, the location of my ancestors, I was adequately exposed to the traditional culture (that is, the shared experience of my Clan – the Mulawa Clan, in Busoga – transferred from one generation to the other) until my date of birth.

I grew up to be quite conversant with the Norms, Language, Festivals, Rituals, Ceremonies, Holidays, Pastimes, Foods, Fashions, Architecture, Craft, Traditional economy, Lifestyle, Belief, Knowledge, Art, Music, Dances, Drama, Burials, Values, Ethics, Values, Sociality, Spirituality and Morality of the Mulawa Clan.

I was instructed in how to be a respectable member of the family, extended family and Clan, and to respect everyone – child, woman and man. I learn’t very early that I belonged to the community and that any older member in the village could constrain me from bad behaviour and/or punish me if I did anything wrong, and only report to my parents the reason why he or punished me. Usually, my parents would, together, listen attentively and then thank him or her. I would never be beaten again but would be told never to do wrong again.

I was never allowed to go to bed later than 6 pm. Attending burials was never allowed when I was young. In fact, I first saw a dead body when I was in Primary 4 at Ikumbya Primary School in present-day Ikumbya Subcounty of Luuka District.

In any case people were not dying as much as they die today. The white man’s health services were better than today and traditional medicines were adequate and efficient. Neither was I allowed to attend certain ceremonies, rituals or to acquaint myself with people taking local brew made from a certain type of banana, which has almost disappeared, or Waragi made from sugarcane.

I was taught very early to work in the garden and to look after cattle and goats. When I started grade school (called nursery school or kindergarten these days) in 1956, my mother and father played the balancing act between studying both at home and school and working in the garden and looking after goats and cattle, or walking long distances to collect milk from the Rwandese refugees, who were keeping some of our cows (but ended up stealing them) and fetching water and firewood.

In the process I learn’t that I had been taught to love work and balance my activity pattern on useful things only. Very early I developed love for music, dance and drama. I became a good singer, player of xylophones, the long drum (Omugaabe) and the short drum (Engoma) and actor in the village.

I carried my skills to Ikumbya Primary School, Mwiri Primary School and Busoga College, Mwiri, where I became a main player of the long drum, and got involved in singing as well. I came to love football both in the village and school.

At Ikumbya Primary School I was made the prefect responsible for Time Keeping when I reached Primary Six; something that became integral to my life. Primary Six those days marked the end of the primary school education, after which we would go junior school education level, which lasted two years.

At Busoga College Mwiri, during my A-Level education, I became a leader again: Head of Hannington House, Prefect in-charge of the School Cafeteria, President of Dramatic Society, President of Social and Cultural Society, and President Debating Society.

Before becoming a leader, however, I was involved quite a lot in social and cultural activities, playing the long drum, shot drum and xylophones, as well as in debating, dramatic activities, singing under the mentorship of Gwahaba and Wangoola-Wangoola.

Unless one was told by one who knew me very well, it would be difficult for anybody to know that at A-Level I was doing science subjects at Busoga College Mwiri: Biology and Chemistry (Geography and General Paper)with people like Balirwa, Kabita, Kawagga, and Nwokedi-Ikechuku). I believe by the time I left Busoga College Mwiri in 1971, I was adequately developed socially, academically and intellectually.

Unfortunately, school life separated me from my traditional community and its traditions, completely severing all ties with them when I was admitted to the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in 1972, to study Zoology, Botany and Geography with Development Studies.

I did not interact with my community again until 1980, when President Idi Amin was overthrown by the combined forces of Yoweri Museveni (Now Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni), Apollo Milton Obote and the Tanzania Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF).

I could feel that I had lost a lot because of the white man’s education and could not fit in well again. Many of the people I had grown up with had died and the young ones did not know.me.

I lost even more when I went back for further studies at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and did not come back to the village until 1991; not to stay but to greet my parents, brothers, sisters and members of the extended family and then go. I was employed by Makerere University as a lecturer in the Faculty of Science. Although I used to frequent the village, I remained a stranger to most of the members who had been born when I was away.

I did not finally settle in my village until 2015, nearly 5 years after my retirement from academic life in 2009. I am now the oldest member of the community, but to many young people I still look as if I am a foreigner in the village. Few feel comfortable interacting with me. Many say I am antisocial. They don’t know that before the white man’s education took a toll on me, I was one of the most social young people in Nawaka village.

Matters have been made worse by my embracing the digital culture so belatedly in my life. I must be one of the few elderly people who are very active on internet and the social media reading, writing articles, debating or initiating debates with young people in the world. In fact, very recently, Daily Express, in its 31ST December 2023 article “LIST: HERE ARE THE BEST OPINIONISTS IN UGANDA IN 2023” wrote:

As 2023 comes to an end, we compile for you a list of the best 10 writers of articles in the country in the year in the year 2023. This list consists of noted Ugandan writers, born or raised in Uganda, whether living there ot overseas and writing the best opinions for readers”.

Daily Express put me as number 2 out of 10. Most of my articles are internet -based and are distributed globally across several social media and in diverse groups or internet-based communities (political, economic, social, academic, intellectual, et cetera).
In explaining why I deserved to be number two among the best 10 writers, of opinions in the country, Daily Express wrote:

“….A former Makerere University lecturer is one of the most social media users and consistent writers on political, social, economic and cultural issues. He exhibits a wide range of knowledge in his writeups which are well researched. His articles are very resourceful and rich in history. He takes the second spot of article writers in 2023”.

Since life is nothing but difference, influence, and experiencing or participating in bringing about change, I decided around 2012 that retirement from public life should not mark the beginning a life of exclusion from influencing minds and causing minds to meet or clash in order to bring about new thinking, rethinking truths, or bringing about change however long it takes.

Although I had been active in the print media and on electronic waves, influencing minds, I concluded that using internet and/or social media would enable me to put my ideas across to many age groups locally, nationally, regionally and globally on a diversity interconnected challenges problems and issues of significance to human living and survival in whatever dimension of human life.

I chose internet and social media because they are more democratic than other human-initiated systems, and convey ideas faster. I was also cognizant of the truism that many Ugandans across the social strata, even in universities, are poor readers and poor listeners.

So, I have used WhatsApp and Facebook mainly; rarely other internet-based media. The aim has been to propagate as much knowledge as possible and more efficiently than when

I was both a teacher and lecturer. I am now well-integrated in the digital culture.
Digital culture is defined as a new form of culture in which the culture of humanity will digitalize and turn into a new form.

Digital culture is the whole of the lifestyle and habits created by the innovations brought by the age in which human beings live, technology taking more place in daily life. However, Artificial Intelligence, a consequence of digital culture is a threat to humanity, since it can displace humanity from many tasks

One writer wrote, “A digital culture is a concept that describes how technology and the internet are shaping the way that we interact as humans. It’s the way that we behave, think and communicate within society…. A digital culture is the product of the endless persuasive technology around us and the result of disruptive technological innovation.

It’s applicable to multiple topics but it comes down to one overarching theme; the relationship between humans and technology…A broad term, digital technologies, include smartphones, social media, digital collaboration tools, enterprise content management, cloud infrastructure and software as a service as well as digital environments — such as the internet — that form the basis of the modern digital world.

Being integral to the digital culture at nearly 75 years of age has enabled me to be in touch with people of all ages and to keep abreast with how each age group values life and perceives and is perceived in the 21st century.

Because my WhatsApp and Facebook friends come from a diversity of stations of life, I have kept abreast with both the collective and individualistic thinking of people in and outside Uganda. I have been able to put my new ideas across to them on a diversity of issues and values of critical thinking, integration, reintegration and education in the 21st Century, among others.

Besides, I have been able to keep abreast with new thinkings and rethinking in The Biology of Conservation, environment and education. I have also learn’t a lot from a diversity of people. In the process I have come across people who are now central to current interests, such as Dr Anthony Isabirye and Dr Rebecaa Alowo in South Africa; Dr Shannon Tito in Canada and Prof. Robert Bakibinga in the USA.

I have also rediscovered long-time friends that had been disconnected from me distance-wise for decades such as Dr Charles Kawagga in Britain and Prof. Davies Bagambiire.in Canada.

Through such contacts one important paper on Water Governance for Inclusive Development and Environmental Sustainability has been accepted for publication in an International Journal, and a book on Uganda is in the press.

Above all my digital social network has grown to be extensive and covers all continents, and is a key in enabling me to combat loneliness. Just last week I connected with someone in I retired from public life in 2009.

I am still pushing on to a large extent because of this network, which keeps the synapses of my brain dynamically interconnected and working.

Being integrated in the digital culture, however, reduced my interaction with my clan people in the rural area, although it has not reduced my interaction with family members and the urban-based clan people.

I belong to one internet-based community for the family and two internet-based communities for the Mulawa Clan. Therefore, urbanism has not really disconnected me from my relatives even if I am largely in the land of my ancestors, from where I produce intellectually and otherwise.

I should not forget to mention that being integral to the digital culture has enabled mee to be constantly in touch with Researchgate.net and Academia.edu. These frequently notify me of the readership of my works worldwide.

As I write this article Academia.edu has just notified me that 3049 papers globally mention my name to-date, including a highly followed author with 2015 followers. That is a great feat in retirement.

I have one problem: the impact of the digital culture on interaction in my 44-year-old marriage institution. My wife and I have never interacted so minimally as we do today. She has a smartphone and I have one. She became 71 today and I am racing towards 75. The smartphone is a bad intruder in our home.

We talk far less than ever before, yet talking and laughing together have in the past has glued us together, sharing our ups and downs. We hardly watch tv together, because of the smartphone. The smart phone consumes a lot of time that would go to keep the old people talking to one another.

Worse still, when our children and their children visit us, each one has a smart phone. It is pathetic when people who should be interacting maximally are busy on the smart phones. I want to pass on some knowledge, wisdom, understanding and insights to the grandchildren like my parents and grandparents used to do, but alas. I can imagine what is happening in the homes of young people with smartphones in between.

Yes, digital culture has transformed my life but it is exacting a negative influence on marriage, family and traditional culture. What about over there? How do we control it and deploy it to less deleterious effect? For me the problem is exacerbated by my writing habits and prolific production of articles on my laptop.

However, someone told me that if I had not embraced the digital culture I would have died long ago. He said that many people who retire pass on in the first five years of their retirement. “You have effectively fought loneliness, the greatest killer of the oldies, with digital technology”, he said.
For God and My Country.

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