I remember when I used to have meals with cousins, uncles, and nieces in our extended family. Everyone was welcome for the meal. There is a tradition in the Baganda tribe, and in most of Uganda, that strangers are welcomed to eat when they pass by homes during meal times. It is a sign of good courtesy. We never had a dining table; we’d sit outside under the mango tree with a fine breeze and share food with everybody. My dad and his friends would sit apart, so they could discuss serious issues. Nobody dared to eat too fast, or too slowly, because there were clear consequences for either. Here, we learned to respect the gift of the company of others and learn to welcome everyone to share in the little we had at table that day.
This culture naturally allowed us to develop in generosity and a realization of the gift of other people. These were the good old days. We now live in a society that glorifies small families. These days, there is rampant talk of ‘quality life,’ which implies that all the good is enjoyed by a mother, father, and one child. This is quite a paradise, right? We do not notice that society is growing ever more selfish, and less virtuous. The changing world of technology contributes to this cycle of selfishness as we place importance on having the latest and greatest technology. Samsung Galaxy S 4 or Iphone 5 is not the last innovation; more is coming, and we want it all for ourselves. This produces a dangerous tone, and a deeply consumerist society.
It is true that urban areas have many people, because that is where the opportunities are concentrated. However, travelling away from Kampala to Nairobi in Kenya reveals vast unoccupied lands. These lands are capable of supporting development, beginning with agricultural production and occupation. Where is the overpopulation here? For frequent flyers, even more unoccupied lands can be viewed from the air. Free land is not necessarily only in Antarctica. It is right around us.
Economically, the more people, the more needs to be consumed, and hence the more the jobs will be created to meet demand. Today, if someone looked for a job and ‘failed’ to get one, they could begin by blaming their failure on the people who have jobs, as though if there were fewer people, everything would have worked out well. We cannot give in to such dangerous manifestations of selfishness. What we need is more jobs, not fewer people.
Governments need to root out corruption so that resources can be used for the common good. There has to be fairer remuneration, especially for those employees with sizable families, so as to make these provisions possible. The Creator planned well, and we have to do the best we can to invite everybody at the meal table of life to see how best we can partake the fruits of creation, not claim these are for some privileged few and others deserve to vanish somehow.
In the end, we all have a responsibility to those around us. To begin with, we need to appreciate each other. We need to be men and women of initiative, so that we can secure the future for those to come after us. We need to be good stewards, not selfish people who think that this world belongs to us. Our world can have many more people, and we need to plan well as governments and individuals for future generations.
By: Obeja Roderick, Director of Operations at WYA Africa