While I was reading one of the wise sayings by the Igbo of Nigeria “The death that kills an owl, comes from its throat” I was disturbed by mosquitoes, which seemed to want to feast on me and efforts to chase them were futile. I therefore decided to kill three of them.
This reminded me of the long time life scenarios as we grew up in Kigarama. Whenever my mother would see possible signs of greed sometimes as we shared one plate of food, she would always warn you about the dangers of greed and always summarised them (dangers) into one word, death. I still remember vividly the words of my late mother whenever she noticed any signs of greed in a child “Omururu niguza kukwiita” (meaning, that greed will kill you).
In this note therefore, I wish to share with you some of the dangers of too much greed, which may include death (both physical and moral). And looking at our society today, you may easily identify victims of greed already and this is my motivation to share with you at this particular time to save you from the “death.” Simply put, we all know what greed is. But for the sake of this note, I will share briefly about greed and what exactly it is. Greed is an insatiable longing for excess (sometimes not even needed), especially for wealth, status, power, or food. I remember very vividly that we were always punished if it was discovered that while eating, you used both sides of the mouth.
It was believed that as children, we were supposed to use one side of the mouth to chew the food. If you used both sides, you were deemed greedy and you risked being punished. This was always done in light of securing equal opportunity for all the children around the eating tray to get a fair share of the food. Today, some people may be biting bigger pieces as compared to the size of their mouth and their capacity to chew, and they end up using both sides of the mouth, or even sometimes they choke. You may not look around for examples, just look into your heart and you will know what I am talking about.
You may wonder why there is too much greed in society today. The purpose for greed, and any actions associated with it, is sometimes to deprive others of potential means (perhaps, of basic survival and comfort) or future opportunities accordingly. In villages like Kigarama, community leaders develop greed for the “food” meant for the people and soon the people starve. The story is not any different in Amolatar or even Buhweju or any other Ugandan village.
The consequence of greedy activity however, may be inability to sustain any of the costs or burdens associated with that which has been or is being accumulated, leading to a backfire or destruction, whether of self or more generally. Remember that the mosquitoes I mentioned in the beginning of this note, that insisted on feasting on me even when I have already been alerted would not save them from a slap with my big hand, and just like that, they died.
Whether we still have children who bite more than what their capacity can chew and swallow but still do it because of greed; whether we still have people who have too much appetite that they can do whatever it takes to get “some more”, whether we still have people, especially our leaders, who care less about the future of their society and are happy to be paid a few coins before they can take decisions, or even, whether we still have people who may not mind losing their lives trying to satisfy their insatiable appetite, is the reason I am writing this note. Between me and you, we ought to check ourselves and guide our neighbour.
I also remember that as we grew up, there were times when we had abnormal appetite, but somehow there was scientific explanation that it was part of growth. Whether we still have teenagers for instance in our parliament is what I don’t know. But I think we don’t, so something must be wrong. The bad/good news to them is that the death that will kill them will come from their throat.
Is it possible to manage your appetite to avoid greed? Yes. One can learn to appreciate that there is always a tomorrow that must be lived better than the present. One can always be content with the little at their disposal and/or earn what they have strived for. Leaders can always operate as stewards as they manage public resources. Parents can always advise their children on the right morals for a better society.
Citizens can also resolve to always punish those who become greedy and blunder. That funny belief that one must amass too much even when the rightful beneficiaries are not doing well but are too weak to defend themselves, must stop.
If you and me can do something small every day to strengthen the moral fibre of our society, with high integrity levels and low levels of greed, we shall build a strong nation. Our descendants will be proud of us. But if we don’t, the death that will kill us will be our own creation and most probably will come from our throats. Until my next note.
Greetings from Kigarama.
Mr Kyokwijuka is the executive director Youth Aid Africa.