Several thousand years separate Abraham from the ill-fated boat, MV Templar.
Soon after the crippled boat sank, many Ugandans got immersed in disapproving commentary about the well-to-do revellers who had rented the boat, and the young women (some of them university students) who had been hired as ‘ushers’ for the occasion.
Every Ugandan, who generally boards a matatu, a bus or an aeroplane without even casually examining their mechanical, insurance and licence status, let alone check the driver or pilot’s qualifications, suddenly became an exacting traveller who would have systematically investigated every aspect of MV Templar before boarding the vessel.
The NRM government therefore has reason to relax. A responsibility that once upon a time sat on the shoulders of various technical government departments, now fell on a bunch of tipsy voyagers.
The NRM government has another reason to relax, on which I will focus: The passengers of MV Templar were sinners! They were sinners because they had those innocent young women on board.
When rich men get close to beautiful young women, the conversation between them can only lead to sexual immorality. Because of the ‘power’ of the rich men involved and the ‘vulnerability’ of the younger women, the ensuing relationships must surely be sexual ‘exploitation’. Our louder religious voices agreed. The fate of the dead on MV Templar looked like a divine punishment.
God has funny ways with women.
First, when human existence was only Adam, God fabricated an afterthought from Adam’s rib. Eve was in effect – and by divine decree – a subordinate.
Later, in his pursuit of land, wealth and tribal power, the blessed man of God, Abraham, solicited his beautiful wife, Sarah, for the sexual pleasure of powerful men, including the Pharaoh (of Egypt), in exchange for protection and various material favours.
Then Abraham turned the tables, using the name and supposed magical power of God to threaten the Pharaoh in an age that did not quite understand the effects of germs, vermin, climate, bad luck and the sorcerer’s tricks.
When the lid on Sarah’s true identity blew off and Abraham was expelled, he took with him very many domestic animals and servants, gifts the Pharaoh had given him as appreciation – or bride price – for Sarah, the wife Abraham had paraded as a sister.
In weird biblical morality, it is the unknowing Pharaoh who faced divine wrath. The man of God, Abraham, packed all his tainted new riches – and his abused wife – and moved on.
An ethically literate modern man is far kinder to women than God. So, the critics who have been describing as godless the way the students were hired to work as ushers on MV Templar could look for a more accurate description.
Moreover, if the hypocrisy of many Ugandans were not the mother of duplicity, they would see the ‘ushers’ who are everywhere.
This very month of Advent, hundreds of nuptial introduction and wedding ceremonies will feature ushers.
Along Kampala Road, many of those posh shops selling computers, cell phones, TV sets and other electro-gadgets employ ushers, usherettes or such dolls masquerading as ‘sales assistants’ and even ‘marketing executives’.
The cult of beauty and the vulgarity of exhibitionism have become enmeshed in the mechanisms of fashion and advertisement. The ‘ornamental’ youngish female, sexually enticing but not necessarily available, can be used – offers herself – as a charm.
But be careful; the rule of not touching her sometimes applies. A South African pastor is just discovering – in court – that the same rule applies with the women at his church.