A few weeks ago, as they do every Sunday morning, one Charles Tumwine, who describes himself as an apostle, was in conversation with another ‘apostle’ and a third person on Impact FM.
Mr Tumwine narrated how it took one of his clients (or member of his congregation) seven years to get her bachelor’s degree. According to him, his client’s academic effort had all along been sabotaged by ‘emyoyo gy’ekika’ (clan spirits).
Tumwine claimed to have exorcised (driven out) those spirits, after which the woman passed her exams.
Not to be outdone, the other ‘apostle’ also narrated a story with similar ingredients.
If the radio (and TV) conversation included a witchdoctor (and I sincerely pray that they bring one on board), he, too, would probably narrate how he liberates clients from the power of clan (or ancestral) spirits; after which their performance in education, business and social relations dramatically improves.
As a regular reader probably knows, my interest in this subject is not out of malice. It is ‘anthropological’, an occasional tint of mischief notwithstanding! Several e-mails assure me that many readers are just waking up to the devices of the deceivers who over-deal in spirits, and that I should be as tireless as the deceivers.
Perhaps a distinction is necessary. The Christian spiritualist generally holds that the clan spirits are always evil and must be fought and driven off. The witchdoctor generally holds that these spirits are sometimes evil, and should be fought, but also that they sometimes have legitimate grievances and should be propitiated and reconciled with, and any wrongs corrected.
If your visual field is not narrowed by blinkers, like they put on horses, you can see that not only is the Christian spiritualist thinking like the witchdoctor, but the witchdoctor is more ‘reasonable’.
Why? Because before Christianity arrived, in a world supposedly controlled by spirits that did not include a risen Christ or the spirits of other Christian saints, there were concepts of right and wrong; of justice and injustice; of retribution and reconciliation.
Having said that, and having acknowledged my interest in the subject, I can still say – at the risk of offending our apostles and witchdoctors – that these interpretations of human experience are as intriguing as they are silly.
What amazes me is that people who trade in spirits for a living propagate those interpretations apparently with no embarrassment at all.
Any number of reasons can explain why an undergraduate may struggle before completing their course. Their natural gift at birth; their upbringing, including food; their school background; where they study for their degree; how far from top grade campus conditions or how condemned to wretched slum conditions.
If the student is a ‘mature’ part time student, with children, a job and a spouse-of-sorts, the hurdles can be very high.
If our ‘apostles’ and witchdoctors replace all these challenges with clan spirits, or if they say that it is clan spirits that bring these challenges, and we believe them, then we are in danger of applying the same kind of attribution to many of the situations that sometimes complicate our lives or puzzle us. We are in danger of not searching for their true causes and finding rational solutions to them. We risk making silly thinking ‘normal’.
This can have far-reaching implications in the task of building a nation that strives to be relevant in the future of mankind. If our ministry of Education was blessed with enlightened thinkers, policy-makers and theme directors, it would be already addressing the issue.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.