Consider Religion

Many times when I sit down at my computer to write a blog post, it’s because I felt a nudge and sometimes even a compulsion to offer my opinion on something that I care about. Now since for the better part of the past year and a half I have been consumed with thoughts on religion, I have found it hard to resist writing about it. Unfortunately, many such posts I write never get posted and here is why.

I was raised religious, most of my family is religious and even some are clergy. I have experienced first hand the merits of religion and for this reason, have developed a profound respect for it. I don’t think I would have made it through my teens doing as I willed let alone make it to medical school without the discipline that I acquired in a religious context. Could I have made it another way? – probably. But that is how it happened and so I am grateful for that.

And it is not just me that has a lot to be thankful for from religion. A lot of goodwill I have seen came from religious people. The many schools and hospitals that were built by missionaries in my country, the scholarships for the underprivileged, the children’s homes and so much more good may not have been possible without religious people. But ultimately it was not all good, which is why I left. I mean I did not leave religion for all its merits but rather it’s demerits.

There is both good and bad in religion. The good may outweigh the bad or vise-versus depending what perspective you take. However, I fear that by overly pointing out the bad: the inconsistencies, fallacies, and evils in our faiths, we risk trivializing the capacity of these faiths to cause us to be good: patient, kind, selfless, humble, long-suffering, forgiving, just… (Read 1 Corinthians 13). At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to do so – to talk and write about the bad in religion even if one decided to only do that. I was helped a lot by good people that led me here by way of logical argument, mockery and outright dissing of religion for which I am also very grateful even though such may not be for me, at least not presently.

But there remains a caution to me and all skeptics or atheists or irreligious or “Nones”, consider religion and how we are to move on without it. It may be possible to be good without faith but that would require of us to consider all schools of knowledge that have existed and still exist including religion(s) and cherry picking for the bits that foster harmony and growth. And this requires of us to be more diligent, more studious and more open minded because now we are masters of our own fate in a broader sense. We don’t shy away from questioning our beliefs and having them questioned, we don’t get to blame anyone but ourselves and sheer bad luck for our misfortunes; we bear the responsibility of the world on our shoulders with no hand from the divine.

Featured image: Group photo at the opening of the new Mengo Hospital, Uganda in 1902 after its destruction by lightning. The hospital was established by Sir Albert Ruskin Cook in 1897 who was a medical missionary under the Church Missionary Society. Photo from here

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How to make a dress code

Today is the last of this month; but before we move on to August, allow me to consider one last event in July. Earlier this month the Ministry of Public Service, Uganda released a circular in which it prescribed a dress code for the non-uniformed officers in the public service. Notable no nos were mini skirts, cleavage, and multicoloured nail polish for women and for men, there’d be no tight trousers, short sleeved shirts and open shoes except for medical reasons.

Now all these seemed fair to me until I heard the reactions from the civil servants and others concerned. Some said the rules were oppressive, others said they’d need a dressing allowance to cover the cost of buying new clothes (as if they were walking around naked before) and others thought the whole dress code thing was rather trivial.

When I was in high school, I ran for prefect. On the day of open campaigns, after I had embarrassed myself by dancing for the school badly, one of the teachers asked me, “What would you and your fellow prefects do about the improper dressing of the students?” Which was a bit unfair of him to ask me since I was not standing for Head Prefect but anyway I went on to answer.

Now I went to an international school for my final year of high school so the environment there was much unlike other local schools in the country. For a conservative, which I think the teacher was, the students’ dressing was anything but proper. To the liberal, which seemed to be the more influential group in the school, everything was fine. Actually, a few would say we were smart.

It appeared that I had three choices: go with the conservative and condemn a good number of the students, side with the more influential liberals and win the favour of the students or take a politically neutral standpoint and neither offend nor side with either group. I chose the third. I answered then as I would now that “Morals are not universal, but we as an institution have to set a standard by which we operate and my job would be to encourage my fellow prefects to set an example for the rest of the school by how they dress.” And the students cheered for me.

Now, of course, certain elements of our moral codes are so ubiquitous they seem to be universal and self-evident but the way in which they manifest practically is anything but universal. For example, we may all agree that one should not walk around naked but the length of one’s skirt is still debatable. But as an institution with a vision for the desired future and a reputation to create and protect, it would be wise for us to decide on which length of a skirt we shall allow our representatives to don. We must have had a dress policy at my high school but I don’t know whether it went as far as stating the length of one’s skirt relative to their anatomy.

But if and when you decide to have an institutional policy on how your members dress, I suggest from my inexperienced but good observational point of view that it satisfies at least two criteria. The first, it should be functional. There are many public servants doing all kinds of jobs. Some work indoors, outdoors, both in and out doors; some are more physical than others, some interact with people on a daily basis while others only interact with a few people rarely. And I think it is common sense that the rules not be so strict as to deter a person from properly carrying out their duties. Which is probably why it wasn’t mentioned in the circular that there are cases in which the prescribed dress code would not be functional.

Now I don’t know where exactly doctors fall, whether uniformed or non-uniformed officers but let me take them for an example. A doctor interacts with people on a daily basis so yes he/she should look professional but his/her work is so physical and long that the prescribed dress code is not functional. In the daily tropical heat of Uganda, wearing a vest or undershirt, a long sleeved shirt, neck tie and white coat and then standing on a ward round for four hours is neither necessary nor practical. Personally, I gave up on vests and undershirts altogether while at the hospital. The circular maybe should have implied or explicitly allowed for the dress code to be interpreted on a contextual basis to cater for the variety of posts in the public service.

Secondly, the institutional policy should not be seen to inadvertently promote useless prejudices that it should in fact actually be seeking to challenge and nullify. I was watching a female YouTuber go on about modesty talk in the church and she made a point that I’d like to paraphrase. Isn’t it a problem that a woman is told to dress for the benefit of the man. If she is smart, it is to please the man and if she is modest, it is so that the man is not stumbled in his walk of faith. Why can’t she do it for herself; look sexy for her confidence, be modest for her honour? Why is it always about the men?

And I get it, maybe most women that have been raped have been raped because they looked too appealing that their rapists had no choice but violate their rights but you’d have a hard time proving that. And now let me borrow something from the ex, why does a woman have to lose her femininity in order to be taken seriously in the work place? In her words, “We can be both sexy and serious at work.” An institutional policy on dress should not be seen to promote deleterious prejudices on the basis of religion, tribe, sex, and race and it especially shouldn’t promote sexism (misogyny).

I get it, these prejudices are so entrenched within the societal mindset that it’s almost futile to radically challenge them individually or as a singular institution. But rather than buy into and therefore promote them, we should nibble away at the edges of these prejudices with the hope of one day to have eventually eaten all of them away.

Featured image: The cast of Suits, a Law TV series

 

Who’s a hoe?

I was chatting with a friend the other day when the subject of whores came up. Particularly, what’s a woman’s number got to be to earn her the title whore? I was shocked by his opinion. By his definition, nearly all women were whores. So I hoped to challenge him by noting, “So you are most likely going to marry a whore,” and to this, he replied, “Definitely, for me, I accepted a long time ago that I would marry a whore!”

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When Sex is on the table

If you watched the power-rangers and you are still a virgin, go kill yourself, because you are going to die a virgin any ways. But if you did not kill yourself yet you are still unmarried, shame on you. Unless you are a guy in which case, high five! If you are a girl who had sex before marriage, how could you? How could you be so selfish? Did you think for a moment about how much shame this could bring your parents? Did you consider how much less bride price your father’s going to fetch for your hand in marriage just because you couldn’t keep your legs together? Huh!?!

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Cover all B’s

One time I was in the car with my parents, sister, two other dudes and another lady when we stopped at a market to get some groceries. Being the guy that I am, I easily spotted the boobs. They swung from side to side, up and down and even hang low when their proprietor bent down to pick a fruit. The owner, probably in her forties and clearly parous or they wouldn’t have been so pendulous. Unsurprisingly, nobody in the car offered a comment; they either hadn’t noticed or simply ignored. Whatever the reason, I was offended, because they all should have commented. By the prevailing standards of proper dressing, she was indecent! I wasn’t offended by her indecency per se however, but that she got away with it.

Let us imagine she was 20 years old, a size D and that her D’s were hanging out in the open in a similar manner. Sorry if I lost you there but in short, let us imagine that she had really nice boobs and that she flaunted them in a similar manner. Would she get away with it? No way! She wouldn’t hear the end of it. And even if she covered up, she would be too self-conscious to go about her work with similar ease because apparently, she can’t be comfortable in her own skin.

I have a sister whom I’ll admit is gifted by nature, and honestly, I feel for her; nothing fits. Not the skirts, not the dresses not the denim jeans-clothes worn with ease by most kids her age. She can’t risk looking too sexy or else she’d be indecent. She is in essence a slave to her own body. It dictates what she will wear even if she’d rather be comfortable. And whereas most girls her age struggle with the balance between decency and comfort, I suspect it’s a bit harder for her.

What is decency? Is it subjective or objective? Is it absolute or relative? Is it universal or pertains only to a few? Is it merely the absence of arousal, of feelings deemed sinful or is it based on something less basic? In all fairness, shouldn’t the laws of decency be the same for all women and wouldn’t this make them more easily adoptable?

I like to think I am conservative, so I am all for modesty. But I am also progressive, so I am equally sold out on equality and equity. Old women, cover your boobs! They are not attractive and that is clearly offensive. However, don’t do it for me. Do it for your daughters that you constantly nag about the lengths of their skirts, the tightness of their jeans and the amount of cleavage they show. Inspire them to be better and lead by example.

Featured Image: Nipple Silhouette by Nguyen Thanh Long from Saigon, Vietnam