A case for profanity

As I leave religion, I am faced with the challenge of defining my values independent of it. No longer is it enough to say that one should be honest because God says so. Rather, I need to make the case for honesty versus dishonesty withstanding the ninth commandment. As you can imagine, it makes for a messy value system that is dynamic, practical and progressive. However, as the title may suggest, I won’t be discussing the ethics of honesty today. No, today we shall consider a matter much less noble and vulgar. It concerns that all too familiar word, the F word or in full, FUCK.

I hope it’s not too late to warn you now that I will not censor the F word wherever it need be said in this post. So if you can’t stand it, I bid thee farewell. And on I go, first with a story.

It was in the night after a social gathering with my more proper friends at the time, and I was driving. Now Ugandan drivers are not known for their patience or reverence for traffic laws, so driving especially on a busy night is a nightmare. I was cursing all the way briefly forgetting my more sensitive companions for the journey. Actually, I didn’t notice it one bit that I could be offensive. Not until I was left alone in the car with one friend that brought it to my attention.

Now I have always been a bit of a potty mouth, using the F word in moderation but using it nonetheless. So I was dumbfounded at the gravity with which my friend considered the matter. In my defense, I pointed out that I didn’t think much of these words but apologized for having been insensitive to my friends. But he wouldn’t have it! He wanted me to recognize the fault with using these words at all. Quoting verse after verse in the bible that prohibited such language. Well, not being one to challenge scripture then, I acknowledged my sin and promised to work on it. But I wasn’t severely impressed still which is why I don’t think I ever committed to keeping that promise anyway; and here’s why.

There’s no alternative. Few words can convey the emotions that go with statements like “what the fuck” or “fuck you” or “you are so fucked up” or “you are so full of shit” if any. And the word “fuck” is so effective and precise in communicating the intensity of what we are actually feeling at that point or the seriousness of the issues we are faced with. Like Tony Robbins said in an interview with Oprah on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, and I am paraphrasing, that we tend to use softeners to make light of serious issues in our lives. Words like fuck have the ability to jolt us back into reality and to a place where we can better recognize the shit in our lives for what it actually is. And so we are better at dealing with these issues because we called a spade a spade and not a big spoon.

But what do you do when 90 percent of the people around you are conservative and would at least cringe every time you said fuck? I get you. Recently I came out to my sister and I watched her jaw drop almost literally. Then she gave me a book about Jesus because apparently, I hadn’t encountered the real Jesus before I left. Which by the way was really loving of her so I am not bringing it up here in scorn. But it shows what I am up against as I advocate for profanity in everyday speech.

To resolve or rather ignore this tension, I borrow the wisdom of Gary Vaynerchuk a (quote and quote) “motivational” speaker and social media guru among other things. In an interview with ‘business insider’, he advises those with ambitions to be successful to define their target audience. I am paraphrasing again here but, you can’t please everyone, he says. There are people that can’t listen to me because I curse a lot and that is fine, there are plenty other motivational speakers and pundits that are more agreeable. So I suggest that you also be a bit arrogant and say, “If you can’t take it, you don’t have to. I am fine in the company of those that can have that kind of shit around them.”

Notice that I am not advocating for using the F word to hurt others, like to abuse, shame or belittle them. I am certainly not advocating for more Trump-like comments like “shithole countries.” Quite the opposite; I am advocating for the use of the F word to inspire positive change within you and others you wish to exalt. Rather than saying to your friend who is drunk a lot that he drinks “a bit too much” and should “consider cutting back,” let him know how fucked up he is and how fucked up his kids are going to be for having a fuckin’ drunkard for a dad. He is a no good piss of shit as a drunkard. Period.

Featured image: a quote by Gary Vaynerchuk from pexels


Ignorance is bliss

As many of my closest friends would attest, I am quite easy to please. I could say that I felt accomplished in life after cleaning my room. That a glass of water I just had is the sweetest water I’ve ever taken. And that my mom’s chicken is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Obviously, I am also a perennial offender of English grammar rules. However, it goes to show that I am often pleased beyond my ability to communicate that pleasure to other people.

Take for example my smartphone. Many of us would say they like their smartphones. Maybe for their beauty, or their utility, or the status they bring us. They are not only desirable but also indispensable. A friend of mine confessed to me once that he couldn’t spend a night without his phone. One would say that he is addicted to it but addiction aside, we actually depend a lot on our phones these days. They are our alarm clocks, watches, calendars, libraries, newspapers, cameras, torches, radios, and more, and yet they are still our phones. But could you say that you love your smartphone? Is love an appropriate word to express your feelings towards your smartphone? Yet it is what I would say of mine. That I am so pleased with its utility that I have developed a profound affection towards it. Even if I will sooner trade it for a better one, I will also love that one until an even better one comes along.

One thing, however, doesn’t follow my love for my phone. See, if you love a girl, you want to know everything you can about her. Like what makes her laugh; what makes her cry; her dreams; her past; her phone number; where she lives… some would call it stalking but I call it caring. Quite opposite to the way I love girls, I know very little about my phone. More specifically, I don’t know how it works. I guess I could learn all of that but I am largely not interested in it. Maybe because there is no direct payoff. Like I don’t need to know how it works to use it for what I need. That, however, is not the case for my girlfriend so I tend to pay closer attention to her or I will be left with my hand for the night.

But what if knowing more about my phone makes me like it less? What if I discover that my hypothetical girlfriend is actually a shoplifter? I would definitely like her less. Now, what if I had a hunch that I was sleeping with a shoplifter? Would I want to confirm that suspicion or would I ignore it for fear of losing what bliss I derived from dating her? I posit by analogy that I may turn a blind eye to my girlfriend’s shoplifting to avert the guilt that comes from sleeping with a shoplifter. 

I watched a TED talk once where a Congolese man was talking about the mineral that smartphones and many other electronics are made of, tantalum. A rather small portion of it is mined in DRC. Its trade there is such that when you learn of it, you start to question the ethical justifications for buying a smartphone without ensuring that it is made of conflict-free tantalum. Anyway, we have come to accept with outstanding indifference the ethical dilemmas of breeding animals and using single-use plastic that I don’t see why we’d all of a sudden be bothered by conflict tantalum. Of course, my position here is only satirical because I also appreciate the difficulty of imposing our ethics in all our dealings with other people. My point though is that if there is still a moral bone left in you, the knowledge that your smartphone may be key in sustaining a civil war in Africa should at least make you cringe.

I have sat in the judgement seat and have judged the morality of God. That is the Christian God and any other gods for whom similar attributes of omnibenevolence, omnipotence and omniscience can be ascribed. It is an extremely proud position to take by Christian standards but extremely important towards making my point. I have judged and found him to be guilty of partiality, genocide, negligence, and basically, everything that is wrong with the world. But whenever I point out his sins to a Christian, the response is more often than not a humble acknowledgement of ignorance on their part and an equally or even greater resolve not to examine the case further. 

Say I pointed out that it was wrong for the Israelites to forcefully and murderously occupy the land of Canaan simply because God had promised it to them. They’d say “I could not possibly understand the mind of God. For his ways are infinitely above mine.” And while this may sound like a position of humility to some, to me it is a stark example of immorality. For you have chosen to lounge in the shed of ignorance while muffling out the screams of your brothers and sisters being devoured by reality outside your house. What would it take for you to acknowledge the harm that your worldview has caused your fellow men and the planet at large? A careful examination of its impact on well-being perhaps? 

Now I feel the need to remind you that this blog is not about arguing for the case of irreligiosity or atheism, even though I feel strongly that we all do well with a healthy dose of scepticism. Also, feel free to knock me off my high horse every now and then. But ignorance is bliss, and I have come to appreciate that what bliss I had while Christian was largely a product of ignorance. Not to say that all Christians are ignorant but that I was an ignorant Christian (and now an ignorant sceptic). And it continuously evades me how very knowledgeable, very smart Christians have also looked into the case against God and still exonerated him of all wrongdoing.

My message today for the heathen is that you should recognise that you subscribe to a different moral standard than that emulated in the Bible. And rather than agonising to frankly hopelessly reconcile your world-view with the Bible, you should altogether do away with it and seek a different moral compass or philosophy to guide you. Not that there is nothing morally upright in the Bible, but that the Bible can’t be to you what it is to the Christian, the ultimate blueprint of morality for all ages, places and situations.

Furthermore, you should consider what bliss you felt while still religious with a healthy dose of scepticism. For example, I remember the feeling of peace after praying, especially in the few hours after I’d prayed. Often times I may double in a few prayers when I feel desperate but that peace is gone. Not necessarily because I am a sinner and that God no longer abides in me but rather because I am more aware of the limitations of prayer. Generally speaking, nothing happens until you go out and put in the work to get what you want. And then there is a bit of luck or coincidence.

I suffered a great loss when I left the Church and often times I regretted my choices because of it. I lost friends, community, peace, joy; at least it felt like that for a while. But now I realise that I never really had friends or community because I wasn’t being truthful with them, I was never really peaceful because I didn’t trust in God and I wasn’t happy because I was overly abstinent. Now when I look back I know I am happier because I am more in tune with the reality of my condition. The truth may be ugly but at least it is the truth. And so I have no regrets. 

Featured image: People displaced by the war in Congo. Image from CNN

When sex is on the table (repost)

NoA couple of friends didn’t realise that I was actually only playing devil’s advocate here in my comments on male virginity and fornication. I actually reconsidered reposting this cos I didn’t want even more people thinking that that’s my stand on these issues. However, it was a really successful post (I mean by my blog’s standards) so I decided to post it anyway. I have confidence in you my discerning readers to catch the sarcasm, innuendo and gist of this post. You can click here for the original post.

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

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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