It’s natural, in people, the result of a natural instinct acting out. To protect yourself you look for friends—you need an ‘us’ around you, a group to belong to, a group that will belong to you.
I guess in primitive times you banded with the people who lived nearest and spoke the same language, whose lives, perspectives, character and values were shaped by the same circumstances that shaped your own. You were all in this together.
It made sense then, I think. All Omnians from the deserts of Klatch spoke the same way, looked similar, were industrious, frugal, intense and serious people. Meanwhile, the peoples from the lush forests of the Ramtops are fat, jolly and perhaps a bit lazy. They live in the midst of plenty, so why shouldn’t they enjoy their lives?
Tribe made sense then.
It doesn’t now. Not in the city. Not uptown.
Because if your tribe is the people who live nearest, speak the same language, whose lives, perspectives, character and values are shaped by the same circumstances that shaped your own, then none of you dotcom yuppie kids are Bakiga, Banyankore, Acholi or Baganda.
You are dotcom yuppie kids. You are of the Badotcomyuppi tribe.
After all, you all share a language, customs, values, culture— your clothes, your music, your morals all the same. Same tribe. The only difference in the group is the language your respective grandparents speak.
But how do you define one person by describing another?
I could try to be a “real” Muganda, I guess. I could master the language, drop the English name, learn the rituals, but all this would be superficial. I could walk the walk but at heart I would still be that kid who grew up in Kenya and was raised on American TV. Nothing can change that.
It won’t be identity, it would be a disguise.
It will be like those Americans who give themselves Swaheely names, grow dreadlocks and dress their kids up in Kente.
In every fundamental sense I would have more in common with Tumwijuke than with the scores of peasants who live on my Granddad’s land in Kyadondo, even though I try to act as if my life and theirs have anything in common.
Aspects of tribe can be quaint and charming and entertaining, but generally, fuck tribe.
As I was saying over at my kinswoman’s blog, they tell us we should identify ourselves, not by our reality, but according to the customs and traditions of forefathers.
We should return to our traditional ways, and shun the ways of the colonialists who wish to usurp our true culture.
But then for real, this tribe hasn’t always always existed. If you go back enough centuries you will find an ancestor who speaks a completely different language. He lives in a simple, primitive agricultural community around there, speaking his other language peacefully, until, one day, this band of marauding warriors comes storming over the hill, screaming in a language he doesn’t understand. What can your ancestor do? He surrenders, like everyone else in the area. What could they do? The didn’t even have an army, they barely had a political leadership. They had farms and chicken, that’s all.
The chief warrior gets all the little villages he has conquered together and calls them his kingdom. Soon all the people in the kingdom are speaking his language and paying allegiance to him; the kids are developing a taste for the music he came with, they are wearing their clothes in the fashion of that other village over there which they got to know about after they found themselves in the same colony with it.
The ancestor is old now. He remembers what life was like before the Huns and he looks at the kids speaking Luganda he says, “Kale they have forgotten their culture. All brainwashed by the colonialist!”