For those who love documentaries, I recommend I Am Alive: Surviving The Andes Plane Crash, a 2010 documentary recounting the tragedy of Uruguayan Airforce Flight 571, when in October 13, 1972, it crashed killing some on board and leaving the survivors in extreme conditions in the middle of the Andes Mountains, without any means of survival except eating the bodies of their friends.
The survivors’ struggle was not only for food, but against extremely huge forces of nature, including avalanches and extreme winter conditions for 72 straight days. Three of those who survived, chose the difficult task of trekking tough and rocky mountains for 10 days, finally finding rescue both for themselves and their friends, who had remained at the crash site.
These courageous men (some of who are still alive today) teach us a historically true and incredible lesson that has moved generations to improve humankind’s conditions: How suffering brings out the best of the human spirit. It has often been said that suffering shapes character, but I think it reveals character too.
For the past three days, citizens in every corner of Uganda have stood up to voice their dissatisfaction with both the OTT and Mobile Money tax that particularly affects the poor. These hard times have awakened the conscience of our nation. The poorest in the remotest villages can now feel the pinch of an insensitive government when his Kampala (hustling) relative sends them Shs20,000, only to find that they can only receive about Shs17,000, the rest being taken by government.
The struggling youth, whose votes are often bought, will now understand better the effects of bad governance, because now they are condemned to paying a daily additional tax to communicate or advertise a business. Even the idler (because he can’t find employment), who finds social media a better platform to pass time, will abhor this government because his only stress-reliever has been made expensive to access! Throughout human history, suffering has driven men and women to find solutions and improve their conditions. In the transport industry, it was the difficulty in reaching distant lands that forced the Wright Brothers to invent an aircraft.
In democracy, it is men and women of courage oppressed by their rulers that petitioned for fundamental human rights in Ancient England and secured the modern-day freedoms we enjoy today, and sometimes take for granted. It was the struggles of slaves that shaped modern-day democratic America. In Europe, it was inhumane taxes, class stratification, impunity by leaders and extreme inequality that led to the French Revolution. The work of building a just, equal and prosperous society has always been work in progress.
We can all agree that MPs had the capacity to win the battle over OTT and Mobile Money tax, for this was not a do or die decision like the age limit mayhem. They chose to turn their back on the poor, unemployed and struggling citizens. That is the price we pay when politics becomes an enterprise for personal gain.
Denis Birungi,
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