Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’sam) founded Jichojipya (meaning with new eye) to “Think Anew”. He talks here with Scott Douglas Jacobsen who founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. We have talked before about freethought in Tanzania. He is a pioneer freethinker in Tanzania and has trained in Tanzania and Japan in farming, cultural tourism, youth development from the grassroots, worked as a tour guide, in teaching, in translation from English to Swahili and vice versa, and in the incubation and mentorship of the youth. Here we continue the discussion, other conversations here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’sam) is a pioneer in the freethought movement in Tanzania. Our conversations spanned a wide set of topics.
Nsajigwa talked about the wishful thinking in life. Where people believe in the fortunes and misfortunes of individual men and women driven by an Almighty Theity, an intervening artificer of the universe, the belief in supernatural forces.
In that case, a cosmic force at work in individual lives. There is a pervasive belief the holy books prominent there – Bible and Quran. The driving idea being that the books provide the framework and so explanation for all human questions and problems.
Science becomes a Western thing. The process of empiricism a European activity. “There is too much confusion as between modernization and westernization, Africa had “bad bargain” for that,” Nsajigwa stated, “The SWOT Challenge is to modernize our cultures like say how the Japanese did theirs.”
These difficulties lie in the work of a male freethinker in Tanzania. All the social services, mentality of respect for science, and the practice of science being for everyone. These are not as in place here. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the negatives of religion, the fundamentalism and anti-science and superstition, dominate.
It can make the work of a freethinker difficult, especially when men are seen, as far as I can tell, as the leaders of the faithful. Women become subordinate. Men who deviate, e.g. Nsajigwa, may not have an easy life by implication.
When I asked about the positives of religion, Nsajigwa said, “It brought modernity or rather came with it, thus services of modern education (on top of African’s traditional functional one) that made Africans discover the world beyond their villages, modern medication (hospitals) to cure or just explain scientifically diseases notably malnutrition-based, and for Islam the service of free water as in every mosque there must be water available for ablution.”
Modern education, modern medicine, modern nutrition, and free water in an area without them before. In other words, it does not mean all bad. It mirrors much of the more developed areas of the world found in, for example, North America.
Canada has these amenities for most Canadians, I think. At the same time, we have the freedom to believe a religion or not. It becomes something Tanzania strives towards in spite of the difficulties. It amounts to the society Nsajigwa fights for too.
“This even today alleviates water supply which is a big problem in cities. Neighbors are assured to get it at the mosque reservoir out of its well once dug,” Nsajigwa continued, “Religion brought fellowship, a sense of “Ummah” for Islam and “Catholicism” loyalty beyond Ethnics for Christians.”
Many superstitions were dispersed or even eradicated due to the religions. There was discouragement of the practice of female genital mutilation or FGM by the Roman Catholic Church there. This is a good thing.
However, this brought other superstitions as well. At the same time, once more, there is a sense of hopefulness that can come from a religious belief. It provided some hope for women who, if childless, were seen as useless.
Nsajigwa concluded, “Today for those whom the harsh struggle for the survival of the fittest of modern life has not worked well for them.”
Not an easy life by many comparisons.
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