When I lived in Uganda most locals when encountering me for the first time would assume that I was an American. When I opened my mouth and spoke they assumed that I was English. When I told them that I was Australian they assumed that I was from the moon or that I was an Englishman who was telling lies.
One day I took an older English gentleman rafting and after the trip I gave him a lift back to Jinja in the company car. He was a personable fellow and we got on well, and as we were driving back he volunteered the information that he had grown up in Uganda as a boy just after the war; back when the British were in charge. It transpired that he had spent most of his time in Jinja. I asked him if he had been back since that time and he replied that this was his first visit. So we went on a tour of the area. I drove the vehicle and he directed me to where he wanted to go.
We drove up a short hill on a disused road that ended in a cluster of abandoned and decaying buildings. Although it was the middle of a sunny day the place felt spooky. We walked over the crumbling concrete until we came to an empty swimming pool, its tiles ruined and broken, with a diving tower standing in silent testimony to the good natured fun that must have been had in days gone by.
The Englishman stood and looked around, a smile on his face. “This was where we had so many outings and parties. The girls would all be dressed in their best frocks and we wore slacks and smart shirts.” He pointed to an area that was marked by a few outlines on the ground. “That used to be the bar. There were Ugandan waiters and barmen here who made the best drinks I ever remember tasting.” He continued to point out features that now existed only in his memories. Vast buildings where weddings and functions were regularly held. How he had brought his first ever date to this place. She was a coffee farmer’s daughter from Kenya. “A beautiful girl,” he said. “I still wonder what happened to her.”
We were slowly retracing our steps to the car when an older Ugandan man emerged from some trees. He was dressed in a faded brown suit and he approached us in an unhurried manner. We stopped and waited for him. He shook both of our hands, his grasp stiff and vital. He asked us why we had come to see the ruin of the colonial club and when my companion told him some of his history with the place the old man’s face broke into a wide smile. It turned out that he had worked in the club as a young man. The two of them swapped stories for some time and then we eventually went to make our departure.
“Why did you ever leave?” the old man said, his eyes filming over with the hint of tears. “You British,” he continued. “Why did you leave us? It was so much better back then for everyone. We all had our place. We all had a job to do. Everything worked so very well. And then you gave us our freedom.” He looked around the ruined testimony to his youth. “This is what freedom looks like.”
We had nothing to offer him.
Many times over the course of my Ugandan sojourn I would hear the same faint accusation from the surviving older generations. The roads in Uganda were uniformly dreadful but I remember discovering a beautiful sealed road on the outskirts of the Murchison Falls national park. I was in a vehicle with a Ugandan driver and we came up and over a hill and the track transformed into a perfect single lane road that would its way down the vista in great sweeping arcs. We enjoyed the road for several miles until we came to a newer road that was cratered with potholes that threatened to swallow our four wheel drive. I asked my driver about the perfect road and he shrugged and smiled.
“From the British,” he told me.
Colonialism worked and it could work again but for the evaporation of the will of the colonizers to get involved. India is the only example of a former colony succeeding and you could argue that it is merely a shithole with a computer industry. The world dismantled colonialism and five decades later seeks to implement globalism, a system that ultimately aims to reduce people to homeless entities wandering the globe in search of the next feudal master masquerading as a nation.
You don’t know what you’ve got until you throw it away. We do this all the time. The Australian prime minister declared on the weekend that Australia will become a republic after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Never mind the fact that a referendum on the matter was soundly defeated over a decade ago. The will of the people matters not in cases of great political posturing.
Some Ugandans I met had indeed heard of Australia and when I told them where I was from their eyes would light up and they would grasp my hands and congratulate me on my great good fortune to be born in such a wonderful place. I have had this reaction from people all over the world. The vision of bounty that Australia holds in people’s hearts has nothing to do with kangaroos or beautiful beaches. It is because Australia is a shining example of things working as they should. It is a country that inspires the world with its stable government and untouchable history of no internal conflict for over two hundred years.
You might not consider Australia to be that much of a big deal but consider the fact that before federation at the turn of the 20th century it was a jumble of self governing states. These states voluntarily put aside their own individual interests and voted to form a national federation without any foreign pressure or interference and without any threat or use of force. No other federation in the world can boast of such an achievement. Canada, Switzerland, Germany; all of these countries were formed under direct force or the threat of war or pressure from a foreign power.
And the prime minister wants to change that to a republic for no better reason than it’s time for a change. Well, things can change quickly, and not in the manner that the creators envisaged. Colonialism was dismantled under pressure from the USA and from bleeding hearts who think that every issue can be solved by an emotional reaction. It turns out that the people that they “liberated” want their colonizers back. But the colonial powers are no more and hold no interest in fixing other people’s problems. The system got broken but there is nothing better on offer. One could argue that what they offer now is many magnitudes worse.