Why are we like this?
Perhaps there is no sense of urgency (Tumeridhika). Despite our problems, we are content and are happy to rely on family, friends and donors to take us out of a difficult situation. And so, we are silent - out of ignorance and a fear of offending with criticism.
Or perhaps we are used to ‘free’ things (‘Dezo’). We depend on the rich countries to pay for most of our needs and to solve our problems. This has meant that we do not face up to our responsibilities. Our donors set the priorities for us when we are faced with the many serious problems that seem too difficult to handle on our own.
More importantly, who are we, as Tanzanians? We could be described as a network of connections and relationships of rights and obligations to each other within our families, ethnic groups, beliefs, neighbourhoods and at work. These relationships of interdependence might be called our ‘utu’. It is lived in the rites of birth, initiation, marriage, and death; in the wedding and funeral committees that reinforce these connections, in our elders who keep the peace.
Our utu is like a net - like a hammock that cradles us. It is also like a fishing net, helping us to gather our food. It is a net that holds us together, linked by sharing our wealth and resources with each other. This big utu net helps us cope with the uncertainty and absorb the risks that would otherwise overwhelm us individually. It gives us strength, security and identity. We are also a people with a strong connection to the land and its life – plants, animals, fish, and birds. With more than two-thirds of us still living on the land our net also includes this wider world that supports us.
But, the utu net also traps us, often constricting personal freedom and discouraging individual initiative. It seeks to protect the status quo and stifles innovation and radical change. For some, utu explains why we fail to develop. For others, this utu is deep, enduring and is the essence of who we are.