The battalions of idiocy are on the march in Tanzania, old haven of global intellectuals By JENERALI ULIMWENGU We have earned ourselves quite a reputation as a superstitious people who still believe in flying baskets, people-snakes and hyenas that talk. Some reports have ranked us at the very top of the sorcery league table, making us outperform even such veteran believers as the juju artists of West Africa. The killing and mutilation of albinos has surely played a role in growing this perception that has us on CNN and other media for all the wrong reasons, portraying our society as hopelessly mired in the occult, so much so that the mere mention of Tanzania in certain circles outside the country elicits knowing glances. It was not always this way. Our country used to command great respect as a nation of honest, upright men and women, a people imbued with sentiments of human solidarity, social justice and the total emancipation of humankind. Revolutionaries and freedom fighters came from far and wide to drink at the fount of knowledge and liberty. It was thus that, apart from the usual suspects the Mondlanes, Machels, Netos, Mandelas, Nujomas, Cabrals other, more poetic characters came calling: Che Guevara, Angela Davis, Owusu Sadaukai, the Tupamaros, the Black Panthers . Intellectuals and scholars of renown Walter Rodney, John Iliffe, Tamas Zentes, TO Ranger, Artie Mafeje came to teach and to learn, and in doing so created what came to be known as the Dar es Salaam School, which was a well known brand around the world. That was the heyday of the University of Dar es Salaam; when Ali Mazrui wrote about Tanzaphilia, he was, perhaps unwittingly, expressing a certain jealousy born of the fact that he was not part of what was happening. Obviously, this did not come out of nowhere; it was engendered by a dispensation that recognised the importance of learning as a central plank in the edifice of human emancipation. The pursuit of enlightenment was seen as inseparable from the efforts to free the human species from the shackles of obscurantism and backwardness. Now, obscurantism speaks to much more than ignorance and illiteracy. It denotes a state of affairs wherein the afflicted individual blocks from their mind anything that might educate or inform correctly, clinging to the most absurd notions about all manner of creatures and phenomena and standing ready to lay down their life in the defence of their right not to know. The obscurantist is the zealous combatant in the battalions of idiocy. They are legion in our midst, since we diluted our education by building brick and mortar structures without trained teachers or proper books. These anti-knowledge militants have effectively banished books from their lives, having discovered, no doubt, that books have the nasty habit of depriving us of our beloved ignorance. So, when two boys argued as to whether urinating on a holy book would turn one into a snake a frequent transfiguration in our society, I understand one of them decided to test the hypothesis., and the result was the violence and arson that we witnessed this past week. The obscurantist also does not bother to pair cause with effect. If somebody has urinated on a holy book of one faith, it must be the fault of an opposing faith, so the proper thing is to attack, set on fire and loot that other faiths properties and, if possible, beat up and kill its followers. Obscurantism has no time for niceties such as worrying about punishing people who have had no part in the outrage complained against. As interfaith animosities continue to flare up, and as the people entrusted with leading the country continue to look like deer in the headlights, we may be entering a quagmire of violence from which it will be hard to extricate ourselves. As the elections approach 2015 is not that far off our juju craftsmen will be making a killing dispensing vote catching potions. These, be warned, may contain ground albino body parts. Source: The East African.