Friday, December 2, 2011

Reflections on Grading and Writing Report Cards

1.     Grades Matter
I have spent the past week writing student report cards. Using excel, I compiled the exam scores, organized and programmed them to produce individual student report cards. I also spent two days teaching one of the teachers this process, so that he can continue when I am gone.
Previously, I thought motivating students using grades did not work because so many students are failing or barely passing. This week, during this process of writing report cards, many students came to check their scores. Sometimes, the records were wrong, so I made the corrections. What surprised me was that students not only came during school hours, but after school to check their grades. Many were incredibly meticulous, looking at every single number on the report card.
Indeed, I was wrong. Grades do matter, and can be a useful motivational tool. It has not worked so far because the students only saw their grades at the very end of the semester, and only if the teachers managed to finish this giant administrative task by hand. I remember when I was in high school I always knew my current grade at every moment. I knew how well I had to do on future assignments to get an A or A-. Those were very powerful motivations.
So what matters is how the grades are used to motivate people. Are there enough assessments to show students their current status, rather than just two exams? Is the administrative work smooth and easy enough so that students can know their scores easily? For these reasons, basic computer skills and easy-to-use software are critical.

2.     Students are Better than Teachers
When talking about poor student performance, students are often blamed. “The students in Mtwara are just not smart enough” is a common phrase in the staff office. This turned out to be false today.
Our Headmaster is responsible for teaching physics. It turns out he graded the final exams, but not the midterm exams. So what he did was that he took the final exam scores, and added 5 points for the midterm exams. This scheme, that was evident on the paper I received, was ridiculous in so many ways. The students noticed it in a heartbeat, and they complained. When they left the staff office, I too complained to the teachers. When I raised the matter to Mr. Innocent, the Deputy Headmaster and a dedicated teacher I respect, he pointed out the evil truth: in a strict hierarchical social system, there is no way to solve this problem. In other words, when the Headmaster is the King of the School, no one dares to oppose him. In fact, neither did I want to confront him, because it is just an additional headache in so many different levels.
The students complained, so I told them that if they have a problem with their physics grades, they should bring it up to the Headmaster, the person responsible for grading. Two students, both student leaders, got the physics lab key, searched the place, found the unmarked papers, and brought it to the Headmaster. He will now grade them. Clearly, the students are not as stupid as teachers so often think they are. In fact, they are better than us teachers.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Deconstructing Pole Sana Mtwara

             The above is a famous video among the Korean volunteers in Tanzania. Although its original title is “Teachers of Mtwara,” in the process of hard drive to hard drive transmission, it became “Pole Sana Mtwara,” which roughly translates as “Pity You Mtwara.” Produced by KBS, a Korean television company, it depicts the challenging conditions faced by three Korean volunteers. It became famous for showing circumstances that were in stark contrast to the comfort enjoyed by most other Korean volunteers within and outside Tanzania.
             I personally saw this video while I was interviewing for this volunteer position. I was in a large hall with about two hundred applicants, and it was one of the many videos we saw before the actual interview. I had some idea on the relative comfort of Korean volunteers, so I did not think much about it. Months later, after passing the tests, interviews, and the training, I found out I will be dispatched to the very location shown on the video. I was a bit shocked, and slightly intimidated.
             I came, I lived, and I adapted. The video came up every so often in conversations, and was shown on numerous gatherings. During each of these showings, I began to see flaws in the video, little by little. As these flaws added up, the video did not seem genuine and was instead incredibly odd. So, with three months left on my service, having accumulated serious doubts over volunteerism and the aid industry, I decided to deconstruct the video. As a result, I have come to the following conclusion: the Korean government and the media are putting volunteers at the center stage in its campaign to sell a narrative in which heroic Koreans are sent to strange corners of the Earth to save the poor. In order to do accomplish this, the video conceives poverty as timeless, constructs a dramatic and narrow notion of poverty, and creates a story that strongly resonates with the Korean nationalist agenda. The first two of these actions depicts a very particular and stereotypical type of poverty, which my personal experience proves to be false. The last action completes the heroic narrative by placing the volunteers in the setting the video has created. While the video may delight KOICA bureaucrats, media producers, and volunteers who seek attention, it is a product that only reinforces false notions of poverty and the current state of KOICA volunteers.
             In this video, poverty is conceived as timeless. Nowhere in the video is there any mention of time, other than “Saturday,” which is non-specific. When I first saw the video, I tried to predict the year. Was it 1999? 2001? 2005? Then, when I downloaded the video file from a friend, I saw on the file name that it was made in 2007. Yet, had the file name mentioned any other year, it would make no difference. Videos can be made in 2011 using the exact same content, because for many producers and the audience alike, poverty is a constant state of hunger, thirst, desperateness, hopelessness, helplessness, despair, destruction, and most importantly, the lack of material goods. Among these conceptions, there is no place for time.
             This is evident in showing the dire state of public utilities, most notably in electricity and water. From the introduction, the video sets up a harsh setting by claiming that the volunteers are in a place that has “no electricity or water” (This part was omitted during the subtitle translation). It then depicts Mtwara as a place of poverty by mentioning that “there is no electricity during the day,” “without electricity it is hard to cook rice, and it cannot be stored in the refrigerator,” and how “even at times, the well gets dried up.” Poverty vis-à-vis technology is mentioned as well, as “it takes 10 minutes to open a window.” Such declarations may be true, but only for the year 2007. Based on my personal experiences, public utilities in both water and electricity have improved. The tap water has become both cleaner and consistent, while Mtwara boasts the most reliable electricity supply in Tanzania during this year of severe electricity cuts. Other improvements have happened as well, most notably the quality of Internet, evident by my recent upload of a 122MB video on YouTube. In discussing what poverty is, as done by this video, notions of change over time are ignored. While some may claim that the developments I have observed are rapid progresses in mere four years, I consider them to be ordinary evolutions in a society with moderate foundations of democracy and free-market capitalism. Some may also argue that I am asking too much from the video to discuss prospects of change. While this is valid, when looking at the larger picture of the media’s depiction of volunteers, there are few videos with the theme “volunteering in times of economic development,” which actually suits the majority.            
My second finding on this video is that the producers are constructing a dramatic view of poverty that has little basis from reality. This particular view not only includes the aforementioned timeless feature, but reinforces the narrow and stereotypical notion of poverty as the lack of material goods. This particular understanding of poverty is prevalent and dominant. Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Village best embody this idea as they believe that an introduction of material goods, such as buildings, tractors, etc. will alleviate the poverty at hand. The producers of this video have put forth considerable effort in creating poverty as a lack of material goods. When the classroom is first shown, the camera starts its shot with the absence of ceiling boards. In reality, other classes have ceiling boards, and its installation is not too expensive either. When talking about the second teacher, the narrator claims that “she is the only one with a soccer ball.” In reality, her school and my school hold regular soccer matches between teachers, and both are able to provide quality balls without much trouble. When talking about water, the narrator mentions that “even at times, the well dries up,” as if the villagers get their water from the well. In fact, the wells in Mtwara are not used to pump the groundwater, but instead used as large water tanks to store tap water when the supply is inconsistent. Finally, the video in depicting loneliness mentions that there are “no magazines, newspapers, or televisions.” This too is completely false.
             Sins of omission have been committed in this construct of poverty. The video takes up considerable time in talking about what the volunteers do not have. Without any mention of their availability, the video implies that Mtwara is a remote village that suffers from the lack of basic products. In reality, however, materials can be bought to build a modern toilet and a kitchen, which has been done in the very house in the video. This construction ability, is not new, and was possible in 2007. When talking about electricity cuts, one of the volunteer says “when the electricity gets cut when I am showering in the bathroom outside, it is a bit dumbfounding.” At the same time, the video never mentions the bathroom situation of the other two volunteers, primarily because it does not fit into the producers’ construct of poverty. I have been to the other two houses, and they all have bathrooms. Finally, the largest omission is that when the camera crew came to tape the video, they probably landed in Mtwara by plane. Mtwara’s air route has been active for a while because the land route has not been reliable. While an airport in Mtwara is economically viable, it too does not fit into the video’s discussion on poverty.
             The most preposterous portion of the video, however, is the segment where Ms. Kwon, the second volunteer shown, goes on a walk to a nearby village. The narrator supposes himself as an authority on poverty as he details the village. He is somehow knowledgeable on their income (that the villagers live for less than a dollar a day), employment (most are farmers), education (many students do not attend primary schools, let alone secondary schools), and economy (in the village market, there are only coconuts and tomatoes).This last part is especially problematic because the coconut shown during this narration is a “dafu” rather than a “nazi.” The former is consumed for its fluids, much like an afternoon refreshment, while the latter is used in daily cooking, the image the producers expect when mentioning coconut. Furthermore, in any village in any country, more products are available than mere coconuts and tomatoes. The absurdity of this segment reaches the peak when the narrator says that the “[the village] has no crime, and the people are friendly to foreigners.” At this very moment, the local villager passing by puts his two fingers together, looks at the camera, and says “lete hela,” which means “give me money.” What is more is that Ms. Kwon, the volunteer teacher, replies “sawa, baadaye,” which means, “okay, later.” This brief encounter shows that Ms. Kwon is acting as a guide and translator for the media producers in their search for poverty. The audience can easily construe that this village is in fact not a place Ms. Kwon “goes for a walk or buys groceries.” Yet, this is of no concern as the purpose of this segment was solely the projection of a particular kind of poverty. The biggest problem is that upon watching, the audience does not get a better understanding of poverty. Rather, they only reinforce what they already associate with poverty, and conceive them as truths.  
The third and final conclusion is that this video, along with the Korean government aid agency KOICA, is part of an unsaid nationalist agenda. Its purpose is to glorify the notion of Korea by contrasting the plight of the poor and positing Korea as the hero. This video is in fact not much different than the self-promoting videos produced by KOICA, where young Koreans emerge at top of foggy hills holding children’s hands. These rather bizarre images even occupy the KOICA volunteer returnee’s career resource website. Although KOICA touts cooperation and partnership, they depict Koreans and non-Koreans as diametric opposites: Koreans as noble (an act once considered for saints only), self-sacrificing (giving up the comfortable lives in Korea, mentioning Schweitzer followed only by inaudible mumble), and generous (she is the only teacher with a soccer ball); and non-Koreans as poor (only sells tomatoes and coconuts), mystical (the volunteer has “learned a lot,” but there is no mention of the specificities for the fear that the mysticism disappears), and passive (there is no crime, and the people are friendly to foreigners). When these two are placed side by side, the former naturally becomes the hero that saves the latter.
Here, I use the term non-Koreans rather than Tanzanians, because to those with a nationalist agenda, the specificities of the other (non-Koreans) are of no concern. In this video, Korea is mentioned five times, Tanzania twice, and Africa thrice. For the producers, the idea of Africa triumphs the idea of Tanzania, as Africa is a homogenous other that encompasses more stereotypes of poverty than Tanzania. For them, there would have been no difference had Tanzania been replaced by Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, Peru, etc. In this sense, poverty, along with being timeless as mentioned above, is space-less.
             What is unfortunate is that the critiques I have outlined here are rarely heard, and what is said in this video is the dominant narrative. Until today, I have heard little opposition to the video, and it took me two years to organize my thoughts against it. Indeed, the video is part of a larger ideology that continues to spread its associated problems: the construction of a false notion of poverty and the nationalist agenda. Last year, a Korean volunteer in Iringa was awarded a substantial grant to create a cooking class for her host institution. The media came, and of course her personal life had to be pictured as well. Unfortunately for the producers, she was living in a palatial house that cost $350 per month (Tanzania’s GDP per capita is $552 according the US State Department). Unsatisfied, the producers asked her to move some of her personal belongings to her colleague’s house, and act as if it is hers. She complied. In addition, in the same video, the producers wanted to have some shots of another volunteer in action, so despite being a school vacation, students were called upon for some acting. Regrettably, no one is stopping them. I had some trouble locating the full video online, but I managed to capture a couple of slides.

             The power of rhetoric combined with images is potent in influencing the audience’s mind. We only need a few minutes to list what we thought were true only because we saw it on TV. Viewers can easily conflate what they see in this carefully produced video with the reality of Mtwara. Anyone who has been a victim of gossip understands the dangers of a lie being regarded as truth. I remember when I was still training in Dar es Salaam, Dr. Nam showed us this video. Towards the end, Dr. Nam, being so compassionate, shed some tears, and remarked that they (the three teachers) are true volunteers. Dr. Nam, what you see is not what it is, and it is most definitely not worth your tears.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Meddlesome West, Aid Politics, and Democracy

The Meddlesome West
The West has a bad PR image in Africa.  It is meddlesome in African politics, most recently exhibited by NATO’s involvement in Libya.  Never mind the tyranny of Gaddafi, the real enemy is the unilateral West with its neo-imperialist military agenda.  This image has been powerfully reinforced in the first decade of the 21st Century, with the Bush regime’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Anything the West does militarily in Africa is characterized as intrusive.

Aid Politics
The other side of the West’s face is the smile of the Aid Politics.  The vast array of government and NGO aid agencies represent the benign niceness of the West.  The best SUVs in the country are owned by them, and roam the country’s dusty and occasionally well-paved roads, also a product of aid agencies; it is impossible to miss their involvement with their ubiquitous flags.  The evening news consists of so-and-so country initiating an agricultural or medical project.  The fair-skinned dignitaries sit on the front row, half confused by the language barrier, half bored.

It is easy to say NO to the Meddlesome West but incredibly hard to say likewise to Aid Politics.  Although the same entities occupy the top of the two bureaucratic ladders, the two seem to be at opposite ends.  The Meddlesome West never comes with gifts, only bombs.  Aid Politics, on the other hand, is completely different.  It consists of ceremonies, hotel dinners, luxury black sedans, ambassadors, Presidents, handshakes, wives donning expensive clothes, discussion on the best weekend getaways, PR plans, and just a whole lot of jolliness.  How can you say no to that?

The practice of aid is vast enough to make the following obvious: some are good, some are not.  The nature of Aid Politics, however, makes them all good in the eyes of local bureaucrats.  Yet, when these aid agencies do their work, they set the political priorities, and worse, are not accountable to failure.  Recipients let them be, and on occasion, ironically, blast the Meddlesome West.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stop the ICT (Incredibly Counterproductive Trend)

One of the words that I hear often here is ICT (information and computer technologies), a fancy word for computers.  It is an active turf in the development field, installing and teaching various computer stuff in public bureaucracies.  Benefits exist, no doubt, but now ICT as an incredibly counterproductive trend is entering secondary schools in Tanzania.

Last weekend, three headmasters of Mtwara secondary schools and a colleague went to a conference on ICT.  They were shown the magic and miracles of Microsoft PowerPoint, and were instructed to use this in their classrooms.  A true scientific revolution in the education sector, my headmaster would acclaim.  The schools shall receive five computers, three projectors, and a technician to be shared with three other schools.  Not bad.

Then I look around the school.  There is not a single classroom with its ceiling fully covered.  Teacher quality is low because incentives are low.  The lab is just a large room.  I have to teach 80 students per period because two of my classes were combined in order to accommodate extra space required for national examinations.  Students do not have books because while education may be public service, textbooks are private goods.  In the list of priorities of what must be done to improve public education (80% of my students are failing, when the bar is set low at 21/100), ICT should be on page 4.

One may contend that I am opining a false priority, meaning that several measures do not necessarily need to be lined up in terms of pressing concern, with the second task only implemented when the first is accomplished.  But in this government system where tax revenue is so low and little political will to improve education quality, I wish the ICT money were spent differently.

Reading the news on aid donors in Tanzania, ICT is thrown around like the cure-all pill.  Transfer of technologies is touted by development agencies, because on paper, computers can do no harm.  Unfortunately, these agencies, as the real public policy decision makers of this country, are setting an incredibly counterproductive priority. 

NO-PC, a British NGO that donates computers in Tanzania, shows some of the perils of ICT.  NO-PC has donated five computers to Sabasaba a couple of years ago.  These computers are Linux based, so that costs are low, and came with no instructor.  I had some trouble navigating the unfamiliar OS, but more importantly, I had no interest.  I came to teach math, and I felt no desire to put my energies into a project that I had no association whatsoever.  In fact, the pressure from the administrators to do something about these “gifts” was a personal burden.  Last year on one Friday, a young Israeli volunteer from NO-PC, eating half an orange on her hand (it was the season), came to the staff room to tell the teachers that she will be instructing teachers the very next day.  The teachers replied okay, because Tanzanians have a very welcoming culture, but in reality, it collided with an important seminar most teachers had to attend.  Few went to the training, and I have not seen the volunteer since.  She must have been disappointed.  Although, more importantly to note, even if the teachers went to the session, they would not have learned enough to become computer instructors.  Now, the computers are absolute bust.  I keep on urging the school’s secretary to change her crappy dysfunctional CRT monitor with the LCD that came belong to the NO-PC computers.  At least one LCD monitor will be used properly.  NO-PC, please, no more PC.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The real reason why AU is not backing the NTC

*Unlike most Western governments, the AU is reluctant to recognize the NTC
*On the surface, the reason behind the move is AU's allegiance to Gaddafi, but the real reason is the misconception of the Libyan revolution as a foreign intervention
*Despite the hesitance, most African states will recognize the NTC soon

On August 26, the African Union (AU) decided to not recognize the National Transitional Council (NTC).  Given the general African reluctance to support the NTC from the beginning, the move is not a surprise.  Yet, observers beg for answers to the question why?  The future course of events seems irreversible, and the NTC will be the interim government, and its major leaders will later contest for elections and key posts.  Why then, is Africa being hesitant?  Why is it blinding itself from the so predictable future?

Geography, common colonialists, nor ethnic proximity explains why.  The 11 or so states (some reports claim 20) that have recognized the NTC are Botswana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tunisia, Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Kenya, and Djibouti.  The opposing 43 rest are equally randomly distributed. 

 States that recognize NTC, sparse and random

The most visible reason is the Gaddafi alliance. Gaddafi was, just like any other African head of state, a staunch supporter of Pan-Africanism.  Ideologically, he was on a planet of his own, calling for a Pan-African state, entitling himself the King of Kings of Africa, and urging “Libyan men to marry only black women, and Libyan women to marry only black men.”  Practically, however, he was a man of his words, generously funding the AU.  Naturally, he won friends and alliances with several African Presidents, whose political campaign rhetoric always included African unity, a concept cheap enough to talk about without taking any substantial action.

           This, however, is only a partial understanding.  Professor Mahmood Mamdani, best known for his book Good Muslim Bad Muslim, elucidates the African reason in his own words.  The fall of Gaddafi was different from that of Ben Ali and Mubarak because “external intervention” was heavily involved.  Without the meddlesome outsiders, Tripoli would have been intact, he argues.  Mamdani goes further, claiming that the recent boom of Chinese and Indian business influence in the continent is just like the decades old Western intervention in the form of financial and military aid.  Most importantly, the Libyan case sends a poor signal, where domestic political oppositions will look towards the West for their political ascension.  He claims that “dark days are ahead,” as the West involves the Security Council and the ICC to legitimize its involvement in the destruction of sovereignty and the rule of law.  As another example, he cites Ggabo of Cote d’Ivoire.  For Mamdani and the African leaders, the Libyan revolution is an illegal rebellion that happened with the help of the West.

           It is not surprising that Mamdani’s supremacy of national sovereignty over democratic values is widely accepted in Africa, where the democratic deficit is as heartbreaking as its economic catastrophes.  The Continent is rife with pseudo-democracies, with Presidents acting like softer versions of their authoritarian predecessors.  Two states outside of Africa that endorses the national-sovereignty-above-all philosophy are Russia and China, who have frustrated global cosmopolitans in blocking Security Council action in Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, and Iran during times of state instigated violence against its people.  Indeed, much like African leaders, Russia and China are insecure over certain pockets of population, and more importantly, insecure about opening up.  This insecurity leads to most obviously violence, but finger pointing the West as well.

           Mamdani and the African leaders view the Libyan revolution as a battle between national sovereignty and foreign intervention.  The more proper conception, however, is the dichotomy of authoritarianism versus democracy.  The key actor in the revolution was not NATO nor the Security Council, but the public as a collective unit.  Mamdani and co are under-calculating the significance of the NTC, the rebel fighters, and the citizen demonstrators who triggered the civil war.  They should properly note who wanted regime change in the first place and who decided to risk their lives to achieve it.

 This is democracy triumphing national sovereignty. Smiling now Gaddafi?

           The anti-West also fails to acknowledge is that democratic movement is triumphing national sovereignty, a new norm in international relations.  In times of mass democratic movement, a solidarity of public demonstrators, facebook and twitter users, international media, and foreign governing bodies forms.  The UN Security Council and the ICC, with their process of deliberation, intense debate, and global membership, add legitimacy to the cause.  Mamdani has pointed out these two institutions as another arm of the Western intervention, yet the ICC lacks the membership of the prime African villain, the United States, while encompassing a large number of African states.  The ICC may be bad for national sovereignty, but good for people of Sudan, Kenya, and now Libya.

Now, all this talk aside, what does the future hold?  No matter how much pro-Gaddafi sentiment lingers or how dubious the NTC seem to be, these nay-saying African states will eventually support the NTC, albeit in the form of a new Libyan government.  Embassies have to reopen, diplomats must serve government and business interests, and national leaders will have to face each other in Addis Ababa again.  Such is the nature of diplomacy, something that the current crop of African presidents, prime ministers, and (not necessarily mutually exclusive) dictators seems to have forgotten.  Expect the number of NTC embracers to rise.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anti-Americanism as Inception

           The movie Inception is a 2010 blockbuster that made a ton of money.  It was a box office success and a great entertainment.  What no critic has said, however, is that it is perfectly suitable for a TED lecture about ideas.  Inception teaches us that the simplest idea, one that fits a concise sentence with only one subject and one verb, is formidable enough to disintegrate a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.  After penetrating through the layers of dreams that can only be properly explained through a three dimensional diagram, the idea at the core is a mere phrase no more than ten words.  Indeed, the main theme of the movie is not “we have to go deeper.”  It is “I have to break down my father’s empire.”

Cillian is the Star of the Show, not Leo

           Soon after watching Inception, I experienced this great teaching materialize in my own life.  As I read The Man who Owns the News, a journalist’s observation of Rupert Murdoch, I realized that I was a victim of inception.  I first heard of Murdoch when I was in Macalester College, a place so liberal that even international students canvassed for Obama.  Thus, Murdoch, the monopolistic owner of Fox News, was vilified at the same level as Bush, Cheney, and Bachman.  What I learned from The Man who Owns the News is that Murdoch is in fact a lot more complex.  His company owns a lot more media outlets, including trade magazines, local newspapers, and my personal favorite, Fox Entertainment.  He is politically conservative, but he is also a traditional newspaperman, turning several papers from money losers to money makers.  As I read this exciting biography, I found the possible trace of my inception.  The NY Times and Murdoch have always been at odds against each other, and when Murdoch was trying to acquire the WSJ, the NY Times took advantage to vilify Murdoch.  Surely by reading the NY Times is not the only way that my colleagues at Macalester acquired his or her anti-Murdochism, but what is rather regrettably sure is that my personal disdain of Murdoch at first stemmed from a simple idea, and it was a resilient impression that did not change until I read a 500 page book about him.

Wow it has terrible customer reviews.  I endorse it though.

            I have taken the liberties to assume that anti-Americanism can be a result of inception as well.  It stems from a very simple idea, yet it is so resolute.  Back in March, I had a heated hour long debate with my dear colleague, Mr. Seiph, over the NATO bombings in Libya.  Seiph’s anger towards America started with its association with violence.  He was angry that America was “killing people.”  I then persuaded him that violence is an unfortunate but inevitable result of this very important campaign to remove Gaddafi.  From here on, we went back and forth.  He remarked that Libya has been a model example for African countries, providing free health care.  I rebutted that the large number of protestors alone is a sign that Gaddafi has been a poor leader.  He said that America is equally wrong to use missiles to cause civilian casualties, rather than containing the damage to military facilities.  I then said that the deaths are an unfortunate consequence, but America is not acting unilaterally.  It is acting under NATO guidance and UN Security Council agreement.  At this moment, Seiph seemed to be persuaded that Gaddafi is in fact a proper target, but he was still angry at America.  You know Kim, he said, I have heard that America has sophisticated assassination technologies, like a remote controlled mechanical bee that can kill with toxins.  Why not resort to these measures?  I then explained that this would not be a legitimate move as NATO wants to see regime change come from inside Libya, so that another snafu like Iraq is not repeated.  I was surprised at this moment, because he was supporting regime change.  It was a layer deeper than the most vocal African opinion on the matter – American air strikes are bad – championed by South African President Zuma.

           Towards the end, the discussion has obviously sidetracked from Libya, but the center of discussion was still America.  Seiph mentioned the Jewish 9/11 conspiracy theory: that all Jewish people were notified and evacuated before the twin tower attacks.  After debunking the theory, I thought to myself: Seiph is the most religious Muslim I have met in school, so perhaps his religious inclination is the source of his anti-Americanism.  Of course, this was just one of many hypotheses on how the inception was performed, but what I saw was that Seiph’s anti-Americanism was neither complex nor specific.  My impression was that to him, America = bad. What appeared to be his anger towards the NATO air strikes was in fact his personal dislike of America.  His opinions towards Libya, Gaddafi, and the legitimacy of violence went back and forth throughout the debate, but his anti-Americanism was consistent.  Just like in Inception, Seiph’s anti-Americanism was intransigent and firm, but a mere simple idea at its core.

Good or bad?  Doesn't matter, I hate America

           Here is another related story.  A couple of months later, Osama Bin Laden was captured and promptly executed at sea.  This caused some discontent from Muslims, as it is against Muslim custom to be buried at sea.  Amidst the murmurs of the news, a student wearing a hijab asked me about this matter, and why a Muslim was buried against his customs.  She seemed to be discontent with the American desecration of a Muslim body.  To which I remarked the American government’s desire to negate Bin Laden’s burial ground as a sanctified place for current and soon-to-be terrorists.  During the short discussion afterwards, it was shocking that nobody seemed to know or remember that Al Qaeda was responsible for 1998 US Embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, which claimed 11 lives and 85 injuries in Dar es Salaam alone.  Indeed, anti-Americanism was both resilient and prevalent to the extent that it made people forget that Bin Laden killed Tanzanians. 

You forgot THIS?

Mild anti-Americanism is prevalent in Tanzania.  Each individual must have picked up his or her anti-Americanism differently, and I believe the process was a lot like inception, subtle and deep.  Anti-Americanism is a simple idea concise enough to fit in a sentence, but it is solid.  Although one may change his mind about a country, a leader, and the legitimacy of violence, and forget that Osama Bin Laden killed her compatriots, one will still hate America.