Late in the autumn of 2003, in the autumn of my teenage years, I was dating a younger girl named Tori. Tori was two years below me and attended a public, state-funded school in lower Manhattan and she and most of her friends took particular issue with the culture of my own education, fostered at a private high school in Brooklyn.
To many of the students at her school, quite a good one, the very essence of paying for education undermined the integrity and morality of education itself. She and her friends saw me and my friends as uptight, conservative, cocky and money-obsessed spoiled kids.
That day late in the autumn of 2003, we were walking down a street in Brooklyn and talking, as the young, wistful and restless often do, about children. Which school would our children go to? When telling me that she would ‘never’ send her child to a private school, even if it offered a better education, I asked her why disregard clear, statistical benefits that came along with private education.
She looked at me like I was an idiot. “Because I don’t believe in private school.”
I never had children with Tory, yet the same argument—the argument for the sake of the argument—continues and arises daily. I’d forgotten about Tory and her Hasidic devotion to free schooling until Mr Charles Kabonero, publisher of weeklies Umuseso and Newsline. A fairly educated and grown-up man, Kabonero last week, in my opinion, behaved not unlike a 16-year old Tory.
Deciding to close his two newspapers because of alleged attempts by others to close his newspaper is a protective move; it is a protective move of the insecure, because defence of their integrity is so strained that they shield themselves with proverbs rather than production.
In any logical, mathematical world, saving a business, including but not limited to journalism, would never equate with closing it. That is called being counter-productive.
What does it mean to protest alleged censor by censoring yourself? It is the age-old fight of principles for principles’ sake—Tory’s argument.
If the principle itself is the only thing you are fighting for, it’s not always worth fighting for. Principles are important, but when not tied to an actual bedrock of real interests, they are as light as clouds easily slip away. Yes, surely we all admire those who cling tightly to their passions, but when they cling solely to them, admiration turns to confusion.
When Charles Kabonero closed Rimeg printing in Kigali, he did so to make a statement, but in doing so he lost the thing he loves to do; publish newspapers. In this case, the essence of his principle was directly at odds with his actions. Nevertheless, even if the contrast was duller, the major element of the contradiction is the same; nothing in real terms was improved by this action.
Instead of helping preserve the journalism he says he believes in so much, he has helped erode it. According to Kabonero, apparently his boycott of the trade benefits Rwandan journalism more than putting out papers. Where’s the math on that?
Nothing in real terms came out of the decision. Like a parent who undermines their child’s education by putting them through inferior public schools because they “don’t believe” in private schools, there is no material worth, or ‘real’ reason, behind the action.
What do we get when that happens? A lot of useless fights and arguments; energy spent with no reward, a complete waste of oxygen, time and thought. As a journalist first and a businessman second, Kabonero should be well versed in the dangers of the above, and his primary interest should be public interest.
Now what do we have; a country already lacking in professional journalism loses two important papers; readers lose information, staffers lose jobs, and one man loses a lot of customers and otherwise support.
Why? I guess because Kabonero “doesn’t believe” in hurting Rwandan journalism.