We are a very thoughtful nation, but lousy at action
Posted Monday, June 11 2012 at 15:46
As a Kenyan who has spent most of his adult life in this country, I would not be so wrong to declare that we are a very thoughtful society.
And a thinking nation too, so much so that when you are a visitor, you might think ours is a country of 40 million philosophers, even with political leaders thrown in.
We are a thinking nation inasmuch as we think of others first and fast, and when they are in trouble, we think about how to help them for so long that we end up not helping them at all.
That can pass as trying you know, and that is not a bad thing; our most accomplished rugby players can tell a thing or two about how painful it is to miss a try.
If you have lived in Kenya long enough to understand our national psyche, then you must have realised how good we are at trying — trying not to laugh, trying not to cry, trying not to try...
You must have seen Kenyans gleefully watching a person being mugged and after the mugger flees and the victim pulls himself up, disoriented, the not-so-innocent bystanders rush to him to ask him what it is that happened, what he lost and whether he is hurt.
In the age of cameras accessorised with phones — yes, you read that right — we take pictures of the mugging, and then get into a gigabyte of a fight with technology to see whose picture will be the first one on Twitter, Facebook, or both.
A photo is worth a thousand words, but without accompanying words, it might be dismissed. So, egged on by the values of citizen journalism (which within our borders might as well just be as trusted as citizen surgery), citizen journalists will fall over themselves to post online with such tags, “JUST IN: Somebody getting mugged on Street A now. Avoid Street A.”
For the very zealous citizen journalists, a “just in” does not give a sense of urgency, people might boycott the product of their labour. So they go with “BREAKING NEWS: Thugs have taken over Street A. Mugging people as police watch. Avoid Street A.” We are that thoughtful.
It is not easy to tell whether we have always been like this, or whether we have been pushed to the edge by 3G technological advances, but we are faster than all the cheetahs that run in the commercials of local mobile phone companies. (In essence though, they should be crawling, if you consider the Internet speeds they have.)
It is equally difficult to tell whether we have been influenced by our political leaders because they are the most thoughtful people ever, and are always thinking of ways to make their lives better — they are very fast in identifying opportunities for corrupt deals.
Probably it is us, the common wananchi (what is the opposite again?) who have pushed them to the brink, forcing them to rob the poor to give to the rich, and in the process, ensuring that our daily needs are not met.
While trying to make ends meet, or trying to keep our many partners apart, we behave like the absent-minded professor who wasted valuable time searching for his glasses when they were actually on his face, and we get so immersed in our thoughts that we fail to appreciate all the beauty around us.
When we belatedly realise that beauty is passing us by, instead of embracing it, we whip out our cameras with phones and take pictures of perambulating weaves without thinking that the wearer could be in distress and should be directed to a hairdresser to relieve her of her suffering.
We act the same way when there is a man suffering, suffocating, or otherwise getting asphyxiated in a Probox.
We laugh our hearts out and miss out on the opportunity of helping them out by lobbying our political leaders to pass punitive laws that ban men from such embarrassing “Vitzasters”.
Maybe our political leaders should pass laws that ban themselves from opening their mouths in public because it is increasingly becoming clear that in Kenya, idiocy is an airborne disease.