As a child, I once read a shocking story about a young man who stood before a magistrate one day, charged with robbery with violence.
He pleaded guilty to the crime and when the magistrate asked him if he had anything else to say, he said “yes” and then did the unthinkable.
He leant over the dock, getting as close to his mother’s face as possible, and bit off her ear. The reason? He blamed her for his transgressions.
You see, the young man felt that his mother had failed him for never admonishing him when he stole little things like eggs and sweets. He soon graduated to armed robbery because he did not know any better.
The moral of the story, we were told, was that the mother needed to have smacked his little behind when he was still teachable. “Asiye funzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu” (He who doesn’t get taught by his parents will be taught by the world), was the final message in the traumatising tale that had graphic illustrations of blood gushing from the poor mother’s ears.
I think of this story sometimes when I receive emails from young men and women looking to get a foot into the media world: “Hae (sic) Faith, i (sic) see you work at Nation, si I can send you my articles ama niaje?”
I hear people calling it Millennial Pidgin on social media streets. And no, I don’t mean sheng. The phrase itself is quite ironic because aren’t millennials supposed to be impatient? So why add syllables and vowels to simple words like “Hi”? A question to be answered another day.
I was once this person fighting through all means possible to get a byline at the very least, and because I recognise the struggle, I’m a little more patient with the emails and direct messages in my social media than I ought to be.
I once gave an opportunity to one such person who had sent me such a message in my Twitter inbox.
So indulgent of him was I, in fact, that I offered to meet him in person at my workplace, and he regaled me with heart-wrenching stories of his childhood. Something along the lines of growing up with an absentee father and a hard-working single mum. I was sold.
I asked him to write about it and he produced a brilliantly written 800-word piece that had me on high plagiarism alert. My time in the newsroom has taught me to have a keener sense about such issues.
It turns out he had plagiarised a whole blog post. I was heartbroken, of course, and wondered who else he had sold his fake story to. And there are many such examples.
That millennials are choosing shortcuts over hard work is telling of the kind of environment they are growing up in. Don’t they also say that it takes a village to raise a child?
Let’s consider the kind of village we are raising these “children” in for a minute.
It’s the kind of village where an alleged Class Seven dropout gets appointed minister with a monthly salary of Sh924,000 while qualified individuals watch from the sidelines, wiping their faces in disbelief.
It’s the kind of village where “men of God” extort their flock, flaunt their riches on social media and hob-nob with the political elite because they can. And because there are no laws that prevent them from doing so.
It’s the kind of village where “overnight millionaires” fly in choppers from their houses on Mombasa Road to avoid the Nairobi traffic.
It’s the kind of village where “overnight celebrities” are made with one clean nude, Photoshopped selfie.
It’s the kind of village where justice is sold to the highest bidders as grand thieves walk scot-free and petty ones waste away in jail.
These are the things we are telling millennials: shortcuts work; you don’t have to apply yourself; you can be an overnight millionaire or celebrity and working hard is for suckers only.
Why, then, would they be bothered with things like correct spellings and punctuation marks even when asking for a job?
We, the village, are responsible for the unemployable youth in this country.
The writer is editor, Living Magazine; [email protected]