The social practices that form part of our everyday life are the ingredients out of which culture is eventually made solid. We all know that some of these practices are good but, of course, there are others that are not in conformity with what is good for humanity. Many of these practices begin off as innocent behaviour but, after they are practised over time and by more and more people, they soon become the accepted way of doing things.
Let us take the behaviour on our roads. There is a practice there which I call the “matatu culture” which, unfortunately, has been adopted by many drivers of personal cars. One of the things we learnt in our days was courtesy on the road.
For instance, if one is coming out of a side road into a main one, we were taught that the driver on the main road has the right of way. We also learnt that at the roundabout the driver who is already inside the roundabout has the right of way. All that seems to have disappeared from our driving practices.
There is a new phenomenon of motor bikes on our roads. Looking at them, one would think that they are an institution on their own with their own rules different from those that govern the rest of us.
The more these negative practices are allowed to go on without any critical thought, the more they become the accepted way of doing things and, therefore, the culture of the people.
Unfortunately there are other behaviour patterns that are extreme and which keep happening in our society and have become commonplace. Here I am thinking about total disrespect for human life. Just the other day, a woman was killed and her body dumped near a dam in Ruiru.
There is a woman — a principal of a school — who is in remand accused of having conspired to get her husband, who was himself a principal, killed. We hear about a lot of cases of people killing their wives, husbands or children all around the country.
There is a big danger that the more these things happen, the more they are reported and sometimes almost celebrated, and the more they will become an integral part of our culture. All institutions of our society, be they social, religious, political or economic, have a big challenge to rethink what our various roles are in formulating the right culture.
The upcoming generations can only inherit what there is and that is the way we do things. Many do not really understand what the real issue is with corruption because they grew up when it had already become a culture.
Fr Wamugunda is the dean of students and socilogy lecturer at the Univeristy of Nairobi.