With all this talk about “revolution” making the rounds in social media and other platforms, I became curious to know what exactly it entails in our context, and why both our ruling and middle classes ought to be afraid — very afraid.
Should such ideas catch on, very few people would be spared, even those habitually spouting revolutionary cant in their offices.
Revolutions do happen alright, but it is not certain conditions in Kenya have become so bad that such dangerous adventurism is the only way out.
Regardless of what the cyber warriors say, I don’t believe Kenya is ripe for revolution, but the auguries are not very reassuring.
I was reminded of the lyrics by singer Tracy Chapman in her song, "Talkin' About a Revolution", especially in the third stanza: “Don’t you know/They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution/It sounds like a whisper/Poor people gonna rise up/And get their share/Poor people gonna rise up/And take what’s theirs.”
Chapman didn’t say what prompted those bloody thoughts back in 1988, but such sentiments are becoming too frequent in this country and someone should sit up and take notice.
Kenyans are not happy. Too many of them seem to have given up the idea of changing their government through elections. They feel overtaxed and underrepresented.
They hate it that their country is being mortgaged to the Mighty Dragon, and they are livid that the Executive seems to have given up the fight against lords of corruption.
They are especially miffed that nobody has ever been jailed for bilking the country of billions of shillings, while fellows who rob a taxi driver of Sh3,000 are sentenced to death as happened in Kerugoya just this week.
Many Kenyans are also mad at their legislators for always seeking to pad their bank accounts with taxpayers’ money.
How can MPs award themselves Sh250,000 each per month in house allowance barely a week after the lowliest of workers were denied even a token wage increment?
This is enough money to guarantee regular employment to five fresh graduates. The people don’t believe any of the tall tales they are told that the country’s economy is healthy when they cannot afford basic necessities like food, water, shelter, medicine, transport and school fees.
Coddling voters with handouts and “development projects” during election campaigns may one day prove inadequate.
A governing class which seems to be increasingly unresponsive to the mumbling of its citizenry is courting calamity because the mumbling may turn into rumblings of discontent, and the country may eventually pay a very high price.
It appears that when their rulers get into high office, they close their eyes, plug their ears, and leave only their mouths open so they can lie to the people and engage in asinine squabbles over who is eating more than the other.
A revolution is defined as a violent politico-economic upheaval in which the social order is turned on its head.
Usually a political system is overthrown and a new one instituted, a change underpinned by stark ideological contrasts — that is, from capitalism to socialism or communism.
This happens when a government is perceived to be oppressive, insensitive and incompetent.
Revolutions don’t happen in a vacuum; they are caused by an overwhelming sense of hopelessness among the populace, a feeling that exchanging one set of rulers to another in a game of rotating chairs is not enough.
Coups d’etat, rebellions, and insurrections are not exact synonyms but they are all uprisings against established authority and they are mostly bloody.
The only difference is that coups do not lead to revolutions because they are led by elite groups of mutineers in the military.
An insurrection, on the other hand, is organised revolt characterised by wider mobilisation which leads to active participation of the hoi polloi. Most revolutions start from there.
Those that did succeed in history include the French, Russian, Chinese, Haitian and Cuban revolutions. But more germane to my purposes is the French Revolution of 1789-1799, a period when the monarchy, the nobility and the clergy were toppled.
The early stages of the revolution were driven by the peasantry and urban labourers who harboured dreams of forcing through social and economic equality.
These groups were responsible for carrying out the bloody reign of terror waged against “reactionaries”, and they were most vengeful during that period when more than 16,000 French citizens were decapitated.
What is important here is that few of the original revolutionaries survived the bloodletting, leading to the expression: “All revolutions devour their parents.”
In the case of France, it did. This provides a useful lesson to those agitating for political upheaval. Inevitably, violence breeds counter-violence and blood is paid for with blood.
It should also be a useful lesson for the ruling classes in Kenya. The moment you stop listening to the cries of the people is the moment you sow the seeds of your own destruction and that of your progeny.
The time to fix the problems afflicting the common people is now. Equitably shared, Kenya has enough resources to narrow the yawning gap between the very rich and very poor.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]