Archive for June, 2012

A greedy father has thieves for children: a story of contrasts

“Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.”

~ Mwai Kibaki

The past few days have been very eye-opening for me: I came face to face with the selflessness and gritty determination that some within our country exhibit; I also saw the barefaced avarice and hard heartedness that is the bane of our thieving ruling class.

This two disparate yet intertwined faces of this cobbled up geographic entity we call Kenya came as no surprise to me; especially the fact that the downtrodden and bottom feeders are the majority of the former, while the bellicose political actors, that haven’t got a shred of decency when it comes to rewarding themselves for their collective shafting of the hoi polloi, populate the  ignominious ranks of the latter.

What am I going on about you might be asking, well consider this two stories:

  • Zack Kimotho, who is paralyzed from the waist down and is living with the trauma of a spinal injury from the aftermath of a car-jacking incident from 2004, was unveiled as the face of a campaign effort by The Kenya Paraplegic Organization (KPO), dubbed ‘Bring Zack Back Home’ and aimed at raising Sh250 million for the construction of a Rehabilitation and Trauma Center for spinal cord injury victims in Kenya. In this initiative Zack will attempt to ride the 4000km journey to South Africa by wheelchair and he can only be saved the toil and peril of this journey if this target is hit before he goes too far.The initiative is live at bringzackbackhome and is being backed by SafaricomLimited.
  • Concurrently, the Government of Kenya plans to waste Sh200 million in handouts to a bunch of current and former parliamentarians as allowances which have been backdated to 2003. This is in addition to another Sh825 million in gratuity payments spelled out in the same Act passed by the shameless legislators. Even worse local media is reporting that these payments are aimed at bailing out lawmakers who are facing charges in court for Sh30 million they awarded themselves earlier.

The mind boggles….

What is the matter with this country’s leadership? How can it be that in a bid to raise Sh250 million, a man paralysed from the waist down has had to cover 700km –with 3300km left to do– on a wheelchair, heading to the nearest facility which is in South Africa because he cannot get therapy here; yet in the meantime we tolerate plans to spend a billion shillings (money we don’t have by the way) by simply shovelling it into the pockets of already wealthy MPs in the form needless gratuity payments; even worse this payments have been voted on by their own damn greedy selves.

And you tell me there’s hope for a better tomorrow in this here banana republic?

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“Only your real friends tell you when your face is dirty.”

“Dai nemici mi guardo io dagli amici mi guardi dio!” – I can protect myself from my enemies, may God protect me from my friends.

Just like the Sicilians said : only your real friends tell you when your face is dirty; I would add that pretend friends are those that would tell you you have a glowing visage and tell the world of the filthiness of your face.

It is a well know truism that no man is an island, and thus we all have friends, or at least what we think are friends. And of course having been around for a while and having learnt from the experiences of others, I know that very very few of us have real friends in every sense of the word; the sort that would genuinely celebrate our successes with us, join us in our moments of despair, and laugh with us when all is beyond hope and mirth is all that is left for us to while the time away with as we approach the guillotine.

For most of us, unfortunately, we are stuck with deeply flawed acquaintances, people who hold deep seated ill feelings towards us and are all but foes, except we call them our friends. Often all it takes to show their true colours is a bit of success, or failure for that matter, coming ones way and their tongues will wag negatively at every chance you are not present.

This behind the back talk manifests itself in three ways; ways that are well understood and only vary to reflect context. These are:

  • Tall poppy syndrome

In this case, should you get ahead in life based on genuine merit, your own friends are among the first to make sure you are resented, attacked, cut down and vicisiouly criticised; usually in your absence. And this is often because they feel your talents and your achievements somehow elevate you above them and their station in life, and/or distinguishes you from your peers, who would be them in this case. Of course these actions do not help them in any way at all and is just an example of what false friendship can do a person who happens to get ahead of those in his circle.

  • Dog in the manger

In this iteration of negative friendship, we have friends who will do everything they can to make sure: you are cockblocked by being mother hens or third wheels; delayed unnecessarily  if they themselves are running late due to no fault of yours; you  fail at something they have absolutely no chance of winning for themselves; denied opportunities they cannot have; and even go out their way to conceal and withhold information that may be beneficial to you, even if they have no way to benefit from it themselves and in fact would be better off having you be privy to.

  • Crab mentality

This third one is the worst of the lot and is what is often referred to as “crabs in the bucket mentality”. It denotes a defeatist way of thinking in which people, usually passing themselves off as friends, who are stuck in the same circumstance as you, choose to make sure if they can’t have something then neither should you. The metaphor itself is derived from the behaviour of live crabs thrown into a barrel, whereby any crab that individually tries to climb out of the container, and make good its escape, is grabbed and dragged down by others in a useless competition which prevents any from getting out, and imminently leads to their collective demise.

When it comes to behaviour among humans, and worse among people that call themselves friends and who should be looking out for each other, it is often seen in instances in which those within your immediate circle will attempt to pull you down, dismiss, negate, badmouth, explain negatively, cast aspersions on, rubbish, and  diminish the importance of any among their ranks who achieves success beyond the group; this is often down to negative competition that in the end pulls everyone down to the same lowly depths.

While I have quite a few friends afflicted with this sort of thing –and I have no doubt we all have just such friends–, it might not be clear why we resort to this primitive instinctive rat race mentality, especially we Africans as a society. But generally this are traits borne of short-sighted and destructive thinking, traits that unfortunately are exhibited in lieu of a “we are in this together” long-term, bigger picture and a constructive mentality. It is no wonder we live in communities  that hate successful people and make conspiracies of their fortunes, that laugh at the downfall of such people, and especially if they just happened to have risen from the same dirt in which we, the crabs, remain toiling.

That is why as I oftentimes lay awake wondering about the intentions of those I count as friends, more so in light of some of the needlessly hurtful  things they say behind my back. And as I muse frustratingly on my predicament, in exasperation, I whisper a prayer of words borrowed from Voltaire:

“Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies.”

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Apparently deaths are a result of the booming coffin industry

“Fortune raises up and fortune brings low both the man who fares well and the one who fares badly; and there is no prophet of the future for mortal men.”

~ Sophocles

I generally try to steer clear of any debates that touch on matters of personal faith and which are peppered by religious belief. This is a decision I came to consciously after seeing the futility of such undertakings and the passion and irrational heat, sans illumination, they generate that does no one any good.

However in the wake of the Helicopter crash that took the lives of Saitoti, Ojode and four others, a lot of pronouncements have been made and many have been clothed in religious garb that to me was of a dubious nature.

Naturally a lot of “prophesies” are made in hindsight when tragedies strike, and they always take on the same form and pattern, which is to declare that we, godless Kenyans, brought this on ourselves by din of our iniquity, and that prayer and not greater attention to safety and maintenance is what would avert such tragedies. Of course I am looked at with shock when I scoff at this sort of line of thought.


Now normally, like I have already stated, I simply keep it moving when I come across this sort of thing, but it does take on a different significance when our poor excuses for national papers, in their desperate need for sensationalism and in a show of journalistic barrenness, decide to trumpet these so called prophecies. And do it incessantly at that.

I thus took my time to read today’s edition of  the paper that is published  from a building sitting on a road reserve along Mombasa Road. My focus being on this newly famous “prophetess” and her pronouncements in this story

Among her prophesies were these gems:

  • “Kenya would lose prominent people this year and many more unless the leadership turned truly to God, as well as all citizens of this nation.” ~

I think this is something that is very general and which can be said of any year in my opinion, but they tell me it is a prophecy because God has been mentioned in it.

  • “She had predicted that she had seen who would most likely lead this country after the next general election. she had prophesied that the person would have a very rough time and stiff opposition. This leader she prophesied is one who realises his mistake and turns around quickly just like King David in the Bible – he retracts unfavourable statements fast leaving people confused often what his real stand is yet in this lies his strength according to the prophetess. Friends will run away from him and he will remain as if his standing alone but he just has to do one thing – pray hard and turn to God because the leadership is being handed to him,”

Now in all honesty, how much more vague can this get?

  • “She also tells of a government which does not know how to keep secrets and this could be a great undoing as State secrets spill over to the wrong people. She says that the she saw a vision whereby people sell government secrets for money.”

Why does a government chosen by God’s hand need to keep secrets in the first place? Do we have a secret nuclear program wikileaks hasn’t heard of or what?

  • “Baffling in her list of prophesies is one business that has grown and is leading to more deaths – the making of coffins for display. She says that God is faithful and gives what people ask for, Therefore if people make coffins as seen in every street corner, then people are asking God to let others die so that they can get business and so God brings death.”

This last one would be funny if it were not said of such a sombre subject and at such a time of mourning. But it makes me wonder whether this is all an elaborate joke or not, are we now saying that God is calling his children to be with him solely because there are empty coffins that have been made and are not occupied? So were we to build empty banking halls wouldn’t that compel God to fill them with money, or am I getting this line of thought wrongly?

Anyway, when it is all said and done, we shall each carry our own crosses when we meet our maker, it is in that regard that I hasten to add that if I appear to be rubbishing what are genuine prophecies for anybody else, then you have my apologies, I just don’t have the same unwavering belief as you in what appear to be generalities, intelligent and mostly not so intelligent guesses.

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