Thursday, February 13, 2014

The authors of our doom.

Arundhati Roy, the award-winning author of The God of Small Things, once wrote that one of the ways to end the insurgency in Indian North East was to provide cheap TV sets to the insurgents and their families. When they witnessed the opulent lives of the characters on Indian soap operas, there would be a subtle shift in their ambitions; they would give up the gun for a Bajaj scooter and a BPL Kelvinator. It seems that the same logic prevails in the unbridled avarice of the average Kenyan today.

There is a generation of Kenyans that came of age during the age of the liberalisation of the airwaves. Before the advent of the Kenya Television Network, Kenyans were shackled to the timetable provided by the state-owned-and-run Voice of Kenya, which became the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. But with the going live of KTN, youthful Kenyans were introduced to MTV, Neighbours and Spanish-language telenovelas. What the new TV fare had in common with each other were the lives of opulence the characters in those shows enjoyed...and many Kenyans wanted a piece of that pie.

It is around the same time that it became increasingly clear that if one wanted to live the live of their favourite TV character, they needed access to large amounts of unaccounted for cash. How they determined that Parliament was the place to be remains a bit of a mystery. It is why every man and his uncle will burn down his town for the chance to become a mheshimiwa. In the evolution of the Kenyan politician, and Kenyan politics, away from service to the people and towards self-aggrandisement, the values and mores that held communities together have frayed to breaking point. The young witness, daily, the lengths to which their parents will go to make a fast shilling and they draw vital lessons. This coupled with the images of opulence bombarding their impressionable minds have had pernicious effects on their sense of value.

The young have learnt the lesson of selfishness well. Where children used to play with each others' toys, parents are now confronted even with inter-sibling selfishness that baffles them no end. The individualisation of children guarantees that as they become teens and grow into adulthood, all they will take into consideration are their own interests, their own feelings. They have no motivation to think of the outcomes of their choices beyond the simple question of whether their bank accounts are fatter or not.

Our pursuit of money or its nearest equivalent, a US Green Card, has come at a very high cost. It is the defining feature of our national psyche. It is no longer pride in what we do or ho we do it; all that matters is money, wealth and power. All that matters is the Green Eyed Monster festering in our peers' chests at the sight of our "success." Our children are internalising this psychosis at ever earlier ages. Many of them will not enjoy their childhoods; they will be pursuing "success" at the expense of learning or maturity. They are the leaders of tomorrow. God help us all.

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