Teach Them to Talk; Then Teach Them to Speak.

Life isn’t at all like what you imagine, but that can’t mean you stop imagining, can it?

– The Artful Dodger

K’naan wrote this amazing Op Ed in the NY Times on 8th December. Turns out that life is a lot complicated once you become a big musician. Before writing his 3rd album K’naan’s producers bought him breakfast. Thankfully, they didn’t order croissants, or they would have opened up a whole other can of worms. Long story short; they wanted K’naan to change his music. The music that sells is a bout self-absorption, and money; not about the struggle in the Horn of Africa. The only time people want to hear about Africa is when they are giving aid to the poor Kwashiorkor stricken child.

And, when it comes down to it, everybody wants their work to sell.

The monetisation of the world is something that has been debated and counter-debated. Theories have been brought up to argue for and against capitalism. Long standing economic principles have been found flawed at a fundamental level or mathematics leading us to question the system of money as we know it.

 A recent podcast on planet money talked about how much we should trust economics. At one part of the podcast the defence for economics, and particularly macro-economics, is “don’t trust us because we are right, but because everyone else is so horribly wrong.” And it’s not just economics that brings this to its defence. Democracy did too. Winston Churchill, in one of his more famous moments, said, ” Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

And this bothers me. It seems that we are currently living in a broken system but one that we are either incapable of, or too lazy to fix it. So we chalk it up to the fact that no better option currently exists. And, maybe to zero in a little on Kenya, it is of particular worry the complacence we have to create any changes within our own system. And the hypocrisy within which this complacency manifests itself.

Here’s an example, we have a problem with corruption. The police, we say, are harassing us. They shouldn’t be allowed to take bribes, we protest. They should be taught better. Then, immediately after that we ask a policeman if there’s any other way we could deal with the fact that we were caught speeding. And, when talking of Kenyans, I do not even try to say that I do not fall in this category. It is a lot easier to say accept the system is broken and figure out a way to game it to get maximum rewards from it than to actually do something about it.

The problem with this is, the system just gets worse. Like a sports injury the more strain you put on a broken system, the worse it becomes until it gets to a critical mass and, well, Egypt. K’naan, in his piece, tells us of a fox. The fox, according to fable, once had an elegant walk, for which the other animals loved him. One day, he saw a prophet striding along and decided to improve on what was already beautiful. He set out walking but could not match the prophet’s gait. Worse, he forgot his own. So he was left with the unremarkable way the fox walks today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of Kenyans online. We seem to be passionate crusaders for anything. We attack, in a swarm, anything and anyone. For a long time I have been against this talking, for the most part. It exposes ignorance and displays a lack of critical thinking that, for the most part, is just embarrassing. However, I’m beginning to find myself more and more convinced that maybe this talk needs to be encouraged. As a country we are coming from a place where talking was frowned upon. Moi locked people up for saying anything that even vaguely opposed his administration. Gathara called Kenya the republic of fear. We are silent, for we are scared.

And thinking along this line has made me more accepting of our public displays. Whether we are marshalling a crusade against politicians or rallying outside the walls of Art Caffe, Kenyans are talking. If silence was fear, then noise must, surely, be our way to fight back. To pour out decades of unspoken frustration at whoever dares listen. Speaking, in the words of K’naan, is our graceless limp towards finding our walk. And, if that’s true, then, by jove, let them talk, tweet, facebook, blog, march, shout, dance until their lungs let out, their throats are sore and fingers can’t type anymore. Coherence will come later.

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