Good deeds on Sale

“Baba, if you susu I will give you a sweet!”.  How many of you moms and dads have told  this to your little ones?

Today I had a conversation with Tony, a childhood friend, after I asked him how did my motherland came to the point of crashing under the heavy weight of corruption, tribalism, dangerous politics, poverty etc. He came up with the idea that from when we started bribing children to eat, pee, poop, sleep, wake up, do homework, or anything which they actually should do, that is when corruption took root. We laughed when we remembered how in our time, our parents had no patience with our misbehavior.  If you “brought head” as in “Kuleta kichwa”, you found yourself negotiating with a whip, slipper, mwiko (wooden spoon) or the belt. It was either mom’s way of the highway which was PAIN. We learnt from quite early that if you did not do what mom or dad asked you to do, then you were courting trouble.  In fact they did not have time for threats, it was instant action.  In my time, you belonged to the community and any adult had the legal rights to discipline you whenever they found you doing the wrong thing.  They would whip or pinch you and then frog march you to your home where more thrashing would be your portion.  In those times, we walked the straight an narrow way rest you were accused of muddying the family name with misdemeanor.  I remember my mother, bless her heart, had a way she communicated with her eyes and lips. She had a way of using her facial expressions to deliver warnings especially when there were visitors in the house.  The same expressions followed us whenever we went visiting family and or friends.  She had this eye that meant, “stop that nonsense or else”, or “when we get home you will see”, or “can you go to your room and stay there until I call you out”, or “once the visitors are gone you will tell me what you were laughing out loud about”. I am amazed how those of us born before 2000 have similar testimonies of these warning signals.  

But this lot that was nurtured to be of high morals and discipline has decided that the rod is something inhuman and it defiles human rights. It is this lot that is soothing, pleading and bribing their children into doing what is right. They are the parents who are giving sweets, gifts and money, accompanied by other promises of more goodies to come if and when their children obey.  This pairing of good deeds and goodies makes the child believe that they are doing the right thing as a favor to their parents. It corrupts the young minds to believe that they should not do the right thing because it is right but for the reward.  Subsequently the bribers (parents)  have also become accustomed to this corruption and have taken it to wherever they seek services.  It is them that are paying a government official to do that which he was employed and salaried to do.  These are the people who pay their way out of problems.  They over speed and when stopped by a traffic policeman, they bribe them and off they go feeling heroic.  They will even explain that act to themselves by saying that a few coins will not dent their wallets but it will save them from facing the judge.  It has gone far as bribing for their children to enter certain prestigious schools, or to get the examiners put fake marks in their children’s national exams results. 

So why are we shocked and bitter as to how our motherland is in deep ****  because of the effects of corruption and other evils therein? The fallacy is that the same who bribe are expecting a flawless government.  Excuse me my country people, those in power are the same parents that we are. We bribe and get bribed!!!!  They are doing exactly what we do and vise versa.  What we do in our homes is now being done in public and we are all up in arms demonizing the ruling class for being greedy and not being mindful of the country and its citizens.  We are calling them all sorts of names yet after we are done with being “keyboard complainers” we go back home to bribe our children to make their beds.  Sometimes I wonder if we are up in arms because we are not getting a piece of the pie.  If we were in their positions, would we do any different? 

Our children are learning early that money is powerful when we throw it at them to make them behave or not behave in a certain way. We tell them that we have to spend more time at work because we are looking for money to give them a good life. What does that imply? We have used this excuse so many times to a point we have subliminally accept it as a truth.  We have gladly adapted the theme “get rich or die trying” in the 2005 American hip-hop crime drama film starring 50 Cent and our politicians have beaten us at the game. They are right at the strong room, where all the notes and gold is stored and they are selfishly licking their fingers at us as they eat the fat calf which is the public funds.  They are not sharing! 

A couple of years ago, a cousin of mine in the diaspora told me how he was impressed by his son’s response to a question that touched on integrity.  He asked the 10yr old what he would say to a traffic policeman who asked him if his father was drunk and driving if he (son) saw him drink in a party they were in. The son said he would tell the truth that his father was drunk even if it caused him to be jailed because telling the truth was the right thing to do.  I too was very impressed. I wonder what a child of the same age in my motherland would do if he/she was in the same situation.  Your guess is as good as mine. He or she would lie to keep the father out of trouble because they have learned early to avert trouble either by bribing, or lying. And who taught them this behavior? We both know the right answer to that.

If we want to stop this rampant corruption and thieving of public money and property meant for public, we must agree to stop it right from our homes.  When we show our children that it is important to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, then we will be teaching them to adhere to laws, rules and regulations.  We will be teaching then to take responsibility of their actions and accept the repercussions of doing wrong at all times. We must start doing what is right.  We cannot be going to church every Sunday, speak in tongues, give fat offerings and plant huge seeds yet we are deliberately corrupting the minds of our children and disobeying the laws of the land then expect our nation will miraculously heal of the corruption, tribalism, greed, murders, robbery, and other myriad of evils.  We must purposefully decide to do what is right before God and man.  Each one of us must put in their own effort to mitigate this evils and heal our land. We must “kemesha” statements like “Bora uhai”, “reke hinjio nimakwa” (let me be thinned by mine), “reke nemwo’, “my this my choice” etc.  Such beliefs stop us from taking individual responsibility of making Kenya the country we desire. We will kill the cynical believe that it is someone else’s job to the eradicate the cancer eating into our economy, politics, morals etc and allow us to once again form common values that will hold us together. At least we owe it to the future generations. We must love our country to a point of defending it with our lives. The Maumau died in war with colonizers so we could get freedom from oppression, but we are busy being oppressed by our own and we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to put this nonsense to an end.  We must bring back that statesmanship my people!! We must stop being “wajinga” and we “elevuka”. The time is now. Or is this a conspiracy theory??

We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goe down the drain. I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can. Wangari Maathai