Without fear of contradiction, I can say that whether you’ve been away from Kenya for 6 months or 6 years (like some of us), there’s always a process of re-integration that takes place once you get back on home soil. For lack of a better term, lets call it the process of becoming Kenyanised. The same process would also apply to those who immigrate to Kenya with no prior knowledge or experience of what life in Kenya is all about and are forced to adapt in order to survive. As negative and morally questionable as the traits, mannerisms and mentality of those that call this place home appear to be, we convince ourselves that adopting them is the only way to accomplish anything in Nairobi.
Disclaimer : I’m talking about becoming Kenyanised not becoming Kenyan. Admittedly there are lots of good things about becoming Kenyanised, too. However for purposes of this entry, the focus is on the negative attributes of Kenyanisation, so to speak.
So, anyways here are the so-called ABC signs that you’re becoming or you’ve become Kenyanised.
A = Acceptance:
I think the biggest thing you’re forced to accept is that making a change, a positive one, no matter how big or small, will probably not happen. This can be a disheartening realisation especially since part of the reason you’re returning home is to ‘change things’ given all the negativity that the foreign media and
bitter diaspora Kenyans portray about this country. For instance, work-wise, rocking the boat at work is a sure-way of getting fired. black-balled. So as much as you’re fresh from abroad with your graduate degree and your savoir-faire, they’re still going to make you do all their dirty work and you’ll get none of the praise.
Outside the work-place, you realise that a good way to understand what becoming Kenyanised is all about is illustrated by how Kenyans generally behave on our roads. There are two sides to this, either you’re behind the wheel or you’re the pedestrian/commuter. In both cases, there is one cardinal rule that applies : there are no rules. You all laughed when QQ talked about j-walking as being typical Kenyan and the reason for this is because Kenyan drivers spare very little respect or courtesy for pedestrians or cyclists. So if you’re on the streets of Nairobi, you have to adopt the art of ‘defensive walking’ whereby you’re conscious of cars swerving from all directions as well as would-be muggers, thieves, pickpockets and human-waste-wielding street-kids. On the other hand, if you’re behind the wheel, road courtesy gets you no where. No salutory hoot or wave or headlight flash. As a result you must adopt what I call, ‘defensive driving’ whereby ..uhm… you’re conscious of cars swerving from all directions as well as would-be muggers, thieves, pickpockets and human-waste-wielding street-kids. You have to accept that most people still buy their licences so they never had to study all the traffic rules and are literally practicing all the things they didnt learn at Driving School on our roads. You must also accept that our road network have barely developed in close to a decade whereas there are 2,000 new cars being imported into the country each week.
If you’re a social person and you venture out into the night for some
ass fun, you must accept that Kenyans generally drink alot, men and women alike. We’re like the Polish and the Russians only that we’re not into spirits, ours is traditional brews that could fuel a Boeing 747 beer, mostly. You must also accept certain realities about most of our women and gents, you must adopt certain strategies in order to attract said women. Other things you must accept are ‘B’ and ‘C’ listed below..
B = Barter:
It doesnt take an outsider long to figure out that Nairobi has basically degenerated into a man-eat-money society. Money talks. In fact, money is probably the only thing that talks louder than politics in Kenya. I’m not saying I’m surprised by this, it happens all over the world. But what I find unique in Kenya is that it seems like we’ve all reverted back to being barter traders in the 16th Century buying and selling with each other. Favour for a favour. Scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is the order of the day. I find this mentality just as primitive as ethnicity. Acts of charity and philanthropy have lost their place in our scramble to acquire and amass as much material wealth and benefits as we can. Loyalty, friendship and even information are no longer offered freely, everything has a price-tag attached to it. So, even before you utter a word, we are able to size you up from your skin complexion, to your mode of dress, to your body language and we can tell just how much money they think you have. We will go right ahead and assume you have money if you went to certain schools, talk a certain way, act a certain way and if you’re in a car, driving. It therefore follows that if you want anything done, you have to be willing to pay for it: which brings me to ‘C’..
C = Capitalism:
Capitalism in itself is not a bad thing but it is know to breed corruption. In an ordinary situation, there must be checks and balances to ensure that capitalism does not create gross inequalities between the rich and the poor. The government is supposed to step in and redistribute resources through taxation, subsidies as well as other fiscal and monetary policies. Ideally. You’re all too familiar with the reality of the situation here so I wont get into the details. Suffices it to say that corruption is everywhere so we are all faced with a pivotal choice, we either roll up our sleeves and get involved either as participants or as agents of change.
D = Denounce ABC:
Truth be told, it takes one Kenyan to know another so I wont sit here and lie to you that I havent thought of bribing my way out of a sticky situation or that I havent thought of conforming to what our society considers as acceptable just to get-by. However the point of this entry is to emphasise that things dont have to be as they are. Accepting and conforming are easy to do as opposed to standing out and being different. Building a decent reputation, a clean name, earning an honest living, being in good social standing among friends and colleagues is one important way we can change things in this country. If we all strived to do that, we would truly be the change we desire to see around us.
Okay, I’m done.