What Does ‘Revolution’ Mean to Kenyans?

Malcolm X: “No leaders have fought for civil rights. They have begged for civil rights. They have begged for freedom. And anytime you have to beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something that you have to do for yourself. And until we let the man know that we are really – really – ready to pay the price of freedom, our people will never be free.”

Interviewer: “And what price are you talking about?”

Malcolm X: “The price of freedom is death.”

While the verdict in the world’s court of judgment ebbs and flows, it seems prevailingly obvious that the youth and predominantly online masses are in support of the people’s revolt in North Africa. The chants may ring in the squares of Cairo, but they echo through our tweets, Facebook statuses and resonate through our cores.

But why?

There’s a surprisingly large number who do not support the revolts dubbing them as unnecessary violence and filing them as either religious, externally instigated, or – and this is an actual quote from a caller on BBC radio- ‘surprisingly African and Arab’. With emphasis on the ‘and’ as though he was saying “I met a person who was male and female” – attributes that don’t belong together. It was hard to tell who he was stereotyping. Frankly, I’m not a fan of anyone who dare appropriate this to religion, race, creed or culture. It’s quite clear that it’s a people versus a power and anybody too myopic to see that should consider volunteering for electro-convulsive therapy.

Now, back to the question.

Why are we all so fascinated?

In a word: revolution. We want to see one. The majority blindly state that they are in support of people being emancipated from dictatorial regimes that denied them basic civil liberties. And that’s cool, I guess. Not ‘cool’ in the sense of good; but cool in the way people wear Malcolm X and Che Guevara t-shirts and occasionally know who Huey P. Newton is. Because it is – after all – cool to speak out against the power these days. For whatever reason, it’s hip and edgy to pump your fists and support Tunisians fighting the powers that be and Egyptians getting bludgeoned by militia from the comfort of your couch as you sip on tree-tomato juice.

This support of revolts is not only enormously oxymoronic, it’s also very subjective and one dimensional. I won’t speak of the world in its entirety, but let’s case study my own corner of this blue marble; Kenya. In a country where the two extremes of civil action are mob justice and Post-Election Violence versus standing by silently and walking away nonchalantly, I feel like maybe we do not have enough balance to begin weighing in on matters of civilian revolt. It is not something we are able to understand nay do. It takes a great deal of oneness and even more dedication to be pay the ultimate price for freedom. To be quite black and white, most of us lack it. We can find reasons to kill and hate each other, but struggle to rally up against a common enemy. How would we have coped with Mubarak refusing to resign? The thought scares me.

The most passive, progressive unity we’ve had as a people was in ushering in a new constitution and while that was formidable and revolutionary in its own right, it feels almost like a one off event. Plus, there was that whole Red vs. Green debate that raged on for too long and kinda diffused the spirit of national union behind that matter.

Further, there’s some sort of misplaced pretension in hearing Kenyans comment on Egypt and Tunisia; it’s almost as though we are living vicariously through them.

Revolution is not a spectator sport. It’s a shift in power; in this case, from tyrant to people; that has a very high price and very solemn long lasting consequences.

Look at your life. Think about your family and friends; job, school, pastimes. Run through your to-do list and your schedule. Think of all the upcoming birthdays and celebrations; anniversaries, weddings, graduations, baby showers…and then ask yourself whether you would really be willing to put all those things on the line for a cause. In all honesty, most people would rather stay home and watch Churchill Live. So why do we feign empathy for Egyptians?

With that in mind, a revolution does not have to be violent. It does not have to be fatal. In many cases, the problem is not that people don’t fight enough; it’s that people don’t unite – ever. So there are steps we can take to making a progressive stride towards unity. Initiatives like #KenyaNiYetu have their place in what will one day become a Kenyan Revolution. That place is that of the trigger before the blast and the spark before the blaze. You can’t say you want major change and then refuse to make minor contributions.

Whether it is in showing up to rallies, singing the national anthem, discussing matters online or just letting your voice be heard.The platform is there; we just need to use it.

Support what you believe in. To quote some guy named Wasalu, ‘If you are not an actor then you are not a factor.’


11 thoughts on “What Does ‘Revolution’ Mean to Kenyans?

  1. If this is the price of revolution then I think we’ll have to wait a couple of generations for any type of Kenyan revolution to happen. The people of this one aren’t just ready for that sort of sacrifice… I Know I’m not. Awesome piece!

  2. This is a small component encompassed in the hair trigger that lets loose the bullet we’d call revolution,and from the same barrel chucks the #kenyaNiYetu campaign and the likes. More and more pieces like these are what we need in our newspapers and magazines.I think many a Kenyan mind would be put to test after reading this,and any positive feedback recieved would only inch us closer to becoming a ‘people’. Great piece.

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