What Did You Expect From The #VPMeetUp?

I didn’t attend any of the events with the PM or the VP. I can’t really remember what I was doing at the time, but I didn’t bother to sign up either. Call me unpatriotic or less concerned. I’ve been accused of calling other so. I’ll take it well. I promise.

I however kept myself updated following live tweets on my TL. And just like that Mindspeak meet-up with Museveni, I waited for the postmortem detailed blogposts. And yes, here they are. For what it’s worth, I think we should have some more. They’re quite entertaining and in a sense, therapeutic.

Therapeutic because, it appears quite a number of tweeps had their hopes high up there like I hope of owning a G5 aeroplane. Really, tweeple, what did you expect?

  • That you’d crack the VP bad-cop style?
  • That you’d ask a question so tear jerking that would leave the man stuttering and running for the fire escape?
  • That you’d get the time and chance to tell the man to his face all the things we say on the TL?
  • That you’d play truth or dare with him?

Granted, we who have a voice on the social media should regard ourselves different, a unique niche of the wider electorate. It’s easy to assume that we think and act different from the folks that occupy the 4th estate and other actual experts. And by thinking of ourselves as different, perhaps we believe we should be treated different, even with a little more respect.

But honestly, what is this one question you’d have asked, that the man wouldn’t have side stepped? Of all the pro-journalists who may have interviewed the man or will interview him someday – Julie Gichuru, Beatrice Marshal, Linus Kaikai and for good measure, let’s throw in CNN’s David McKenzie – wouldn’t he sidestep them too? Wouldn’t they be left as high, dry, wasted, entertained and complaining like they had just been to the Nairobi Show?

From the depths of my whereabouts that day (can’t still get my coordinates), I noted with pride those who attended the VP meet. Like you took a pilgrimage to a land known to produce watermelons, hoping that perhaps this time round, by some miracle, you’ll find mangos. And if you’ll still find the melons, you’ll mash them to pulp until they turn into mangos.

It was worth a try. But sadly, the flock of our politicians are not about to change. Like the saying goes, why fix what’s not broken? The VP’s over two decades in politics have been so successful for him using a self-designed strategy that will baffle any 10 year old. Why should he change it then, just because he was sipping drinks with a few KOTs? The sadly smart man figured: Why don’t I gather these peculiar lot around, sit them on my lap and try to figure them out without letting them figure out my psyche.

So what’s next, some may ask? # MugukaWithSonko #KufyashNaTuju #CigarsWithUhuru #MilkWithMututho

The possibilities are endless.

But here’s what I would do. I’d ignore them all. The same way they’ve ignored my plight, my voice and my very existence. Because there’s nothing more powerful than ignoring someone who has the power to insult your intelligence.

Oh, how I long for the day when a politician will call for a political rally at Uhuru Park and no one shows up. The message couldn’t be louder and clearer. We’re tired of the same old bull. Take the hogwash and false promises to the birds.

But no, we’ll always go. And they know it.

Like people suffering from battered-wife syndrome, we will always be there to attend to their every need. We will come up with campaign strategies for them and offer to print t-shirts, caps, posters and banners for politicians who’ve just realized we exist. For people whose track record we question even after they’ve painted it for us, in all shades and colours of the rainbow.

Yes, we are the same folks who admonish the media for paying too much attention to our politicians. Look at us now? We can’t ignore them. They have us by the nuts and they’ll come up with all sorts of products and sell them to us right at our doorstep.

And if they can’t package it as a political rally, they’ll throw in a few prosperity-gospel preachers and call it a prayer rally. If that’s too expensive, they’ll gladly attend our pomp-filled funerals and sell their agendas on our forefathers’ graves. We are so duped, so yearning for their 0.02cents worth. We’ll give them our time, our expertise and everything we’ve got, but they won’t let us in on much.

What would it hurt to ignore them until they start working? Until they pay their taxes, until they hire some more teachers with the same ease they pass bills like they are selling them at a kiosk.  Why do you have to keep hooking up with someone that pisses you off when you can always say: “Sorry dude, I’ll be doing something less important at the time. Like oh, I don’t know, watching flies on a wall.”

If at all the revolution will be tweeted, then we tweeps need to stand out from our fellow brothers and sisters we see on TV. The ones chasing after politicians’ motorcades like they’re now gathering around that Equity caravan like they’ll be given loans by winning a dancing competition. If we consider ourselves different then we need to act different. Value ourselves differently. Weigh every beck and call before approaching that finger saying “Oh come all ye faithful!”

Perhaps it’s time to adopt a new strategy like Ignore, Don’t Show Up or Walk Away, especially if the mangoes we demand are not forthcoming.

We Must Accept the Blame for the Troubled Boy Child

I was once a boy child.

I grew up in a time when having a son was considered a blessing. And after a certain age, all my short-comings and indiscretions were dismissed as “boys will be boys”. This is not to say that I wasn’t raised right. As a son, parents were never really scared of you falling prey to bad company, drugs and alcohol, or getting your heart broken by girls or contracting a life-threatening disease or fathering a child out of wedlock. These concerns were largely directed to the girl child because she was always seen as the more vulnerable one, the one that needed to be given the best possible chance to succeed. For the boy-child, it was believed that all it took was constant reminders of “be a man!” and observing the older men around to figure out how to navigate through life.

It is indeed true that the boy child in Africa for many generations has unwittingly benefitted from a patriarchal society that has prized men over women and sons over daughters. And so, the boy child used this gender imbalance as a crutch to get by in life and even prosper with very little effort compared with his female counterparts.
But that was then, now things have changed. As issues of women’s empowerment gain prominence and a wide array of policies aimed at uplifting the girl child start to bear fruit, suddenly the boy child is now emerging as the threatened one.

There are two schools of thought that appear to be emerging on the way forward.

One view widely held is that women are unfairly overburdened. As it stands, mothers, aunts, sisters, wives, females in general carry the load of empowering the girl child as well as providing support and guidance to the boy child. While men do little or nothing.
Women’s rights activists therefore believe that society should stop blaming women for the troubled boy child. Furthermore, women should no longer be considered as the custodians of traditional societal values such that when children stray and destroy their lives, blame is heaped on women failing to raise them right. Therefore the reproductive role can no longer be borne by women alone. The responsibilities of pregnancy and child rearing must be shared equally between the man and the woman, as much as possible.
Therefore, this school of thought concludes by stating that the troubled boy child dilemma should not be left to women to figure out and deal with. Men themselves should start holding the boy child’s hand the way women have long been doing with the girl child.

The second school of thought, which I happen to espouse, begins by conceding that menfolk have indeed neglected their duties to the boy child as fathers, father-figures, big brothers, cousins, uncles leaving the boy-child neglected and troubled. However, the overall responsibility of ensuring that there is gender balance in society remains a concerted effort between both men and women, especially those already involved in the human rights movement and within civil society.

The appeal being made in this regard is that women ought to make affirmative action to be more about gender empowerment than just women empowerment. The danger of not addressing the emerging issues surrounding the boy child is that we are slowly breeding an angry, misunderstood and marginalized generation of men which has serious social consequences. And so like my protégée Nittzsah I agree that we need to shine the spotlight on the boy child. However, dealing with the troubled boy child issue cannot be divorced from the empowerment of the girl child. The challenge to men (formerly boy children like me) is to get more involved and actively participate in the formulation and implementation of affirmative action programmes and policies geared to addressing gender disparities for the betterment of the entire society.

At a societal level, empowered men can start by mentoring younger males within the family and in the community, having meaningful discussions and talks with them about what it really means to be a man and the challenges of manhood that await them. It’s time that we, men played our part.