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A most peculiar nation we are…

Be in no doubt: we are a most peculiar nation. We are peculiar in our homes, peculiar in our places of work and worship, and peculiar when we meet socially. We are peculiar in how we talk, work and behave. Indeed, the extent of our peculiarity is in itself peculiar.

Here are just six peculiarities, big and small, based on my common observation, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Peculiarity Number One concerns our MPs. Naturally, as peculiar is their collective middle name. Why is it that when these people are at rallies and in their home towns, they always have very angry faces – deep frowns, wild eyes, saliva splattering everywhere as they talk of plots and conspiracies? But when they get together in parliament, sitting side-by-side with the very people they have been raging against, all MPs seem to become jovial, convivial and jocular in the extreme, as though they are meeting old friends? Why are these people laughing? Or could it be that the joke is really on us?

Peculiarity Number Two: many well-to-do Kenyans are members of gyms and fitness clubs, where they go for regular workouts. But please observe any such Kenyans on their way to a session. They will park their cars as close as possible to the entrance, and then take the elevator or escalator to the health club. In other words, we pay big money to get fit, but spurn all opportunities to burn calories that are free of charge. In fact, Kenyans will easily wait five minutes for a lift just to go up one flight of stairs! Is it money we enjoy burning or calories? Or could it be that we join health clubs just to see and be seen?

Peculiarity Number Three: why do we become religious just once a week? Most churches, temples and mosques are packed to the rafters one day in seven, and you would think the gathered brethren would be paying at least minor lip service to the requirements of their religions on the remaining days. Not a bit of it! After singing hymns, the rest of the week we engage in corruption, fraud, deceit, adultery and hate speech without batting an eyelid. Why did we imagine that being religious is a one-day thing, when you spruce yourself up, put on your best pious smile, and pretend to be holy? Or could it be we go there just to see and be seen?

Peculiarity Number Four: why are Kenyan roads recarpeted so frequently? Our peculiarity lies in thinking of this as a good thing. Indeed, many roads in Nairobi have had a fresh layer of tarmac laid on them in recent times, and Nairobians have applauded. But how long does the new layer last? Six to twelve months at most. And so the contractors return like the seasons, busy (usually during rush hour) doing good for the nation. Why do we drive past and accept this? A good road, well constructed with all proper materials going into it, should last thirty to forty years in all weather conditions and need only very minor maintenance. But that does not suit us here, where we prefer to keep people busy every year. Or could it be that all roads in Kenya just go round in circles?

Peculiarity Number Five: Kenyan drivers of all social classes, it can generally be agreed, drive like uncouth ruffians who care not a jot about anyone else. They engage in asinine acceleration, brainless braking and obtuse overtaking. But only on working days! On Sundays, a rather different Kenyan driver emerges: driving at a gentle constant speed, with no sudden braking, accelerating or overtaking. What gives? Do the good people emerge only on Sundays? Or could it be that they are the same weekday ruffians, but on Sundays they drive their own cars and buy their own petrol, so sensible driving suddenly makes sense?

Peculiarity Number Six: why is it that when a Kenyan wants you to feel sorry for him, he will show you his net pay, after deductions? Even people on rather generous pay packages will invite your sympathy by telling you how little they “take home” every month. Do they imagine that all the money deducted for loans (that they themselves have taken) benefits somebody else? The car you are paying for, the house you are building, the advance you took – are those not yours? Even our MPs, with their world-beating remuneration, were asking for pity recently by telling us how little their “take-home” is. Poor things. Those 4WD cars and rural mansions must weigh so heavily on them. Or could it be I am just lacking in sympathy?

So, that’s what I find peculiar. What about you? The conversation continues on www.sunwords.com. In the meantime, let us take comfort in the fact that peculiarity afflicts all nations. How else do we explain that the home of Catholicism keeps voting for a bumptious buccaneer, serial adulterer and graceless buffoon called Silvio Berlusconi?

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