And so we all sit back and watch as rules collapse…
Every weekday I watch hired ‘school vans’ take little children to and from their schools. Every weekday I watch these vans with their precious cargo overlap other cars, mount pavements to get a few feet ahead in the traffic, and speed recklessly when the road opens up.
Every weekday I wonder: this is the example being set for our youngsters: that you must cheat and you must break the rules in order to get ahead; that there is nothing to be gained by waiting your turn; that only fools follow the path of lawfulness and propriety. So every weekday I wonder: what kind of future society will emerge from this?
It is not just imbecile drivers setting this example. What are our teachers and headmasters doing? As we see every year, many of them seem to be encouraging students to forget about mastering a subject – just buy the examination papers. Some seem to be selling the papers to the children, as though they are hawkers and spivs rather than the custodians of knowledge.
Where are the parents in this transaction? On the buying side, reinforcing the idea that you simply have to do whatever it takes to get ahead in today’s Kenya. Legality and morality are inconvenient irrelevances.
What do our politicians and civil servants demonstrate to children every day? That real income has very little to do with the money you legitimately earn as salary? That the clever thing is to position yourself as a gatekeeper somewhere where you can make the real money? That once you are put in charge of the funds of the collective, you divert them to the bank accounts of the individual?
We are sitting on dynamite. A society that ignores rules or regards them as irritations and irrelevances, is simply waiting to explode. Every leader and thinker needs to worry about this issue, yet few seem to do so.
Look back at the roads. Respect for rules disappeared there some time ago. Overlapping used to be a minor occurrence; it is now a major epidemic, simply because no one has put an end to it. Anyone daring to venture into the lane meant for oncoming traffic should face the severest penalty; as things stand, these idiots don’t even receive a rebuke. And so they keep doing it, and even more join in. The consequences are with us every day: fatal accidents; unnecessary gridlocks; time and money lost; moral decay.
The collapse of rules is the reason we are these days featuring in the International Criminal Court, and have reportedly become a major destination for certain products of a pharmaceutical nature.
Who actually wants this world? This me-first, sod-you, push-and-shove, cheat-and-prosper world? Which development will possibly come from this world? All that will happen is that decent people, hardworking people and patient people will be elbowed aside and crowded out.
Anyone who wants to lead Kenya will find that this issue is no longer negotiable. No amount of infrastructure or investment will be of any use to us if we can’t live by proper rules of behaviour. Recreating a rules-based society will be an absolute imperative in a new Kenya. And there is only one way to do that: enforce the rules. Penalize bad behaviour, so severely that all potential rule-breakers are deterred.
We need some serious moral outrage here. Parents, teachers, clerics, celebrities, elders, writers, poets, artists of Kenya: please stand up for the rules. Why the deafening silence? Stop the rot. Speak out and speak up. Isolate those who are tainting and besmirching our society, and stop them from infecting others. Learn from history: only societies that adhere rigidly to rules and rights have ever made it to sustained prosperity.
Sunny Bindra’s new book, ‘The Peculiar Kenyan’ is now on sale