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Here’s the ONE thing that earns you respect in Kenya

To be widely respected in Kenya today, you need to have just one thing. Just one. All of the things that normally generate respect – virtue, compassion, wisdom, knowledge – have been thrown in the gutter. In the society we have crafted, only one thing matters, and you know what that one thing is.


In 2003, I wrote on this page: “Why are we so fixated on money? It appears to be the measure of everything we do. It is the reason we get up every morning and start working. It seems to make our world go round.”

Things have only become worse since I penned those words. Kenyans might be thronging churches, mosques and temples, but I honestly don’t know why they go. The words uttered there are like froth in the ether. For all the aspiring Kenyan cares about now is wealth. Not spiritual wealth – just the basic material kind. Mammon is what is being worshipped.

If you have money, you have it all in Kenya. Not only will you have material comfort, you will also experience the admiration of your peers and the adoration of the masses. People will open doors for you, flock to be close to you, hang on your every word, sing your praises. Why? Not because they respect you, but because they hope to get their grubby hands on some of your lucre.

Bizarrely, it matters not a jot how you acquired your wealth; all that matters is that you have it, in the form of big cars, big houses and big egos. So you could have been incriminated in grand scams that impoverished your nation for a decade; you could be a spoilt brat who inherited papa’s ill-gotten gains; you could be a high-level thug who has never done an honest day’s work; it’s all cool, as long as you’re rich.

People who dish out handouts, no matter how crooked, are the nation’s most popular folk. They will attract mammoth crowds in political rallies; be asked to preside over functions; be invited to utter words of folly and stupidity at gatherings of the learned.

Money has become our only measure. It is the only result worth noting. It validates the worth of the person like nothing else does. We are all monomaniacs now, and our mania is monotonously about money.

This is a tragic state of affairs. Many of those we extol in this way have made money in ways that destroy the lives of thousands. Some have stolen money intended for the education of young children. Others have snatched medicines out of the mouths of the sick. Yet others have fueled sleazy and life-destroying addictions.

So as buildings keep collapsing and road carnage continues without respite, please have the wisdom to realize that these things happen when your society worships money above everything else. That is the evil that is at the root of all this culture of shortcuts and free-for-alls.

If money remains our only measure, here is what we will fail to see. We will not appreciate that it is kind people who make society worth belonging to. We will miss the fact that honest people keep the rubric of a nation together. We will fail to understand that people with deep knowledge are the ones who allow civilization to progress.

Imagine a society with all these people – the kind, the honest, the wise – missing. That society will have nothing, and be nothing. It will stand for nothing, and it will fall into nothing.

That is not the Kenya we want, but it is becoming the Kenya we will have, unless many more of us begin to see money mania as a disease, not a natural state. In 2003 I predicted that this madness would create many more Goldenbergs. The rest is on the record.

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