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Societies explode when equality of treatment is missing

I can’t watch the news anymore.

I can’t watch any more images of children being maimed and mangled as rockets rain on them out of the sky, because of ancient hatreds that they know nothing about.

I can’t watch any more images of people hell-bent on killing other people within their own borders, because of a difference in religion, skin, culture or something else equally inexplicable.

I can’t watch the faces of families whose relatives have been shot out of the sky because they happened to be in an aircraft that flew over a place in which people can’t agree to live together in peace.

I can’t watch as the security situation in my own country spirals inexorably out of control, with leaders showing little ability or intention to protect their citizenry from barbaric attackers, internal or external.

To watch this world’s news is to plunge into depression. But why is this world on fire? Why is it we have to always be fighting, arguing, wounding, grabbing, uprooting, killing? What is it in our natures that causes such horrible, pointless, senseless carnage?

And yet it is not the same everywhere. There are islands of peace in the world, where people have learnt to co-exist in peace, share resources, divide wealth without resorting to bombs and guns. If it can happen, why doesn’t it happen everywhere? Who would not choose peace over endless strife and danger?

The answer: those who don’t choose peace are precisely those who have no stake. When you have invested in your society, built something in it, have a family you care about, have hopes for the future – you don’t throw a petrol-soaked rag to set that society ablaze. But if you have nothing, and have no hope of anything, and staying alive is not much more attractive than dying…then all the bets are off.

Wise people have known this through the ages. They have understood the need to take everyone – everyone – along, and to be fair and equitable. Unfortunately the wise are not the many. Too much of the world is led by chest-thumping, self-centred, narrow-minded bigots who can’t see a big picture. They can see only a world in which they must maximize the gains for themselves, their families, their clans, their tribes, their religions – and to hell with ‘those others.’

And those are exactly the parts of the world on fire. I have watched the Israel-Palestine conflict since I was a child, for example. It is endless. Every time a peace deal is struck, it is reneged on. Every time a great show of force is executed to end the problem once and for all, a new pool of hatred is created. Why anyone thinks more violence is the answer is truly inexplicable.

Let us learn this lesson good and hard in Kenya. If we don’t grow and develop together, we will never know any peace. We will never move forward, because those who aren’t moving will pull everyone back. We will never have a proper growth momentum, because we won’t be in it together.

This is not an argument for communism, please note. It is a plea for sense and sensibility in a market economy. Kenya must provide widespread opportunity. It must give essential education, healthcare and possibilities to the great mass of the people – not just a cloistered elite. That is why I rage against elitism on this page: it doesn’t work. All those slaughtered children, fallen planes and decades-long wars are caused by societal structures that aren’t inclusive, that leave some people out, that skew resources and rewards.

If we fail to understand this, we will fail to develop in peace. Societies prosper when they give equal opportunities for everyone to advance. Otherwise, they explode.

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