Which of these were April Fool headlines?
This column continues its campaign to make April Fool’s Day a national holiday in Kenya. This is because we take foolishness to peculiar heights year after year.
The Daily Nation, like most newspapers, has a tradition of creating a spoof story every year on the day that honours fools. My point is this: around these parts, how can you tell which one is the spoof story, and which are the real ones? Pretty much every headline we read betrays a particular form of nonsense raging in our society. Here’s a sample from this year’s April 1 edition.
How the high and mighty rob the nation
Yes indeed, the high and mighty have been robbing the rest of us blind for decades. This is not even news, but it becomes news because every so often we pretend to care. In societies that actually care about justice and fairness and equality and opportunity, those in charge behaving like common thieves should be shocking news. Here, it’s just “meh.” They robbed us again, folks, Accept and move on, nothing to look at here.
Two killed in collision at blackspot
It’s a blackspot. That’s meant to warn people to be careful, so that the place stops being a blackspot. In Kenya, though, a blackspot is a place that records certain future deaths, for no one will change their driving behaviour, no one will even slow down when approaching the blackspot, or even pretend to be careful. No matter how many warning signs are mounted and no matter how much grisly carnage has been observed there, a blackspot in Kenya is a blackspot forever. Another year, many more deaths and funerals. And some expensive new signs.
Schoolgirls charged with attempted arson
Six schoolgirls were charged with trying to burn their own school down. Once upon a time your school was your only hope of acquiring knowledge and escaping poverty. You would protect it against anyone. Now, students of all ages are reported to burn, loot and otherwise destroy their own places of learning. Well, that should see us all safely into the promised land, so burn on.
Kenya losing Sh14bn yearly to drought
If there’s an annual event you can set your calendar by, it’s the annual drought and mass starvation it leads to. The World Bank now warned us that we are losing billions every year, and that we are at position 13 of 233 countries facing the highest risks associated with lack of rain. So what can we do, you ask? If there’s no rain, there’s no rain. No, that’s the April Fool’s response. The sensible person would ask why we keep depending on rain for large chunks of our GDP, and why we can’t move more people beyond simple agrarian and pastoral livelihoods after 50 years of independence. But no, that would require deeper thought and some actual action plans, so let’s move on.
Wealth and luck
Yes, we’re in the classifieds now. For as long as I can remember, there have been Kenyans telling other Kenyans to call a certain number and everything you desire can be yours. On April 1, the following feats were on offer: reversal of bad omens; prophesies about your future; the return of lost male virility; immediate promotions at your workplace; return of an unfaithful partner; cancellation of debts; winning of court cases; and the delivery of multitudes of enthusiastic customers for your business. There’s apparently no shortage of fools from January to December who will call those numbers in the hope that all of those things just require the right herbs, invocations or assorted juju.
Have you spotted the fake stories yet? I gave up trying. In any case, no nonsensical headline could be more alarming than the ones that are our daily fodder.