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What madness makes us clap for swindlers?

Sometimes I wonder: is there something put in Kenyans’ drinking water that makes so many of us mad?

This thought occurred to me as I watched a so-called “pastor” invited to a high-ratings show. Nothing wrong with that, you might say: except that this man of the cloth, ahem, was recently exposed as being no better than a two-bit conman taking advantage of ignorant people to enrich himself.

If it was not enough that he was given a prime-time pulpit despite his public shaming, he was being whooped and applauded by an enthusiastic audience. Why? From the discourse on social media that followed, apparently because he is just a “clever businessman” using his initiative. And because even if he’s a crook, it’s apparently entertaining to listen to these people.

Are our lives truly so barren that we seek entertainment in the antics of those who denude others? We have been like this for a while. Those who do this on an even larger scale – who engage in looting writ large – are also extolled and applauded. They are followed and envied. As they strut around in their misbegotten limousines and ill-acquired trappings, they bask in the hero-worship of limp minds.

Why do we never see the victims? The pastors who steal the “seed money” of poor people under false pretences take their children’s school fees and their parents’ medicines. The powerful individuals who stole the nation’s defence and policing budgets a decade ago are single-handedly responsible for the insecurity crisis we now find ourselves in the grip of. Those who orchestrated corrupt driver-licensing for a generation are responsible for the vast majority of road carnage victims today.

What insanity makes us clap for these people?

When you applaud a thief, you reveal many things. First, that you would be the thief yourself, happily and enthusiastically, if only the opportunity came your way. Second, that your only ambition in life is to hang around those feasting in the hope that a few crumbs may land on the floor where you sit.

When a college was recently exposed in another investigation for awarding fake certifications, its students thought it sensible to go and stone the offices and staff of the media house that ran the exposé. Rather than direct their anger against those who award fraudulent qualifications, they thought it appropriate to attack those who exposed the rot. Rationale? That the reporters were ruining their chances of future success.

May I quietly point out that if your future hinges on fake qualifications, then your future looks dim indeed. And the fact that you resort to stone-throwing so quickly confirms this most aptly.

Why have we arrived at this place of collective madness? Because bad behaviour stopped having consequences. Fakers, frauds, looters, rapists and con-men simply get away with it. They are almost never charged, and when they are charged they are mostly acquitted. Justice is dodged using the proceeds of crime.

And so, we have raised a generation that has watched the practitioners of corruption and deceit not only getting away with it, but becoming the bigwigs and celebrities of society. That is the madness ingredient in our water: the self-instilled chemical that induces us to believe in the delusion of short-cuts to success.

It doesn’t work, people. No society advances by promoting deception at the expense of real skills and hard endeavour. If we keep clapping for the worst amongst us, we will collapse by sidelining the best of us.

Only two things will cure us: resolute individuals who refuse to join the adoring hordes and stick to the right path; and a government that finally finds its spine and punishes the few who impoverish the many.

Meanwhile, the applauding of swindlers by oafs continues.

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