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Where the ignorant clap for the immoral

An article I wrote here a couple of weeks ago seemed to excite much reaction. Online as well as in person, many Kenyans seemed keen to tell me why the temptation to be like the looters all around us is so strong.

So this week let me go further. Much further.

Of course it’s tempting. Look at the number of immoral hucksters making it big everywhere. Look at their overnight transformations into blinged-up panjandrums who walk around with goons and aides; who have traffic cleared for their limos; who build palatial homes and travel the world on other people’s money.

Even worse, look at the adulation the ignorant masses bestow on the newly and questionably rich. Look at how plunderers are guests of honour everywhere. Look at how youngsters try to study and emulate their paths to riches. Look at how the people flock around their helicopters.

What’s not to envy? The honest person’s life in Kenya has become one of indignity. You will wait decades to save up for your own modest house, while your tenderpreneur neighbour puts up a mansion in a matter of months. You spend years learning how to do a good job and developing marketable skills, while your wastrel schoolmate is seen throwing money around in the city’s top bars. You will sing heartfelt hymns in your place of worship, but the priest will ask the swindler sitting next to you to address the congregation.

Allow me to address those being clapped for, first. So you stole from your people & weakened and impoverished them. What an achiever you are! You came up with crafty procurement scams and asinine explanations: what a wonderful use of intellect! What a life you lead, revelling in the misfortune of others.

Yet here’s the thing. No matter how much you steal, where will it take you? Build all the palaces you like, in the end you’ll be lying on a cold slab in the mortuary like everyone else. Overlap the traffic and jump every queue. So what? In the end we all arrive in the graveyard, whether in a sleek hearse or a mkokoteni. That’s the irony of life – in the end, it’s a level playing field. We all end up underground.

Your children will benefit even after you’re gone, you say? Karma’s a bitch, I’m afraid. It will stalk you even after you’re long interred. Witness the uncouth court battles and public mudslinging the children of misbegotten millionaires engage in. See how the cosseted offspring do nothing with their privileged educations and develop no skills worth having. See how they sit around waiting for the estate of the departed patriarch to feed them. Blood money bleeds back on your children. Life’s ironic like that.

Now, let me address those doing the clapping. I have more sympathy for you, but only a little. Go ahead, clap for those who have stolen from the helpless and ruined their futures. Worship those who magically turned clinics for you and schools for your children into trinkets and baubles for themselves. Applaud brainlessly. We see you.

Keep voting for your tribal overlords in the deluded hope that they will throw a few crumbs for you. Keep sitting at the foot of the table where the gluttons feast, hoping a few morsels fall your way. If the vocation of an obedient dog is all you want for yourself, you’re welcome to it.

I have no recommendations to make to anyone. If the life of the looter is the one that floats your boat, go for it. If your only career aspiration is that of the grinning sycophant, hey, good wishes to you. But please don’t kid yourself that either life has any meaning.

Meanwhile, those who know there is more to this existence than the accumulation of lucre should carry on quietly. They should look away from the shallow blowhards around them, and do their thing in peace. A country can’t consist of fakers alone; someone somewhere has to be building real things in real ways.

No one will come to clap for you; your comforts will come slowly; you may not live to see any reward. But why should that stop you? The best actions in life are their own reward. Your satisfaction is personal. Walk on, with your head held up high.

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