Could we all calm down and focus on our own lives?
This country just revels in drama.
Every day it’s the same. A dramatic new bunch of stories to consume. Corruption accusations and counter-accusations. Televised arrests and sackings. Campaign insults and counter-insults. Hysterical family inheritance fights. Grim warnings of trouble to come. Pleas of innocence and claims of witch-hunts. Courtroom battles. Seven-day ultimatums.
Who needs pulp fiction or television soap operas? Our daily life has it all. Thrills and spills. Villains and heroes. Dramatic twists. Sudden revelations. Punch and counter-punch. Dissing and hissing. Poor acting. Fake tears.
Why are we like this? I sometimes wonder what exactly is wrong with our national psyche. We are treating the tragic events of our real daily lives as though we were all watching an overblown TV serial.
The problem begins with all of us, not with the actors in the events, nor the media firms that bring the hullaballoo to us. It is easy to blame our politicians and leaders for always creating chaos and drama. It is just as easy to point the finger at media houses for always keeping us glued to high-decibel nonsense.
We need to point the first finger at the source of the problem: ourselves. We are the consumers who find all this insanity entertaining. We are the ones who curl up with popcorn to watch every new battle on our screens. We are the ones who fill every bar in the land with relentless chatter about the daily storyline. We are the ones with the grotesque obsession with celebrity lives. We are the ones who cheer and jeer at every inane utterance by political rabble-rousers.
We are the ones who keep ourselves stupid.
Does it ever occur to us that our politicians and media houses are the way they are because of US? Because we create demand for scandal and gossip and drama, the supply appears. Politicians know Kenyans love a controversial and outspoken figure. Media houses see their figures spike when a vitriolic debate is aired between loudmouth protagonists.
They provide what they know we want.
This stuff matters because national events are NOT a TV serial or a much-hyped movie. They are real. They actually happened. Real lives were lost. Real money was stolen. Tragedy will now ensue. The tragedy of affected families. The tragedy of schools and clinics not built. The tragedy of criminals running riot.
We watch all these tragedies, and we chuckle, make smug remarks, send out a few sarcastic tweets and posts, refresh the teapot, open another bag of crisps, turn the page, look for another hot-hot channel, wait for the next episode in the story. What we don’t do is a single thing to address the problem.
We’re just observers, consumers, punters, the duly assembled. You’d think we were watching a crazy comedy on some far-off planet. It’s not our children being slaughtered or our fellows being impoverished – it’s just a story.
No it isn’t. Every day spent partaking in drama is a day not spent advancing yourself or the nation. If all you want is a juicy storyline to consume with your popcorn, you get that in spades around these parts. But what you don’t know is that when this particular story ends, the power will go off in your life too. Corruption, insecurity, conflicts, environmental degradation and massive looting have real-world consequences, and they will be visited upon all of us.
What should a wise person do amidst all the hysterics?
Look away. Don’t watch eagerly with your eyeballs popping. Don’t get titillated. Don’t see the humour and nothing else. Don’t move on to the next tragedy. Switch the damn thing off and do something real for a change. In your own life.
Calm down. Think deeply about your life. Understand your role in it. Focus on your strengths and your own livelihood. Train yourself to be better. Look after your family. Gain more skills for your job. Rethink your business. Read and watch things that add depth to your life, not just froth. Mentor some people in what you know well. Give some money away to a productive cause. Master a craft. Switch off. Reflect.
Isn’t that enough for you to do over a lifetime?
If it isn’t, carry on consuming this nonsense. But I warn you, it has a sad ending.
(Sunday Nation 13 March 2016)