Articles Tagged Life & Society

Sep 11, 2022
The special joy of deserving your earnings

Dr Chao Mbogho is a trailblazer. She has a Ph.D in Computer Science, and is one of our leading researchers, educators, and mentors. She recently tweeted something that caught my eye: “Receiving money that you’ve worked for is such a nice feeling.” I thought immediately: Yes it is! And so many do not want to […]

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Aug 14, 2022
What makes humans stand out?

Who were the Neanderthals, and what happened to them? Homo neanderthalensis were a group of archaic humans. They emerged on Earth perhaps 400,000 years ago, and inhabited Europe and Asia. They were the archetypal “cavemen”—hunters and scavengers who nonetheless had a culture, and advanced stone technology, and lasted 100,000 years. Then we arrived, modern Homo […]

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Jul 10, 2022
Why doubt is a powerful tool for enlightenment

Are you riddled with doubt? That’s great. So am I. Albert Camus, famous French author, Nobel laureate, and renowned public intellectual, was also plagued by doubt. In his words: “I do not know what I am looking for, I name it cautiously, I take back what I have said, I repeat myself, I advance, and […]

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Jun 26, 2022
It’s time to rethink the definition of VIP

This world is crazy about the VIP. Just saying the three letters causes a reaction: a hushed reverence for the creature in question—the Very Important Person. The term itself is believed to have originated in the Second World War, and was coined by military personnel to refer to high-ranking officers. It made sense to differentiate […]

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Jun 19, 2022
Why the extreme election drama, Kenya?

I have witnessed more Kenyan general elections than I care to remember. Every time I think I am numb to the experience, I am jolted again. In most countries, elections are a necessary, episodic event to facilitate leadership transitions. They are quiet, well-run, uninteresting affairs. Even if governments change dramatically, the life of the citizenry […]

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Jun 05, 2022
My 1000th column: the ride so far

Today marks my 1000th column on this page. That’s quite a ride.  I still recall my first few columns in early 2003. I had finally left paid employment, and was ready to let my opinions rip, without fear or favour. I was uncertain of my focus, though, and tentative in my approach. With encouragement from […]

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May 29, 2022
How to reclaim this lost power in our lives

The renowned American social reformer Frederick Douglass was once travelling on a train, and was asked to move to the baggage car because of his race. A white supporter was mortified by this. He said: “I am sorry, Mr Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner.” The response by the great abolitionist is […]

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May 01, 2022
This footballing moment reminded us of our shared humanity

A rare moment of magic occurred at a football match recently. During the English Premier League game between old rivals Liverpool FC and Manchester United last week, Liverpool’s fans broke out in applause during the seventh minute of the game. Why? To condole Cristiano Ronaldo, whose shirt number is, famously, seven. The player had sadly […]

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Apr 24, 2022
They know what’s best for me. Or do they?

You’re a student sitting for your public examinations, one of many such sets you have endured in your short life. Recently, someone asked you a question about a subject you completed two years prior. You received a top grade in that subject—yet you can remember little about it and cannot answer the question. You briefly […]

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Apr 10, 2022
Never forget: war is horror

“The sad thing is that the people who orchestrate these wars feel no personal repercussions. They have never seen combat, have never lain under a bed wondering if the sound of the screaming missile overhead is the last thing they will hear. But they happily despatch their troops to do these monstrous things on their […]

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Apr 03, 2022
How to live, even though living is futile

To gaze upwards while standing on the silver sands of our coastline at night is to experience awe. Where humankind’s light pollution is low, the universe above comes into sharp focus; the dark expanse reveals its glittering jewels to our eyes. We can glimpse the incalculable distances; we catch a glimmer of how impossibly vast […]

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Mar 13, 2022
If fascists are left unchecked, they will undo us

I never really paid much attention to fascism when I was younger. The notorious fascists of the early 20th century led the human race into a catastrophic world war before being finally vanquished. Given the consequences, I thought we were done with that part of our history. I thought we had all learned our lesson […]

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Feb 27, 2022
The forgotten teaching method: culture

Hidden in Seth Godin’s book The Practice was a profound observation about how we learn things. Allow me to paraphrase the lesson today. Seth observed that if you study kids of Indian origin in US cities, you may not find a huge liking for things like tandoori chicken or shrimp vindaloo. Yet, kids with the […]

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Feb 13, 2022
What’s your legacy going to be?

There comes an age when some us start to think about our legacy: What we will leave behind; what we stood for in our lives. This is because we are consciously or unconsciously aware of our impermanence as humans. We know we are here briefly and then we are gone. Some of us are desperate […]

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Jan 09, 2022
Three reflections from Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is no more. You will by now have read plenty about this storied African’s manifold achievements. The always smiling Archbishop was a man of courage, wisdom—and much irreverent humour. Allow me to share three of his insights that have stayed with me over the years. The first is this very cheeky observation, coming […]

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Jan 02, 2022
Three life lessons for 2022

A new year is a good time to take stock. What’s been happening, what have we learned, what should we change? What should end, and what should commence? These past two years have been highly unusual for pretty much everyone. We have all lived through a global pandemic, a first for most of us. We […]

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Dec 05, 2021
How best to honour those who depart

Death stalks the human. We live, and then we die. We all know this, and yet we don’t. It is a deeply uncomfortable truth, this fact of our impending nullification. We see it, but we don’t wish to. Indeed we live most of our lives in denial of the full stop to come. We lose […]

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Nov 28, 2021
That person in front of you? Unreliable narrator alert…

Ever since I first discovered them, I have loved unreliable narrators in literature. Those folks who seem to be earnestly recounting a story, but whose narratives seem to be a little off, not quite adding up, so that some disquiet is created in the reader. And then gently it is revealed: this narrator is not […]

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Oct 31, 2021
If you find yourself in a hateful mob, you’re being played

Here’s what those who believe in Covid-19 vaccinations believe about the “anti-vaxxers:” That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. Here in turn is what anti-vaxxers believe about vaxxers: That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. No diehard […]

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Oct 24, 2021
We strive and thrive in groups—and also fight in groups

Human beings congregate in groups. From early childhood we are enrolled into collectives: extended families, religions, ethnic groupings, nations, skin colours, sports teams, work organizations. Our parents, teachers, community elders, religious leaders, tribal overlords, and national rulers all have great interest in press-ganging us into groups. Even those of us who might resist this herding […]

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Oct 03, 2021
Age gracefully, and leave your toys behind

A fond memory from childhood popped up in my head the other day. The neighbourhood kids were all out playing, as was the norm back then. There were no “devices” available to us other than makeshift toys, perhaps a ball or two. Entertainment was confined to a single cartoon show from the Voice of Kenya […]

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Sep 26, 2021
How much is too much? We seem to have no idea

This gentleman once had a big corporate job. He was an executive director at a large business, at global level. Finding his work bereft of meaning, however, he didn’t last. He catapulted himself out of his office chair and into a life of doing the work he actually loves—studying, teaching, guiding, advising, writing. James Suzman […]

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Sep 19, 2021
Should we let go of outdated dress codes?

Some years ago, I stood up in a boardroom to address the assembled directors. I had been asked to speak to board members on trends in governance and strategy. Before I could speak, however, a hand was raised. A visibly peeved director asked me why I was addressing that room, a gathering of the high […]

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Sep 05, 2021
When to persist, and when to desist? A booklover’s tale

Nilanjana Roy is a wonderful columnist for the Financial Times. She is, like me, a devoted bibliophile. She revels in her love of literature and enrols many in the cause of reading. She recently penned a piece that really got me thinking about how I read books. My why, as regular readers of this page will know, is crystal […]

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Aug 22, 2021
Why I was unmoved by Messi’s tears

Lionel Messi cried. A lot. Football’s leading icon showed up at a press conference to announce his sudden departure from his beloved club, FC Barcelona, after two glorious decades there. As he stood to make his speech he faltered, his voice breaking. Then came the flood of tears. After recovering, he went on to say […]

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Aug 08, 2021
Rush-rush, busy-busy – but why?

Nairobians have made a fetish of being rushed off their feet and of being perpetually busy. We always have to be somewhere else, and we are always late; we always have to be busy, and be seen to be busy, and talk about being busy. Our self-esteem and self-regard seem to ride on it. What […]

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Jul 25, 2021
Less is more. A life lesson

Less is more, good people. Less is more. If you’re about to give a long speech, cut it in half. If you are presenting a slide deck, reduce it to a third of what you planned. And cut away all the superfluous text on every slide as well. Why? Because when you overdo it, it’s […]

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May 16, 2021
Education must escape the tyranny of the clock

It has taken me decades to learn how to eat slowly. I tend to gobble down my meal and finish in just a few minutes. This is not a good thing. Modern nutritionists advise that we eat and drink slowly and carefully. So why am I like this? The genesis of the problem is high […]

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