Fear, Freedom and Fences

When a generation of youth is blind to the sacrifices of the shoulders they stand on, they become a boot on others’ shoulders and start a new cycle of oppression.

Back in 2015, I had many personal conversations with the youth of Kenya that left me numb. The collected layers of calloused tragedies from insecurity, hunger, poverty… had become their wretched norm. 

This is going to be a rip-off-the-band-aid reflection. No time to blow on your wounds. Bite on something.

Kenya has a massive population of youth, bigger than any time in history. But they will not rise as a united force to support those who stand up against their oppression. They are old enough to understand that this is a responsibility they cannot shirk.

But they are filled with fear, primal survival and self-preservation. Kill or be killed. They flock to churches to share in the warmth of desperation and pray for miracles. They lament pitifully, sarcastically, laughingly.

They post nice pictures and pretend all is well. They surrender to the intoxicating mtu-wetu syndrome one election cycle after another. Like a street child and his bottle of sniffing glue. 

They become thugs in poor neighborhoods, steal from and kill other poor Kenyans, a beast feeding upon itself. The fruit that has fallen is easier for the magots to feed on. In the cities, they have perfected methods of manipulating, maiming and robbing unsuspecting people.

They line up for new shiny things like Huduma Namba thrown at them by the government like chaff thrown at starving chickens. They never stop to critically question and protest the most ridiculous government directives. Zombie obedience to authority is easier than thinking.

They scoff at the words “revolution” “fight” “stand up”… because they feel judged for not answering to the collective “We”. They shout back with “You don’t understand my suffering!” Tell that to the fighters whose shoulders you stand on.

They will wait on a new political wave during campaigns, follow a populist leader who purports to speak for them, and pretend that they are in a revolution.

Those who fill up churches will pretend that praying is a revolutionary act. Kenyans’ public show of piety has always been the most eloquent display of useful idiocy. Religion is a fulfilling invention, faith is a necessary superpower, and the gods of our making are pragmatic tools that can be deployed for building or destruction. When your political oppressors join the oppressed at prayer rallies and say “tuombe!”, you grow weak in the knees.

You’d rather believe that a benevolent force beyond you put the oppressor in office and you had nothing to do with it. You have refused to question this lazy, ruthless and illogical belief. So you become the boot of oppression on your children’s shoulders by consciously upholding and spiritually legitimizing oppressive forces.

The greatest minds that ever changed the world, including those you have turned into gods and messiahs, were revolutionaries who refused to comply with oppressive forces. Noncooperation is at the core of nonviolent revolution. Revolutionary moral change is not about guns and goons.

Cooperation with governments that have sponsored killings, disappearances, betrayals, sustained poverty, theft and hoarding is the farthest thing from godliness. Fear and only fear keeps you waking up at the crack of dawn to line up for the next shiny thing that a rogue government throws at you when all around you are the festering sores of a nation. 

But for many, their attitude is – what do I care if those festering sores are not on my body? I’m an individual, not a people. Some say, “I’m doing just fine, better than Americans, I’m thriving in Africa.”

For the nouveau riche, you need to shake off that comfortable individualism that makes you think you’re ok if you can just protect your success with the tallest barbed wire, steel gate, electric edge, and glass shards on top of a thick brick fence. There’s no freedom where there are prison-like fences of middle-class trauma.

For the poor and oppressed, you need to shake off that cowardly individualism that makes you think you can change things on your own if you just pray hard enough, work hard enough, beg enough, manipulate enough. 

Kenya is a population of 50 million manipulated by a paltry few because the majority have chosen the foolish and cowardly comforts of individualism and all its hidden trauma. When election season comes around, they choose the intoxication of political drama starring the same old power barons.

Just remember, evolution is a heartless scalpel. It will scalp off willful cowardice and reduce to unmemorable extinction those who refuse to rise. If you must die, die with some dignity. Die with your fist up.

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