Indoctrination in 5 Courses:

When we were kids and new to the magic of learning, we did Number Work in Standard 1 (first grade). Then I think it was in Standard 2 when we graduated to Maths. What numbers become when + – x / was applied to them just totally confused me, especially if the answer was more than two digits. I could not understand why 5 + 6 became two ones. It was witchcraft.

So, there was this boy I shared a desk with. Muema. Absolutely his real name. He had a good-looking pumpkin-size head and a little piece of a magnifying glass. He convinced me – the kid did – that if I put that glass over the numbers I’ll see the answers. The magnifying glass itself was a piece of magic to me, I was awed by how it made the numbers grow bigger. So I believed him. I desperately needed not to keep getting the teacher’s big X’s in red ink against my wrong answers. It really messed up with my mental health.

**Indoctrination 101: Ignorance, desperation, and curiosity make a good follower.

Every time the teacher gave us sums to do, I’d whisper to Muema, “Nenge kaindo kau (give me that little thing)”, and extend my little hand for the magic piece of magnifying glass. I was the kid who never uttered a word in school, unless I was placed in front of a crowd to perform. The situation forced me to stretch myself to extreme levels of discomfort that required opening my mouth in a social setting. I can’t believe this story is actually true, but it is. I’d put the glass against a 7 + 8 and move it over to the = sign but I never saw the answer appear magically. I’d return it with quiet disappointment at myself and keep on borrowing it hopping one day I’ll actually see a number appear underneath the glass. I just thought I didn’t look hard enough. It was my fault. I was deficient.

**Indoctrination 201: Self-blame makes an excellent disciple and marks the moment of emotional investment.

Meanwhile I kept getting the math wrong because I resorted to guessing the answers. I did not know then what I know now: that as long as I believed that a mysterious power beyond me would give me the answer, I would never know that I was fully equipped with the capability of learning how to get it right. I would keep on failing, and the quality of my future life would be at stake. Little as I was, I was tired of failing, but did not know what to do. If my parents tried to explain it, I didn’t get it either. Some brains are just wired differently. In hindsight, what came easy to me even at that young age was understanding language, imagination, introspection. But the problem at hand was math, and I believed I was beyond help.

**Indoctrination 301: Apathy spreads like a plague. The minute you catch yourself saying “there’s nothing I can do” (or as Kenyans say: tuta-do?), it’s time for serious intervention.

It took going to Standard 3 for a teacher to make me understand arithmetic 101. Or perhaps my child’s mind was just more mature. All I remember is that learning how to round off numbers was the best thing a math teacher every taught me. Thing is, I was finally released from Muema’s pumpkin head and his magnifying glass witchcraft. He had gained control over me because he knew I would always extend my little hand for that piece of glass which he knew was a bogus god.

**Indoctrination 401: You are always stronger than you think, and your mind is fully equipped to overcome absolutely anything.

I’m still running into so many Muemas in my adult life. Many of them are manipulative religious buffoons and political demagogues on bogus pedestals who know they have power over those who come to them for a magical fix. Something that would hopefully give them answers to their struggles, insecurities, tears, fears and frustrations. So preacherman tells them if you plant some seed here, if you get down on your knees and pray desperately, if you speak in tongues, if you contribute to buying the servant of g/God a car, etc… you will receive your answer when you get home. Just believe.

And the followers do it over and over again, fueled by desperation, and never get the answer. Nothing ever changes. And when it does, it’s because some followers have discovered their own strength and ability to learnt how to get it right, how to stop stepping into the same mud pit time and again. Sometimes those formulas are brutal or require great sacrifice, like revolutions, especially when the roots of manipulation are so deeply entrenched. Uprooting an old tree is not the same as uprooting weed. It is then that we need great teachers who make us understand and force us to gain new knowledge.

**Indoctrination 501: Surrendering to new learning that helps us discover the power of our independent minds is the greatest release from indoctrination.

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