We want to be stupid…right?

Our war on corruption is usually the equivalent of catching a rat eating shoes in the bedroom and moving it to the granary or kitchen. We stop the damage in the bedroom but make it worse elsewhere.

Honestly, we seem bent on engaging in acts of global stupidity as a collective human race. Forget the antics on TV that extract from us a few tired laughs, sheepish smiles and outright urges to avoid the real issues. Put aside your keyboard for an hour, the world really isn’t on fire. What the world is on is a very strong drug called stupid.

I won’t talk extensively about American politics; my hope is that the President-elect Donald J. Trump will lead that collectively divided union of states into four years of isolationist policies and that the union holds together on whatever threads of moral superiority they convince themselves they still have. But I will say this, 2016 reminded me just how stupid we’ve allowed ourselves to be about the American Dream.

American Dread

…they grew weary of America. The American dream vanished from my father’s mind and became replaced with the American dread, India was the way to go.

Growing up, I always wanted to become an American. They were the good guys in every movie (including the ones not set in America), they were the heros and heroines facing unbeatable odds to save the world from aliens, asteroids, Russians and Korean villains. The Brits were fine in that they had James…James Bond with his shaken Vodka Martini but America had everyone from Robocop to Superman to Batman and Wolverine. I grew up believing Gotham was a real place and one day I’d go to that strange place and see the Joker.

I was fairly bright and this put a feather in my father’s hat. He harbored the secret ambition that I would benefit from a ‘brain drain’ type of situation and be whisked off to America to study medicine or something equally important. So this ten year old would be up till late with Primary Science revised edition studying parts of a flower or any other book he asked for. My mother prayed, what mattered to her was that I prospered in whatever I put my mind to and if that was India, America or Kenya she was happy.

I grew older and so did my parents. I grew brighter and they grew weary of America. The American dream vanished from my father’s mind and became replaced with the American dread, India was the way to go. Being a vegan appealed more to him than attending a funeral, prison visits or deportation. Gang violence, drug abuse and discrimination against blacks was on the rise and though I was cradled in a media enforced cultural imperialism, he saw the storm brewing and talk of being a doctor in America became replaced with simply being a good doctor.

Some twenty odd years later what started out as gang violence and verbal discrimination against blacks in America has given way to systematic discrimination against not only blacks but Latinos, Muslims, Mexicans and other minority groups. The Black Lives Matter movement is in essence the reincarnation of the civil rights movement under Martin Luther King Jr with a twitter handle and live updates on CNN. We no longer call family, friends and relatives in America to pass greetings from the village, we call them hoping against hope that they’ve not been shot, lynched or assaulted for the color of their skin. We call in fear to the land of dread, not hope. We look to the skies for drones not relief. We debate conspiracies where the American might deposed dictators to access oil, not liberate an oppressed people. We question treaties pushed for by the Superpower that ultimately never signs them or pulls out months later. Climate change? For what and by who?

Yet stupidly we look to the United States to offer guidance on the world stage. How do we trust America to solve ethnic and religious tensions in the Middle East when racial tensions have not truly been resolved since the end of the American civil war of 1865? Sure their entry into the first and second world wars contributed to their conclusion but what we fail to account for is the end of war is not the end of conflict.

Russian conquest of the Ukraine (and possibly other territories along her border) can be traced back to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Tension in the Middle East can be traced back to breaking up the Ottoman and Turkish empires after World War one and betrayal of the Arabians by Lawrence of Arabia. Stupidly, we end wars but do not resolve conflict thus leaving future generations open to engage in the same old wars we congratulate ourselves for ending.

The Never Ending War of Stupid

Ideas don’t kill people, people kill people.

The two wars that have marked our lifetimes are the wars on terror and the war on corruption. The war on terror is a global event with no true civilians. You are either a combatant or a potential combatant. You may argue with the second grouping because you don’t preach hate or harbor the intention to kill under the guise of religion. I shall place you in this group because of the unrelenting desire by each side to recruit you to their side. Agents of terror are always looking for soldiers to replace those lost in the fight otherwise they would soon be reduced to ideological rambling on secret frequencies and we all know ideas don’t kill people, people kill people.

Governments and security agencies on the other hand are dedicated to keeping you from joining the agency of terror. The fewer people it has to fight the better. So media is used to paint acts of terror as cowardice and untrue to religious sobriety. It becomes your responsibility to not become a terrorist.

But what none of these two opposing sides will tell you is what truth is in the fight. What truth is in religious extremism that moderate believers do not agree with? What religion advocates for murder? What religion is without a dark, violent chapter in its foundation? Islam is often painted as a violent religion born from the persecution and retaliation of Muhammad but we don’t want to admit that Islam is so much more than the Holy war (whose context we quickly brush aside) and really a guide for living to a people.

We don’t want to teach or admit to the bloody chapters of Christianity (Spanish inquisition) and we refuse to admit the position Israel has taken with regards to Palestine (largely informed by a religiously inspired right to own the land in the region). We stupidly accept that Islam is violent and the war on terror is simply justified. We refuse to examine terror in the Middle East where the Islamic State is seen as a threat by persons who practice the same faith as the militants and suffer under their occupation. We refuse to call it a war against IS, against Al-Qaeda, against Al-Shabaab because a war on terror is easier to explain to a society that wants simple, dumbed down answers.

We don’t want to teach or admit to the bloody chapters of Christianity (Spanish inquisition) and we refuse to admit the position Israel has taken with regards to Palestine (largely informed by a religiously inspired right to own the land in the region).

The same goes for the war on corruption. In Kenya, we’ve moved from one era to another of corruption with every successive leader claiming to take the bull by the horns. If the bull had been taken by the horns the last scandal should have been the Anglo-leasing Saga. It wasn’t.

The war on corruption has become a game of chess where pieces are moved about the board with no real consequence because the Kenyan people, playing as the opponent, have one pawn on the board borrowed from a checkers board against a cast of cartels playing with half a dozen queens and knights. A corrupt official is not sent home and his/her assets frozen or retrieved to repay the misappropriated funds. They are transferred to a new ministry where the cancer can be allowed to regroup and grow. Our war on corruption is the usually the equivalent of catching a rat eating shoes in the bedroom and moving it to the granary or kitchen. We stop the damage in the bedroom but make it worse elsewhere.

And sometimes we hire someone to catch the rat then end up shooting the man to protect the rat. Fred Matiang’i took the ministry of education by storm, revealing what control cartels had and his bold plan to take the ministry back. Months into his campaign he was under fire from the public. #MatiangiMustGo was trending on social media sites as though the tough talking minister had set schools on fire himself. He survived it and we’re going through an examination period with fewer incidences of irregularities than those reported in previous years.

Earlier this week Central Bank of Kenya Governor Dr. Patrick Njoroge was under a similar barrage. His crime? Streamlining the banking sector. This gentleman revealed that most banks in Kenya don’t follow the policies laid out by law and was planning drastic actions to reform the sector. He helped deft the blow when Chase Bank was in dire straits and recently saw an anti-money laundering treaty signed by Kenya effectively putting the banks in the lime light for shady dealings with cartels and dodgy ministry officials.

Our thanks? Demands that he be forced to step aside from his position. Very stupid, yet popular.

Stupid is the New Cool

The drive towards global stupidity seems driven more by the need to fit in than it is to be right. Tribal politics for example is one way to explain why an educated lawyer would vote for a known thief and hatemonger as governor for his county. You will be alone in the voting booth with a pen and the ballot paper but to please friends who will debate nothing of consequence over a cold one you will vote by tribe when you could vote by conscience.

Racism and the politics of racism is the reason some white Americans refused to recognize President Obama as their leader and why long standing divisions in America are far from resolved more than a century after President Lincoln set slaves free in the union. It is better to be part of the popular block of irrational hate that to sift through actual human beings and make individual judgements as to who you should hate based on character.

Poverty and the politics of appearance is the reason we have frustrated young intellectuals grumbling over wages they deem too meager to fund outrageous lifestyles. We’ve made it important to fit in but not provided anyone the keys to achieving it truly. We’ve created the rights to hold an opinion but not the information to correctly form one or form a correct one. We want to be stupid because stupid is the new group of acceptance. Stupid has an idea about the status of illegal immigrants in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area, in Britain, in America, in Australia, in France and what should be done about screening refugees but no actual facts. Stupid wants Britain to leave the EU to stop Polish and Turkish immigrants taking away all the jobs stupid is not qualified to do or won’t apply for.

Stupid wants blacks in America to ‘go back to Africa’ despite having lived in  Dallas, Charlotte, Baton Rouge for generations, Mexico to pay for a border wall along one of the most militarized borders between two countries at peace, Muslims to abandon a symbol of their faith and access to more guns with fewer restrictions on exactly who can buy them.

Stupid sees President-elect Donald Trump as a sign to vote in Marine Le Pen in France’s up-coming elections because if he could do it so can she. Stupid doesn’t know who Le Pen is because if it’s not in the news we have no need to read about it or gain an education in it despite the events in the world being more connected today than they were in 1939.

Stupid sees Nairobi governor hopefuls slug it out on live TV and cheers on. The important thing is not what was said but that you watched it as it happened and followed the debate on twitter as you saved the video to face book.

Stupid is the new cool and we all seem to be falling over each other to join the pack.

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