A politician’s workday
Two politicians from different parties start their day with the same goal: to win in the general elections.
They get to work and are busy all day…campaigning and making sure they’re visible online and offline.
They may have different tactics and use different words, but they remain committed to their goals.
At the end of the day, they take time to unwind with family, friends, or other politicians.
Maybe they have TV or social appearances for the evening, which add to their goal-achievement process.
No matter where they are or what they’re doing, they never forget their common goal – winning.
One thing they do different however, is that they’re able to have good times with friends from the other side of the divide…totally offline.
A regular Kenyan’s workday
You and I, however, start our day with or without our to-do lists.
We spend the day slinging mud at each other on social media. We hang out in our political enclaves and shout loudly in support of our preferred leaders.
Things get so heated up that we stop talking to each other. We no longer socialize and forget all the good times we’ve had together in the past.
At the end of the day, we go home. Angry. Disillusioned. Very unhappy. Wanting change and feeling so bad that it’s not here now.
Maybe we cleared our to-do lists; maybe not.
We may have met one or two of our day’s goals…if we had goals to start with.
Tell me my friends, who will be the winner and who will be the loser after elections?
Going beyond campaigns and elections
This year has been one long campaign period. We thought we had finished with it, but life has proven otherwise.
So here we are, back to campaigns. And back to fighting each other as we try to force our political opinions on other people.
We conveniently forget that politicians are doing their jobs. They wake up and go to work to agitate us so that we vote for them.
That is their job and not ours.
Let’s not get caught up in the election euphoria once again and forget that the same people we are fighting for or fighting against, will not remember us once they’re in office.
However, our personal, professional and social relationships will either be strengthened or ruined by the way we treat each other now.
Is the fight worth it?
I don’t know about you, but I for one are now suffering from campaign and election fatigue.
I just want this thing to be done with. Then we can get back to life…whatever life will be like once we have a new president in place.
I do wonder though, how will we heal and rebuild relationships that were broken due to these elections?
How can we heal our nation and make our sense of brotherhood stronger, no matter our preferred political choices?
Is there a way we can work together to make sure that election years don’t end up like this one, ever again?
Over to you…
What’s your take on the campaigns and elections in Kenya?
(Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos)
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My friend Mueni once wrote an enlightening Facebook post. Her post was in reaction to a debate about a househelp who was caught on camera battering a baby. The video circulated widely on the internet.
This video came just after yet another one showing a girl being undressed by rowdy men in Nairobi. They humiliated her and forced to walk around naked. The men claimed that she’d dressed indecently and so they were ‘teaching her a lesson’.
Both videos brought a wave of discussion online and offline and some people demonstrated for the rights of women to dress as they wish.
As if this wasn’t enough, next came a terrorist attack in Mandera that heightened fears about insecurity in our country.
I chose not to watch, share, or go into details about these videos or terror attack. Instead, I chose to look a bit deeper into events that we’ve chosen to ignore.
Such events have led to people turning out like the househelp who abused that baby, the men who attacked and undressed the lady, and the people lured into terrorism.
To date, I choose to talk about things that we as a community continue to hide under the carpet. And yet this elephant under our carpet is getting bigger and bigger. It’s now threatening to take over our country if we don’t take action against it.
Here’s an edited version of my response to Mueni’s post:
“There’s so much happening on the ground in Kenya and it all comes down to a breakdown of the family and lack of proper upbringing of our children to the extent that they turn out like that housegirl.
- We watch as kids in high school burn their schools, attack each other and their teachers…and we talk about it and go back to our comfortable houses…thankful that our kids are safe.
- We watch as people get killed in the name of ethnic cleansing…cry about it for a few months or years….and thank God that it wasn’t us or our loved ones.
- We watch men strip a girl and basically dehumanize her in a city we call civilized…and we have rallies then go back home…and thank God that it wasn’t us or our female relatives.
- We watch the nanny batter the baby…talk about it, install cameras in our homes…and thank God that we can keep track of our homes while at work.
- We watch our fellow citizens being killed in attacks by terrorists…and again…it’s not me or mine.
In the meantime, as we’re busy with our lives, jobs, businesses, investments, continuing education, etc, our children are turning into school terrors, school burners, murderers, carjackers, drug addicts (and sellers), rapists, househelps without hearts, etc.
Sad as it is, these people are our children. They belong to ‘us’ and not ‘them’. We cannot point fingers anymore and think that it will not happen to us.
The change we are seeking has to start at home. As parents, we need to become more visible in the home, more vigilant about what we expose our children to, and more loving towards one another and everyone in the home and community.
Is anyone else seeing how badly our society is doing at the family level or am I the only one?”
I asked these questions in 2013, and I ask them again today.
Can you see how easy it is for us to allow the country to go to ruin as we turn a blind eye to events that are happening around us?
Is there something you can do, just as you are, for yourself, family, relatives, househelp and other employees, estate, neighbourhood, community, town, county, country and the world?
Back to community basics
You see, the change that we’re seeking, the kind of people we want our children to be, cannot happen without a lot of input from ourselves. It starts with me and I extend it to the people living with me before I can extend it to the rest of the community and the world at large.
I believe that we can change our country for the better and for the long-term if we do it one person and one family at a time. It’s not easy but it’s doable.
This calls for:
- Parents being more vigilant about the information their children are ingesting (from the parents themselves, television, friends, the internet, social media, etc).
- We, the grown-ups, being more careful with our language and behaviour because our children learn both positive and negative behaviours from us.
- Each person loving and nurturing himself or herself first so that we’re able to do the same for other people.
- A realization that what is happening to other people could happen to us. And that it will happen to us if we don’t take action today. As the Swahili proverb says, “Ukiona mwenzako ananyolewa, nawe tia lako maji” (literal translation: “When you see your friend’s head being shaved, then wet yours too”), because you will be next…
We have seen other people in our localities suffering and maybe talked about it. Yes, we have to continue talking about it and make sure that our voices are heard. More importantly, is that we take action from the home to the highest level that we can.
Is there hope?
It’s time for us to take Og Mandino’s words to heart and say that we too will plant good seeds today so that we have a good harvest tomorrow.
What seeds have you planted today?
Kenya ni yetu. Hakuna ‘sisi’ na ‘wale’; ni sisi sote pamoja.
We cannot wait for politicians to change the country. Rather, we can start implementing positive change on the ground in our own unique ways.
Let’s work together to make our country one that we’re all proud of and to bring up a new generation of people who have a positive focus.
Let us use the opportunities we have to sow seeds of peace, love, joy, happiness and togetherness.
And, that is when we’ll be able to say, “Najivunia kuwa Mkenya” and mean it from the heart.
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”. Eleanor Roosevelt 1884-1962, American First Lady, Columnist and Lecturer
(Image courtesy of xedos4 at Free Digital Photos)
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It’s easy to think of yourself as a person with a very high level of acceptance of other people. That is until you come face-to-face with someone who brings out your hidden prejudices.
This happened to me on my son’s 8th birthday where I learnt a powerful lesson on acceptance from children. My son had invited over 30 children for his birthday party and they all came.
I was working that morning and had to go buy more snacks and then rush home to cook a real meal for the grownup visitors. My son had requested that I make pilau for the grownups and this would take time.
When the kids arrived for the party, I had a major and unexpected challenge to contend with. We had a huge 17-year old gate-crasher whom I feared. I’d never had a confrontation with him but I feared him nonetheless.
This boy had a development challenge and although his body was already that of a man, his mind was still at the level of a child. I’m not an expert, but from watching him, I always felt like he was like a 3-year old going through the terrible 3’s while trapped in the body of a man. I’m sure this was frustrating to him and his family.
The reason why I feared this boy was because I had watched him harass children and women within the estate. For example, he had a habit of confronting women as they parked their cars. He would approach the car and try to get into the car from the woman’s side, thereby pushing the woman back into the car.
I had also seen him chase kids around and the kids would run away screaming. One day I watched him chase a little girl and she almost fell down the stairs as she ran away. Luckily, her dad was nearby and he saved her, but this boy was not fazed. He still followed the girl and her dad to their door!
Finally, he would make noises that probably meant something in terms of conversation, but I hadn’t gotten someone who understood what he was saying. Unfortunately, people would get scared and run away when he made these noises and this made him more aggressive.
So you can imagine my horror when my fears came true and my son walked in followed by none other than this boy-man! To say that I was in shock does not come minutely close to what I felt. I watched a movie run through my mind and saw unimaginable disasters happening in my living room, right in front of my eyes.
I had over 30 children in the room! How was I going to get this boy out of my house safely?
I considered sending the watchmen to call his parents, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved in all that. So I sent a prayer to God as I tried to work a way out.
What happened next shocked me into silence.
I watched my 8-year old son interact with this boy in a way that amazed and humbled me. While no one seemed to make sense of what this boy was saying, my son told him to sit down and showed him where he was to sit.
The boy removed his shoes and sat on the edge of the carpet. It was as if he was scared of sitting on the sofa as he’d been shown by my son.
From that moment on, my son would give him instructions on what to do and what not to do. My son seemed to understand that he was dealing with a child and not a grown up. So he treated this boy the same way I would have treated a precocious 3-year old!
I was truly amazed. More so because my children and some of their friends had also panicked when they saw this boy in the house and some had asked me (the real chicken herself) to throw him out.
The party lasted about two hours and not once did this boy do anything out of hand. He was polite and seemed to enjoy himself all through. Other than the noises he made when he wanted to communicate with someone, he was just one more kid enjoying himself.
Once the other children saw that the birthday boy had things in control, they too started treating this boy differently. They watched cartoons together, ate snacks, sang birthday songs, played, and then left on a sugar high.
And it didn’t stop there because they continued playing with him outside after the party, something I had never seen before.
It was interesting watching the kids shift from being scared of him to making him a part of the crowd. I think my son’s acceptance of him allowed them to stop fearing him.
Later that evening, I got to know why he sticks to cars like glue. Apparently he loves taking rides in cars, but rarely gets a chance to. Some neighbours understood this and they’d take him for a 5-minute ride and then bring him back.
A few days later, my son informed me that this boy stopped another child from bullying my son’s friend. His stopped the bully by playfully choking him, so the bully let go of the other boy.
The children also learnt that when he chases kids, he does so thinking that they’re playing with him. So the kids see him and run, and he runs after them thinking it’s a game. This makes kids run faster thinking they are in danger…and on it goes.
The challenge then was getting him to realize that his strength was greater than the smaller children’s and it was easy for him to hurt them. We moved from this estate before I could figure this out.
Of late, I’ve been thinking about this lesson in acceptance that I learnt from the children. My reflections made me realize that there are many instances when I’ve judged people wrongly and refused to accept them. This was simply because I was viewing them using my lens, which is coloured by my personal views of life and a lot of unconfirmed fears.
The birthday experience was a true eye-opener for me and one that I keep going back to more than four years later.
This was a lesson to be more accepting of people who are ‘different’ from what I’m used to. It’s also a lesson not to give in to my fears simply because I don’t understand what’s going on.
Take time to appreciate the people around you and accept the ones that do not seem ‘normal’ as per your standards. Unless you have a reason to worry, give people a chance to be themselves before ruling them out.
That is today’s lesson in life.
Have you had an experience that proved that you weren’t as accepting as you thought you were?
What happened and how did you handle it?
I’d love to hear from you so please share your experience or thoughts in the Comments below.
(Image credit Unsplash)