When you have been living all your life just comfortable with where you are, no matter how crappy it really is, it hurts. It hurts to find out that you deserve better, but that fact is hidden in plain sight. It hurts to know that we repeatedly give away our right to decent lives and brighter futures to people who further ensure we remain in the dark. It hurts to realise that most of us think that even the most basic of rights is a privilege that we cannot afford. IT SUCKS.
Let me paint this painful picture because for us to find our way out, it is important to know where we are. And where we are is summed up by one very common word. INEQUALITY. One of the most underrated factors of doom ever. Since we are in the season of pandemics, I dare call it the greatest pandemic yet to erupt. Like a cold war, it has been cooking chini ya maji (under wraps) for decades. The scariest thing is that it is right in front of us – it has been for a long time.
I see it every time I feel the loss of my 60 bob bus fare, yet when I step off the matatu, I see Range Rovers stuck in traffic that cost millions of shillings. Also how almost every slum is naturally bordered by an estate here in Nairobi Kenya. It never bothered me until I got the priceless opportunity to meet with a group of smart ladies from Oxfam Kenya and Fight Inequality Alliance. Together with my previous research and the fact that I am a Kenyan, their insights on inequality blew open the lids that covered my mind and eyes.
Like magnets, my experiences over the years plus the new found knowledge started forming links. Links that were unbelievably disturbing but made me more self aware. I hope they also help you snap out of it. I will start by taking you back in time. People from way back as far as the 16th century began categorizing people depending on various factors of who they were. The most common ones today are race, gender and wealth. Suddenly people could “own” other people and determine even their most fundamental aspects – their lives.
Now people could own more and live better than others, until they started to believe that they deserved it. Just for the record; They don’t. No one does. That is why some scaled up slavery to colonialism. With it came horrors and wars that changed humanity forever. Perhaps the most overlooked effect of this age was one subliminal lesson that poisoned even those who believe that they got ‘freedom’ is – Wealth means power. So our ‘leaders’ and ‘saviours’ began making themselves wealthy in the name of heroism, opening a Pandora’s box that has led us to where we are today.
This reminds me of the various incidents when a citizen was brutally clobbered for trying to gift his President back in October 2019, here in Kenya. From what I understood, as colonialism faded, capitalism took its place. In simple terms, this is where the infamous word ‘system’ comes from. It basically means a state in which private people benefit from economic and political structures put in place to benefit the nation. Fast forward to today and there are governments supposed to ensure that the people of a nation live good and prosperous lives. People built these systems and because of personal interests, they made them so that the common mwananchi had no option but to depend on them.
With this, the greed for power and money was born. This should at least explain the irony of having over 60 languages in Kenya, yet the constitution has been written in two main languages. Like I said, only those who understand benefit. And speaking about the Kenyan constitution, here is how tricky it is. I am a learned 3rd year science student and it took me internet, typing skills and a bunch of false links to finally find this bill of rights, which frankly is too bulky. So I instead started looking for the rights I would enjoy when I start working and stumbled upon the Kenyan Employment ACT 2007. So I started reading “In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires… blah blah blah!”
Of course it was after skipping a bunch of introductions and definitions. So I wondered, how the heck is my grandmother, my uncle and cousins who are in ushago (upcountry) going to understand this! What does it even mean? Now taking into account that there are about eighteen Chapters, all bearing Acts and fully furnished with a lawyers language… I mean, how is this supposed to be for the citizens? In the same way, these same laws are supposed to help citizens get equal rights that propel them towards prosperity!
Now we hear that only 0.1% of the Kenyan population own more than the 99.9% of people in Kenya. Kenya has 51.3 million people and counting. To make matters worse, only 300 of this are extremely wealthy (dollar millionaires). Magnify this on a global scale and you get mind numbing figures like the 1%. Get this; The world richest people, the 1%, own equivalent to 44% of the world’s wealth, the world has 7.8 billion people. Where does that leave the rest of the 99%, me included? Someone must be puling a hoax on the planet.
But the problem lies on a much smaller scale. It is about the citizens and workers who pour blood and sweat into generating this ridiculous amount of money. And yes, it is about money because that is what determines whether you sleep hungry today or not. Don’t get me wrong, being rich is not a bad thing. It is how this wealth is acquired. Those lucky enough to understand the system leverage this knowledge to reap maximum benefits at the expense of that one worker. Imagine one machine in a factory making one million Kenya Shillings a day, yet the operator of the machine is paid a meager 500 bob!
The worker cannot complain because he does not know how to use the Constitution or read it for that matter, and his desperate situation does not allow him to even try. Working for more than 16 hours does not grant the luxury of time to even discover or research. I doubt if 500 bob would allow him to afford the internet and cater for his family’s needs. But this is the situation on the ground. It is how many of us around the world have been forced to normalize inequality because we are caught in an endless cycle that almost means life or death if you break it.
It is no surprise that Sustainable Development Goal number ten reads Reduced Inequality instead of “eliminating inequality”. It has been normalised so much that we are now OK with letting it be, unless it costs a couple of lives – then we can strike. Our leaders promise heaven using fancy names like ‘The Big Four’ before elections and we trust them with a huge amount of power and wealth – our wealth. But they stay true to the rule of promises and just don’t deliver. Sadly, we never learn and their charms work every time. Why? We don’t know. We do not understand the information, therefore, we don’t care.
For you to be self aware, you have to understand how your Country works, what the laws mean for you and your wealth. How? It starts with communicating the system in a way people will understand. Only then can we start seeing action from citizens that assert their power over the power of who they elect – Kudos to Kiambu County for showing it is possible. Some like Oxfam, and Fight Inequality Alliance get it, and have been doing all they can to help the situation. But one key player is missing for this to work, and that is YOU.
Equity and Equality do not mean that everybody should be or will be rich. It just means that everybody deserves to be treated the same and to enjoy a decent quality of life no matter their financial value. Mama mboga should be able to have a good home, enjoy a balanced diet and to be treated well in public facilities even though she earns less. A life of dignity not luxury. That is all. So if we could only realise it Today, Right Now; then we can start working for a better future.
You deserve better. I just thought you should know.