Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Dust Bowl

I stumbled upon a documentary on one of the PBS affiliate channels. I found this particular documentary to be all consuming, moving, frustrating, epiphany generating and just so - there. After much thought as to why this documentary struck a special chord in me, I have determined it is because it touches on everything in life. Every emotion. Life, people, death, nature, disaster, catastrophe, environmental awareness. Food scarcity. Endurance. Pain. Survival. Politics. History. If you're thinking of something and I didn't mention it, that too - most probably.

This documentary is long. It comes in two chapters; each one about a couple of hours long. In very brief summary, it covers the south, the drought in the 1930s. So dual depressions. Both financial crisis as America was experiencing it then. And the drought. Prolonged drought. And then there were dust storms. oh my goodness! Those images of those storms!!! That drop - 3 feet of dust, 3 feet - by the time they pass by. First and foremost - what??? I did not know that this happens outside of the Sahara desert. Typically, it was headed in that direction , I guess. And FDR triumphed over his opponents. And America, the government overcame that. And when it ends, created a new potential - future- disaster. And a situation where, the dust bowl could happen again. That is

Monday, April 29, 2013

Greedy Kenyan Politicians - Time to Nip it in the Bud

I rarely advocate for the extreme reaction. Instead, I normally call for calm, deliberate reasoning and deliberations, discussions, effective assessment and then slow and cumulative conclusions that link in to each related piece, correctly, neatly and tidily. Usually, I cite least disruptive and very low-impact, responsible, responsiveness to situations.

I don't think that I am disagreeing with myself now. But I think it's time for extremely drastic actions against MPs and salary increments at their discretion. The critical aspect of this is to be found in the inability of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to rein this in. Unless Kenyans want to wed, for life, the fact that every new batch of MPs will come into office, determine the pay they get, get money for free to buy cars (what??? - this I find so insane, so completely insane, I don't know who came up with this and why we haven't tried them for stealing from tax payers coffers. If our laws don't provide such a provision, we need to make it available). To consume tax payer money so that some stupid idiot from some stupid part of the country (Nairobi and your and my neighborhood included), comes from nowhere, gets elected into office and suddenly thinks he is so worth 30 cents that he has to be "seen" in a 'certain" kind of vehicle - and then to take this money from struggling Kenyans to buy said vehicle for this idiot. This HAS got to be a crime. And if it isn't it must be made into one.

But I digress from the main point I want to make, while still within topic. Because this topic is all encompassing into daily lives and all annoying. Issues to be dealt with

1. Crazy stupid "keeping up and being the Jones'es" attitude employed and supported by Kenyans - DUMP THIS!
If you've ever left Kenya for a significant amount of time, the first thing that hits you when you return is how crazy, shallow and just downright unintelligent Kenyans can be around money. Everyone is acting like they have money. I use 'acting' because they don't have it. Everyone is living outside their means. And everyone is trying to buy status and (respect?) by acting like they have money. And they therefore end up doing and saying stupid stuff. Like they spend too much on phones and keep reciting phone model numbers like they were technicians at a store selling them. And they comment on other peoples "cheap" phones. The thought here is that this makes them cool and "with it". But for those like me, the conclusions we draw around these types of utterances and behaviour is anything but. One wonders why anyone would be so shallow, so - pardon my candor - dumb and stupid. But this flossing attitude is engrained into everyone. And I guess it is in a much larger scale when one is in parliament. Then this individual must earn his place by having the biggest and baddest guzzler in the streets. And since said MP is, by his own making and achievements, a loser who never made enough to buy said vehicle, he figures Wanjiku will pay for it. And as soon as he gets into parliament, he embarks on making that dream come true. The monster is created within the society and that's where it must be tackled from.

2. Instead, Replace it with Insightful Financial Planning at all Levels of Society
Financial Planning, aka living within your means, aka searching for a bargain, aka saving for your future, aka self identity and not group crisis should be taught to everyone and a campaign to change attitudes should be started and fully focused on. This means that classes that teach individual financial management should be offered, preferably paid for and supported by employers. Public service messages should be on every station, advocating for real happiness being found in one living within their means; cutting their coats according to their cloths like we were taught. The messages should emphasize on how we as a society need to change our attitudes and focus from associating pride to how much one has garnered to associating it to how well one has managed what they have.

I lived very close to the 5th richest street in the US. And the homes were large, palatial and older - the kind that generations pass on from one to the next. The most striking thing about these driveways? The cars they parked. Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, Nissan' Pathfinders, Jeeps and other practical, inexpensive cars were the norm. Not BMWs, not Mercedes. Even when they went luxury brand, they went practical luxury brand. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti and the Range Rover. And from the interviews with these people, it quickly became obvious that people with money don't need to advertize that fact. Interestingly, in the same city, there existed one very wealthy patriarch from one of the wealthiest families in the US who drove a Nissan Maxima. A new up and coming extremely wealthy guy bumped into him and was narrating his life changing experience. He knew he had less than a tenth of the older Matriarch's wealth and when he bumped into him, the patriarch was in his Nissan, and the newly rich guy was in a Bentley. Which he could very well afford. But he described feeling so small, so foolish and just wanting to hide. He immediately dumped the Bentley for a more reasonable car. Take that lesson for what it's worth.

The point being, we need to create a society that is capable of being embarrassed by largesse. Because, frankly, it is all inconsequential and a little childish to floss beyond a certain level. Let me frame this into perspective. The videos often watched and adored of rappers flossing and living it up in $300,000 vehicles are not from the most educated class of beings. And should be assessed and measured against the propensity to file for bankruptcy that exists amongst these groups of people. Smarter people should start acting smart.

Fringe Benefits of this? In my opinion would be that the promiscuity of women, in the hunt for sugar daddies, that has become so rampant and unimaginable, will go down. Hopefully, we can finally work it back to where women can be self respecting and not tools for trade at different levels. This topic in itself could be a novel. But we will break here for this post.

3. Immediately? - Down all Tools. _ Refuse to Work Until Comprehensive Laws that Prohibit this Current and Future MPs/Leadership from this Type of Behaviour are Drafted and Enforced

A very difficult thing to coordinate. But the only way anything of substance will get achieved. If all Kenyans are not willing to down their tools, simply by refusing to work so that MPs can live large, there will be no real impact. But if there were no wages to tax for a week, a month, or however long; and the obviousness of the tax payers input into the cost of supporting these salaries and perks is not highlighted, how else to make a very strong and impacting point?

Another strategy will be for doctors and teachers to down their tools. And each group to hang in there until they can negotiate a difference in their income so that, they make an additional X amount by cutting X amount from the MPs recently increased salaries, or loans turned grants. These very necessary set of workers can, with proper management and delegation, be used to whittle the increases back to zero. At any point they want an increase, they only end their strike after negotiating an increase based on cuts at the MP salary level. Why? they would justify this by being conscientious of the everyday wage bill, and being aware that the funds are available based on the increases merited the MPs - they can claim to want only that portion to share amongst them all (much larger numbers)while balancing incomes in the country. Not to mention rectifying brain drain as it is happening. This may yet be the most implementable solution. Of course with its concerns and headaches (in-operating hospitals or schools, for example).

In summary, I think that something must be done. Both immediately and in the long run. Immediately, to stop the current increases going on. Future and long term - really- to free all of Kenya from the burden of being wanna-be. Because it is my honest opinion that that is the fundamental breakdown that has the MPs being greedy Pigs and thinking they are more important than they will ever be. Frankly, they ain't nothing but public servants. And stop calling them 'mheshimiwa' and confusing them about their importance. Mr. [enter name here} and Ms. or Mrs. [enter name here} will suffice at all points.

And I'll end this by restating and asking - Can anyone express to me clearly why Kenya provides grants for MPs to buy personal cars? How does that benefit the country? Could we possibly be a nation that authorizes the consumption of tax payer money for personal betterment? How isn't that stealing tax payers money? Is there a lawyer who understands the Kenyan law that can convince me there isn't any article that could be used to sue the government against this practice? Because if so, those laws are weak, and they should be the first order of business!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Flying by

Time is definitely flying by. My nieces and nephews are older, taller, wiser and just scarily adult like. Which forces one to admit that the distance between now and that time is, well... no longer small. I'm fortunately not one of those people who is living mired in regrets, so what this does is make me think that I need to stop and soak in life as it passes by.

I don't make resolutions. I live by a certain code. And the primary code is adaptability with self evaluation constantly. The goal is to be better always. To really attain wisdom. I believe in it fully. That experience, yours and mine, theirs and our forefathers' are teaching us something daily. and the more we absorb, evaluate, put into perspective and store as a benchmark point; the wiser we get. Which is why I surprised myself at the start of 2013 by having to make a resolution.

I spent last year working. At my job and at my life. Too many things were happening and I was all I had to do them all. I worked too many hours, skipped too many lunches, and called a whole lot less people back - me, who already has a problem with getting on the phone and calling people. Getting worse at this is not the direction I wanted to head in. I justified it all. I thought that come Decemeber, I would take all this fatigue and dump it in Kenya as I visited friends and family. Except that, at the 11th hour, I cancelled that trip too. I had worked so much during the year that I couldn't leave for a reasonable amount of time without collapsing all that time investment.

Fine. It's been busy but tangibly productive. But thank goodness I overcame the very risky mental space of being fulfilled mostly by my work achievements. It's an overall collection of life. And last year, well, was productive but... I don't know. I wasn't there to figure out how this sentence ends. And after a personal assessment, I realized I had to shore up resources and get away whether the work was done or not.

I especially missed Kenya. Something I can't fully explain. Because the last time I was there I was - flabbergasted! I don't get regression. Everyone screams at me when I say this. But the new roads, all that development, is evidence of a developed government. The lifestyle, the lawlessness everywhre - on the roads, smoking in banned places, bribing and general bad manners - that is testament to a regressing fellowship. So in summary, I concluded that the leadership in Kenya was improving, but the fellowship was failing them.

Now if you're wondering how I can say this in the face of looting MPs who try to pass bills that Kenya afford to pay just to line their pockets before they leave - How I can refer to this as improved leadership? Yeah. That would be crazy. BUT, you all caught it before it happened, and your voices averted the worst of it. Leadership is about the checks and balances - because we can't control other human beings. Fellowship though, is what the majority has to do. Constantly make a decision to do right, to obey laws - traffic, anti smoking, drinking hours, sexual maturity age - just to name a few. That's for everybody. Be they elected leaders or not.

One of those nights in Kenya, I was out late, the past midnight late. And speaker Marende was sitted somewhere across from where I was. With a girl I hoped was his daughter. She looked about 16. Could have been older but seemed very young. I said something to those I was with. Long story short - only person concerned was me. No one cared. At all. Not even about the two GK vehicles at the two entrances with the body guards - all taxpayer money being abused. And especially not about this young girl. And I realized that Kenyans need to rekindle an emotion. But first, the moral lines must be re-identified, shouted from the rooftops and opinions formed, debated, discussed - so that consequence for all actions can be restored.

There's no success without order. And order is a direct product of people being able to match action with consequence. It's a whole lot easier to type these feelings and thoughts than it is to feel them and I'm sure to activate them. But it is my prayer that something will be activated. Value and principles and a collection of ideas that define people. because all that is where peace abounds. And prosperity. And accountability. The things many of us want for and from Kenya.

Vote wisely and God bless!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Libya and Obama's presidency

Now that Nato has directly targeted, bombed and killed Ghadaffi's family members, including 3 grandchildren all aged under 6, is this still a humanitarian effort?
Ghaddaffi may not be a great man but why target a home knowingly populated with other civilians including his wife, kid, and grand kids? is the thought that if Gaddafi's gets eliminated, then it was worth it? The end justifies the means?

Can anyone walk into a country with civil discord of any kind, pick sides and honestly claim to know what they're doing? I mentioned in a post before that it is never possible to know the facts on the ground about divided nations. You're likely to take sides from the people you hear from the most. In the spirit of democracy though, it does not negate the opinions, values and rights of the opposing side. Be they down, 30 to 70 or 50/50.

This killing of people's children is just disgusting. It was disgusting when they killed Saddam's kids and justified it with that they were horrible human beings. I'm not saying they shouldn't have been tried and given due punishment. But they cannot be targeted because their father's leadership is despised and that called fair. It was ridiculous that they bombed Ghaddafi's compound and killed his son after pearl harbour. And it is still abhorrent now with another son and 3 grand kids.

There isn't a better man than Obama in for the 2012 race yet. But I'm watching carefully. If Barack does not condemn this and make some appeasing effort, I'm flushing him down the tubes of disgusting politicians. And because he is officially running in 2012 now, he needs to make an official campaign statement. So we can know where he stands on this.

I said this whole Libya invasion thing was a mess. Why isn't Nato in Syria yet? They have the same atrocities going on?! Sick, sick.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I disagree

I'm an avid supporter of Barack Obama. In fact, I have often claimed that he thinks in many ways the same way that I do. I have disagreed with him before. But never as much as I do now. This whole Libya thing - I'm sorry. I'm just not buying it.

I've spoken to enough people to know that whatever one thinks about what is going on in the middle East, and Libya in particular, is simply a matter of opinion. As always, opinions are always a factor of our principals, our experiences and in many ways our fears. So those are sometimes hard to change. But I believe that they should always be heard, understood, appreciated and the differences noted, respectfully. And for that reason, I don't want to disagree with the Libya bombings on grounds of morality and the role of the U.S. to a purported looming massacre in the hands of colonel Gadhafi.

Let me disagree on grounds of "what the hell are you doing?" At the current moment,there is a general consensus, even amongst the talking heads that generally agree with Obama, that this mission is fuzzy at best. Up to this moment, Obama has been hard pressed to explain himself clearly to anyone. If I, a real loyal who trusts the decision making process of this president, am having a really tough time with this one, I think we have a problem.

First and foremost, how can one prove that Libya is not dealing with a civil uprising? Despite all the protests we've seen on TV, and our general acknowledgement that Gadhafi makes us uncomfortable, to say the least, there is no denying that there is an obvious availability of Gadhafi supporters. If that were not the case, he would have been ousted by now. So who is the U.N or the U.S to take sides in this affair? if we're claiming democracy, how do we pick sides and still maintain its integrity? Because, let's be honest, the U.N. mandate allows for the arming of the rebels. That is taking sides.

Additionally, Barack committed funds to this mission. At the current time, the waging war against him from the republicans has to do with the deficit and spending. So why would he not engage congress first? I think what really ticks me off is that Barack has changed the tone again. Before all this, the Union collective bargaining war had just simply turned everyone towards democrats and Barack Obama. And what a momentum there was. So I ask, what the hell is this, that it was worth that loss?

Maybe, Barack thought this would help him look less timid. Look like a president who can make war decisions towards going to war. But the problem with this is that it alienates his voting base. That base tends to be more peace, less war. More resolutions outside of gun battles. And most importantly, more process oriented. The one thing that is definitely missing here - an understood mission and process to follow.

And while I agree by all means, stop a massacre before it happens, whenever a decision is made to "assist" an oil rich country, while the Congo and Sudan continue to bleed out, I am simply not buying that reason. It's BS, and I am calling it out. I just hate that I am calling under Obama's administration.

It's possible that I just disagree with Western intervention in majority of cases, and maybe that's why I disagree with this. But I think I especially don't believe in the "uproar" that was/is in the middle east as a very real thing. Except that it is real and happening. I'm of the school of thought that this is media driven, and Ii could put it this way, Japan, its earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear issues came a little too late to avert Obama's having to make a decision here. I am convinced that these revolutions have been kept alive by consistent attention from the western media. And that in itself would be valid if I believed the interest was genuine. I don't. I think the interest is only commercial to the media industry. So let's hope Barack knows better than I do what it is he is doing and what the end results will be. Because personally, at the current time, I believe strongly he's just responded to a product of media hype that may have had nothing to do with anything - in the long run.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gun Trotting Bandits - Executions, Not Simply Injustice?

ON Thursday morning, I looked into the online version of the Kenyan Nation newspaper to find the big news, with pictures to boot. Police had executed some thugs, who had apparently surrendered. Of course it's shocking. More so that they did this in the very open. I can't imagine if one had their children in their vehicles while the cops carried out their actions.

On Wednesday evening, I received a phone call. My brother in law had been murdered. He was shot dead, execution style, right outside the gate to his house. The bandits carried his car keys but not his car. They killed him outside his gate, so that meant his wife and kids heard the commotion, the shots and were left to find the display the bandits had left behind.

On December 24th, 2010, I was in Kenya and at Kenyatta Market getting my hair braided. This crazy story was circulating. One of the braiders in one of the stalls wasn't in and had experienced tragedy in her family. Apparently, the night before, on her way home from work, she walked into a crowd of people gathered around some dead people. They had been shot by police. One was a robber. The other was an innocent high school student, whom the robber had used to shield himself from the police bullets with. The police had shot and killed both. The innocent high school student was her son.

So I am reading the comments on this story in the nation newspaper and noting the outrage in people's tones. I am trying to feel that outraged, but I can't. I keep thinking, as long as one can confirm these were robbers with guns, shoot them and kill them. For starters, our system will probably let them out of jail, perhaps even before they have served their time, due to corruption within our jail systems. And these people will go back to shoot and kill another family's father, son, brother, husband and friend. Let this gun trotting idiots die instead.

Now I am not unaware of the ugliness of my intuitive emotion. How dare anyone kill a surrendered man? It's horrible. I agree. But is it worse than the fact that this surrendered man kills innocent people? If I believed that the system would take care of these thugs correctly, tuck them away somewhere and let them rot there to die; especially where the death penalty is now eliminated in Kenya, I might be OK and insisting on the 'don't shoot surrendered gun trotting thugs', mantra. But I don't believe in it. And what about these cops? Who keep engaging in gun fights with the same set of thugs repeatedly? I understand why they shoot them to eliminate them. The truth is, our system is not ready for gun trotting violence wielders.

So here is what I'd propose. An outright gun on guns in the open for everyone. Any violators can expect to be shot dead. Legally. Yes, I'm proposing a shoot to kill order for all gun wielding thugs.

What about the innocent bystanders, such as the high school student I mentioned earlier? I'm proposing better training for the police. And an additional clause to the shoot to kill order. Simply, once an innocent person is added to the mix, a 'hold fire' mandate.

But am I sorry for the executed thugs? Not at the current moment. Perhaps my emotions are a little raw at the current moment. Am I aware that it is a degenerate society that would execute a surrendered man? Yes. But to that I say, it is a degenerated man that would shoot an innocent man. The cops did not shoot innocent men. They shot surrendered crooks. It is not the same thing. And I for one, want that difference noted and appreciated. If my father, brother or husband was a cop, I'd be sure that I advised that they shoot these idiots before they get shot. I'm fighting for the cops on this one. I'm not claiming they were right. I'm asking that we pass a law that makes them right. That should deter any gun trotting thug without a death wish. All others, well, their wishes can be fulfilled as desired. And meanwhile, those responsible should start drafting laws, creating spaces and cleaning up the system, so that in the future, the shoot to kill order will no longer be necessary.

I'm surprised by myself too. I didn't know I had this cold space in me.

Friday, August 06, 2010

2010 - New Decade, New Kenya

It's been a long time since I've felt the need to put my thoughts on this blog. I got deflated, negatively impacted, jaded or just completely drained after the election skirmishes. I've tried to come back here often, simply because I used to use this space to store my opinions and assess them later - to monitor my state of mind during certain events and to grow from what I observe about myself in those pieces I had written.

I've missed having this place to come back to. I haven't been able to transfer this process to other places where I store my thoughts. But somehow, I do associate the Kenyan blogosphere with the events of early 2008. And I guess I don't like to come back here. My opinion of Kenya was changed so drastically, left huge holes and such a sense of loss in my heart. I got an inside view of Kenya and it was not pretty. I've been trying to overcome that; to see it as an isolated incident. Yet, I believe my hesitation is in the fact that I don't believe in its isolation. Somehow, I feel like my eyes were opened to an ugliness I didn't before have the ability to fathom within my own people. An ugliness I feel has not yet been explored, exposed, addressed or altered. I don't have to be right. I could simply be traumatized. But those are my feelings towards all that at the current time.

With all that said, I had to write my thoughts on the day after the constitution passed. I've talked to many Kenyans, young and old, Christian and not, super intelligent members of society to the regular Joes. It was interesting to hear other people's point of view on the constitution. One very super well to do, smarter mind of society actually argued that Kenya had no need for a new constitution. That what was wrong with kenya was its leadership and that if people were good, and elected only good leaders, all would be well. Now, duh! Isn't that a fact anywhere? Don't we put checks and balances because that is a utopian expecttaion? Don't we know human nature pushes its boundaries? A fact observed with children as they grow? It's an instinct, people get away with as much as they can. It is a survival instinct. Truth be told, this person is also a Christian religious zealot; and I believe we got to this point of view simply because they had run out of ways to justify their opposition to the new constitution.

I'm overjoyed but cautious. And my primary instinct is to call on fiscal responsibility with the implementation of this new constitution.

First, the pay for MPs must be dropped by more than 30%. I say this not because I know that our MPs are overpaid, but because it is prudent and justifiable to reduce pay within the new constuitution. If pay is to be commensurate with responsibility, smaller constituents indicate smaller portion of responsibility per person. Each MP will have less to worry about. And in that manner, one can justify a pay cut on that level. Generally speaking, the cost to run constituencies should at worst case, stay the same. An argument could effectively be made to reduce the cost. I'll admit this huge increase in governance costs was a concern to me. But I figured, if this is handled prudently, a paycut for all MPs should follow. And I chose faith. If Kenyans can get here, maybe they can can get to where they one day alter the cost to run the country so that it makes sense.

I'm of the school of thought that the amount of money spent to pass this referendum the second time around could generally have been spent to improve the first referendum. The naysayers both times were emotionally invested on the side of no. Anyone who has me figured out knows I detest emotional thinking; simply because it almost always kicks out common sense. I recall in 2005 asking a simple question, how many things are wrong? I was told 2 at most. I asked then, "can't they be resolved later?" And was advised 'no!' But this came from a then orange supporter and nothing I could do could get them to listen to anything other than voting against it. I write this, because there is a huge part of me that hopes many who voted no last time have had some time to reflect and see what their voting no has cost the country both in real shillings (the drafting of a new constitution is not cheap) and in missed opportunities. The point is, I hope it has been a learning opportuunity for many, to look inside, understand self more and become a better person. But I'm glad, that finally, the issues were debated and that finally change is nigh.

And I especially hope that Kenyans will learn how to vote wisely. In a country where Raphael Tuju was not reelected, besides having accomplished a great deal; but a host of do nothingers were reelected - I can't help but feel that Kenya has the leaders it deserves. We have to deserve different. And by that I mean we have to start voting for those who do right. Let the consequence match the action. Otherwise, we cannot justify our complaining when the MPs want to hike their own pay. And with no shame, highlight their out of touch attitudes. Can anyone please advise the Kenyan MPs that it is completely rude to the average kenyan, to complain that after all bills are paid, one has ONLY 50,000 to take home. Many Kenyans have way less than that to take home long before they paid huge mortgage and car payments. So frankly, shut up! Because it is rude and inconsiderate and ignorant to speak like that.

The tone of this almost reads like I might be angry. I just caught on to that. I don't feel that way at all. Actually, I feel very hopeful. Maybe the tone is a remnant effect of the fact that my emotions about Kenya are scattered. I love but don't trust or I trust cautiously or something close. It's complicated. Hopefully, next time I come back here I will have sorted that feeling out.

Whichever way, I wanted to say of Kenya, congratulations! Go ye forth and prosper! And I know God is on our side, no matter what those who claim we have kicked God out might think.