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!