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Making the case for simple values in age of angst, disbelief

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By MUTUMA MATHIU
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Stuff used to make better sense 15 years ago. Even as a country, we could agree on some things. We could, for example, agree on what was in the public interest. Many things used to work that don’t work today.

We had buses that ran on time, for example. Educated people deployed calculated scepticism in determining what or whom to believe. Comedy was fun, humour was popular. The gentle humanism of Dr Dawood Kodwavala had a huge following.

Today, people follow the angriest, most negative, narcissistic demagogues. The professional journalist is barred from thinking for you. His job is to provide you with as clean information as possible and as compelling argumentation as accessible to enable you to make up your own mind. A certain breed of NGO activist blogger is a propagandist of Goebbelsian purity: His intention is to think for you, program you and weaponise you for a cause.

Sometimes the cause is noble, the means dirty. At other times the ends are as basic as the means are filthy. The tribe of muckraking bloggers putting naked pictures on the internet or inventing prurient affairs are attention seekers who want to build big numbers and attract a bigger paycheck.

But we choose to believe and worship the charlatans and quacks. This is the age of disbelief in values and human goodness.

This is the generation that has rejected cerebral hygiene and allowed its temple of reason to be polluted by effluent from the sickness of peeping tomery, motiveless malice, common envy and self-loathing.

But there is a gentler place where people get along, the sky is blue, the breeze is gentle and the grass is moist with the dew of kindness, generosity, love, forgiveness, peace, happiness and hope. This is the place, with your permission, I want to argue the case for.

So here are some three suggestions to think about as you hit the malls for Christmas shopping or head to the stage for your bus upcountry.

First, be sure to visit your parents this holiday. Spend either Christmas or New Year with them. A lady told us a couple of months back that a large number of old people, even affluent old people who are otherwise well taken care of, are dying of hunger. There is plenty of food in the house, but is there someone making sure that they are eating?

It’s not enough to prepare and serve the food; somebody has to ensure that it has been eaten. You can judge the civilisation of a culture by how it treats its most vulnerable — the young and the old. In my tribe, it is believed that how you treat your parents is exactly the same way your children will treat you. If you don’t take your children to spend time with their grandparents, you will only be seeing photos of your grandchildren in your old age.

Secondly, it is perfectly okay to be patriotic. Our country is like a house. It provides us with shelter and security. If we keep it clean and cared for, it will provide the same services for our children and our children’s children. The better we take care of it, the better it serves us. We are the owners of the house; the government is the housekeeper. We have to give it instructions and supervise it to do a good job.

Would you, in your own house, allow the housegirl to change the baby on the dining table and leave the used diaper there just because she is from your tribe? Would you sit back and do nothing if your houseboy took your children’s fees, went out and drunk lots of Johnnie Walker Red Label with his mates, bought a Chinese motorcycle and a plot in Kamulu, because he is from your tribe?

Thirdly, not everything is about you. There are things you can own, and there are things you should leave well alone.

A lot of these folks who have stolen so much money from national institutions, they will never spend a fraction of it. It is too much. And even when they do, it will add nothing to the quality of their lives, not change how they feel about themselves, how much peace and joy is contained in their souls.

If you condemn a poor, sick person to certain death so that you can buy a level of luxury nobody needs or deserves, you will not find peace in this or the next life. Eat the little you have with your family and invite your neighbour too.

Finally, it is okay to appreciate those who do good. To confess that someone is doing a good job, if it is factual that they are; it does not mean you have joined the Jubilee government, become a sycophant or lost your mind. Appreciation encourages others to emulate a good example. Gratitude is a debt we must pay for good service.

I thank Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji and his police counterpart, Mr George Maingi Kinoti, for their diligent work. They are good, honest Kenyans. For the first time, we have government officials who have truly struck terror into the hearts of the corrupt. If they keep it up for a year and they investigate and prosecute all corruption, Kenya will make progress.

Prof George Magoha is an outstanding public servant who has contributed to the enforcement of integrity in examinations. In the Cabinet, Dr Fred Matiang’i remains the most effective and coherent.

This makes sense doesn’t it?

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