Monthly Archives: July 2011

hunger

There are a couple of stages to hunger, when you don’t eat for a while there’s first of all this pang, not really hunger but a shadow of it. More of a foreshadow really. Its a warning that you will be hungry in a little, not right now but jut you wait. This is the first stage, denial.

Then it goes away. It just leaves like the shadow that it is. After a while you feel hungry again, a long rumbling hunger in your stomach, now you’re really hungry you can eat a horse you think but if you tried you would be stuck with half a horse and a bursting stomach. This is a good point at which to eat. When they said hunger is the best sauce this is the hunger they were talking about. Everything smells better you become a bloodhound for food. Meat can be smelt from a mile away and if you have a friend eating fries you feel like you can’t trust yourself to talk around him because saliva is not a thing of courtesy. This is the second stage, depression.

I can’t remember if this hunger goes away immediately or just morphs into the pain. If you have ever had to wait a really long time for food and not been so busy that food doesn’t cross your mind then you know about the pain. It’s a razor in your stomach. You can nearly double over in agony, but this too will pass my child. This is the third stage of hunger this is anger.

Then this passes, the hunger goes away, you no longer think about it, you can go on with your day, you can do it for hours until food is put in front of you. This stage is especially easy to reach if you’re busy, busy people have no time for hunger and even less for food. This is the fourth stage of hunger acceptance.

If you don’t eat however you feel hungry again in a few hours or the next day. You feel weak at this point. If food is put in front of you you will eat. In a hurry. No problem. But at this point hunger has made you weak. Cooking is hard and you have to motivate yourself to find the kitchen, to find the matchsticks, to find the food, to find the pan, to find the fire, to find yourself eating. You wonder if its worth it or not to cook though you know you’ll have to. If there’s something on TV to distract you you let yourself be distracted. This is the fifth stage of hunger, bargaining.

Not everyone goes through the above five stages, some people feel like puking when they’re hunger which is a twist of irony. Others feel the manifestations in different ways. But the above is my experience. A strange thing about anger is that it gives you ulcers. Well real anger too but I was talking about my niftily named third stage. The pain comes because you think of food and the brain tricks the body into preparing for digestion so Hydrochloric acid is pumped into the stomach. The pain felt is due to the eating away of your stomach lining, let this go on for a long time and the stomach lining is completely eaten away. Leaving ulcers in its place.

In Kenya people are dying.

People are dying everywhere but in Kenya people are dying due to hunger. They are dying of starvation. This is how starvation works. Early symptoms include impulsivity, irritability, hyperactivity and possibly submissiveness. Atrophy (wasting away) of the stomach weakens the perception of hunger, since the perception is controlled by the percentage of the stomach that is empty. Victims of starvation are often too weak to sense thirst, and therefore become dehydrated.All movements become painful due to muscle atrophy and dry, cracked skin that is caused by severe dehydration. With a weakened body, diseases are commonplace. Fungi, for example, often grow under the esophagus, making swallowing unbearably painful. The energy deficiency inherent in starvation causes fatigue and renders the victim more apathetic over time. As the starving person becomes too weak to move or even eat, their interaction with the surrounding world diminishes. There is also an inability to fight diseases, and in females, irregular menstruation can occur.

This is a wikipedia description of how this works. That’s not my writing skills peaking at morbid description, its a straightforward clinical description of how starvation works. And this is happening in Kenya. People do not have the option to check out at any of the above stages of hunger, they only check out when they die. This has been on the news for some time and it passes unnoticed. A lot of people just go back to eating or drinking. I have a friend who got so riled up about this, he looked ready to berate everyone who was at fault. The farmers who can’t read the seasons any more, the leaders who steal food that’s actually there, the people who are complacent in their attitude towards such thing, everyone with food in their stomach. And it awoke something in me. It’s wrong, nearly evil that there are people dying of hunger out there.

My aunt told me the other day that the only evil thing in the world is desperation, desperation leads to crime and other such ills. This is what happens when people are hungry. And people are hungry. I have no idea what to do about this problem and with this I risk putting myself in the all too common pile of people who complain and wonder why nothing happens when they are the ones doing nothing. But I think words are important, from words spring action, they wake the part of the brain where ideas can be pruned and grown. So I want to put down some words and hopefully get some people to exchange some words, before anything can be done there has to be a something to be done, so my friend wants to come up with an idea, anything is better than what we have so this is an appeal for thought because that’s the proverbial first step in the thousand mile journey to a better place.

I wrote this before I watched the news yesterday and realised that there are people who have been doing something about the hunger, they’re trying to mobilise the masses and the corporates to donate money with a goal of half a billion shillings in the next month. If you want to donate the m-pesa number is 111111, there’s an account number too but I can’t remember it or find it on the internet. So at least there’s something you can do, we’ll have to teach people how to fish later but noone can sit down for a lesson if the grumbling of their stomach scares away all the fish.

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in defence of vote-buying

I saw a headline in the paper the other day that said “new poll laws seek to curb voter buying” I was understandably shocked that the old poll laws allowed voter buying, secondly I was struck by the lack of ambition in this law, it wasn’t trying to stop voter buying just curb it, reduce it to manageable levels. This is the kind of lacklustre effort we can expect from Kenyan politics and lawmakers I thought.

But I stopped and questioned my assumptions, my starting point for the logic was that there is something wrong with voter buying, at least in a country with the economic and political set-up of Kenya, t feels like it should be wrong. All our lives we have been told it’s wrong but is it really?

Vote buying is nothing more than redistributive taxation that happens every 5 years. We have these well off, well-to do politicians who finally need the masses to vote for them, consider the life of any one of these people even one who isn’t living in absolute poverty. A guy living in a slum in Nairobi could be making 200 shs a day and be one of the better off of his neighbours. That’s a little money for all the needs this guy has. A lot of them work really far off from where they live and they are the other demographic that fills the streets of Nairobi at 4.30 a.m. I have been coming home from a party or a club at that time and seen some roads with more human traffic in that hour than it will see cumulatively for the rest of the day. When work is far away and you can’t even think about affording fare you have to think about waking up early, you have to think about comfortable shoes,well at least light shoes because the wear and tear will with time mould your shoes to your feet unless it gives you that one thing that you can have in common with politicians, an air -conditioned motion device. The government isn’t working for this guy in any imaginable way, if he gets sick he goes to Kenyatta hospital and I have been to Kenyatta hospital, it’s overcrowded, understaffed and sometimes as uncaring as a machine. His children will have free primary education but in a place where the student to teacher ratio is more ridiculous than a university arts class. There is no quality there, not at a time when a child needs supervision and someone who can identify how best to turn this young mind into an accomplished brain. And they don’t pay tax, the politicians I mean.

They pay no tax and the only time any of the money they make gets funnelled into the hands of the average citizen is when they buy votes. I was told this story about an Indian prime-minister who was commenting on the fact that incidences of corruption in the sub-continent and in Africa were nearly the same but India was infinitely better developed with factories and infrastructure, an IT industry that is the envy of every other. He said that sure people steal in India but they re-invest in their country, they take this money they stole and put it back in the economy. The build these factories and computers and as a result steal or no progress happens. In Africa they hide their money in European banks, not only do they steal but after riches are theirs they don’t use it to help their countries. In fact the only re-investing of stolen funds, the only injection back to the economy happens when someone tries to buy votes.

If we take away vote-buying how does this trickle down effect happen? There is nothing like a campaign that does not require money. In America they use this money to buy ad space in the media, to make the ads, to pay strategists and convince the electorate. In Kenya we use the money to convince the electorate, we just cut out the middle man. The middle class middle man. If we go the American way all of a sudden there will be all these firms springing up to help the politicians, advertising firms will open new branches for political consultancy and the media will make a killing in terms of advertising. This is a re-investment in the economy, but if money is going to be spent anyway why don’t we help the lower classes of society? Why don’t we make it so that the guy who was walking to work at 4 in the morning can take a matatu during that period or buy his family meat instead of making it so that the ad guy can move from Buru to Hurlingham and get a better car for his better life. Remember too that the guy who owns the company that will be involved in political consultancy is far from middle class, he may even be past rich and into wealthy, why should we line his pockets even more than they already are? Why can’t we allow this informal charity go on?

If no vote was bought between now and the next election the names being bandied around for presidency would still be the same names as right now, which if you think about it without the benefit of first names would be the same names as in 1963. if the top 5 in the polls didn’t buy a single vote and the rest of the presidential hopefuls bought as many votes as they could it would not make a dent. Kenyans vote for a variety of reasons. People vote on ethnic lines mostly, there are idealists for sure, people vote on charisma and personal preference but I doubt a huge majority will choose the president because he gave them some money. I could be wrong about this, I have done no studies, this is purely analytical and intuitive, which is a smart way of saying am just guessing.

But I guess voter buying makes an effect lower down, when we come to the MPs and councillors, the governors and the rest of the county government. Here a loose 200/= will sway a mind, convince a hungry stomach and this is the point when the argument breaks down, it makes sense when the person who would have won would win anyway but now we’re at a smaller level where the guy who buys most votes wins the election. The person more prone to vote buying is a man without scruples and with an amoral attitude to life, this is the man who would steal from the country without a second thought while the guy who wouldn’t buy a vote would stop and think, he would hesitate and maybe not do it. But just because this guy doesn’t buy votes even though he would have does that mean he would lose the election? I know that the best answer to this is we should have that level playing field and find out. But remember there is no level playing field. Money still buys votes, directly or not. Money is still important it’s just that the money goes into different coffers. The person who buys the most votes has traditionally been the person with the most vote-buying capacity. The person who will buy the most airtime and have the swankiest, most convincing ads will again be the person with the most vote-buying capacity. The person most willing to make promises to the holder of the purse strings will win an election without vote-buying this still leaves us with the most unscrupulous-ready-to-steal politician we can have except the benefits of redistributive taxation will not be felt.

Most people will not agree with this line of reasoning since it endorses vote-buying and that just seems wrong, but let me know some of your arguments against it below, am pretty easy to convince.

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empty noises

The countryside is a beautiful place but maybe its because warm memories and good experiences leach away the dullness and greyness of any destination and make it seem at least in mind awash with colour and beauty and life. But countrysides can really be beautiful places. Am a city brat, I never lived anywhere else for any appreciable period of time, unless boarding school counts but assuming it doesn’t the longest continuous period I was away from Nairobi was a 7 week stint last year and even then I still got out to see cities and explore them before I returned to my then home, a semi-rural part of Uganda called Mityana.

I like cities. I suppose have to, they’re all I have ever known, the hustle and the bustle of the busy people as they try their best to get or keep busy, the push and pull of the crowds this way and that, the kind of movement that you could get lost in, a current of people that could carry you away from your destination towards wherever they were going unless you find a way to move through the holes in the sea. It makes me think about how most things are made of holes. Electrons swirl around atoms at distances that if they were the size of planets would be the distance to the sun and atoms move around each other warily, wearily like little galaxies not coming to close because gravity spells disaster for all of us. And in between these electrons and the atoms there are spaces and in between the atoms and the other atoms there are spaces, the most solid substance, gold, diamond, lead is made of these tiny little spaces and if you could find a way to move through them you can get anywhere. Cities and their traffic are like that, they seem insurmountable, try crossing Waiyaki way or Thika road and you’ll see, the cars whoosh past so fast that you don’t think there’s any way to get to the other side and in no time at all people are asking you questions meant for chickens. That’s what city traffic makes me think of especially the human kind, a stampede of spaces between people that you have to find if you want to go anywhere.

But a city is also sound, incessant, annoying, screeching sound, the kind you can’t get away from. There is a bubble of conversation as everywhere words are discarded to the air. Numerous words, thousands maybe millions of words in a short window of time, diffusing to a point where they are indistinguishable but never really disappearing. See that’s the thing about diffusion of anything, it doesn’t stop, it just gets less and less till its practically imperceptible to human senses, a blood hound can smell a trace of a human being long after all the scent has diffused to us, so that sound and all those words they hang in the air, making it heavy and pregnant with the possibility of language. Travelling to and fro, colliding with each other making it so that the sounds are just sounds and not words, you see without individualism nothing matters, if a word cannot be heard as a word then it isn’t, it’s just a bunch of sounds collected and held in the air forever lost to humanity and all the possibilities it has diffuse to outer space and this happens to things that had the potential to be so beautiful. Words of love and happiness, words spoken in poetry and prose, words of motivation and inspiration, genuine joy at seeing an old friend, a squeal of delight at finding just what you looked for. All these sounds beautiful in themselves mix with words of anger and cries of betrayal, with the rash words of the hastily jostled, with words spoken with malice and meant to bring harm and pain, all these mix in the air of the city until the emotions become confused and all you hear is noise,

The countryside has quiet, there exists in the world many different types of silence, remember the old saying silence is golden, well sometimes it’s only gold-plated and underneath that plate there lies another metal toxic in the awkwardness it produces between two people or more. And the awkwardness leaks out staining any conversation and making it difficult, making it a struggle and the silver of conversation isn’t strong enough to break through it but this is not the kind of silence you will find in the countryside. There it is pure gold. It takes a while for a city dweller to come into this rhythm because it takes a while before you can appreciate that this silence of the country isn’t just an absence of noise. It’s not just that there aren’t crowds of people pushing you around, just daring you to miss the spaces between, it isn’t just that there isn’t a constant stream of cars coming this way and that threatening to splatter you with more than just mud. At first it can be uncomfortable, even boring. But after a while it gets so peaceful, a silence of the soul. Have you ever been to a village where even the daily news of the country seems inconsequential? What do you care about what happens to the rest of the world when life is happening right then, right before your eyes and you can feel it and touch it and hear it and taste it. When life is as simple as waking up and waiting for the sun to rise so you can read, or when brushing shoes seems to hold the fullness of philosophy in the simple task of keeping yourself busy as you prepare for another day of toil. A point reaches where a meal is an event not just a prelude or an interlude. It’s not something you do as you watch television or as you read, it’s definitely not something you do as you text or surf, it can even become a solitary affair you and your food. You attacking mounds and mounds of nutrition without a distraction having devoted yourself entirely to the task at hand. To put it in your mouth to chew, to feel the taste as it passes up and goes down your taste buds, a little salty here a little peppery there, oh even some sweet and then you swallow and you take another spoonful. That moment when you devote yourself entirely to a task that was always harried that’s when you can properly hear the silence of the countryside. Things fade away till its just you and maybe then you can come to realise that the silence over here isn’t just a lack of noise but a lack of distraction, a lack of too much. Communing with yourself and your food or your work. Actually taking the time out of your night to go look at stars and think about things, to actually think about big things. It seems city dwellers have the strangest dreams, the brain trying to sort out the jumble of emotions, feelings, interests, commitments, things done, things not done, the urgent and the important as the brain filters out all of these it has no time to rest so even as you sleep you think of your day. You think of the people you saw and the things you did and you have these strange dreams that make no sense just like life. But in the country even waking moments can be devoted to thought and not just immediate thought about what you did today and what you need to do tomorrow, who you need to call and who you need to call you, but actual things, things like life and the way you should lead it, god and your relationship with him, your place in society and the place of society in making you into something you may not be but never had a chance to explore.

After a while the quiet can descend on you and take you over so completely. A feeling of contentment can spread from your bones to your toes but city dwellers can’t let that last. You see after a while you think you’re missing out on life. As if life is the pursuit of money or friends or sex, as if knowing what’s happening internationally, economically, politically is more important than knowing what’s happening inside you. And a tug comes, there’s a pull, a certain kind of gravity you can’t deny that asks you back and you think you should leave. Its like noise fills our lives and we’re so used to it doing that that silence feels empty. Its like you can’t live forever without that bubble of noise above your head, forever expanding and contracting and then you come back and so many of the lessons you learn are left by the roadside, fodder for when you have more time. But there’s never more time. Not in the city.

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taking the plunge

You see for all the ways I see myself as innovative and responsive to the changing tides of the world a move to something new, something I have to work at that doesn’t come intuitively is a problem, it’s a major problem for me.

According to the movie, the social network,(which was one of my favourite movies last year, the dialogue from the opening scene with 4 or 5 conversations starting and stopping midstream, just to have the threads picked up from where they were left and weaved into an amazing tapestry of awesomeness through to the end which felt so sad, so isolating and I can’t help throw in this pun that only makes sense if you’ve watched it, one of the most refreshing endings ever.) well according to that movie facebook has been around for years. Since 2004 actually but I remember joining it pretty late.

It was a year or two after high school. This was probably late 2006 or early 2007 I can’t remember which. But I can remember the scene, the time, the place, even the people who dragged me to that website. This was late to be joining everyone I knew was on facebook by that time, they had joined and uploaded pictures, they had shattered relationships by then and I didn’t even know the site was white and blue. Anyway I was chilling with these schoolmates of mine, former schoolmates of mine and one of them had keys to an office on the top floor of a building in town. He had to go drop off these keys or something at this building.

You know as I try to think about it I can’t for the life of me remember which building it was, it was very tall, 15 or so floors and it may have been near the A-g’s office or near the Alliance francaise. Can’t remember the name of the building. But I followed these guys in. After high school you don’t see people too often and in a school like the one I was in, one devoid of animosity and unpleasant tensions any opportunity to hang is a good one.

I like empty buildings at night. There is no sound for miles, sometimes the light is still on and the elevator works, but they’re spooky and eerie in a good way though, a way I can get behind. They remind me of cutting off a chicken’s head and then letting it run. Even without a head good luck catching that chicken, it starts squawking(OK, it can’t squawk without a head but it looks like it wants to.) so this chicken will run around everywhere even try to take flight not knowing that it’s dead, like the guy who goes to sleep and wakes up dead. That’s how an empty building is, it has no purpose there’s no life in it, its soul is gone and it has no clue, press an elevator button and the elevator will come for you and open up. If you don’t switch off the lights or the computers they still stay on, till someone comes along. But buildings were made for people and if there are no people then it’s just a dead shell of stone and circuitry, a corpse with glass eyes and a stone heart with veins carrying electricity and arteries carrying water.

Anyway we went to this building and to pass the time as we waited for whatever it is 18 year old boys wait for in empty buildings at night we passed the time surfing the internet, which is when it came out that I didn’t have a facebook account. How? They asked with incredulity that would be repeated at another meeting in a building near Alliance 5 years later. No, no, they said we can’t let this state of affairs continue, so I sat and opened my facebook account. it has to this day the longest password I have ever put on anything.

I was never very active on facebook, I don’t know why, I lost phones so often and kept getting phones with no internet and so that was not an option. Then twitter came along before I had fully gotten the hang of facebook. I remember a classic update I saw on facebook when they changed everything about themselves(the site) “facebook is like a woman” the update said “as soon as you start to understand her she changes.” and I was neglecting this woman, I never wrote her messages or tried to meet her friends, I never showed her how I looked or where I was, I never shared what I was going through and when i talked to people around her I would do it in whispers. Understandably I never quite got it but it was easy so I never had to in order to use it, then twitter came along and I was understandably floored, I didn’t even give it a chance, I was judgemental. I said it was for people who wanted to share too much of themselves, for the narcissistic who would presume to think that anyone else is interested in their lives and daily happenings, the irony of thinking this even when I had a blog such as this is not lost on me. And I should apologise to all twitter account holders and promise not to call them twats again because I would be calling myself a twat.

Anyway a week or so ago I went to a building near the Alliance for this bake meeting for Kenyan bloggers, the looks when I said I had no twitter account! This is where I would say I don’t bow down to peer pressure but I do, I do. I just needed a jolt and this was the jolt. I have for a long time admitted to myself that twitter is probably the future. I was beaten to joining it by the pope, by our chief justice, maybe even our president. So I joined twitter, for real now, again I have no internet capable phone but nevertheless I will try to nurture this account, to grow it from an egg to a bird, I hope that’s how it goes because they at first gave me an egg as my profile pic. Am not sure I’ll be very good at this but I promise to try.

So if you like this blog but want less of it you can follow on this account here

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i write therefore i-pad

On my first night after school, the very night we finished those accursed exams I went out. Before I went out and during the outing I drank like a sailor. In luo the word wito means throw away, why this is important or at least relevant will be revealed before this paragraph is done. I lost my phone that night. I can’t with all fairness to real victims of theft say that it was stolen from me though it technically was. I got home and told everyone my phone was lost my aunt asked with at least an ounce of pity, ok maybe a pinch “you witoed it?”(not exactly the past tense but the message was definitely passed.)

Well now I was in a fix, I had finished university and my first executive act as a former student was to get rid of all the excess baggage contained in microchips, plastic, metal, buttons and glass. I had lost all my contacts in that phone, text messages going back five months were gone, notes where I had written all these ideas of things I wanted to do or google were gone. And I loved that phone like I love all my phones but ces’t la vie.

That’s when I began using my i-pad. I put it in my pocket and it fit snug, let me describe the i-pad. Its all white which is always a good colour for anything, nothing could look worse all white, just dress in white from head to toe wait for all the compliments to flow and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a tiny device maybe 3.5 by 3.5 inches, I don’t own a ruler so this is all backwards engineering from the measurement all men have seared in their brain from years of art directed towards promoting women’s liberation. The interface is amazing, more intuitive than anything else I have ever used. I know exactly what to do to get it to do what I want. I use a stylus kind of device on it and it glides over all too smooth leaving an almost permanent mark on the screen that I can access whenever I want. It has an ingenious system for sharing information, say I want to give you something I stored in there I can transmit it using a method much better and easier than bluetooth. The only downside to this i-pad of mine is the fact that it has a very tiny memory, less than 70 kilo-bytes am sure, just to put it into perspective this blog post saved as a word document would probably be more than 70 kilobytes.

By now the more intuitive reader, or any who has been paying attention to at least the last sentence of the previous paragraph will figure out that Steve Jobs would be howling to high heaven if he read that, he would deny that statement and proclaim its falsity in falsetto tones and tomes that fell from bells to homes and the depths of hells. Well let me just say this is no ordinary i-pad, no employee of apple ever saw it or worked on it. What this is is simply a bunch of sticky notes all white in colour in which I have taken to writing down things. That’s what it is maybe 50 of these tiny papers that you would use to leave notes to your lover if you were imaginary characters in a movie made before cell-phones existed.

But I love my i-pad, on the back of it a friend of mine hastily scribbled I write therefore i-pad. I found that amazingly funny and succinct. When you lose your phone you can be lost. You have no numbers to use to make any plans and no phone to use if you did have the numbers. It’s worse when you lose it on a day when all commitments to be somewhere from a certain time to another have flown out the window. I have no school where I can run into friends, I have no work where I can meet employees, if I want to find people the best option is a bar and that already cost me a phone. If I have any bright ideas I can’t write them down and since every other time I lost a phone I took about a month to replace it this meant I was lost in a sea of uncommunicativeness, someone told me “you must feel so isolated” and I did I don’t know how I would have made it without my i-pad.

Let me just say that there are few things better than getting a girl to write her number down for you on a piece of paper, in this world where everything is digital and stored in places most of us don’t understand and can’t see. In a world that asks us to have more faith in these things we don’t really see or understand(well for some of us)than any ancient religion ever did, though the faith is in science and electronics and the internet to take care of us, in a world such as this it’s nice to ask someone for her number and have her write it down for you on a piece of paper and then you can promise to take care of that piece of paper as you stick it back into your pocket. Plus I like female calligraphy, it looks so much better than the hand I always put to paper.

I took to writing things down in the midst of conversation, one of the wise said that the faintest ink is better than the sharpest memory and I have to agree, thanks to this i-pad I put down gems of conversations, here is one that comes from the deep need that alcohol drinkers have to justify their spending.
“you know with all the tax on alcohol(a sin tax of nearly 100% and VAT) the best way to help the government educate some child who needs free primary education is to drink. You’re funnelling most of the funds back into the national government, so don’t think of it as drinking but rather as paying school fees”
well maybe not exactly a gem but it was a thought I would never have remembered otherwise.

So now I have a phone but I still find it hard to let go of my i-pad. And I don’ think i’ll have to, I can use it to note things down, I can still ask for numbers that way, I can remember things I wouldn’t have and do this in a way that human beings have for years, if I was a man in the 60’s it would still work. So I pad.

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oh, how they run

One Sunday as I was walking around minding my own business I saw a child, a happy child, he had just learned how to walk and was discovering the joys of running. You know most adults forget the joy of running. When you are a child you run everywhere, to the shop, in the house, when you see someone you like, you just run. And most times you’re out of breath but it’s worth it. It’s nothing like a jog it’s moving quickly for the sheer pleasure of moving quickly it’s racing against the wind until you find the wind blowing against you as you move faster and faster, things come closer quicker than you are used to and for all the dreams people have about flying they forget that running is the closest you can get to flying without getting on a plane. Children know this, adults however forget, they run everywhere, a group of children will make up a game on the premise of a run, the rules are designed to make them run as much as possible as fast as possible and they laugh when they run, a look of pure joy crosses their face and we know that if they want to win, if they want to keep running the best thing to do is to control their breathing. Joggers don’t talk, they even have music to keep them in check there is none of the reckless abandon that accompanies a real run. Am not even talking about what Mr. Bolt does because that needs structure and rhythm, it need discipline and restraint, it’s backed up by hours and hours of practice, of weights and jogs of near marathons as he keeps himself fit enough to outrun a cheetah. What children do is different, they have no worries when they run it may not even be about winning, its about moving and its beautiful. And you can feel like that too if you want to, just run, no destination in mind just the wind ruffling your feathers as you let go and fly.

But.

Children do not understand consequences, maybe that’s why they can let go so easily, if I decide to run somewhere just for the hell of it I start thinking about how tired I’ll be and try to restrain myself. This is the very thing that stops me running in front of a moving car. The child I saw was happy, he was running out of a church compound completely at ease and peace pure joy was never distilled better than on his face, he couldn’t have been more than two years old and had just tasted the independence of moving without holding up your arms for someone to carry you. He had just learned that if he put right in front of left faster and faster then he would move faster and faster and thus be more free. He couldn’t see the car coming down the road, or the road itself he just ran and when his mother called out to him to stop and began to chase him he must have thought this is a beautiful game, the person I love most in the world must be as happy at this moment as I am. Luckily a good Samaritan picked him up before he went very far and handed him squirming back to this mother. I observed this scene and on the mother’s face I could see fear and apprehension, what if something happened what if the driver didn’t see him and just kept on driving what if that good Samaritan had not picked him up and handed him back because he was too lost in his own world to properly see the one around him? What if? What if? What if?

I can see that this lack of regard is probably what allows children to risk, to run and play, to trust without reservations and love without conditions. For all the danger it represents it probably is the most important gift a human being is born with. But I feel bad for the parents. I feel scared for all the sleepless nights that children cause them, I wonder how they feel when a child breaks a rule so obviously meant for their safety.

I can remember being a child and I conducted a quick survey, children are reckless. I was in Mombasa with some friends and we were on one of those beautiful flat roofs they have there. There was a distance to the ground, the kind of distance I could probably make right now without hurting myself unless I had a mistress, a wife and a few million dollars due to my running capabilities. It was that kind of distance and we were a group of guys, the thought crossed our minds, of course it did, men always have that inner child just below the surface. But we didn’t do anything about it. When I remarked that if we were younger it would have been different everyone agreed because it would. When I was young I would have jumped off that thing no problems. Without a taunt or motivation. When I was young I stuck metal things up a socket, I don’t know why I just did. I got an electric shock every time I had to go near the TV plug, a short shook nothing serious. I can still remember that feeling. There’s a pain in your fingers and you want to jerk it away as soon as possible, in fact your muscles give you no option, you just snatch your hand away without even thinking about it. But there’s something else about the experience of an electric shock that sets it apart from a fire or a cut, you feel like there’s something pulling you in, I don’t know why but I always felt like there was an opposing force pulling me into the socket if there was a way to take away all the pain and danger there’s an underlying sensation that actually feels good, just a little good, its buried under all the pain but it’s there, just a hint of pleasure. If a child read this they may just stick their hands in a socket to see what am talking about but adults won’t and that’s the thing that worries me. They put anything in their mouth and they play with matches and they forget to turn the gas valve all the way round. They jump off ledges and when using a knife do it all wrong, they run in the house and forget they are in the house and they run into walls. I have run into a wall before, at what was a full speed sprint. It hurts like hell. You get a splitting headache because children run head-first no amount of rubbing takes away the pain immediately and its’ the kind of pain that makes you feel like puking, I hate that kind of pain. But I was a child so I later in the day I was still running.

So I feel sorry for parents and concerned adults everywhere, I get angry at these children and their levels of stupidity I want to ask them “can’t you see this is dangerous, can’t you?” but that’s not how it works for children. Maybe they can’t see past right now but it makes them happy. It makes them so happy to run like that’s all running is for. Just running not to win a game, not because you’re late, not because you’re unfit but just because you can. Run because you just learned to walk is what children do. They run. And they smile as they run and they laugh from their souls. Maybe experience with life takes that away from all of us and now we smile with our mouths half turned in case no-one else is and that guy who laughs from his belly or that girl who smiles with her eyes, these are the extraordinarily happy adults we see around but you can’t compare this to the child who when moved shows it with his whole being, remember laughing until you cry, till your ribs ache? Those were good days, good feelings and maybe all we need to do to get back there is to run like the whole reason behind running is to run. Perhaps lack of care can only be bought with ignorance of consequences. We can’t live our lives like that but we should have moments when we do.

So, run.

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tucked in their suit pockets

Sometimes I worry about insanity, not mine that’s for others to worry about,I worry about the insanity of others and its effect on me. Who in Kenya hasn’t run into some person in a random corner of the country wielding a machete? maybe he was using it for work; to cut off some tree branches and we all have a panga in the house for just such an occasion if not the one in Nairobi at least the one in ushago. People walk around with these things I have seen it in Parklands near former school and once I saw a guy with one. He was a pretty normal looking guy, well-worn work clothes, he looked like he was used to hard labour, like he fed his family from the sweat of his brow and understood in every callous on his hand that curse god put on the earth so long ago when Adam chose an apple over a deity. The clothes were old but clean and when someone is carrying a machete you want him to look like he knows how to use it. Some people may disagree with that statement, maybe you think it’s better if he can’t use the machete and looks it because if that’s true he can’t really hurt you, you can’t really have anything to fear from a man who can’t wield the panga in his hand. But I invite you to consider a man in a three piece suit cut to fit, custom made to the last thread and on his hand he wears one of those watches that doesn’t scream money but just whispers it because real money doesn’t announce its presence to all, I want you to imagine that his shoes are gleaming that kind of guy who could walk through a desert and still have shoes that would put a mirror to shame, not a hair out of place and now to this imaginary man add a machete. Put it in his hand and imagine meeting him on the street with this weapon. Let’s go further and say this is the kind of guy with hand texture so soft women comment on it. Why oh why is he carrying a machete, this is a crazy man, this is a guy who means business he won’t let his lack of ignorance stop him from executing whoever he so pleases. I would rather not meet this guy because he may have snapped and all that keeps you alive when you are around a man with a machete is sanity. At any moment he could whip out his panga and slash you, if he wasn’t sane that’s it, no thought to consequences, so what if he goes to jail? He’s a crazy person and he doesn’t care he could just whip you and you may lose a limb or gain a scar or you may die. If this guy wasn’t sane that’s it for you. So am scared of insanity and the loosening of the bonds of restraint put on all.

Last week I heard a report about this businessman who was in accident at 3 am at the junction of Kenyatta avenue and kimathi street. The details were fuzzy as they always are when Kenyan news involves a prominent anyone, the press tiptoes around libel charges so carefully you never really know what’s going on. Once this prominent businessman was in an accident the first thing he did was he took out his gun and shot 6 times in the air.

He took out his gun and shot 6 times in the air.

The thing is in that one week this was the second such incident the first involved another prominent businessman who had taken out a gun and shot it in the air too, the second story was much more fuzzy. Here’s the clincher these guys have private firearm licences. Yes in Kenya this kind of thing exists. There are a thousand laws nobody knows about, for example medical marijuana is a legal thing in Kenya or so i was told by a friend who did the course where they learnt such things. I started thinking about what it takes to get a private firearm license in this country, first of all you have to know that kind of thing exists which means you need a good lawyer, or to have heard that story on the news or to have read this blog. But that’s not enough is it? Ask anyone who tried to get a license to distribute fliers in town, or to cut down a tree or to hold a party. It’s not a simple thing to do is it? In fact you have to be a prominent person. And not just any degree of prominence can get you a firearms license. A prominent lecturer isn’t going to get one, a prominent musician? Not likely, a prominent banker? Perhaps. A prominent CEO? Not all of them, maybe a few. The types of prominence you need are either that shadowed in the world of deals and generalities a prominent businessman for example, nobody ever knows what these guys do, they could be in the Mafia and the Mafia wouldn’t know. They sound rich because they have the tag prominent attached to their title, never their name, it is never their name. The only other kind of prominence that could get you this is if you decided to become the only kind of real celebrity we have in Kenya, a prominent politician, that phrase even has alliteration in it. These are the guys who could get a private firearms license for their drivers if they so pleased because they run the country and make no secret about it, in fact every five years they ask the citizens of the country for a chance to run it for another five, they don’t do this only in back rooms they do it on TV and in newspapers and billboards and the internet, those guys can get a private firearms license.

Remember the rich guy with the three piece suit from the beginning with the machete in his hand, the grimy, rusted machete in his hand that he could just snap and use on you with no warning? Well he has a machete in his suit pocket, the kind you can’t run from. In order to make it in business, to really make it you have to be prone to risk. You have to love risk and live for it. Adrenaline must be your drug of choice and the thrill of the next deal must me your main motivation. It’s not about the money, its about the making of the money. And this is crazy. This really is crazy, why does bill gates still go to work every day, if I had his money I would go on a never ending cruise around the world, sampling their wine, women, wares and weed. The same goes for probably the thousand richest men in every country, probably even more than that. By the time the press is so scared of you they only refer to you as a prominent businessman you can do this. You can chuck in a life of stress for a life on the move, for the fantasy to live the dream of anybody. But most don’t because you have to be a little crazy to make that much money and crazy people do not do sane things like take a long, never ending holiday.

Into the hands of these people who are a little off their rocker firearms, legal guns go. These people have even less to worry about when it comes to consequences than the normal crazy person. If a country locks up its wealth how can they possibly hope to survive? So I worry about sanity a lot. I don’t want to be mowed down in a fit of anger and I could, this world is a random, scary, strange place and if it happened the prominent businessman would probably just walk away and that scares me.

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