Don’t wait to join the middle class by – Gabriel Achayo
It’s the year 2022 and most Kenyans if not all are looking at the 9th of August with mixed feelings. Our past political experiences have brought us to a point where we are not sure what will happen after 9th August. But I keep telling those around me, that there will be 9th September, 9th October, and 9th November and if you get my drift, life continues no matter what. 9th august will indeed have an influence on how these things continue but for sure, if you are a student, employed, involved in business, or just minding your own issues, you will still be a Kenyan after 9th august if you are currently a Kenyan. So it’s never that serious. It doesn’t dictate your life but it will influence your life. A politician well known to many said that you shouldn’t put politics in your hearts, put it in your lungs so you can breathe it out. I have paraphrased it but I believe this is what he meant.
I have been told I belong to the category of people called the middle class. I reached out to a friend of mine to help me understand who is a middle-class Kenyan. Very confusing and you can’t really tell. Some data out there show that if you spend an average of Kshs. 500 to 2,500 per day, then you are middle class by Africa’s standard. The ones with any slight shake-up of the economy, trouble befalls us that we don’t even know where to start. It’s unfortunate that we are the same ones who avoid engaging directly with politics because we want to live a quiet life, take our kids to the good schools we can afford, make occasional trips to some nice destinations we have saved up for, join chamas/clubs or communities of friends who add value to us and live in a bubble. Most of us during the election period decide to either leave the country or make sure we have at least two full gas cylinders, enough milk, enough meat in the fridge etc to last us up to a month just in case things go south. We faithfully watch TV and make all manner of comments about whoever we agree or disagree with since we “know” how a few things could be done better. This is all a self-preservation mindset but I find it very short-sighted. I find it very flawed. I dare say, it’s selfish. I wonder how we benefit by behaving and living like this.
What is unfortunate is I also hear a number of young people who are disenfranchised. Those who also live in a bubble and claim that they won’t engage in politics, won’t register to vote and won’t vote. Too unfortunate. My simplistic question to them is always “So What?”. What do you achieve by not engaging? You hear responses like nothing will change. It’s the same old same old. Same story. This is someone in their early 20s. It breaks my heart and I wonder why that mindset. They think that they can live their lives out of political influence. This is a big lie. But I ask myself, what makes a young person decide that they don’t want to engage in something that has a major influence in their future. At 20, you still have a lot of life ahead of you. If you happen to live your life to the age of 70 or 80, that’s like 50 or more years of life ahead of you. Why choose to waste that life because you don’t want to be part of a process that will greatly influence your future. It’s unfortunate that most of them, though educated, can not make a correlation between politics and their lives.
Let’s think of a basic example, most young people use Matatu in Kenya to move from point A to B. It’s very easy to think that politics have nothing to do with this Matatu. But think of it critically, the late John Michuki who was appointed into office as Minister of Transport, through a political process transformed the Matatu culture in 2004. I remember when this was happening, there was some sense of happiness that at least sanity is there in the Matatu sector. Now, his successor, also appointed through politics, was not keen on maintaining this and some of the gains made were lost. When the same Michuki was moved to the Ministry of Environment in 2008, the famous Nairobi River became a decent place where you can sit and relax along its banks at least around the globe roundabout, in Nairobi. So whether we like it or not, the politicians we elect into the office or others elect on our behalf, influence the experiences we have as we do our lives. You sit back and reckless people get elected, they appoint their cronies to positions that matter, positions where key decisions that affect you are made, and all of a sudden, your education or police or hospital is no longer trusted because the people involved can’t be really trusted.
The thinking is you work hard and then get an opportunity to go to another country to live and make your life there since that country is better. Unless you carry your parents, siblings, and all you care about, you will never run away from the influence of the politics in your country. Don’t be shocked even if the country you have the same political systems will influence you either directly or indirectly.
So why waste your precious time not engaging in a process that could guarantee you and your loved ones a better future. You don’t have to be at the forefront, you can engage in the local election and debates. This is your duty as a Kenyan and as a young person who wants to have a better future. Whether you want to be a blogger or a YouTuber, or a rocket scientist, politics has an influence over that too. Don’t wait, don’t join the ranks of the current Kenyan Middle-Class who are in big problems yet they think they are safe.