It is of no surprise to anyone that we live in wicked times in which the worth of human life has been lost, where moral integrity has crumbled, and where innocence is trampled in a seemingly cultural way. We live in times where the innocence of children is no longer protected, the moral integrity of our adolescents is not defended, and social responsibility of adults is not expected. What is bad we call “good,” and what is good we call “bad” all in the name of living in a free liberal world. We live in an era in which Christianity is mocked and persecuted more each day. We have gone from religious freedom and tolerance to a time of open persecution and aggression towards anyone who confesses Christ as the Lord of his or her life. Our moral fabric has been corroded beyond recognition or repair.
All traditional, Christian and cultural values today are being questioned and rejected by a society that only seeks not to hear that its conduct is displeasing to God or whatever other higher moral authority there is. This generation only wants to hear what aligns with its carnal, selfish, and egocentric desires. It lives for instant gratification of “self” and refuses to accept limitations or restrictions. I know you are wondering where I am going with this but bear with me.
This is perhaps the reason why homosexuality is the right of each individual to decide how he or she chooses to live; why abortion is the right of women to choose what happens to their bodies; why divorce is the right to seek personal happiness; why the love of money is the right of every individual to achieve great accomplishments and to have anything that is desired and why false doctrines in the Church are the result of the right each individual has to interpret the Word of God according to personal benefit. We live in a time in which the slogan: “If it is good for you, and it feels good, do it” is practiced regardless of the harm it might cause, the destruction it might leave in its path, or the inheritance of curses it might leave behind. The most important consideration is: “Feeling good.”
You look at the politician you elected, you look at the very successful business man you look up to as a small entrepreneur, you look at your teachers and lecturers in classes and lecture halls or the average campus student; they are all the same. Made of the same metal; greed, self-centeredness and instant self-gratification.
Recently, I made it my business to look into the murders of young women that has become a norm among our people. Disagreements in relationships are no longer settled the old-fashioned way of sitting down over a cup of coffee, with a mediator or not, and talk about our differences. We have resulted to extreme measures of ensuring it never happens again by strangling the other person or simply buying an axe and butchering them in broad daylight. My enquiries and the decision to write about this comes amidst known considerable opprobrium from those who will think that I have become too feminist or biased as parts of this article will seem to have conveniently ignored the fact that young men get killed too- albeit most being the result of extrajudicial killings. Your perception is likely to change as you progress of course.
Others, maybe parents of young daughters my age, my peers, or generally anyone reading this will silently challenge me to do better and hope that I go beyond my alleged armchair feminism (if I am feminist at all) and bring the real underlying issues to light. So, in the spirit of giving benefits of doubt, I will hope I haven’t given you too much credit or mental mileage you don’t deserve and take up the challenge. And on that same note, you better be warned that this is going to be a bumpy ride.
First and foremost, we need to bring ourselves to face some hard facts. Some difficult truths about the deaths of the young women who have been brutally butchered and/or murdered in recent times. The first harsh reality we have to come face to face with is that the sponsor culture has caught up with the young women of our generation in an unprecedented, never- seen-before fashion. There are no local studies yet on the ramifications of transactional intimacy, but anecdotal evidence such as the recent deaths demonstrate a painful truth. I do not want to mention the names of all the young women we have lost in the last couple of years or months because the list is quite a handful but it just never ends well for the young woman.
About two months ago, local newspapers splashed faces of young women who have died in the hands of cruel but elegant and honorable looking men. If we were being honest, if we were to put our emotions aside just for a moment and look at this logically and truthfully, some glaring stubborn facts refuse to die along with these women. A fraction, not all, of these women who died recently had a common denominator; they were involved with dangerous, powerful men, most of whom do not flinch at the thought of murder.
Of course, these women did not deserve to die nor did they deserve the torture some of them went through. My point is, it is as futile as it is hypocritical for us to collectively condemn the deaths of these women and leave it at that. We need to evaluate our thinking and make this anger work for us. If we want young women to stop showing up dead in thickets, morgues and in overflowing bathtubs, we need to face the difficult truths about the situation surrounding these deaths and tackle them head first.
Which brings me to the second harsh reality; we are too hypocritical for our own good. We need to stop being so naïve when our daughters, sisters, female friends, cousins, and nieces show up one day with flashy unexplainable lifestyles. Parents especially need to interrogate the source of newly acquired wealth among their daughters and sons. Stop looking the other way when your daughter shows up with the latest iPhone, a flashy car, flashy clothes or when she suddenly begins to buy you expensive gifts. You know your daughter’s financial capabilities, you have been alive long enough to know that honest wealth takes time and when she shows up with stuff she clearly cannot afford, it is your responsibility to question the source of that money. Some of your daughters are living large, paying hefty rents and driving cars yet they do not have jobs to speak of, and you are not funding that lifestyle; except for Waititu’s daughter of course. Where do you think that money is coming from? Manna from heaven? At least for Waititu’s daughter, we know she was probably paid for the good job she did on a peace keeping diplomatic mission in Juba South Sudan. Damn it! Its embezzled tax payers’ money.
And to the young women reading this, you need to rethink your life choices. It is understandable we are the first generation living in the age of social media. The pressure to impress is immense. Dating has never been more difficult; when you are not grappling with a young flashy man who might send you to remand or hospital for a few nights, you are dealing with a perverted old man throwing money at you. But you have to make a decision; it is either life or death. You have to learn how to live within your means or below- it’s still allowed. I cannot stress this enough. You have to understand the importance of paying bills. You must bring yourself to the realization that good things take time. You have to learn patience pays. You must choose hard work over easy money. You must put in the hours, study hard and qualify for those top jobs.
Apologies in advance. I had said earlier that I will not mention names but I cannot get this across without mentioning names. The most recent killing was that of the late Ivy Wangeci axed in broad daylight by her lover but that is not the case I want to highlight. There was something about the killing of Monica Kimani (Jowie’s case) which was extremely infuriating to anyone who knows the pain of bearing a child; the cold-blooded impersonal manner in which her life was ended. As a man who above all else aspires to be a father someday and a brother to many sisters, I felt the nauseating feeling in my stomach when I looked at the images and filled the dots with my very robust imagination. From the accounts that I have read, she was killed with an unKenyan efficiency; there was none of the primitive fury and frenzied emotion that we see in the average crime like the one involving Ivy- the medical student at Moi university and her lover Naftali. That was not just a sick mind; it is one that is supremely arrogant and misogynistic, one that regards a beautiful young woman as nothing more than just a speck of mud in the boot.
I am outraged to no end by the total, otherworldly disdain for the value of her life, the way she was trussed up, hogtied, her mouth taped her throat cut and placed in the bath tub and the water left running to drain her blood. I can’t understand the modern man, for there is no chance that a woman did this. There was a time when men looked at women, at the worst, with lust. In their own way, such men wanted to love and treasure women, but not in an honest and decent way.
Now things are different. Some men want to live off women, steal their money, impregnate them and abandon them with the children and, occasionally, slit their throats and stab them in the stomach. The days of the man as the pillar of the family, the strong beam supporting the wife, children, lineage and clan are long gone. His place has been taken by brave, strong women, facing the world alone and raising sons who, in some cases turn out to be wimps, used to letting women pay their way through life. There is a masculinity crisis in Kenya. Tragically, this is still a patriarchal society, not used to allowing women to take the lead. So, we shall hand over our future to men who are unprepared to take responsibility for anything, not even their own lives.
Growing up in the mountains and valleys of Olkalou; somewhere in Nyandarua county, some of the most dangerous things in our lives were the fast-moving streams and rivers of our homeland. Because of the steep slopes, the rivers were fast moving, the currents like a punch in the face. In some places, the water had polished hard black rocks into a mirror smoothness which gleamed in the sunlight. Anything that fell into the rivers would instantly be smashed against these rocks.
Many are the villagers unlucky enough to lose their footing on a path or steep slope, who ended up as a momentary stain on these rocks. Yet, one of the most popular pastimes among the boys was to look for the darkest, deepest, spookiest section of a river and swim it. I remember us swimming this one particular part, very deep, just before a certain mzungu’s dam and rumored to harbor black mambas among other snakes. If you didn’t swim that part, you were no man. You would tell fellow ‘men’ ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! And the machismo doesn’t end when you leave the village, no. I remember one time I almost drowned in some waterfall in my first year in campus and it was no big deal when I finally scampered to safety nineteen minutes later. In fact, none of my boys even thought it was serious, they were busy filming the whole incident. I call it my first encounter with the jaws of death. I remember the crazy interview and laughter that ensued after they pulled me up but I cannot blame them. I guess that village machismo was flowing in all of us.
I recall one other time I tagged along a group of boys, some of them cousins and young uncles who you never really acknowledge they are your uncles because you are agemates (I know most of you can relate), who were trekking to a dangerous place called “Ndururumo”-waterfall. Famous, apparently for the huge number of people who had drowned there. You wonder why anyone in their right mind would look for a place with that kind of reputation. But we were not folks in our right minds; we were boys. And it was bad. On the surface it was calm. But it was pitch-black because of great depth, with a 90-degree bend towards some rapids or some waterfall. This black section was defined by sheer walls of vertical rock, smooth, without a handhold or foothold. Below, the river sucked you to the bottom like a giant magnet.
One of the boys undressed and, preserving his modesty with cupped hands, as we often did, advanced to the edge of the cliff, swung his hands on his side like a pendulum to gain momentum and flew into the air like a black arrow. Far below, he sliced into the water with a boom like a nuclear bomb, which echoed over and over between the sheer walls. It was a long time before he fought his way to safety.
These two are extreme, almost suicidal examples but that’s how boys learn, earn their place in the pack and develop confidence. They do these stupid things to test themselves and earn the respect of their peers, which forms the basis of their confidence. They look as if they are showing off but there is important stuff going on- like a peacock measuring its train. Parenting, especially when it is done by a single mother (no offense to single-mothers but someone has to put this out there), consists in keeping the precious boy away from dirt and danger. So, he grows up over-mothered, untested and unsure of himself. If he does not start smothering things, he will turn out to be laid back, lacking initiative and happy to let other people take care of him just as mum has always done; a textbook case of failure to launch.
Of course, not everyone turns out this way. And there are many fine young men out there that I know who have turned out exceptionally well: responsible, respectful, future oriented and able to take care of themselves and their families. But there is a population of damaged boys in adult clothes: unfeeling, spoilt, irresponsible, not a thought for the future, dependent, self-absorbed and as likely to slit your throat as kiss you.
These are the folks to whom we are handing our wealth, daughters and country. If you think I’m making this up, I have heard there are many programmes in that Nairobi of yours (“hio Nairobi yenyu”- clearly, I’m not a Nairobian) teaching manliness to boys. I once read about a journalist who said he remembered the angry shout of one trainer at an over-protective mother: “Your son is not your husband! Let him go!”
In the meantime, some of the girls are just doing fine. Organized, viciously competitive and focused. They will take over if some guy does not cut their throat or stab them. It is time for our boys to man up and be the men they are REQUIRED to be.