I am not sure where I am going with this post to be honest. I started thinking about it in August, it has been a draft for almost two months. Just imagine what can happen in two months; babies have been born, people we never imagined could ever hold offices are, a school term is almost over, someone exercising by walking one hour every day could have lost around 9 kilograms by now. But here I am, stubbornly trying to put what is in my head into words since I can’t stop thinking about it. And also, maybe largely, OK maybe entirely, because I really can’t stand seeing it marked as a draft, and I lack the stomach to delete it after reading it so many times as I tried figuring the direction I was going to go with it.
It is almost two months after the August elections, and weeks after the announcement that we are going back to the polls next month. Everything is back to normal, only in the sense that we are back to work, the central business district is not the deserted ghost town it was. Everything else is not back to normal. There is a lot of uncertainty, there are travel advisories already issued, business has visibly slowed down in most if not all economic sectors.
See, during the August election week, I had been indoors, along with majority of residents here in Nairobi. As a precaution, most people had been advised to stay away from their offices and work from home. You could taste the anxiety as we waited for the election results announcement to be made. Many of us following keenly to see what happens, trying to read the mood from the safety of our homes. At the end of the day, I am usually almost running home, after a week of indoors, all I wanted was to get out, the house had stopped being a place I could not wait to get to, want to be in, and morphed into a prison of sorts.
I got to thinking; was I giving in to fear, or just looking out for myself and my family? Common sense. Was it selfish to want all this uncertainty over with so that we could carry on with our day to day, despite other parties feeling aggrieved? I mean, everyone deserves to be heard right? This, the election and its aftermath, is such a complex issue, with many angles, I will not even begin to unpack it.
One of the things I have been thinking about as a result though is; standing for what we believe is right and the way we go about it. And at what cost? This in the sense that standing up for ourselves and what we believe in is important, something I would most certainly want my son to know and do. But I also want him to know that as he is standing up for himself, he should consider what effects that has on other people.
I guess this leads to the question of instances when one should be selfish and put their interests first and when one should consider the common good. Because, I am convinced there are times when there is no option but to think of self, and it is important to be able to know when such a response is called for. Similarly, when our actions have far reaching implications, when they involve masses, does one sacrifice self?
Another thing I have been thinking about; how do we react when we find ourselves in situations we cannot control? Prior to the election, there was for instance mass exodus from Nairobi to domestic as well as destinations abroad, we shopped and stocked our houses, manuals were given on how to stay safe and so forth. I just wonder then, why, when faced with other situations we should run away from, we do not. Why for instance, do people stay in bad, or even worse, abusive relationships? Why do we not employ the same precautions we took during the election time? Put our well-being first and take off?
In his book blink: The power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcom Gladwell looks at those instances when our instincts betray us. When we have a feeling something is not right but we stay put because probably we desperately want it to work, or we are paralysed by fear of the unknown. He further states that our unconscious is powerful but it can be thrown off, distracted, has to compete with all kinds of interests, emotions. Maybe this explains why our sense of flight at times fails to launch even when we know its best to take to the skies. I digress, back to the subject…
Fear is how you lose your life, a little at a time. What we give to fear, we take away from faith, said Mitch Albom in his book the first phone call from heaven. So come October 26th, go out and vote, again. And as much as we should be cautious in our movements, let our lives not grind to a halt, surely life has to go on.