I get many reactions (and insults) in my blogging but I would like to directly respond to one that I have received periodically but one that is increasing as we approach the elections. I hear from some Kenyans that our politics is dirty, our politicians are tribal, corrupt and useless and therefore they do not want to engage in politics. Some even claim they will not vote. One recent post provoked this article when the writer said, “I hate politics coz it contributes nothing to my life”.
Now, I have a lot of respect for all my readers and for all their opinions, even those who do not agree with me – especially those who do not agree with me and give well reasoned arguments why. It does not mean they or I are always right. But this type of opinion is what we call “kupoteza network”!
I concede that people have the right to decide to actively get involved in the political process or not. I use the word “actively” advisedly. This is because in life, you are ALWAYS engaged in political processes. The difference is whether you are “actively” aware and involved or unaware and imagining that you are un-involved. So if anyone decides to be aloof, let them. But, let them not cheat themselves that by their aloofness, “politics contributes nothing to their lives”.
Everyone should know that everything you do, how you do it and how successful it is depends on the politics of where you live and how you respond to those politics either consciously by getting involved or unconsciously by being aloof and letting the politics impact on you passively. The fact that you refuse to get involved, the fact that you refuse to even acknowledge the impact of politics in your life does not remove that impact. In fact by refusing to acknowledge and get involved, you allow politics to have the most damaging impact on you.
A friend of mine gave me an anecdote many years ago and I think it fits well here. He told me that once he tried boxing. He got into the ring with a trainer to spur. When the whistle was blown, the trainer threw a jab straight to his face and instinctively, he closed his eyes. The blow knocked him out cold. When he came to, his trainer gave him his first lesson in boxing; “Never close your eyes”.
To claim that you will not get involved in politics because “it contributes nothing to my life” is to get into the boxing ring with life, see a jab coming and close your eyes. Politics and politicians will throw jabs at you all the time. You can choose to do something about it, or you can choose to close your eyes. If you do something, you will control what happens to you. If you close your eyes, you will knocked out cold. Politics affects everything you do, and this does not matter what you think about it, whether you are involved or not.
Politics affects where you go to school, the type of school it is, where it is located, what you learn there, who teaches you and how; it affects the economy that you seek to work in whether as an employee or as a self-employed business person. It affects how much money you can make, how much of it goes into your pocket and how much of it goes to the government. It affects whether you will actually have access to your money or not and how much and when. It affects whether you can keep the money or whether it will be snatched from you the very moment you withdraw it. Politics affects who you can spend your money with, send your money to and who you cannot and how much of it you can send, at what time and for what purpose. It affects the quality and price of what you will buy with your money. Politics affects what you can say and what you cannot say. Who you can meet and where and what you can talk about and for how long. Politics affects the type of healthcare you get, where and when and if you will die or live. Hordes of Kenyans died during the Doctors’strike. They did not die from their ailments, they died from politics. Politics affects what type of punishment you get for your crimes and it determines whether you live or die for some crimes. It affects how you get married or divorced, who you can get married to and who you cannot. Politics affects who you can worship, how and where and who you cannot. Politics decides whether you will live in a prosperous peaceful nation or you will live in a backward tribal and poverty stricken Country. Politics will affect all these things whether you like it or not. You can choose to open your eyes and engage, or you can choose to close your eyes and get hit.
In this country the younger generation does not seem to relate what they do day to day with politics because we have made a lot of progress in securing some basic freedoms. However, these freedoms did not just come. They were fought for by people who entered the ring and fought back, they did not close their eyes. If they had closed their eyes, the reader who said that “politics contributes nothing to my life” would now know that politics affects everything in their life.
I have even heard some people say they are so disinterested or disillusioned with politics that they will not vote. Again these are the folks closing their eyes at the jab coming at them. There is nothing like not voting. David Foster warned us:
If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home [on voting day]. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t [cheat] yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.
Need I add more.
I agree it is your right to decide if, how, when and where to engage in politics. It is even your right not to engage. Whatever decision you make, do not make it under the false premise that “politics contributes nothing to my life”. To borrow Foster’s term, do not [cheat] yourself that politics does not affect you. It does. It determines so much in your life whether you acknowledge it or not. It is even worse when you decide not to engage because you will have bad politics and bad politicians impact on your life and their jab is ruthless and merciless. Yes, politics and politicians can be unpleasant but, like boxing, the first rule is “never close your eyes…”. It will knock you out cold…