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Moral outrage can kill a state.

The silent discomfort of the shoppers and the wailing outside was a distressing scene Friday. A man, possibly in his 40s, was sprawled at the entrance, his face rivulets of tears. From his heart-wrenching pleas, he was evidently an immediate former employee of the Nakumatt Supermarket chain that recently closed shop.

The man's embarrassing supplications were for the inheritors of the Nakumatt space to give him a job. Mournfully he pleaded, 'Watoto hawaendi shule, hawana chakula, landlord amefunga nyumba, tunalala nje kwa baridi, sina lakufanya, tafadhali nisaindieni tu, nipatieni kazi tu [my children have dropped out of school, they're hungry, my landlord has locked us out, we're sleeping out in the cold, I don't know what to do, please help me, give me a job'. It was a harrowing plea.

Our socialisation doesn't forgive a man displaying such emotion. A man doesn't complain, let alone cry. And yet here was this man, father, brother and in-law who threw caution to the winds, in a dreadful spectacle of feebleness.

This dramatically reminds us Kenya is facing an existential threat, not from the usual NASA scapegoat, but from the inhuman conditions people are forced to live and die under.

Existentialism simply means getting by through whichever means you can; steal, murder, name it, to put food on the table. If you're unable to, you can take the death highway and nobody will care to know what happens to you. Who knows, the sobbing fellow could have hanged himself after taking the life of his innocent children. We're getting used to media stories of such sad ends to sad lives.

The dehumanising hopelessness we have sown as we kowtow for a piece of the political action can redound with devastating consequences. We're a country of vagabonds, drifting from one lie to another into anarchy. We sequester in a corner called government and plot whom next to hurt yet we cannot keep simple promises like housing, feeding, healing and clothing the nation. We're turned these worthy guarantees into betting shows in our smoking rooms.

We are beckoning Armageddon. Government has forgotten why it's in power. It wants the Opposition to share 'development' ideas but not in exchange for justice for all citizens. It's whimpering and grovelling. It doesn't respect the rule of law but expects everybody else to, at least its own version of rule by law.

The explosion won't be by the known catapult-wielding culprits. Once the harrowing hunger games that force people to turn into themselves are exhausted, they will turn against the symbols of their oppression. Hundreds of thousands are jobless, never having had a job or are recently retrenched.

Many are pounding pavements from dawn to dusk. The vaunted Jua Kali entrepreneur is no more for lack of loose change to invest and customers who have no change to spare. The latter are mean to a penny because the shilling has slid in value, salaries are stagnant and the cost of basic goods skyrocketed.

The headlines about firms downsizing, closing shop and relocating may sound like cinema to occupants of Harambee Avenue. They may wake up to find their distinctive monthly feature of Economic Indicators a disastrous con.

This ritual document suggests tabulation of the wealth of the nation. However, it's a doomsday rhapsody. Scan it for employment earnings and you're in the grip of a downhill spiral. For the month of November 2017 update, it has nicely coated phrases like Wage Employment and Earnings by Sector yet few categories add up to hundreds of employed. There is no mention of the unemployed.

Few governments survive the moral outrage of the people. It didn't take a bullet to the heart of the self-imolated youngster in Tunisia to light up the Arab Spring. It wasn't attempted coups that brought down successive dictatorships in Kenya. It was the arrogant distance, mocking and acerbic response to atrocities such as the Friday supplication that turned the tide.
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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Feb 15, 2018
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