Make no mistake, I love my country.

There are very few places in the world where you will travel 1,000 KM and be exposed to such a variety of physical features: ocean, savannah, hills, salt water lake, fresh water lake, rift valley, rain forest and even a snow capped mountain. Such a  wide range of tribes and cultures! As a Kenyan, this is cause for me to be proud.

Pride (1): a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired

This is the kind of pride I feel when driving cross country and enjoying what God blessed us with.

Pride (2): having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.

This is the negative type of pride, the one that comes before the proverbial fall.

Pride (3): confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group

This 3rd type of pride is something, however, that I feel is completely lacking in our country.Let me show you how:-

Kangemi Market (or any of our other open air markets).  How is it that a self-respecting person can put a pile of fresh vegetables on top of a heap of rotting food; how is it that this vendor at the end of the day, just dumps his waste right in front of his ‘shop’; how can a self-respecting vendor wash her vegetables and pour the water on the already muddy path in front of her; which self respecting Kenyan then goes to the market, wading through the muck and mire to get to the ‘fresh’ fruit; this buyer takes the time to wear gum boots or ngomas* because we understand the filth we are about to deal with; how does the self respecting Kenyan drive there, park a reasonable distance away, change shoes and go to battle the filth … This picture is just wrong on so many fronts.

Drinking and Driving – how does a self-respecting Kenyan leave his home and family, take his car to the bar; one that he either bought on hard earned money or is repaying every month. He proceeds to drink himself silly, stubbornly gets into the car and when he gets home safe claims that the car ‘knows the way home’. He does not know how many people he put at risk as he weaved from one lane to the other, has no idea how many people swerved to avoid him. When the drunk driver gets into her car she does not care that she may wake up in a police cell the next day, or maybe not at all. How is it that public shaming has done little to stop the menace of drunk driving. All we do is have a good laugh at the guys who got caught. “Kwani* they didn’t know that Alcoblow is on that road; they should have taken a different route” is the usual response to getting caught drunk-driving. How shameful that someone’s husband or father was caught on camera, so drunk that he wanted to drink from the alcoblow device… and all we do is create another meme.

Where is our sense of shame? 

We lack pride!

Just walk into toilets at public facilities, look at the filth from people missing the mark and you will understand why I say that we lack pride. You may say that the facilities are dirty because they are not cleaned … true, but would you want to clean someone’s poop and pee off the floor and walls, would you want to pick soiled sanitary pads out of a toilet? I would not! We put them there, not the cleaners. Amazingly, this applies across the economic divide … just visit petrol station washrooms to see what I am talking about … these are frequented mostly by people who own cars and therefore are definitely not in the poverty zone.

My friends laugh when I say that I will electrify my fence and cause men who pee on my fence untold agony. I agree that our network of public washroom facilities is not the best. However, what stops a man from going to the washroom before he leaves wherever he was or waiting till he gets to his destination before he has to pee?! It’s a disgrace to walk with my girls and have them go ‘Euuuw! He’s peeing!’ when they see one doing his business. Turning your back to traffic does not a urinal create!

To drive a car that is falling apart is not a question of lack of wealth. If you really want to drive a car and cannot afford a mechanic, learn how to fix your car. If not, leave it at home. Driving a ramshackle that is heaving and creaking; spewing noxious fumes and constantly opening its doors, windows and bonnets at will is not to be seen as a badge of pride. To the contrary it is lack of pride that causes us to sit comfortably in the death trap, holding the door closed as you go over a bump to prevent it falling open, to instruct your passenger that one of their jobs is to place stones in front of and behind the tires to prevent the car rolling down the hill after you park.

My final peeve for the day is the utter lack of self-respect seen in wearing torn clothes and shoes. Some of you may think that I say this from my high horse of middle class comfort, but I assure you that lack and I have been intimate for many years. I wore old clothes, I wore old second hand clothes, I wore hand me downs, but I can assure you that you would not have been the wiser. Even worse, when it is someone who can afford a new set of clothes and even where you cannot, learn how to mend your clothes neatly.

As we rage on about the major ills in our society, I believe that some of our basic issues can be dealt with if we just lift our chins a little higher, turn our noses up at dirty places, point out the hole in your friend’s sweater, guilt trip your friend into taking a cab home when he wound up drunk.

Proud to be Kenyan!

A little more pride will go a long way to improving the quality of our life.

* Translations:
Ngomas – cheap rubber soled shoes
Kwani – expression of shock