Nairobi is one of a kind. It’s not accidental that it’s nicknamed Africa’s Silicon Valley. Here everyone seems connected, there are more fancy and tall office buildings than in any other capital cities I’ve visited so far on the continent. Everyone has a website, loads of things happening online, I can even book my bus to Mbita online.
Yet, if you search online for Kenya and for Nairobi, these days Africa’s Silicon Valley seems to look like this:
Street protests, angry people, bad politics. Dangerous place at the moment, they say.
Yet my Nairobi for the past few days has been this:
It’s an interesting feeling to be in a place that is covered intensely by international press at the moment because of the unstable political situation, yet be so disconnected from the whole story.
The part of the city I stay in could as well be on a different continent in terms of access to first hand news. If you don’t read the international press, you have no idea what’s happening downtown, even though it’s all less than 10 km away.
So close, yet so far
This is a very residential part of the town, populated mainly by expats who have been living in Nairobi for a long time while working for international organizations. The main headquarters of UN is just around the corner.
Some of the properties are huge, with big gardens and high electric fences. It’s a safe area, every property has a security guard.
People don’t really walk here, having a car seems to be a must. You usually drive to get to a place where you can walk your dog. Cars often speed.
Media coverage and realities
The truth is, life goes on with or without protests. Most people still go to work like any other day, uber taxi drivers are still available, most people are still focused on making a living, matatus (local mini-buses) still take people from place to place, shops are still open, offices still have the same schedule.
Yes, corruption is bad. Yes, governments should have the interest of people in mind. Yes, elections should be fair.
Except that in many places in the world that’s not the case. And if you think about it, most people’s lives will not be impacted so much no matter on the government.
In the long run, we are all dead. In the short run, we are all concerned most about our own well-being. At the end of the day, our actions are based on our preferences.
Besides, we all know it often happens that our partners (often people with whom we’ve shared our deepest thoughts for years) are cheating on us, not being honest and hiding things from us. So then what’s the probability for a guy whom we never met in person to be completely selfless and only interested in our well-being?
How do you know that the alternative is a much better option?
I’m reading a good book at the moment that covers the history of China, from the times it was an empire to more or less the current modern setting. It’s called “Wild swans: Three daughters of China” by Jung Chang.
Back in 1948, youth was protesting against the old system, there was the guerrilla war that lead to communists coming to power. People were enthusiastic about the new communist system and order where farmers would have a say, where inequality would be stopped, where humbleness would be the norm.
Everyone was hoping for a more fair system and honest leaders.
Back then, it seemed that China was saved. Many intellectuals and farmers alike saw it like a change for the better. Many people were fighting for the revolution, encouraged the change.
Yet the same system some 20 years afterwards created the worst famine in the world that ended with tens of millions of people dying of starvation.
The same system some 40 years afterwards led to the Tianmen square event – youth protesting against the government, aggression, crime, many people who got killed.
So then…what’s the point? Why struggle? Why fight? Why be aggressive? Systems will change when they’re ready to change. And even when they do change, chances are high that inequality, poverty, oppression of certain people, racism, extreme nationalism would still not be solved.
Fairness is a relative term. Even truth is a relative term.
Illusions created with the main purpose of manipulating people.
In the end it’s all a game for power in which the simple, normal, honest citizen who’s simply trying to make a living for himself and his family can never win.