Why our collective selfishness is sending us all to abyss

Selfishness is becoming a national culture that is driving us into an abyss.

One of the most disturbing scenes that we see on the news every day is that of motorists and pedestrians casually walking or driving past an accident victim.

If you’re anything like me, you see the stories of group bystander inaction and think, “How can these people not help? Why aren’t they stopping?”

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This situation worsens if those nearby decide to become instant thieves and daylight robbers. They make those who walk past the injured look like saints, which they are not.

Whatever happened to humanity?

Think of these examples.

Lately, we have had all types of video clips circulating on social media that call for our collective attention.

First, a sickening video clip on WhatsApp of villagers rushing to the scene of an accident and instead of helping the injured, scrambling for the cooking oil that the lorry was carrying and running away as fast as they could with their loot, leaving the victims writhing in pain.

Public apathy

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A person driving past the scene uses his phone to film the villagers scrambling for the cooking oil.

Young men, women and children from the village are seen fighting to take their ‘share’ and running away with boxes and jerricans full of oil.

The one taking the video says as he drives past the scene: “Ni mafuta ya kupikia. Kila mtu anaiba.” (It’s cooking oil. Everyone is stealing).

Are we becoming a nation of heartless people? 

A new low in public apathy is pushing humanity into the abyss. Kenyans’ capacity for empathy and genuine connection has clearly dimmed.

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The irony is that we are confronted with public apathy at a time when we are trying to be better Kenyans; a united people who are keen on the common good.

But although we stand in rapt attention as the National Anthem sings of peace love and unity, we have let our humanity slip.

The insensitivity on display at the cooking oil truck accident is not an aberration.

On the contrary, it is symptomatic of a deep malaise that is steadily eroding our values of nationhood.

Another video also posted on various social media platforms shows travellers on their way to Nakuru roughing up a traffic policeman, accusing him of taking bribes from matatus.

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The irate motorists made the policeman surrender the loot, which they then - wait for it - went ahead to split among themselves!

Then there is the clip of a tuk tuk driver accosting police officers who had stopped him allegedly to inspection his vehicle.

It has widely circulated on social media, as has been the clip of the man trying to fight an armed police officer.

These incidents, and many others, depict a situation and culture of mass impunity which, unfortunately, is spreading fast among Kenyans.

Public displays

What these video clips and many others circulating on social media show is a developing Kenyan sub-culture devoid of values; one that is stricken by the schism between reality and the hypocrisy of our time.

These video clips are enough to convince anyone that Kenya is slowly moving into a moral morass.

There have been more public displays of our dehumanisation in recent times: People rushing to accident and fire scenes, only to crowd around and take videos.

I wonder what explanation the gawking Kenyans would give for their inane ‘inhumanity’ and total lack of empathy.

Attacking police officers who have a duty to enforce law and order is, in itself, defeatist because they are the ones we run to when we need protection.

Nobody should be allowed to take the law into their own hands and fight police officers, not even when the officers are not serving public interest. The result of this would be total anarchy.

Most Kenyans are as corrupt as the police officers they accuse of being corrupt, if not more.

The only difference is that they do not have the leverage that the police and other people in authority have. In short, they could be more corrupt if they had that privilege.

More than ever before, it looks like everyone is in a mad race; everyone’s agenda is more important than everyone else’s.

Mad race

Our ‘must-have’ culture is damaging family life and our country as materialism and a pervading sense of selfishness become the norm in Kenya.

This self-absorbed selfishness is becoming our Achilles heel.

A Kenyan who cannot stand this culture would make us more proud when we stand up for the National Anthem anywhere, anytime.

Prof Mogambi, a development communication and social change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi: [email protected]

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