2018: Year that tested endurance of Kenyans

The year is coming to an end, and what a year it has been. It was in this year that two men built a bridge to walk over the graves of the men, women, and children who died for an empty cause. In this year, voters were reminded that while politics should work for the people, politicians work for themselves.

The political theatrics have been on another level, but even as our elected representatives have pranced upon the stage, we have remained steadfast in our diminishing reality.

We might be a battered nation - assaulted on all fronts by our leadership - but for those of us who escaped death, the joy of Christmas and the hope for a better year will be like the balm of Gilead, at least for a moment.

This has been a year of lessons for me. Very early on I - like many Kenyans – was forced to come to terms with the duplicity of the men and women who play politics.

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We can see clearly now, more so than ever, that political leadership is a game of thrones, and that the stakes are money and power. Good governance has never been on the cards.

Yes, we can change that dynamics, but it is something that we have to conjure up within the realm of our own personal politics.

Because it is abundantly clear that our leaders are either unwilling or unable to honour the social contract between the State and the people, and therefore the people must act on their own motion to create the change they want to experience.

Real emotions

Away from that, we have another massive problem on our hands, and that is the state of Kenya’s gender relations. The boy-child versus girl-child hunger games reached fever pitch in 2018.

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Parliament failed for the umpteenth time to legislate the Two- thirds Gender principle, and out here in the rational world, gender relations were strained as well.

I’ve learned a valuable skill this year, and that is the skill of listening to understand, rather than to respond.Putting aside (but not discounting) criminal behaviour like sexual assault and harassment, the bitter gender conversation that has been ongoing for the past 12 months is fuelled by real emotions that both sides need to hear, understand, and contextualise before the gender balance can be reset.

Social media has been the scene of many gender-related travesties. The digital space has become a war zone where shots are taken indiscriminately, and no mind is given to the post-conflict consequences.

That is why I have learned to mute the social noise that is generated by the second, and to reserve my right to reply.

Procrastinate less

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I cannot tell you how peaceful life is when you cut out the negativity that the Internet manufactures in bulk. And I suspect that life would be even more peaceful if we all left the legion WhatsApp groups that churn out endless conversations, many of which add zero value to life in the physical world.

Going on an Internet diet hasn’t been easy. Putting down that digital crack pipe and switching focus to healthier choices has been one heck of a cold-turkey affair with all the trimmings. I’ve had varied success with it but I’ve found that when I change my gaze from the bright, shining, Internet lights, my productivity goes up.

I procrastinate less, edit better, run faster, and even do more burpees - and that, my friends, is a victory of victories. No jokes. Another thing I’ve learned this year is that it can take a 40-year-old, 80 years to lose one kilogramme. I’ve just been one year in the gym, so you do the maths!

But when all is said and done, 2018 has been good to me. The other night, my daughter was falling asleep. Just before she dozed off she opened her eyes, looked at me and said, “Goodnight, sis.’ Ha! If that’s not proof that there is joy in the world, then I surely don’t know what it.

All things considered, there is always something to be grateful for, and usually it’s the little things that make all the difference. I’m thankful that another Christmas has come.

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No matter what we believe, what religions we have chosen to practice, this is an opportunity to put aside all the differences that have been reinforced throughout the year, and to find comfort in our shared identity as human beings.

And so, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  May your cups overflow with love, light, and kindness.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa

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