Keep Kenyan dream alive amid restless defeatism

We live in a universe of crushed dreams. In April 1959, Dr Martin Luther King gave the "Shattered Dreams" sermon, a discourse rarely spoken of, perhaps on account of its having been overshadowed, years later, by the "I Have a Dream" address.

King lamented that "few, if any of us, live to see our fondest hopes fulfilled." He went on, "The hopes of our childhood and the promises of our adulthood are unfinished symphonies... Is there any of us who has not faced the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams?"

The great Paul of Tarsus, whom we read of in the Christian book of Acts of the Apostles, dreamt of a magnificent visit to Rome and Spain, as is recorded in his Letter to Romans 15:24, "Whensoever I take my journey to Spain, I will come to you."

To Spain, Paul of Tarsus never journeyed. But to Rome he did arrive, in chains, a prisoner, who lived in a small cell and was eventually put to death. King stated of the captive Paul, "Nor did he ever walk the dusty roads of Spain, nor look upon its curvaceous slopes."

Such is the lot of humankind, living through numerous new dawns that never transform into the brilliant mornings of our dreams. Hence, King himself may dream of the day the Negro will no longer be the subject of " . . . the searing flames of withering injustice."

He may dream of "the riches of freedom and the security of justice" for every American citizen, Black, White, or Coloured. Yet, the assassin's bullet will stop him dead, so that he departs before realisation of these dreams. Our reach, indeed, exceeds our grasp, and shattered dreams become the hallmark of our mortal life. Nevertheless, we are not in lonely space. The dreams of great souls have been locked up in their own narrow cells of despair. They have failed to grasp the Spain of their optimisms, and to roam through the dusty streets of the Rome of their dreams.

Such situations invite us to variously consider succumbing to frustration and bitterness, or to embracing fatalism. Frustration goads us towards holding someone responsible for our failed hopes. To hate them. Fatalism drives us towards surrender and cynicism. Whatever our circumstances, hope is everything. We must never surrender.

The hopeful person knows there will be setbacks. We are not on some cloud nine rollercoaster mission on Planet Earth. In King's words, "The answer lies in our willing acceptance of finite disappointment of unwanted and unfortunate circumstances, even as we still cling to a radiant hope, our acceptance of finite disappointment, even as we adhere to infinite hope.

Kenya sits at an intriguing crossroads. It's 60 years of independence and ten years of devolution. Independence in 1963 came with a rich raft of dreams. A blessed land and nation. Justice our shield and defender. Living in unity; peace and liberty. Plenty within our borders. Devolution enforced the dreams.

We have dreamt of hearts buoyed by the glory of the nation, and the fruit of our labour. But the dreams remain a bridge too far. Our frustrations, now across four generations, tease us to embrace fatalism; reckless cynicism, bitterness, and hate. You experience this restless defeatism in the intense impatience and selfish rudeness on our roads.

You see it in the unending vitriol in social media. But you witness it most in exchanges in leadership cadres, across all institutions. Yet we need not surrender, for the good of future generations. We need to see something good in us.

As the same Paul of Tarsus famously wrote, ". . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Let's think good thoughts, sometimes.

The writer is a strategic communications advisor