Spate of murders signals deeper issues

The death of the young medical student recently killed in broad day light has shocked the nation.

The death came hot on the heels of another suspected murder of another young woman who had just graduated from university. One local daily even listed recent victims and their photos. 

Can we avoid emotions and look at this case objectively as we try to find a lasting and realistic solution?

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A few questions arise. Why now? Why did it not happen in our days as university students? Two, why are men the perpetrators? Three, do we have a solution? 

Let’s start with the “why now?” The young men and women of today are under more pressure than in the past. With so much information, it’s easy to compare oneself with others in terms of what they wear, where they live and even who their friends are.

This makes one feel inadequate and even angry. Noted how photos can be enhanced to look unrealistic? Poignantly, there are few avenues to heroism.

The modern generation has no emotional “sinks”. We used to visit each other, play games, tell stories in the evening and share riddles.

Modern youngsters “live” online. There is no time to socialise, to share emotions and more importantly to experience diversity.

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This is why once a boy gets a girlfriend or the other way round, they get obsessed with each other with no time for other friends who are seen as distractors. Even parents and relatives are excluded. Bring in education, religion and technology. These ought to humanise us and make us part of the human society.

But do they? Take the school the first victim, Ivy, went to, for example, Alliance Girls’.

Without blowing my trumpet too loud, I schooled across the fence at the boys’ school. Must I call it by name? 

We would invite girls over for movies, debates, swimming and other social activities.

I was once punished because I did not have a pen pal from across! Such early socialisation taught us to respect one another and demystified relationships. Today, everyone thinks girls and boys should have separate schools ostensibly to improve performance. 

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Furthermore, education ought to inspire us; it should be the conveyor belt of optimism.

Loss of power

Beyond the subjects taught, what inspirations are conveyed by our schools with joblessness the order of the day and corruption getting so much airtime on our TV stations?

Religion ought to give us a purpose and meaning in life. But our young men and women are not so religious. It is more of a ritual rarely transforming their lives.

Why did Americans separate religion and state? Looking at the proliferation of churches in Kenya, it is clear religion is not giving us the purposefulness we yearn for. Think of the number of Kenyans who hop from one church to another.

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We have made the Internet our home, our bed, our friend and our life. This has dehumanised us. We have lost our emotions and humanity. 

Everything now is monetised. Even love is measured in terms of gifts and money. Whether one makes you happy or connects with you is secondary. Love is now a transaction just like buying a piece of land or sukuma wiki. This is how dehumanised we’ve become. Why men? In the last two decades Kenyan men have lost power in their homes, offices and almost everywhere else. It is a silent coup. Their violent behaviour is a fight against the loss of that power which goes with prestige, and I must add, some pampering.

It was predicted some time ago that one unintended consequence of defanging a man is violence. He will not lose that power without a fight.

Have you noted how young men are often shot dead by police as suspects? Subdued by fear, the young men mostly from low social economic background have shifted their targets of violence to those within reach, their friends including women. Powerless men are very dangerous. They easily use violence to show they have power. Why do gangsters kill each other?

I saw a pattern similar to what is happening in Kenya in America’s Deep South. After the civil rights movement, the black man was de-empowered; he has been fighting back violently since.

Black women in the Deep South were more empowered and now dominate big positions in the public sector and even schools. 

Women constitute more than 60 per cent of students in historically black colleges and universities. Women’s enrollment in our universities is on a steady rise.

A problem arose from this empowerment - the lack of men to marry. My encounter with black women in Mississippi made me conscious of how marriage market can be distorted. Can young well educated and beautiful Kenyan women confess? 

We are not far off in Kenya with central Kenya leading. More black men in the US are in jail than in college. My African American friends reckoned that I was not man enough because I had not been to jail. 

With violence and murder being meted against women in Kenya at an alarming rate, new laws are likely to be enacted to “punish” men even on matters of the heart.

The context will be ignored like poverty, growing up in single parenthood, lacking role models and discrimination for being a man. 

Using the law, the Kenyan man will be finally subdued. Just wait, he will pay child support, alimony and share inheritance with his sisters.

As a result, he will resort to violence, drugs or alcohol and on some cases suicide. Maybe I’m getting emotional as a man. Labelled as violent, lazy or uneducated, now men can be easily denied big jobs. They will become a dispensable gender.

Any solution? A country with subdued men is easy to exploit economically and control. Men will not be a threat when deals are made. In whispers, women are less corrupt and take instructions more easily than men. 

Have you noted that countries that are hard to exploit economically have very strong men? A good example is Nigeria.

This is why conspiracy theorists opine that women empowerment is not a fad, it is a long-term project with specific objectives.

My long stay in Mississippi makes me believe that conspiracy theorists might not be 100 per cent wrong. Why, for example, is the two thirds gender rule such a big issue and not the fact that we file too few patents, and Apple Inc makes a profit equivalent to our budget in three months? 

We could return to our traditions and make men central to our lives. This would be a tall order, but some of the most successful families are traditional.

Yet, single parenthood is becoming acceptable, with Central Kenya leading. Could the cultural revival in central Kenya reverse that? Single parenthood in America’s Deep South is a crisis with corresponding problems.

We have noted that men are more manly if they have money! The solution seems to be good jobs or enterprises for men. Since men can miss jobs because of gender quotas, they should turn to entrepreneurship to make money so as to enhance their masculinity.

The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi

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