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National Ethos: Can we believe again?

By Tito Njuki | November 17th 2020

The hashtag proud to be Kenyan always pops up every time a Kenyan accomplishes an extraordinary feat.

Today, many Kenyan institutions have lost not only the public trust but also their ethos, sense of purpose and their traditional sustaining culture. Our public service has been riddled by massive corruption in its rank and file.

Most recently the Ministry of Health which is at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19 was implicated in massive corruption and resultant cover-up.

Often, we congregate around a television set and cheer our world-record-breaking athletes. When we have been shaken to the core as a nation during terror attacks we are quickly introduced to the heroes of the day who put their lives on the line to save others.

Many times we don’t hear of the young men who give up their comfort to man our porous borders far from their families and friends to ensure as a country we sleep soundly.

Those to me are heroes we easily identify with and celebrate, but wait, what about the old man who holds the hand of a child and helps them cross the road, what of the child who shares their meal with another who had none over the lunch hour, the police officer who goes beyond the call of duty for us? 

The words of our anthem contain a prayer for blessing and are a call to national unity, justice, liberty, peace, prosperity and nation-building. The words have transcended time and are a true call to action every time a Kenyan conquers or stands on top of the world regardless of their ethnic background.

I grew up in one of the military bases in the country as my dad served in the Air Force. The words of the national anthem and the loyalty pledge came to life as we watched the men and women in uniform not only salute the flag but also readily offer themselves for this great country.

Over the years, however, we seem to have lost all humanity in us as a country and the few outstanding characteristics that describe us begin with either tribe or the haves versus the have-nots. 

What has made us so inhuman that instead of attending to accident victims we first rob them as we watch them die or leave them for dead as we are not from a common tribe?

What has made fathers, brothers turn against their daughters and sisters and sons in a rage that was unheard of many years ago? 

The killing of suspects has become the order of the day. How have we lost our pride among our neighbours to be described as corrupt and broken society whenever we cross the borders?

What happened to the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterise us as a nation?

I dare say as a people we have lost who we are or ought to be and we need to get back on course sooner rather than later.

Maybe we need to define what our character is; what are some of the qualities that make us distinct from other people or places?

We have always believed we are warm, peace-loving people who are resilient and hardworking regardless of what we face. We have over the years risen from dark situations to become a shining symbol for the rest of Africa.

It is time we dig deep and rise to the current clarion call of self internalization to cross over the different hurdles we are facing as a nation. We have lost a general and specific idealism. How can we know the good if we do not believe in it?

It is said that “the pain of discipline is easier than the pain of regret" while as a country we have somewhat expanded our democratic space to express, feel and be Kenyan, we need to go back to basics. The basics that will point us back to a discipline where we later learnt that discipline is not entrapment but freedom. 

Our education system from nursery to university needs to teach the children how to serve and take responsibility at an early age while being cognizant of our diverse backgrounds. There is no point of producing book-smart doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and so forth who cannot relate and live peaceably among others.

We need, in resistance to all of the above, to recover and renew habitual practices of virtue that allow us to know and recognize the good.

- The writer is a media consultant


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