Kenyans have lately become deeply skeptical people who do not accept information which they deem unacceptable.
Most of us prefer to read or hear what we want, and any information that goes contrary to our wishes is often taken with a pinch of salt or dismissed outright.
Results of opinion polls, for instance, are among the biggest casualties. “These opinion polls must have been doctored,” a Kenyan might tell you.
“There is no way Candidate X can beat Candidate Y. The pollster must have been paid to doctor the results.”
Similarly, many Kenyans view with scorn any predictions from the weatherman. Thus, whenever the TV weather girl is busy predicting showers and thunderstorms in an area, many people who wish for sunny spells will likely boo her. My wife, for instance, dismisses TV and radio weather reports.
“You should carry your umbrella today, dear,” I told her one morning last week. “Last night the weatherman said there will be showers and thunderstorms in town today.”
“Ah, these weather people really love to take us for a ride,” she responded. “There is no way a human being can tell whether it will rain or not.”
Interestingly, gossip and rumours are not treated with the same skepticism as information from authoritative sources.
Most of us do not question gossip. I have a feeling many Kenyans would find it easier to accept the results of opinion polls, weather reports and important scientific releases if they were presented in the form of gossip.
And thanks to the internet, our country is now awash with countless know-it-alls who eagerly supply dubious information and analyses on almost every subject.
The internet is inundated with uncountable commentaries on our war against Al Shabaab, mostly from armchair experts who update the world on the war in Somalia from the comfort of their living rooms.
You would think you are holding the discussion with a top military general, until you realise this is just another kangaroo expert watching too many movies, and probably picked his “war intelligence” from friends while chewing miraa in Nairobi’s downtown.
“Kenya imekuwa nchi ya wajuaji,” says my friend Odhiambo. “A typical man on the streets believes he has the answer to every question — even if the question has not been asked or if they really do not have the answer. Everybody wants to be seen to know everything.”
I have been bombarded with expert opinions on matters ranging from the stock markets to football, politics and even neurological science — and most of this “expertise” comes from unqualified people.
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To this end, I have learned not to ask for directions from strangers in the streets of Nairobi, as most people would rather give you directions to places they do not even know than be seen as ignorant.
My household, too, has become a breeding ground for all manner of smarty-pants. For instance, I occasionally catch my boys yammering about the war in Afghanistan with such familiarity that one would think the war has been happening in our compound.
Another mjuaji is our house girl Maggy, aka Miss Mboch. I have seen her giving “expert” analysis to my wife on matters as diverse as how to groom dogs, how to remove tattoos, how to construct a highway and even how to win a government tender.
Miss Mboch can diagnose complex diseases even where they do not exist, and she even prescribes medicine!
“Huyu mtoto anatokwa na jasho sana,” Miss Mboch might say of my little angel, Tiffany.
“Hii ni malaria. You should give her painkillers and then take her to clinic.”
I am increasingly growing wary, fellow countrymen, of the growing number of people who pretend to know even what they know nothing about.