We should harness this sense of patriotism

When Kenya’s National Sevens team made history by winning their first ever series title at the 2016 Singapore Sevens, Kenyans took to all sorts of media to celebrate the team’s success.

Using trending hashtags like #Kenya7s, President Kenyatta joined other prominent personalities including media, corporate institutions, sports enthusiasts and excited Kenyans in congratulating the Rugby Team. Some used the hashtag #HotbedOfChampions, coined last year when Kenya topped the medals board at the IAAF Championships for the first time.

When athletes show that we are as good as the world's best, we stand in unity. When the country is portrayed negatively, we harness patriotism. In that moment, we all connect with that feeling. These events cultivate a particularly powerful feeling in us. They transcend any affiliation to a particular tribe, gender or party. They appeal to our sense of national pride.

We connect with these athletes because there’s something about being the very best that we all desire. We see them just as regular citizens with a heart that beats for their country and a dream. For this reason, these moments draw out even the often silent. Citizens’ unity and engagement quickly surpass those related with political and reconciliatory events.

Why then, one might ask, don’t we cultivate this feeling more?

How can we quickly rally around these events and be so proud and unified at the moment, but when called to civic duty we become disconsolate? Could it be because the very mention of civic responsibility signifies tackling exceedingly insurmountable problems?

After all, standing in the hot sun for hours to cast a vote is not the same as cheering your favourite national team. Now, I’m not naive. I know that free will and a largely uneducated electorate are detractors to civic goodwill. The euphoria yielded during such events isn’t everything we need to build on. That politics is often a power game.

But here is my epiphany. I know that like these moments, democracy is at its best when citizens are aware, connected and participate. Being at its best is about aspiration, which is what so many relate to and talk about. It’s the aspiration rarely exhibited by our political leaders today. One that comes from words like Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech; Dreams that are embedded in the hearts of many.

We owe it to our nation to share such aspiration with more people. To the young people suffering from a frustration of aspiration in creating their own sustainable futures. To make civics popular and as alluring as it was during the Independence struggle that gave many the hope for a great nation.

I believe the way to make civics stimulating again is to create the desire to learn. By having more debates based on competition of ideas and less about our differences.

By influencing change at the lowest level, first in our communities. We should do that through the power of connectivity that is at levels never imagined before; to educate as many as possible on the power they wield to make their communities better.

Citizens cannot accept horrid conditions in their home and work but expect their politicians and country to change.

The problem we face is that an illiterate populace means many don’t understand the civic power they have.

This illiteracy further exacerbates participation only by association, what has been termed the Tyranny of Numbers. As a result of this illiteracy, the few who do understand how power operates are happy to take advantage of the majority.

This is why it is so fundamental for us to seize this moment, this feeling, hold on to this nationalism consciousness.

Let’s harness this feeling to empower our citizenry, our athletes, our corporates, and especially the youth to democratise this patriotic power.