Case study: a middle-aged woman, doing quite well for herself, well-travelled, living a life many aspire to, on the outside looking very happy with life. She was not always well-off.
She had a poverty-ridden upbringing, which Kenyans love to refer to as humble beginnings (I keep thinking that Kenyans have no idea what the word humble means. There is nothing humble about poverty).
If well-wishers had not come through for her and her family, she would most likely be a statistic in the ‘vicious cycle of poverty data’, because, more often than not, when a girl-child has her education stopped for whatever reason, she gets married, which unfortunately adds fuel to the wheel of poverty, because, contrary to popular belief that problems are halved when two adults get together, poverty worsens in marriage.
Nos, she and her siblings are a statistic in ‘from grass to grace’. The wheels of fortune, through sponsors, favoured them.
She hates poverty. Nothing wrong with that; any well-functioning human detests poverty. It’s just her kind of revulsion that makes me believe she has unresolved trauma. She may have beaten poverty, even glossed over the physical scars with an expensive skin treatment, but the scars within are still raw.
She, I believe, would like to forget how she beat poverty. She hates to remember, on a daily basis, that strangers helped her beat it. She hates that her parents were unable to do it on their own.
So she says weird stuff: “I do not understand why anybody would be pregnant, go for the whole nine months knowing there is a baby on the way, but when they give birth, they treat it as an emergency that needs fundraising.” “Why would anyone ask for money to take their child to form one? Did they not realise, for eight years the child was in primary school, that the child would need a hefty fee?”
Granted, we know there are people who spend their lives not taking responsibility; indeed, we know some people whose currency is black-tax – all they have to do is be poor because wealthy relatives will do something about it.
- Being a parent of a sleepwalking child is terrifying
- Sex education begins at home
- Tough love: When does a parent say enough is enough?
- How can you tell if a parent is controlling?
For some weird reason, people on the lower economic margin tend to have more children, and then spend their lives struggling to bring up those children.
I think she is fighting demons. I think, even though her parents are long dead, she is trying to project her disappointment in them. Perhaps those are questions she always wanted to ask them, but never got around to doing, most likely because courage fails us when we need to ask our parents some hard questions.
Perhaps she is hoping some random person would hear her, and take her words as food for thought, perhaps thinking more than twice before bringing forth children.
Is she insinuating that poor people should not procreate? In an ideal world, people should stop giving birth to children they cannot take care of is a statement that should be taken as part of the gospel according to common sense, but we do not use that book for survival. What we use is the book of reality, and the reality is that sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, things can go wrong at the most inappropriate of times. Remember grass to grace? There is also the opposite, grace to grace.
It’s tricky, from whichever angle you look at it.
Weirdly, I have some admiration for her courage to say something that is nearly taboo for Africans. We are supposed to be socialists at heart. To be our brother’s keeper. We are supposed to handle, with kid gloves, the financially less fortunate, even when their unfortunate circumstances are of their own design and make.