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The Kenya we want lies hidden in our moral sense, but do we care?

Opinion
 [iStockphoto]

Kenya at sixty is a begging giant and a moral dwarf. We are crying about the debt burden while remaining silent about the moral crisis that led us here and keeps us here. The economics equation we are applying will not work because we do include values as a constant in the equation. We hype an economic prosperity that does not include moral propagation. It will not work. The irony is that we are silent on moral propagation while boasting of a God-fearing government. This exposes the difference between political spirituality and prophetic spirituality. The former pulls the crowds, while the latter loves the crowd. Our present government did excellently in pulling the crowd but is terrible at loving them.

Our politics do not demand moral commitments. So leaders lie and get quite good at it. They learn arrogance from each other. Being role models is not part of their ambitions.

They pride in stealing and not being caught. Instead of learning from their vice-mates who get caught, they laugh at them. They praise themselves for their mastery in “hide and seek” where they never get caught. They do not tremble at evil. Why? They are on the devil’s payroll. 

But there is no shortcut. There can be no development without values. To tell of money without talking about morals is to dupe. Talking about money and being silent on its morality leaves stealing as an option. Our leaders are not committed to a moral pillar tactically to leave all options open. But every truly good thing has a narrow path story. For speeches that earn a standing ovation, those who stand assume that the speech has a moral infrastructure. More than eloquence, it is ethics that moves people to their feet. A good speech that stands on a weak moral platform is nothing more than an abstract composition well recited. It is just a matter of time before its hot air becomes public.

Speeches of most Kenyan leaders are heavy on technical jargon but light on morality.  Such lack of values points to a vice pandemic where leaders hardly make moral charges. We are not short of brand ambassadors, but we have a severe shortage of value champions. Ethics should be the breakfast of sound leaders.

A weighing scale of what is wrong and right is critical for any community to be able to assess progress. The moral sense is inevitable. That is why we constantly wrestle with the Kenya we are and the Kenya we want. The distance between the Kenya we are and the Kenya we want is measured not is “econometres” but in “valuemetres.” Promising economic prosperity while fuelling a vice campaign confuses a country. A values drought is a recipe for poverty.

Trading to prosperity is not as simple as showing up to the marketplace. It matters which market you are in. It matters what you are selling. It matters who you are selling to. It matters the margins you make. It even matters what you do with the margins you make. It matters not only the quantity of your wealth but its quality too. It is the quality of your wealth that determines whether you sleep well at night. It determines whether you are booed in a public rally or carried shoulder-high. When a government promises to “put money in the pockets of citizens”, it must be clear on the quality of the money. There is a type of money that is not worth pocketing. Stolen money, however much, is blood money. 

The phrase “good money” is normally used to describe the quantity of money. But we must restructure its use so that it prioritizes quality over quantity. Good money should first and foremost mean clean money. When citizens hope for a prosperous nation, they are not expecting proceeds from crime. The silent consensus is a prosperity that follows wise leadership. People expect leaders, not raiders.

Ethical practice is a rare citing in Kenya. Because it is rare, where integrity is spotted it is more than rewarded - it is awarded. But in a good country, ethical practice should be the norm. Impropriety should be the exception.  In our country, evil is rewarded – even sometimes awarded. In this age of innovation, some people use their genius to design new ways of doing evil. They charge a premium for their propaganda trade.

Those who appear too clean for the system are tactically initiated into the vicefold. Customized temptations are framed and trappings are laid. They are put on addictive goodies. Upon tasting a finger-scoop of honey their appetite balloons to “eyes on the hive.” Food from the king's table is served. Names are changed to rhyme with the vice country. Music is played to whose lines you must learn. Power points are mounted to which you must bow down. If you do not bend, threats of a night with lions or dance with the flames are issued. Sadly Kenya’s God-fearing system punishes integrity. For the firmly upright a form of death is always near.  

Uprightness is taken to be for the weak. Strong people cut crooked deals with corrupt knives. This reversed perspective is sadly peddled by people in influential positions. Courage is inherently positive. Courage is a virtue worthy of reward. Vice does not take courage – it takes highly-powered evil. It takes courage to dethrone evil. But it does not take courage to plant it. 

There is boldness in carefulness, not in carelessness. Such high degrees of badness cannot be described as courage. Evil can be daring but not courageous. Courage is best used to describe virtuous heroism. Courage has sobriety and right-mindedness in its architecture. Courage will stand against an oppressive and deceptive system and announce “I would rather die than compromise.” Boldness to execute evil is not true boldness. Boldness is true when it serves what is good.

Sadly, vice in many quarters is not regarded as a crime - it is normalized, even crowned. Vice masters laugh at handcuffs because they have a key to their freedom. Injustice is not punished hard enough and not consistently enough. In a country where bad is good and good is bad, many are left to appeal to the court of natural justice, hence the common Kenyan saying “I leave it to God” and another like it “There is a God heaven.” When systems and their leaders are truer and fairer to the people, fewer files would be referred to God. But when leaders do not love the people, citizens wait for God’s judgment to deliver justice. They are sure it will come though they know not when.

The writer is a PCEA Theologian and Founder, Institute of Ethics and Youth Affairs.

@edward_buri

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