According to an Infotrak survey, 81 per cent of Kenyans are stressed and anxious because of the new coronavirus pandemic. And 36 per cent have insomnia thanks to our new Covid-19 normal. You know, I often read statistics, and many times they don’t register on any scale. Numbers are cold. It’s hard to elicit emotion from a standard recital of facts and figures.
This is something well proven by the daily Ministry of Health press conferences. I mean, you’re just there scratching your head wondering, ‘what the hell do these numbers mean?’ and ‘how the hell do they affect my life today and tomorrow?’
Feeding people figures in a vacuum can only have one result: Mental indigestion. There has to be a context. We have to know how the numbers affect our lives. In real time. Not in comparison to others. Just in direct relation to us and our immediate circumstances.
I’ll use myself as an example. The number of infections have risen sharply over the past couple of weeks. We started at an average of 10 new infections a day, but we are now recording triple digits with alarming regularity. The number of deaths is also rising steadily.
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As the mother of a young child, I’m interested to know how this spike impacts the chances of her going back to school. How do these new figures tally with our anticipated Covid-19 peak? Do we still anticipate a peak? If so, what is likely to happen? Can places of worship resume regular programming? What about cross-county travel? And the curfew?
The sanitiser and mask-wearing protocols? Does this government have a plan to transition the country into a new post-Covid reality (you know, besides the one to transition to an all-powerful president, and puppet prime minister)?
These questions keep me up at night. I am one of the 36 per cent who suffer from insomnia because along with 81 per cent of Kenyans, this pandemic has left me stressed and anxious. I don’t know how the trauma manifests for the 45 per cent who are stressed and anxious but can still sleep at night. I’d imagine there’s been a spike in substance abuse and illicit sexual encounters.
We are caught in this weird limbo, walking a fine line between affirming that we are, in fact, still alive, and on the other hand, trying to numb the pain. There is so much pain in this new dispensation. The pain ranges from not being able to feed yourself or your family, to watching everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve falling to pieces. Plus many other nuanced injuries in between.
It’s not an easy space to be in, this new corona world. For those of us who don’t call the shots in political affairs—and we are the majority—it’s a punishing space. A space where we realise that a lot of our worth as human beings is grounded in our spending power. So the question quickly becomes, can we sustain our lifestyles, as diverse as those lifestyles may be? And can we support our families, and the people we love? I daresay, fellow Kenyans, this is the crux of the matter.
Covid-19 has shown us the value of cash. Unless you’re a one-percenter, or a connected Kenyan politician, it has become apparent that money makes the world go round. Pushing it along like a car without petrol is one of the most laborious and spirit-intensive things you will ever have to do. If you’re not careful, that labour define you and your relationships for a long time to come. I urge you to be careful, and intentional, as we all try to make ends meet in this season.
Money is a ‘current’ currency, but love is eternal. In this instance, the flipside of cold, hard cash is compassion. You know, that highest form of love and philanthropy inspired by the intelligent force which orchestrated the universe.
I know this is corny as hell, but love conquers all. We all need love. I’m not talking about the fleeting, flitting, romantic love that many lovers thrive on. I’m talking about a mature love that can be directed to anyone or anything in need of care. A nourishing love. A reconstructive love. A community love. A deep love for ourselves, our neighbourhoods, our counties, and our country.
The kind of self-affirming love that will change our current culture from a man-eat-man, to humans for humanity type vibe. Because we can meddle with our constitution all we like, but if we don’t change as a people, we are doing zero work.
Ms Masiga is Peace and Security editor, The Conversation