The universe works in mysterious ways. This you can see every time President Kibaki makes a speech. You can tell that every time someone shares a picture of their lunch or breakfast on Twitter. There are things we’ll never get to understand because we are but mere mortals doomed to take whatever bone the universe throws at us. Amidst the mystery of the universe is inequality; the inequality born of having and not having.
There is indeed such a thing in life as inequality. This inequality comes of a confluence of many things but mostly it comes of the very core of our existence; life. Life is an exercise in extremes. It gives to some lavishly and denies some wantonly. How life chooses who to bestow this (mis)fortune is a testament to the universe’s mystery. There is such heartbreaking poverty amongst us than you can imagine. Poverty that would make your heart bleed. But this world of poverty is an invisible one hiding in the visible one. It is only visible to those who look-those willing to look. The rest of us only see it when the media fleetingly flashes a clip of Kibera, or the impoverished West Pokot, or Mandera where they drink muddy water. Water I wouldn’t use to clean my shoes.
I saw a man last week. But before I saw the man, I saw his house. It was a small house. I have seen bigger bathrooms. It was made using earth bricks. These are not made in some factory and then burned in a kiln to firm them and give them some colour. These bricks are made by simply mixing soil and water then putting the mud in a wooden box to shape it up. They are then left to dry in the sun. The same mud is used to hold them together the same way cement is used on stones. The house had a tin roof, at least. What caught my attention were the polythene bags. The house was covered halfway from the top by polythene bags. The polythene bags are supposed to shield this fragile structure from the rain because as you can imagine, the rain could easily reduce it to a pile of mud. And then I saw the man.
He was seated on a bed. He was old. I’d say he has lived not less than 80 years. He was seating on the edge of the bed with his door ajar. He was just seated there staring into nothing. His eyes fixated on a spot in space, like he could see eternity. He looked like he’d just woken up from a very bad dream only to find that he was not dreaming; only to find that he was living a nightmare. He looked like he was lost in his own home. It was a heartbreaking picture that stirred up some emotions in me. That image is still very clear in my head as I type this. It provoked in me some deep thoughts about this life we live. About being grateful for what we have.
Not far from man’s house is a golf club. A place where the wealthy pay the price of a Vitz to become a patron. Next to this club is the superhighway; the mother of all Kenyan roads. This is the one that will tell the world that Kenya has arrived-a testament of our wealth. 200 metres from the small soil house is a dam. Next to the dam, naturally, is land. The view is something. To own dam side property, you’ll have to cough not less than 5 millions(I know because someone is selling). There’s a club next to the dam where people come to ‘get away’ on weekends. Where they eat lots of meat and wash it down with drinks as they enjoy the cool breeze and ride boats. Immediately the small earth house, a plot fetches not less than 1 million. Wait until they finish the superhighway and that will triple. In the immediate neighbourhood there are houses worth millions-big beautiful houses with exotic tiles big emerald lawns. The small mud house doesn’t belong.
The man is an IDP. He and a few others have just recently resettled here. There was small cluster of houses that is home to some and an advertisement of poverty to others. But he is, I imagine, one of the lucky ones. I mean, he’s not living in tent now is he?
But who cares that people sleep in houses which can be washed away by the rain? Who cares whether people drink muddy water? The government? Not them. They have more pressing matters. They are busy tackling real issues. The NGOs? Those have become a cliché. One thing I’m sure of is that it’s not our job. I mean we have our lives to live and they are not exactly rosy are they?
We are willing to do anything to live the life of kings. We want a bigger everything. A Toyota today is not a car but it will do while we work on that Range. We won’t stop until we move into the giant house in Runda and we’ll go to Mombasa on holiday only because we can’t afford to go to the Barbados. This is right. It’s how we are meant to live. It’s the bone the universe threw us. But then it comes with a curse; the curse of not being satisfied until we show off the fruits of our labour. We are not content with being silently satisfied with our success until we show it to everyone, even those who don’t have. We suddenly become silent and let our money do the talking. And boy is it loud! This is the malady of capitalism.
Humanity today only lives in interstices of capitalism. We would rather complain about slow internet speeds than be thankful that we have such connections. In our blind pursuit of the dream life, we only see what we don’t have. We forget to count our blessings which are actually more than those things that we don’t have. But I guess this simple maths of counting what we have is lost on us.