“Veronika decides to Die” is the title of a book by renowned author Paulo Coelho and he tells the story of Veronika a twenty something year old girl from Slovenia whose suicide attempt reults in her ending up in a mental institution.It follows up on her life there and offers a peek into her mind and that of other patients there as a result of their “madness”.
At one time while Veronikah is trying to understand “madness”she meets Zedka another patient there who in trying to define madness tells her a story that goes like this:
“There was once a powerful wizard who wanted to destroy an entire kingdom,so he places a magic potion in the well from which all inhabitants drank.Whoever drank that water would go mad.The following morning ,the whole population drank from the well and they all went mad,apart from the King and his family ,who had a well set aside for them alone,and which the magician had not managed to poison.The King was worried and and tried to control the population by issuing a series of edicts governing security and public health.The policemen and the inspectors ,however ,had also drank the poisoned water and they thought the King’s decisions were absurd and resolved to take no notice of them.
When the inhabitants of the Kingdom heard the decrees they became conviced that the King had gone mad and was now giving non sensical orders.They marched on the castle and called for his abdication.
In despair ,the King prepared to step down from the throne ,but the queen stopped him saying,”Let us go and drink from the communal wel.Then we will be the same as them.”
And that was what they did,the King and Queen drank the water of madness and immediately began talking non sense.Their subjects repented at once;now that the King was displaying such wisdom,why not alllow him to continue ruling the country?”
The country continued to live in peace,although its inhabitants behaved very differently from those of its neighbours.And the King was able to govern until the end of his days”
Kenyans have become like the inhabitants of this mythical kingdom who have drank from the poisoned well.That is why tribalism,corruption,impunity,blatant theft and misuse of public funds and recklessness on our roads are like terminal illnesses we all seem to be suffering from.We are all mad!
Our road carnage statistics are some of the highest and most of the time you hear people blaming it on God’s will.We find it normal to fork out a few thousand shillings to get a driving licence after you pass your competency test.We even raised hue and cry when drivers were subjected to sobriety tests by the infamous alco blow.It is very normal for a matatu in Kenya to be breaking the speed limit while the passengers silently watch and pray that they get to their destination safely yet they can clearly see the driver is shuttling their bodies to the cold slab of a morgue and their souls straight to the gates of heaven or hell.
When public funds find their way inmto private accounts,we chuckle and guffaw at the civil activists when they chain themselves to the gates of the Ministry of Education to protest the misuse of these funds and we label them mad.We forget that these very funds are not gifts by donors but loans that we are paying and that our children are going to pay back. Even the newbies being born today are being saddled with loans that were squandered or spirited away to foreign countries by government officials.
Last year maize meal which is a staple food item in 90% of Kenyan households was retailing at sixty shillings for a 2kg packet at the beginning of the year.Right now the price of the same packet costs more than a litre of petrol and many Kenyans who live on less than a dollar a day are either going hugnry or looking for alternative foods which given the current economic crisis are not many.Drought has ravaged parts of the country and indeed much of the horn of Africa and now international donor agencies are calling for aid to mitigate the current crisis the region is facing.
We are also witnessing a curious spectacle by members of our August house fighting taxation on the pretext that there aren’t any laws permitting taxation of members of Parliament.If they all paid tax all 222 of them we would see 700 million go into the excheqeur and hopefully some of it would be used to feed our poor brothers and sisters in the arid and semi arid areas of the Northern part of the country who are grappling under the effects of the worst famine and drought in decades.
With an election looming,we are having the same old story of tribal alliances going on and the big tribes are aligning themselves for possible victory come August next year.We are listening to the same promises we have been told over the past years and which have never come to pass.
Tell me if we havent all gone mad,then what has made us immune to everything that would be declared wrong and unacceptable in other countries.When children are going to school barefoot,having their classes under trees,people dying from poorly constructed buildings ,farmers barely eking out a living from the back breaking work of feeding the 40 million Kenyans and no one seems to give a damn.
We all seem to think it is normal for a country such as ours that showed so much promise at independence is now a pale shadow of itself .Year in year out we hear promises of fighting corruption and tribalism but none have come to pass.It has become normal to let our leaders get away with lies and blatant disregard for the law and what is right and moral and then we hail them as leaders.What madness!
We are all mad and unless we act quickly we will be like the mythical kingdom Coelho writes about.We have already seen what normality can be like so refreshing and bold when we got a new Chief Justice the Judicial system got a facelift.It is time we gave the same antidote to our electorate so come next year we wake up to brand spanking new crop of leaders and not the old order we have known for what seems to me to be eons.