So, why is the average Kenyan not alarmed despite the government’s decree of self-isolating? Well, the burgher class would say Kenyans are stupid for not following the isolation policy. Ever thought of it from the eyes of the common mwananchi? When was the last time they cared about anything that the government said? At times I tend to think it is not the buffoonery in every situation of “serikali saidia.” Most of those who live below the two dollar mark a day stopped caring about the authorities a long time ago. It is the life they live every day. A life of lawlessness, no safety, no promise of better living conditions, no healthcare coverage, and no promise of food. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the party of state apathy. Grab a seat and have a beer.
It is already hard for a person living in the slums or ghetto to be alarmed when their entire existence already is trepidation. Picture yourself trying to tell your friend or that lady you head over heels who lives in Pipeline (Paipuu people wolan) to quarantine themselves. This is a huge task. Yes, safety comes from you and I. The sadness of the matter is that the severity of these cases has not hit us hard. You tell them to quarantine themselves from Covid-19 which has been grappling the world, then they tell you, “nijieke kwa nyumba juu ya corona? Na si ni mafua? Nkikaa kwa nyumba nani atanletea chakula ama serikali itanipea pesa?” (Why should I stay in the house due to the Corona virus? Isn’t it flu? If I do stay in the house, how would I get food or will the government give me money?”)
But how do they keep themselves indoors when each day they grapple with malaria, cholera, and pneumonia? All this just to put food on the table. How do you tell that guy living in Kibera to avoid contact? Just how? Where they live is already a crowded area with no proper form of planning. They really do not care for safety because for them is a foreign concept to them. They live in substandard apartments that tend to sway and fall due to poor structural integrity.
Safety to them is when one is full, satisfied, and warm. But they cannot relate to the above three because they do not coexist together. They are used to living on the edge like that. It is not quite there fault really when everything for the past few years has been skyrocketing making living conditions deplorable.
One pandemic has brought the rich, bourgeois, and the poor together. Well, the above two finally see the third caliber of society. The third estate truly missed them. The two upper classes finally realized that the dirt poor exists. and in a way, they would affect them. They say, “If it hits a person living in Pipeline, Kibera, or Mukuru kwa Reuben then they are all dead.” It is not due to the fact that it would kill the above person, but because he presents a risk to them. Even with this pandemic surging on, “me” is still their rallying call.
The essence of working from home seems convenient to many people. A lockdown is imminent. There have been different views regarding a lockdown. It is all cool if you have a fridge and store stocked full of supplies, and children doing e-learning. A hand sanitizer placed strategically. But where would the unfortunate go? Life has never been a crystal staircase for them. It will need grit, faith, and hope.
If we are going to lock-down the country, in one way or the other we must prepare for anarchy in the coming days. We can succeed in locking the country down, but we cannot lock down the hunger. The government has not placed strategic policies with regard to basic commodities. If this happens crime will soar higher. A poor man does not steal from a poor house. It would be every man for himself and the devil would take the hindmost. There would be breakages of shops and supermarkets. Houses would be robbed each day. Anarchy would be the rule of the day. There would be consistent run-in battles with the police. These guys from the slums mostly live from hand to mouth and then wait for a new day as the cycle repeats itself each day.
Hunger cannot be arrested but we need to have operational safety nets. We cannot follow other countries’ mitigation strategies without putting into consideration our socio-economic structures. Some countries’ strategies are built around autarkies. This is as real as a cow going home to roost for our communities. The truth of the matter is that lockdown already began in different towns. A total lockdown of the country would mean that the government would have to provide essentials. Which will in some way bring an overhaul of the status quo. Cleanliness and health right now are the two things that matter. Socialism might be inevitable if things spiral out of control.
Let us be united in every way. This begins with the admission of privilege and appreciation of the hoi polloi struggles. Then determining solutions from that truth. It is to call for capricious lockdown when you are fully stocked.
One thing for sure is that Kenyans are accustomed to a government that does not care about them. That is why it is difficult to convince Kenyans that it suddenly cares. Right now the bourgeois needs the low class to survive. Perhaps it might be the reason behind the pent anger that has been feuding up for the past few days. The only thing apart from poverty that poor people can afford is religion. Religion is a warm blanket to them that they can correlate to. If things continue as they are, not even religion will stop what is coming.