“Fatalism is a pervasive attitude among the majority of Kenyans, and Africans. You accept injustices and avoidable risks with a fatalistic calm.”
This statement jolted me out of my train of thoughts. It was a word that I had heard before. However, no one had ever accused me of being a fatalistic thinker. This person was making these the objective observations of my culture from a distance. As if on cue, he began to rant a series of thought provoking rhetorical questions.
“Why do you accept to continuously be used as bait by self-serving politicians that divide Kenyans along tribal lines?”
“How quickly have many Kenyans forgotten the 2007-2008 mass violence that pushed Kenya to the brink of a Civil War?”
“How many people do you know who drive their cars or ride in one without a safety belt on?”
“Have you seen the number of individuals who ride motorcycles without helmets?”
“Aren’t Kenyan news imbued by news of Kenyans who drink poison, in the name of alcohol knowing very well that they are digging their own grave?”
“What does the Kenyan government do to get rid of illicit alcohol brewing proactively?”
“How many young women (and men) know about the importance of contraceptives but won’t use them, because getting pregnant is their biggest fear? They will run to the pharmacy for an emergency contraceptive, yet they forget that HIV-Aids is preventable with a condom?”
Accept and move
“How many people do you see holding a baby on their lap, on the front seat of a car, or worse people those who can afford a car but not a safety car seat for their child?”
I paused and thought, but before I could answer, he continued.
“How about someone who is sick but refusing to take medication or accept they are ill and need help?” he explored further.
“How about men and women who dismiss cancer screening tests because they believe that God shapes their health outcome? They fail to acknowledge that it is ignorance that continues to destroy your people?”
At this point, I thought about a letter I recently received from a local hospital, with the invitation for a free cancer screening. My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer; my aunt too had breast cancer. There is a high risk of cancer among females in my family. I thought about how I have been procrastinating the screening test.
Admittedly, there is a fatalist thought that pervades my mind now and then. “What if I too will have cancer?”
“Doesn’t the God you believe also give you free will? What does the Bible say about ignorance?” he asked, interrupting my thought process.
“What happens in an accident and the child is sitting on her mother’s lap flies out of the window, lands her head on the tarmac and dies?” he continued.
“What happens when the person who has been sick and in denial, dies?”
Lazy Faith and other defeatist attitudes
“What happens when the same region in Kenya keeps flooding and killing residents year after year?”
“Here is what happens. Kenyans blame it on fate. You go about saying that it was ‘Gods will’. You face avoidable tragedies by blaming fate and destiny. It is a defeat mechanism that inevitably prevents the majority of Kenyans, and Africans, from coming up with mortality mitigation plans.” he concluded.
I wanted to kick up a storm in defence; then his words hit home. I too have been believing this fatalist philosophy for most of my life. It has been a coping mechanism.
I have been of the mentality that “either a certain event happens or it doesn’t happen. If it happens, there is nothing to be done to prevent it. If it doesn’t happen, there is nothing to be done to enable it.”
However, the word “IF” is the basis of fatalism. I do not want to continue living my life on the idea of ‘If only I had’. I will do whatever is in my knowledge and power to avoid situations that lead me to such fatalist thinking.
We are in the year of general elections, and the fatalist outlook is already awash among the majority of Kenyans. As Kenyans, we no longer passionately question the weaknesses of our leaders like we once did during the fight for Independence or Democratic multipartyism.
We are suspicious of new and ambitious leaders who promise change.
Instead, the majority of us will pessimistically turn up at the polling stations and vote for the same corrupt politicians. We say, ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” as we persevere through another four years of the same oppressive political narrative.
The majority of middle-class Kenyans are happy riding their loan incurred Toyotas on congested motorways, and suburb living to care much about who rules or doesn’t rule.
Poor Kenyans, defeated by a system that focuses on developing Nairobi and other major towns, are disillusioned and have turned to religious fatalism as their coping mechanism.
Upper-class Kenyans live with one hand on their passports and an eye on their bloated bank accounts, ready to take off when the political heat makes them uncomfortable. Most of them, including Kenyan politicians and senior civil officials, have doctors in South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of American or India.
It gets worse when than their Upper-class children do not know what a teacher’s strike means. They are apathetic towards teachers and doctor’s strikes, as well as other social, economic and civil oppression issues. They romanticise Kenya but have no problem living her to take shelter, education, or medical treatment elsewhere.
Is it right that we, as Kenyans, with the power of vote continue leaving the destiny of our country to fate? When shall we collectively, regardless of class or status, take the matters of our country into our hands and demand for a better public policy, and government?
Our children deserve access to clean water, better medical treatment, a futuristic education and a fatalistic free future.
This coming August remember you have the power to vote. Own your power.
“United we stand, divided we fall.”
Photo by Boniface Mwangi.