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Tenets

Social Capital

Posted on 5 min read

Self-Made Myth

You have ever heard someone say that ‘I am a self-made person.’ It could be a self-made millionaire, self-made YouTuber with many followers, self-made programmer, or even self-made businessperson. The claim here is that the person is who they are due to their own effort, and did not depend on help from other people. The pride!

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no self-made person. At least, they did not give birth to themselves. They never taught themselves how to speak. Did they invent money so that they can make a lot of it? They never became influencers by following themselves, nor did they make the gadgets that they use for social media. Even if they stole, they did not steal from themselves. All their achievement is because they live in a society with other people, who directly or indirectly, influenced who they are.

There is no self-made person.

Collaboration

At the center of everything we do is other people, and this is a unique gift from God that sets us apart from other animals. Human beings are able to collaborate with one another in very special ways. Take the example of taking a cup of tea; where you can walk into a café and get some ready-made tea, or you can buy the ingredients and make yourself a cup of tea. You do not need to grow your own tea, make your own sugar, blacksmith your own sufuria or model your own cups. You depend on other people to have your cup of tea.

In life you never see monkeys specializing and having some of them look for bananas while others look for berries. You do not see some of them working hard to map the forest so that they keep an up-to-date database of where all foods are. You do not see wild animals coming together to irrigate the jungle during the dry season. Neither do you see lions setting traps and hunting in bulk so that they can sell to other lions, and so that the elderly lion will not need to hunt. Specialized collaboration is the gift that human beings have.

Social Capital; Definition

Which brings us to social capital.

Social capital refers to the links and bonds people form through friendships and acquaintances. It is what allows groups of people to work together for a common purpose or goals. When you know somebody who can solve your problem, or you know somebody who knows somebody who can help you file your tax returns, you are making use of your social capital to achieve a certain goal.

Why is this important?

Herbert Smith, Nobel-prize-winning economist, estimated that 90% of what people earn in wealthy “western” societies is down to social capital. Had Bill Gates been born Yatta, Matuu, perhaps he could be a major sand supplier in Kenya. The guy pushing a handcart in Nairobi could easily have been a logistics officer with British Airways of they were born in London. This is social capital at work.

If you are born in a poor country, you will make less money for the same skills and effort compared to if you were born in a rich country.

Social Capital in the Bible

Let me put this here so that I do not forget, or lack somewhere else to say it.

‘The greatest of all networks is to know and be known by God.’

That said, we move on.

The idea of relationships and networks starts right from the beginning, where we see a Triune God setting things in action in Genesis. We see laws that help people live together as a community because this was key.

Something worth noting: While social capital is built on the idea of reciprocity, that is not expected in Christianity. The command is to reach out to those who cannot pay back. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.” (Lk 14:12)

Some 3 examples from the bible:

Mephibosheth
  • Perhaps he was the 3rd in line to be King (After Saul and his father Jonathan)
  • All this was lost when David takes over. But,
    • David comes to his rescue, on account of his father Jonathan
    • David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Samuel 9:1
    • This way, he enjoys royal treatment based on the relationship that the Father had with David.

Lesson: Networks we build today could help us or our children in future.

Naaman
  • Leprosy was a nagging problem for this big person. A servant girl in his house knew the solution.
  • She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:3
    • Naaman was known by the right person, who offered a solution.
      • The problems you have today, someone possibly has the answer.
        • Someone could be looking to hire someone with the skills that you have. But do you know them? Do they know you?

Lesson: Know people, or know people who know people, or be known.

Jesus

  • His ministry was dependent on people, who he needed to build first
    • He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14
      • This was like getting interns.
      • He trains them and they end up being his witnesses.

Lesson: Create your networks by building people.

What determines our social capital?

There are three things I can highlight:

  • People we know

Our social capital is tied to the people we know (and of course, if they know as well because I know Vladimir Putin very well). It is important that we seek to know people.

  • Depth of those relationship

It is not enough to know people; ensure that they know you in the right way. This calls for a rich and genuine relationships with other people. People may not know that you can offer a certain service or possess a certain skill unless you interact closely. If people do not know that you are looking or a job, they will not be looking out for opportunities on your behalf.

  • Benefits of those relationships

You could have people who know you, know your needs, but are they willing to go out of their way to help you? What are they willing to do to help you? While there is little we can do to get people to help us, we can take the first step to ensure that we help people who are within our networks.

How to Build Networks/Social Capital

 A few tips:

  1. Do good to the people that you already know. People reciprocate.
  2. Know new people. Do not sit back and blame your introvertedness or claim that you are not good at making friends.
  3. Diversify your networks
    1. Get to know people in different fields. If you are an engineer, you will need a lawyer one day.
    1. Get to know people in different locations. There many opportunities outside your locality.
  4. Create time for people. Visit if you can. Make calls. Invite people to visit you.
  5. Keep in touch with former colleagues. Here there is a goldmine of people and you already know them.

**** Notes from MUBET fellowship talk on Social Capital. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash ***

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Untethering from Social Media Slavery

Posted on 5 min read

In his book Fool’s Talk, OS Guinness says that “everyone is now in the business of relentless self-promotion – presenting themselves, explaining themselves, defending themselves, selling themselves or sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history.” This is majorly through Social Media. People are seeking the widest possible public audience in the name of followers, friends or connections, often to the detriment of authentic lives and connections.

Among the many documentaries that caused a stir in an event field 2020 is one ‘Social Dilemma’ on Netflix. This docudrama directed by Jeff Orlowski tries to shed some light on the harmful impact of social media in the world today.  They argue that platforms like Facebook are designed to be addictive and the primary goal of the people behind the platform is to use your data to make money. Consequently, they do all they can to draw and retain your attention, and they do it with lethal effectiveness to the extent that it is like a drug addiction.

People are almost running their entire lives online by being tethered to their devices all the time.  As highlighted in the documentary, the creators of those platforms have designed them in such a way that they are addictive and are always demanding for your attention. They are not just technology companies with some geeks churning out code after code, but are psychological think tanks with armies of psychologists, neuroscientists and social science experts who use their knowledge of human vulnerabilities to capture your attention and get you addicted. Social Media is addictive by design.

To be sure that you are using social media in the right way, look out for the following things:  

Examine yourself

In the words of Haggai, we need to do a self-examination, or ‘give careful thoughts to your ways.’ The first question to ask is whether you are using Social Media responsibly, and if you have a healthy relationship with the same. The goal is to ensure that you are in control, and not the Social Media platforms controlling you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I spend unnecessarily long periods of time on Social Media?
  2. Do I experience time management problems due to unhealthy use of social media?
  3. Have my studies, social life, ministry activities and relationships been negatively affected due to social media?
  4. Do I have irregular sleep patterns due to use of social media?
  5. Do I feel down when I am unable to access social media, or if my posts are not getting the attention I need?
  6. Has social media led me to other vices such as pornography, greed, jealousy or masturbation?
  7. Do I have more conversations online than in person?

If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, perhaps it is time to examine if you need to apply some change or readjustment to your relationship with social media.

2. Take Corrective Measures

If you realize that social media has become your god, or it is on the verge of becoming one, or you have an unhealthy relationship with it, it is time to take action. Seek as much help available. You should also have some form of accountability with people that are close to you.

Here are a few measures for your consideration;

i) Define your Social Media use

Why are you using Social Media? Is it for entertainment, business, education, or personal development? If you figure out why, you will be in a position to know when social media is useful, or when you are becoming very hooked. If you are using it for entertainment, you should be able to tell if you are having too much entertainment, or if your entertainment channels are imbalanced.

ii) Be Self-Controlled

A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out (Proverbs 25:28).  Do not allow algorithms to control your life and lead you from one video to another, with little regard for content, values or even your time. Also, guard yourself from drifting into mindlessly into these addictive habits. Apply self-control and consciously decide to not be enslaved.

iii) Avoid the ungodly

While there are so many benefits of social media, avoid any matter that is ungodly. It may be trending or forming the base of every discussion in your circles, but if it draws you away from God, let it go.

Instead, appropriate the grace of God, which teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11,12). Keep off the ungodly content that would corrupt you.

iv) Do not be the fool

Social media has the ability to deceive and make you think that you are in control. In your mind, you might think that you are just trying to keep up with the memes and challenges, while in real sense you are being manipulated to keep scrolling endlessly.

Learn how social media works, and the impacts it has on you. You could even use the same social media to learn about the ills of social media. It is said when the product is free, like social media, you are the product. In the words of Ephesians 5:15, ‘be careful how you use your time, not like fools, but like those who are wise.’

v) Do not Seek validation on Social Media

Have you ever found yourself taking countless photos just to find the perfect one to post on social media? Do you find yourself checking your notifications over and over just to see if someone liked, replied or retweeted your post? Many times, we seek validation on social media, which blurs the truth about ourselves. Our self-worth must be pegged on God, and not on a bunch of notifications. While you promote content online, do not be unnecessarily invested in its outcome.

In conclusion, we must draw the line and define how much intrusion is too much. As explored above, scriptures guide us on assessing our virtual spaces and redefining them in a way that fosters truth and responsibility. While there might be too much pressure to stay hooked, we must fight to overcome and live self-controlled lives to God’s glory.

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Kenyans, You Can’t Eat GDP

Posted on 3 min read

Kenya is the poster child for economic growth in Eastern Africa. A democratic nation compared to Uganda where Museveni has ruled since the days of John the Baptist. A relatively peaceful nation compared to Somalia and South Sudan. A highly skilled workforce, better than Tanzania. An economy that is bigger than Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined.

We boast of having a relatively stable country when part of our neighbors is falling apart. Kenyans tweet about mega projects that are taking place. We consider ourselves a tech savvy nation where many international companies are setting camp.

Despite all that, something does not seem right. People are struggling to make ends meet. Young people are becoming poorer than their parents were. Inequality is on the rise and corruption has made it hard for everyone to survive, except the thieves. A look at some of the statistics below show that we are in a bad situation.

Gloomy Outlook

More Gloom

What is the point of boasting about being a middle-income country when the future of the young people is not guaranteed? Where is the hope for the youth, who form 75% of the population? Why are doctors jobless, but hospitals lack doctors? Why are engineers jobless when we are importing some from China? University degrees popular yet jobs are not. Why is betting becoming a national economic activity? Why are people working hard, paying taxes, then missing the government services? Drought and famine is a consistent theme.

Unfortunately, a political solution is not near, for at the moment, Kenyans are about to vote for the same people who have been a problem for the last many years. We will continue to boast about growth in GDP as more loans come and the books are cooked, but no one eats GDP.

Wake up, Kenyans.

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Some People Die at Age 25 and Aren’t Buried until they are 75

I suspect that I have already grown up, so the question of what I want to be when I grow up is null and void. But this is one of the questions that reveals ambition and big dreams in kids. They are full of enthusiasm and zero cares in the world. Even for teens, life is just a bliss. And then they grow up.

In a short time, there are bills to pay, health to maintain, responsibilities to meet, social ladder to climb, status to build or preserve, or battles to fight or avoid. So many things rob one the ambitions and the great outlook that one had when they were young. Life becomes about trying to get bad situations not become worse.

The environment never helps because you are forced to act your age.

Lost Joy

There are rules and expectations for life. You have to act in a certain way in order to maintain your seat at the table of sane people.

Executives in suits and ties wish they could openly lick an ice-cream without losing their status. Others want to enjoy a bouncy castle but their status cannot allow them.  Boring routine becomes the norm, and life is lived in between paychecks. Soon, you are planning for retirement, and starting a business that will most likely fail. You are watching what you eat because the doctor says that you might not live long. You no longer take risks because you might end up losing your kids school fees.

So many little sources of joy are no longer available for those who grow up. Life takes a gloomy approach. That is the cost of growing up.

Benjamin Franklin said it, that some people die at age 25 and aren’t buried until 75. How true!

People lose all the good aspects of life. They are too tired to jump in excitement. They are too rigid to laugh at a simple joke. They are trying to act their age, yet there is no code of conduct prescribed by the constitution for each age.

Before they realize it, they are gone.

What a waste of life!

Learn from Kids

Maybe we should learn from kids. They are the epitome of happiness. Children find joy in little things – real joys. On the contrary, adults are always on a state of trying to survive.

Adults base their happiness on how well they are doing relative to other people around them, and thus feel bad when others do better than them. It is better to be paid 25 units when all other colleagues are being paid 20 units each, than to be paid 30 units when all your colleagues are being paid 35 units.

Kids rarely care what other people think of them. Adults are very much driven by what people think about them. They spend all their money trying to impress people who do not give a damn about who they are. They are always trying to impress internet strangers.

Kids are not afraid to cry when the world hurts. Adults must carefully conceal their feelings because the board cannot tolerate crybabies. Then they go ahead and commit suicide.

Kids do not hold grudges forever. Adults are trying to settle old scores from World War Zero.

Kids are not usually paralyzed by indecisiveness. They move forward with the available option. They are optimistic about life. They seek new experiences.

Yet, kids are happy, and achieve a lot. If you think learning to walk is a simple task, the best engineers the world has to offer have spent so many years trying to get robots to walk. AI can not match the natural intelligence of babies. Try learning a new language and you will realize that kids actually achieve a huge milestone.

Do not die young and spend all your life as a living dead.

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My Short Career as an Academic Writer

Posted on 4 min read

In 2010, I hit a jackpot that was too good to be true.

The previous year, someone had introduced me to something called academic writing, but I had ignored it. This time I saw how someone was making good money through academic writing and I decided to try it.

Background

Every Kenyan who was in college in the last ten years would know what I am talking about when I mention academic writing. For those still in the dark, it is a remote gig where one is paid to write assignments, projects or even thesis for students in UK and US Universities. It was said that these students had the money, but no time or competence to do their assignments. In Kenya, students had the time, and needed the money.

This interesting scenario brought in some middlemen who ran writing bureaus, mostly from Eastern Europe. They had online platforms where students would submit their assignments, and another interface where writers could bid to do the work. Such platforms included Uvocorp, Essay Writers, Academia Research and many more.

The industry still thrives to date. In fact, it has become more complex despite attempts to crack down on the vice. It is so common in Kenya that Kenya is considered a global powerhouse in the industry. Kenyans calls it academic writing. Elsewhere, it has the infamous name of contract cheating industry.

The Lure

Being a student in Kenya, there are very limited opportunities to make money. With a high unemployment rate, not even graduates are assured of jobs.

Finding a way to make money is always welcome. The good thing with academic writing was that it was appealing to a group of people who had the right skills, the time, and the need.

One other appeal of academic writing was the fact that it gave one an opportunity to explore interesting topics. You would write about engineering, law, history, medicine, philosophy or any topic that you found fit. This in itself was interesting.

The Start

I got connected to somebody who was in the industry and had accounts with one of these platforms. They would give some assignments, and I would be paid KShs 180 bob per page. That was the start, and I was just doing enough pages for extra income. In October 2010, I did 23 pages and the following month I did 24 pages. That was an income of 4,140 and 4,320 shillings respectively, just enough to feed a student.

Come January 2011, I had more time and more resources. By April 2011, I was doing 300 pages a month at KShs 200 per page. That was enough money to last me a few semesters.

Writing and studying needed some balance. When school was in session, it was hard to keep up with writing, only doing enough to keep me going. Many people had already discovered academic writing and there were enough support groups to assist when you were in a fix.

Ethics

No one really saw academic writing as something unethical. No one would call it aiding academic cheating. It was just work. Registered companies were offering the services and various players were making it possible, including PayPal, Skrill, and others.

I never gave it much thought, until one day I had a unique assignment. I did 12 pages of work on a certain topic in nursing that I had little knowledge about (I was studying Engineering). Neither the topic nor what I wrote made any sense to me, and I was very sure that the client would reject the work. To my surprise, the client was extremely satisfied and even wanted me to do their final term paper.

That is when I started to question the whole thing. Here was a nursing student who seemed to be an F student, and was banking on me to help them get good grades. What would happen when they graduated? How were they going to work in hospitals? Would I allow such a person to treat me?

I lost interest in academic writing, but I never quit fully.

Selling Accounts

I still went on with the writing, but by the end of the year I had shifted focus to something else. Instead of working with a middle man, one could open their own account with the websites offering academic writing services and build their own portfolio. The pay was also better, starting at $5 per page for beginners. I started creating accounts with those websites.

Creating accounts was the hard part. The tests were quite hard and it would take about 4 attempts to successfully get one registered. It involved a lot of hard work and preparation, but the results were worth.

I managed to open a few accounts which I sold to interested people. I remember that the last one I sold in September 2012, for KShs 25000. That was still good money. But I had had enough. I stopped dealing in anything to do with academic writing.

Today

More than ten years later, academic writing is still thriving in Kenya. Instead of working with middlemen from Eastern Europe, Kenyans have now set up their own businesses where they deal with the foreign students directly. It is a booming business.

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Social Media: The Fellowship of the Vile

Posted on 3 min read

While peace of mind is desired by most people, it can be elusive if you are constantly using social media. This is also the case if you follow the mainstream media, where negative news dominates the timelines.

I stopped actively following the news for this reason, because I do not find any benefit when my evening starts or ends with the information that a young man butchered his brother in a remote part of Kenya, followed by the information that a child died because a certain clinic in another remote part of Kenya lacked syringes. I know such things happen everyday but having to know about them every evening is not good for my peace of mind.

But I still use social media, and its effects seem to be worse.

Demons of Social Media

Social media has exposed some very dark sides of people. As soon as you log in, decency logs out, and you are exposed to some of the worst of human beings.

You are fat. You are short. You have a big forehead. I wish you were aborted. Stop using your head only as a cover for the neck…

Those are mean words to use in life, but not on social media. These are some of the posts that get likes and shares. People have pledged allegiance to violence and hate. They attack one another. They say mean things. They post profanity and insults. They insult innocent strangers and demean people they have no idea what they are going through.

They shame the poor, and the next moment, they promote mental health forums. It’s a paradox but who cares? That is social media.

Social Media exposes the lowest of the low.

Bloodthirsty

It is not just the demons of social media that traumatize me. It is the many applauders who seem to enjoy the violence.

There are people who are there only there to fan violence, then sit back to enjoy the wildfire. Those spewing venom end up with likes and followers. Because they cannot see and relate to the human beings behind the username, they find it easy to insult and attack.   

They join the hate wagons even when they do not know what is happening. If an influencer insults you on social media, their bloodthirsty followers will follow through and bring it to your inbox.

Intelligent and Arrogant

We also have intelligent people who seem to have everything but empathy. Armed with wits, superior knowledge and cosmic pride, they demean and shame. When they see foolishness, they go ahead to highlight it in order to clear every doubt that the person is a fool. They show little grace or empathy. They thrive by demeaning.

Making Social Media a Positive Experience

There are the good sides of social media, but it does not come automatically. One must use it objectively, but I am yet to figure out what counts as objective.

I can block, I can choose who to follow, I can log in only when necessary, and I can mute some topics, but it is hard when some of the work you do depend on social media. The worst part is when you start acting like the people you dislike on social media.

I can relate this with what happens in real life. You can choose a good neighborhood where you are isolated from muggers, thieves, noisy people or just the people you do not like, but you cannot completely cut off the world. It is impossible.

Some part calls for one to flee, another one calls for one to have a thick skin.

It is not easy.

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