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Tenets

It Matters how we Collectively Bring up our Children

Posted on 3 min read

As a young parent, I am entitled to give my opinion on parenting based on the fact that I know very little. I am wallowing in the comfort of blissful ignorance, or what the people who study human minds and behavior call unconscious incompetence. I have not parented long enough to know that the little I know is too little, so I will go ahead and write my mind before I become conscious of my incompetence.

Parenting is a hard task and the stakes are high. Unfortunately, I cannot just visit Coursera and get a diploma in parenting. I have been forced to navigate this task as a untrained parent, and it will be several years before I get a meaningful feedback on my performance. Worse, the end product has a life and a will of its own, so my great efforts might have very little correlation with the output. Nevertheless, I soldier on, knowing that I have been given one shot at it, and I want to always look back and say that I did my best.

It takes a village

Today, 55% of the world population lives in an urban setting, and it is expected to rise to 68% by 2030. This urbanization might make my agemates forget that it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting is not an easy task for one person, and two people can barely go through it without doubting if they made the right decision to have those kids in the first place. However, there is more to parenting than just parents. The society that a child grows up in matters a lot.

Environment Matters

Every person is influenced by the society where they grow, and the society is nothing more than a collection of people. If you grow up in Vietnam, you are likely to find a great delicacy in rats, while if you are Kenyan, you will gracefully starve to death while rats roam around freely. This is a factor of the environment, and it applies to so many areas of life, not just cuisine. That is why Kikuyus remain Kikuyus, the Dutch people remain Dutch people even after several generations, The Japanese remain Japanese and Somalis will always be Somalis.

The biggest environmental factors have a lot to do with culture and conditioning. Bring up a child in a place where they swear and use curse words in every sentence and they will pick up the language. If it is in an environment where every kid rides a bike, they will follow suit. If it is in Iten in Kenya, perhaps they might win a marathon in future.

Is your child growing up in the right environment? Before you ask that, step back and ask what is the right environment.

Remember that even if you teach your children all the right things, you have the society that will teach them the wrong things. This is why you cannot parent in isolation and have to take a stand against the ills and the evils in the society. Politics will influence your children. So will corruption and the constitution

The Environment also Changes…

A society is not static. People who rejected gay practices 50 years ago gladly adopt them today. Poor families become rich, and some stable countries become wrecked. Give your children a true compass in life so that when change come, they will know when to change, and when to stand firm.

Case of Millennials and Gen Z

Parenting methods also change.

That is possibly why we have some character traits that cut across a whole age group. If we have millennials who are very entitled, it means that there is a group of parents who brought up their children teaching them to be entitled. (Which reminds me, this millennial thing is just a regional construct. Where I come from there is neither millennial nor boomer, OK?). If generation Z does not grow up with a terrifying sense of entitlement, it is because the millennial parents are taking action to correct what was wrong with how they were brought up.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this is that I do not know much about parenting. Proverbs advise that even a fool who remains silent might be deemed wise. Let me not write about parenting.

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One Person Can Change alter the Course of History

Posted on 2 min read

In the late 90s, South Africa was facing a HIV/AIDS crisis with almost a quarter of all black South Africans living with the virus. The hope for these people was in affordable ARVs which were never close to being affordable as they cost about $1000 per month. Most people could not afford these drugs and relied on the government to subsidize and make them affordable.

The government of South Africa risked bankrupting its health budget, and thus passed a law allowing the minister of health to override patent laws in a health emergency. This would help them to get cheap, generic AIDS drugs to deal with the crisis.

But shortly after, 39 pharmaceutical companies filed a lawsuit against the government of South Africa. They argued that South Arica was trying to violate their patents. The case would have serious implications for the developing world as far as access to affordable healthcare was concerned. To most people, these were greedy global corporations trying to protect their profits as making to harder for the people who needed the drugs most to acquire them.

In 2001, the 39 companies unanimously dropped the lawsuit. The case was closed.

How did this happen?

The answer lies majorly in one man. Dr Tadataka Yamada had just been appointed the chairman of research and development at Glaxo SmithKline, one of the leading pharmaceuticals. When he learnt about the case, he was horrified, and decided to do something about it.

He talked to his staff and realized that many opposed the lawsuit. He talked to the board members and persuaded them to back down. He said Glaxo SmithKline should not make life saving drugs, then prevent people accessing them. 

His action set forth a chain of events that led to the lawsuit being dropped, as well as several other changes that saw Glaxo SmithKline being actively involved in campaigning for global health challenges solutions and dedicating more resources towards diseases ravaging the developing and least developed countries.

One person altered the course of history.

What do you need to change at your workplace?

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Kenyans and Locusts Have Something in Common

Posted on 2 min read

Locusts are just grasshoppers. When left on their own, they live a quiet and peaceful life munching on grass. They are barely visible, save for when you walk on grass where they are and they hop around. They threaten no one and do no harm.

But once they come into contact with a crowd of fellow locusts, a form of ‘herd’ mentality kicks in. They alter both their appearance and character. They develop powerful wings and an insatiable hunger, and group together into swarms that can destroy any vegetation that is on their way. They can fly for a distance of 100 km in a day, creating total destruction on their path.

The trigger for this transformation is usually a drought followed by rapid vegetation growth. This is the secret signal that initiates the mutation and exponential reproduction. When this happens, even human beings get scared.

But this behavior is not all that unique. When I think of the Kenyan voters (and non-Kenyans should not dare point fingers), I realize that we are in the same class with the grasshoppers.

Kenyans are full of wisdom. They know exactly what is wrong with the government. They know who is stealing from them. They know who causes unemployment and all the bad things that exist in the country.

All this wisdom lasts until the year of the general elections, where every community decides who they are going to vote for. All of a sudden, the wisdom fizzles out and a herd mentality kicks in. They throw away wisdom and vote for their fellow tribesman who has exploited them for years. Tribes move together like swarms of locusts that devour every good idea that ever existed.

After the election, they go back to their superior wisdom and can tell exactly what is wrong with the government.

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Give Us This Year Our Annual Bread

Posted on 3 min read

Why all this fuss about a New Year or Decade?

As Thomas Mann once said, “Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”

Time is a Measure of Change

Time is not a social construct, even though nature seems not to react to changes in years or decades. Even nature is subject to time.

Time is a measure of change, and thus a new year is measure of change that represents more than 1% of all your life (unless if you live to be more than 100). Some people imagine time to be a long thread on a reel which spins slowly but consistently, or a winch where we are all attached by an imaginary rope and it is always winding up without our consent. Perhaps, spinning faster for women than for men.

In real sense, even the winch is subject to time. We are all changing, and we need to ensure that we change for the better. Even though we may be wasting away in our bodies, we must ensure that our active faculties are changing for the better. This requires effort.

Whether we make resolutions or not, a new year will come and go. We had better make good use of the year, as we definitely do not have an infinite number of years here on earth.

The Future

If only we knew what the next season in life holds! This is why we wish for time travel now more than ever!

Prophets, seers, oracles, or even their corporate version, the futurists, will try to tell you of what will happen in future. Nevertheless, no matter whom we consult, we cannot get an accurate prediction of the future, and that is why we make resolutions to guide us in the unknown. We have plans, manifestos and roadmaps to ensure that we are moving in a certain direction.

New Year Goals

The world is diverse by design, and our diversity needs to work for our good. We should be united by our purpose in life and how we make sense of the world around us. As we make plans and goals, the most important thing is to ensure that we uphold values that show concern for every person. One will be hoping to make it to grade one, another one to college, another person to graduate, another one to get a job, another one to get a promotion. All these are equally important, and none is superior to another.

As some people make plans on how to make it to the list of top something under something, others will be thinking of some more basic things.

It is said that a healthy man has 1000 dreams, while a sick man has only one. As you make great resolutions, there is someone who only wants to stay alive in the new year. As you plan for great business expansion, there are businesses whose only hope is to stay afloat next year. As you look forward to a promotion at work, there is that one person whose goal is strength to survive a toxic work place until they find the next job. Our dreams are diverse.

With all this diversity, I hope that we shall be considerate of one another. We shall respect both the poor and the rich. We shall work hard to move forward not just as individuals, but as a community and society. Whether we live or die, let it count positively. Whether we have success or failure, let the general outcome be a better society. Let us practice contentment and gratitude, for as long as we have food on our table, clothing on our body, and a shelter on our head, we have more than most people on earth.

Give us this year our annual bread, and forgive us our trespasses.

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The Invention of Insurance

Posted on 2 min read

Many moons ago, there never used to be health insurance. Not that people never fell sick; it’s just that they had other ways of dealing with health problems. They were never guaranteed of getting money for the medical bills, but they still lived happily then.

The System

The secret to their existence lay in a closely-knit society. When one fell sick, the community would come together and contribute money for the medical bill. Fundraising would be made and the bills would be paid by all means.

The more popular you were in the society, the more the people would show up with their pockets when you needed them. This approach forced everyone to be an active member of the community. Evil people lacked this social capital which they could exploit when in need. So did the thieves, witches, outcasts and all the people who were not in good books with their neighbours. Everybody strived to stick to the straight and narrow path because no one knew when disaster would strike.

In general, the society thrived fairly well. There were a few cases where the bills were too high, or the call came during a famine when people had very limited resources.  Those were some unfortunate moments, but they were just an exception, not the norm.

Cheese Moved

But then, things began to change. Urbanization quickly began to take root. People began to live in places where they did not know their neighbours. Social ties were broken and a new system that favoured individualism began to gain acceptance. The old system could not work.

Solution

That is when Mr Mwangi, elsewhere known as Mr Smith, began to analyse the challenges presented by the new development and came up with a solution. Instead of people coming together to contribute money when one person fell ill, he could collect a little amount of money from each person every month, then go ahead and pay any medical bill that showed up. Brilliant idea!

New Social Order

People loved this new approach. No longer would they need to pretend to be good to their neighbour. No longer would one need to attend useless social events to maintain good social credit. Most importantly, they would not have to fear the risk of falling sick during the dry season. That is how insurance was born. Most people of means were happy with the new system. The rest had no option but once the bigwigs jumped ship. The old system died.

Monetizing

But Mr Mwangi/Smith also needed to make money. He realized that he does not have to pay all the claims presented. He came up with terms and conditions to govern the health insurance industry.

Up to date, we are still trying to understand those terms and conditions.

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Corruption is Eating Away our Future

Posted on 3 min read

I have come to a conclusion that every Kenyan is corrupt, unless proven otherwise. My experience in business has taught me this. Take a look at this.

Examples

Whenever a government entity requests for service, someone will call you requesting to ‘talk.’ This is only if they actually need the service, for the many times an office asks you to quote for a certain service, they already have a service provider in mind. All they want is to use to lend credibility to the procurement process. The ‘talk’ is simply instructions on how much you should quote, and how much you will be expected to give back.

Not just in the government. Even from the private sector, the conversation goes like this: “My name is AB and I am the head of IT in company CD. We are looking for somebody to offer us service EF, but I would want us to ‘talk’ first to see if we can work together.”

What is happening here is that employees are working hard to defraud their employers, be it in the private sector or in civil service. Is there a cost to be paid for this?

Hotbed of Corruption

Kenya thrives on corruption. 33% of the budget is wasted through corrupt dealings, even though we are only able fund slightly over 50% of the whole budget. A big portion of the budget is borrowed, then misappropriated. This means that we have devised an art of stealing not only from what we have, but also from what we and our future generations will have. That is how the government runs, even most people who are motivated to serve in public offices are motivated by the same factor.

The main motivation why someone self-funds 75 million campaigning for a political post which will pay him 60 million in five years is the money expected to flow back through corruption and position influence. The main reason why being a headteacher is lucrative is the opportunity to manage the money, and of course gain from the managing. The reason why county and national governments want to run healthcare docket, yet everybody knows for sure that healthcare is a loss making sector, is simply to run the big budget, and from there make some money out of that.

Effects of the Corruption

Starting a business is hard, unless you are willing to give enough kickbacks. Tenders are awarded to the person who will give the largest kickback, and this happens in 99% of all offices. The effect of this is that genuine businesses fail, while tenderpreneurs thrive. This killing of genuine entrepreneurs means that the people who have the capacity to build enterprises and create jobs end up failing, and so job opportunities are not created. The end result is unemployment, now and in future.

Many SMEs have died thorough supplying goods and services to the government. They offer their services, but several years down the line no one is willing to pay for those service. Yet, doing business with the government holds an allure to many new and old businesses alike. The margins are attractive, but payments never come. Of course, payments do come if you are willing to give some kickbacks. Once SMEs are not paid, they end up not paying their staff, who end up not paying their children’s school fees, which leads to schools crumbling. The possible outcomes are many and gross.

There is hope

They say that the early bird catches the worm. In Kenya, it is the known bird which is given the worm. If you are not known, woe unto you. You will strive to make it, and you will have to work harder than any business that is dealing with the government because your margins are small while your operating expenses are the same.

But this resilience is needed while things are still murky, for there will come a day when things will change. As we long for those days, remember that we are the ones expected to create those days.

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