Middle class – Great expectations!


The people servants

In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.
George Orwell

It’s been a tough week for the middle class in Kenya. What with the bashing about how they let Waititu become governor candidate for Nairobi. Then the young middle class folks have been bashed for “voting” on social media instead of going to the party nominations to vote. The blame game reasoning was that the middle class didn’t care enough to go vote. We just went to work or school or hang out on social media kama kawaida while the poor went to vote. Seems armchair political analysts are not the only ones with contempt for the middle class.

Hermann Hesse said about the middle class “What I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.”

Apparently if we had all gone out to vote Waititu would not have gotten the position of governor candidate for TNA. Yap people have blamed the middle class for the situation, me included. I think that’s a load of crap. Yes I said it. Even though I at one point did my own “you are to blame” kind of post.

The question to be asked is “why the middle class should be held responsible for choosing good leaders when the country itself cannot enforce the quest for good leadership? The new constitution gave explicit instructions on who could run for leadership positions and talked about integrity and other such things. Parliamentarians redrafted things to favor themselves. The courts which were to protect the people from the politicians couldn’t stand firm and refuse leaders with integrity issues not to run for president.

So the middle class are somehow supposed to come in at the last minute like a superhero and save the day? Maybe we have been watching too many superhero movies. Maybe we need to start watching gangster movies now. After all there’s a new passé in town and the sheriff is sleeping, trying to kill off a hangover. Or maybe he got paid to look the other way, who knows. By the way never mind that some of us don’t support TNA. I was supposed to take time off work to go for nominations for a party I don’t support. Am I mad? As if I don’t have enough things to do with my leave days which aren’t that easy to get. Somebody sarcastically commented that people use their leave days to go on holiday but they cant take a leave day to go vote. Let me ask you, when that politician takes a vacation with the money I am paying as taxes and goes off to some exotic location, does he think about me?

Let us go to the party in question sponsoring the candidate. TNA on whose ticket Waititu is running has ICC suspects for presidential candidate and Vice president. They are going to The Hague to answer to those charges but they aren’t bothered by it. They can run the country from The Hague apparently is the latest thing said by Uhuru. So is it really a stretch of imagination to realize that with leaders of that irk at the top there were bound to be a mountain waiting to erupt at the bottom. The lava was boiling many just decided to not see the signs.

“Man is by nature a political animal,” said Aristotle. So we are all political beings. The middle class do not have a special right to political reasoning or voting. They cannot force their choices on the poor especially when they are not in the majority. Aristotle also says that, “the most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.” But the middle class in Kenya aren’t the majority. The poor have realized that they have numbers and now they are leveraging those numbers.

Being in the middle class or among the rich does not entitle one to more then one vote which I bet frustrates some people. The poor have finally woken up. They are not interested in promises. They have been fooled by those before. They want those they see can and have taken action on their behalf. I think that is the reason also why the Kikuyu are behind Kenyatta so much because of what happened in the last elections. But that’s a story for another day. The people are looking for a savior who has already delivered. Fortunately or unfortunately for Nairobi that man is Waititu.

According to The African perspective Leadership: Why Can’t Kenya’s Middle Class Deliver? The Africa Development Bank loosely defines the middle class as those who spend $2 – $20 a day. Kenya reportedly has 44.9% of its population in this cluster. The country’s middle class is further divided into three groups: the floating class, the lower middle class, and the upper middle class. The floating class spends $2 – $4 a day; the lower middle class spends $4 – $10 a day and the upper middle class $10 – $20 a day. The last two constitute 16.8% of the middle class proper. Faced with inflation at 19.72%, the status of “middle class” in Kenya is precarious and the “floating class” is likely to drop to those who spend less than $2 a day. 

“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser,” Albert Einstein said and its true. The poor whether right or wrong have decided to vote for people who they perceive will look out for their interests. To be honest they are tired of waiting to get their dues. So they are voting for the person they think at least shows them that he cares.

fat cats 2

Maybe the poor are just taking back their city from the fat cats who make promises that they don’t keep. The fat cats who keep developing office blocks or residential houses that cost millions of shillings and live like kings, while the poor are squashed in tiny houses with no water, stolen electricity, no sewerage and they are barely making enough to have a balanced meal once a day. The fat cats who drive Mercedes and BMW’s while the poor walk many kilometers to get to work. Nairobi in particular is a place of inequalities.”

fat cats

Our inequality materializes our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class,” said Matthew Arnold. Maybe this is the reason why Waititu is so thuggish in his approach. He is trying to get back by force what was stolen and stop the inequality become even worse. Who knows what goes in the mind of another after all! There are men brought up in the slums who are gentlemen and there are men brought up with a silver spoon who are brutes.

People should stop hating on the middle class. They are trying to get rich or die trying but at the same time trying not to slip back into poverty. By the way the line between the poor and middle class becomes more blurry every day. The middle class are caught between a rock and a hard place. For those hating trying to blame the middle class this quote by Thomas Sowell is for you
“Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help.”

Maybe Damian Lewis was right when he said

“You know, this idea of going around the world imposing democracy by growing a middle-class, a trading merchant class that is independent of your faith, is a good notion, but we’re all partially different – it’s no good imposing systems on people that it doesn’t suit.”

Maybe we weren’t as the middle class meant to be the saving grace of the country. Maybe the middle class know this and that’s why they can’t be bothered to take a day off to go vote. Maybe it’s too heavy a burden to have put on them. After all they are just trying like the poor to survive and aspiring to be the next millionaires. That’s the reason they keep wasting money on those sms promotions that promise to turn them into instant millionaires.

Maybe we should change the definition of the middle class as Lionel Trilling said
“A theory of the middle class: that it is not to be determined by its financial situation but rather by its relation to government. That is, one could shade down from an actual ruling or governing class to a class hopelessly out of relation to government, thinking of government as beyond its control, of itself as wholly controlled by government. Somewhere in between and in gradations is the group that has the sense that government exists for it, and shapes its consciousness accordingly.”

The thing is “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Louis Brandeis

That means accepting the will of the majority who aren’t the middle class. What do you think?

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  1. First, I have always said that your vote, does not equal your voice, as it is popularly posited. Just because I have a voter’s card and can vote does not mean that I have expressed my deepest concerns or views.
    Secondly, I, like many other Nairobians, are tired of these many promises and strategies. Perhaps Waititu is not the right person [my personal opinion is that he isn’t] but we I can’t stand the strategists and smarties that come around throwing around lofty ideas about their intentions. These promises or intentions are like what Machiavelli described as “the beautiful stars with their shinning lights, but too distant to light the earthly paths”
    Can’t we have someone who just wants to GET THINGS DONE?!!! Like Peter Kenneth??

    I always want to throw up whenever I hear that middle class hullabaloo. Middle class this, or middle class the other, Oh please! As far as I know, there are only 2 groups of people; Losers and Winners. Whatever conditions lead you to either category, there you are! King Solomon said; “Wherever a tree falls, there it is”.
    In my assessment, the true leader is one who is first keen on the reality and working with whatever is at hand. It is not wrong to habor ambitions or any hopes of greatness, but everything must be worked within the current realities. Its like the football pitch, everything must be done within the borders of the rectangular pitch.
    Finally, as disconcerting as it may sound, it is a fact that moral, spiritual, and material greatness is only possible to those who are above the competitive battle for survival. Ask the World Bank or the UN (both external bodies!!) for a report on the number of people still fighting for the basics!
    So, nobody should tell me about that middle class nonsense!

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