Before I read a book, particularly non-fiction books, I do a quick search of the author just to know their politics and be conscious of their biases and leanings which I believe makes me more conscious and engaged throughout the reading of the book. That being said I’d like to do the same for you sans the open tab to do a quick search. I’m a little excitable, so seeing ‘how to join the Illuminati in Kenya for free’ ranked as one of the top Google searches freaked me out quite a bit; I’m a socialist. In the words of Terry Eagleton, a socialist is just someone who is unable to get over his or her astonishment that most people who have lived and died have spent lives of wretched, fruitless, unremitting toil. And I love to disappear in theories and musings, so if it feels at any point like I’m going off on a tangent, forgive me for I can’t kick that habit.
What does it say about us as a society and about our current systems that the top Google searches in Kenya in 2018 prominently featured these in descending order:
No. 2: How to make money online
No. 3: How to write an application letter
No. 4-7: Cooking tips and KPLC tokens
No. 8: How to join the Illuminati in Kenya for free
No. 10: How to be successful in life
No. 11: Betting platforms (SportPesa, Betika, Betin, ForeBet)
Did you feel your heartbreak as you went through that list? Did it read like gut-wrenching prose to you? It did for me. This is how the story goes.
Once upon a time, a young, bright-eyed, ready for the future you finishes school and excitedly begins applying for jobs. You get nothing in return, no acknowledgement letters, no rejection emails and certainly no interview callbacks. You imagine the problem to be in your writing style, so you go to dear old I’m-recording-everything-you-do-online-forever-and-ever-Google to learn about how to write these application forms. You write and send them out. Months go by and still dololo.
You’re just on the brink of giving up when someone tells you jobs are no longer the answer anyway, what with technology and automation, there are alternative ways of making money online. So you try that, finally, your luck is turning around, you can just feel it. Except it really isn’t. The only available kinds of work use you like a borrowed donkey and pay you just the same. You take your victories where you can and at least learn how to make halfway decent pancakes just so your parents don’t think you’re a totally parasitic waste of space under their roof and because they don’t know how to buy tokens, you become the MVP in all matters KPLC and lighting. But that’s not enough, you know it’s just a matter of time before they hack that KPLC thing so…
Next stop, Illuminati. You have to join the damn Illuminati! You’ve heard equally exciting and chilling things about this secret society but at this point, you can tell your parents are just about to kick you out and unfortunately you’ve already developed a dependency on food for survival. You’re going to need you some money for food, a roof over your head and if there’s anything left, covering for your nakedness. Turns out information on joining the elusive Illuminati is not so clear and readily available. You hear stories about having to sacrifice close family members and being a slave for eternity and while that makes your stomach churn, there’s a tiny part of you going like, your grandmother’s dying soon anyway. That’s what rock bottom looks like. You decide maybe it’s not time yet to take her out so…
Next stop betting. You used to think this was just for suckers. You have been in a math class so you know the statistics on the probability of winning and are familiar with the phrase, the house always wins. You used to be better than that. Try eating ugali and boiled sukuma every day for weeks and see how many things you think you’re better than. You’ve heard there are companies that for a small fee provide odds that you can use to place your bets and good lord, your luck has got to change soon, so how about trying this. You’ve gotten into this positive thinking thing so, it’s possible and I’m lucky and Blessings are coming my way are your new mantras. Yeah, it turns out all you’ve done is joined the SportPesa CEO’s GoFund me page for his new sports car.
This is your life.
2018 saw the increase in betting, corruption, money lending apps and a most frightening rise in searches about how to join the Illuminati. These are not separate facts, they are severely intertwined. We have an economic system and by extension a political system that places a high premium not on service delivery and the improvement of people’s lives but on maximized at all costs individual profit. On cold hard cash.
2018 is the year, Kenya recorded the highest number of growing dollar millionaires in all of Africa. According to a 2016 Business Daily report, Kenya has more dollar millionaires than Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania combined. In 2016, Kenya created 900 dollar millionaires according to a new report that points to the fact that hard economic times that prevailed in the year did not slow down wealth accumulation. Kenya witnessed a dramatic increase in the population of the super-rich even as millions of her citizens wallow in abject poverty – pointing to a widening rift of inequality in the country. Reportedly, we’re just lagging behind Nigeria (most corrupt in the world) and South Africa (most unequal country in the world) in terms of overall numbers of dollar millionaires. Kenya created 180 new dollar millionaires in 2017, growing the number of persons with a net worth of over Sh500 million to 1,290. According to a new report, the tough economic times that prevailed due to biting drought and an extended electioneering period did not slow down individual wealth growth among a select few. Bet the Illuminati’s looking real good right now.
I’d bet my last coin that those new dollar millionaires, are politically exposed, corrupt individuals and betting/money lending companies. This is a problem. When the media channels have betting companies logos’ as the background in every single one of their broadcasts day in and day out, that’s a problem. When there are five betting and money lending apps adverts in a forty-five minute TV episode segment, that’s a problem. When publicly, brazenly corrupt individuals run for and win public representative positions, that’s a problem. In fact, if nearly every elected official in your government is a millionaire, yeah that’s a problem. That is a massive problem. To quote Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “The essence of economic inequality is borne out in a simple fact: there are 400 billionaires in the United States and 45 million people living in poverty. These are not parallel facts; they are intersecting facts. There are 400 American billionaires because there are 45 million people living in poverty. Profit comes at the expense of the living wage. Corporate executives, university presidents, and capitalists in general are living the good life–because so many others are living a life of hardship.”
And what’s the problem? It’s a value system problem. It’s valuing profits, money, cold hard cash over people’s lives. Until we change our minds about what’s important in life and what true success is, those will remain the top searches this coming year and that’ll be a damn shame. I believe that success is service to mankind. If you’re serving people and working day and night to make people’s lives better, you are a success. If you’ll indulge me, here’s a list of what I think would be fabulous top five searches for 2019:
- Critiques of capitalism.
- What is socialism? Key socialist books to read.
- Social change. How to become a community organizer.
- Key world revolutions
- Anarchist philosophy and the critiques of power
- The life and philosophy of Thomas Sankara
Here’s to 2019, may you be the best you, the you you can be proud of come 2020.
P.S. Please don’t join the Illuminati. Join the resistance. Join the revolution.