I went to a local high school made up of students nearly all from one ethnic community. My memory may fail me but, if I have to count accurately the number of students who came from a different tribe from ours during that four-year period, then they were four. As such, chances of experiencing the beauty of ethnic diversity were very slim. How boring was my little world without God’s art of diversity?
Moving to college, I got into a world that represented the whole of face of Kenya. There is something extremely peculiar in gathering together from all parts of the country – we bring together a diversity of interests, learnings, motivations, social and educational backgrounds. Though, I must admit my initial days were tempest-tossed, I got smacked hard on the face by a culture shock. I began to teach myself how to coexist with people who spoke a different language from mine, people who appreciated certain foods I considered cringe-worthy and, similarly, people who frowned upon foods I considered my lifeblood, like omena.
Now in my final year and, after mixing with folks across the divide, I can say on authority that ethnic diversity is a real, great and important part of human experience. It is the commercial growth, which guarantees a more pleasantly passionate, ethical and spiritual life. It is an advantage that is crucial for nationalism. What I’ve learnt from a variety of people is not something I could learn from the management and economic books I read within the precincts of class. I have been taught how to greet people and say basic alien words. I have also been taught other cultures and how it promotes their identity and direction. You don’t appreciate your culture until you move to a more robust and diverse place like college. I’ve appreciated cultural diversity and grown beyond negative ethnicity, which is rampant in Kenya.
Yet, there is something utterly wrong going on in the society of the youth. Our social media conversations fan a false attitude of cultural superiority over others. Some ethnic groups claim to be superior and either demean, segregate, and oppress others. Their overt assertions and reiterations of tribal superiority, distinctiveness, and difference betrays fundamental insecurities about just how long our spirit of cohesion and integration could be maintained.
On a facebook page called Group Kenya, there is a competition over which tribe has the most beautiful girls, more learned, more wealthy or more civilised people. Any misfortune that hits our headlines will automatically be discussed unappeasably along tribal lines, mostly to make the other tribe look woebegone. For example, when the identity of the woman who recently stole a two-week old child at Kenyatta National Hospital was finally revealed, people were quick to associate that offence with some tribes.
If tribal identity made some people more fortunate than others, then all people from one tribe would be beautiful, blessed, learned and lucky while those from a neighbouring tribe would be entirely the opposite, which is not only untrue but also wrong. The simple idea is that all of us are equal in our diversity.
Issues of tribalism should now not be tolerated among ascendant generations. As upstanding citizens, we are expected to serve as an exemplar of our country’s founding ideals and spirit of tolerance when confronted by licentious and frivolous allures of ethnic polarization and bad politics. We need to uphold our hereditary loyalty of the institutions and founding values of our country.
On our social media platforms, we need to behave in a self-controlled, respectable, temperate and thoughtful manner. We need to envision ourselves not as averters of rampant utilitarianism but, rather, as liberally educated and self-confident inheritors of national and international power.
Finally, let every human being reading this remember that to him/her is entrusted some small share of the fair fame of his/her country. Its not every man who can contribute to a victory in a rugby or football match, but every man can bear his part in winning for his country a greater triumph, the triumph of temperance.
Temperance is numbered high among the cardinal virtues of life. The person who yields to the excitement of brawling in public, and the allurement of vicious society shows that they have not only a diseased moral nature, but a defective understanding.