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The ME Syndrome: Macro Level | Blog


Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]

I love Kenya. There is nowhere else on this beautiful planet that I would rather live than our Magical Kenya. I love the people; I love the weather; I love some of our imperfections for it leaves room for opportunity. It is because of this love that I am concerned for Kenya.

While I highly doubt that wenyeKenya (owners of Kenya) would let this country go to shambles, I believe we are currently living in an increasingly toxic society all caused by the Me Syndrome. What is the Me Syndrome you may ask? Simply put it is the level of selfishness we all have in regards to our outlook on life. To borrow my friend Mwenesi’s words: “Doing business in Kenya is like being in a Hunger Games movie.” With almost every person you deal with either wanting Kitu Kidogo (bribe) or seeking to rip you off and this unfortunately applies to almost every sector of our lives. We are literally at the fringes of insanity with the some of the things that conmen pull off (Read a previous post on Mpesa Scam here)! And it is not just conmen now, it is our leaders, our officials, our doctors and even the ordinary mwananchi like you and I that are seeking to find ways to get that extra thousand bob by any means necessary. And it is getting worse, seemingly, at an exponential level. The more we see others being successful, the more we are willing to do anything in order to live the “good life”. But is this really how we will get there?

[caption id="attachment_3495" align="alignright" width="175"]the me syndrome - ummah.co.ke Kenyan MP’s salary compared with the world[/caption]

What pains me most is not the fact that someone might ask for Kitu Kidogo but it is the pride and belief that they have really advanced themselves by getting that extra cash in their pocket for that day. Our system is currently designed to drive the belief that one should get all the extra cash they can by any means possible. Sadly, the 8-4-4 system does not teach about externalities. To quickly explain the concept of externalities: it is when an individual’s actions are such that the private cost is lower than the social or actual cost. The problem in Kenya though is that everyone wants to take a shortcut and it is or will come back to bite us very soon!

The system has to bear the costs and as more and more people seek to avoid them it only comes back on all of us in the form of taxes, security expenses, inflation and many other costs. How so? Well if we all seek to avoid paying taxes in one form or another, the government has to seek other ways of replenishing their reserves. Thus increases in tax in areas where it is more difficult to avoid them: energy, foodstuffs, communication to name a few. This also affects the ability of redistributing wealth and thus the poor and jobless facing extreme conditions are resorting to extreme means in order to make ends meet. If you did not know, it is actually quite expensive and difficult to do business in Kenya. We rank 129th out of a list of 189 countries by the World Bank in ease of doing business, dropping 7 spots in just one year. To achieve the heights that this country deserves we need to get rid of the Me Syndrome.

I began with the quote of the Prophet (PBUH) because it touches on an important point: Humans are communal beings. We cannot live effectively without supporting each other and the most efficient system is one where we all gain. Do not get me wrong though, I am not advocating for socialism. I love the free market and I hate taxes but one should not gain at the expense of others.

So how shall Kenya change? There are very few people in history that have managed to change whole societies within a short period of time. And as Allah says in the Surat Ar-Ra’d in the 11th verse:

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”

So change begins with you and I. It will be great if we can start the conversation about what we can do, especially using progressive and consistent methods to improve on a daily basis especially in the area of accountability. Post your comments below, share your thoughts on facebook and twitter, and you can even submit content in the form of an article or video blog, this our time to speak. WenyeKenya might have it today but the future is ours. We start now.

We can start by listening to this TED Talk by Fred Swaniker:


photo credit: Dean Ayres via photopin cc


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