Even though I was born in Mombasa, I’ve always been grateful that I didn’t spend my transformative years there. Returning after all this time, I have an outsider’s point of view on society and one obvious observation is how strong societal influences are.
You’re raised from a young age to be wary of what others think about you, and so you tend to limit your life to what’s acceptable by society. It’s like that dystopian story from Black Mirror’s Nosedive where a character gets an immediate review after each interaction and goes through life being fake just to get 5-star reviews.
At some point, it gets pretty exhausting.
The sad part about living in such an environment is there’s a natural fear of the unknown. People are too afraid to try out new ideas because they’re not in society’s book of guidelines and that leads to the stunting of personal growth. Also, anybody who dares forge a different path for themselves can be ostracized, which scares others from trying something new…
So we don’t advance and we don’t make progress.
Once a friend of my mine was found reading my writings then she was warned about that girl putting ideas in her head.
Of course, I found that very flattering.
But I found it really sad, too.
I look at conformists from my society and all I see are them building walls around themselves and their children, thinking they’re keeping danger outside, when in reality they’re just imprisoning themselves. It reaches to a point where you’re seen to distrust another human being just because they have a different religious or tribal background.
You often hear words like, “Those Wafrica…” or “Those Wahindi…” or “Those Wasomalis…”
Arabs seem to forget that those wafrica welcomed us with open arms three generations ago when our ancestors fled famine and unrest in Yemen. If Kenya had a travel ban in place at that time, none of us might have existed. #JustSaying
Does this post have a point?
I guess it does.
The other day I was listening to an interview of author Ashley C. Ford where she said, “It’s one thing to do something because this is what I want to do and am okay with that. It’s another thing to be like, ‘there’s nothing more for me.’”
And all I could think of was the father I met who lamented about how he wishes he could raise his kids out of Mombasa — at least in Nairobi, he said — because the mentality there is different. There are more ideas about where they could take their lives.
In other words, they could envision more for themselves.
Back in 2015, before my father packed his life into boxes and returned to Malindi after years away, I asked him if life had turned out the way he had imagined in his 20s. He said no. “Because at that time, we couldn’t even imagine this sort of life.”
I recently heard a mother talk about the sort of wedding she wanted her 1-year-old child to have, and all I could react with was, how about we envision more for him? This came after hearing another person – this time a father – say how many wives he wanted his 3-year-old son to have in the future…
If you’ve read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, he discusses this topic beautifully…
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
“Why teach a black child white things? Neighbors and relatives used to pester my mom. ‘Why do all this? Why show him the world when he’s never going to leave the ghetto?’
‘Because,’ she would say, ‘even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will know that the ghetto is not the world. If that is all I accomplish, I’ve done enough.'”
So the takeaway for this is to dream more, envision more for yourself.
Because some people don’t even dare do that.
P.S. This post was in no way meant to be condescending or patronizing or me talking ‘down’ to people in Mombasa. I see the potential around town, and I talk to people on the ground and I can see how it can be transformed if we just fixed this fear of what people will say thing.
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