Look around any close-knit society and you’ll start seeing symptoms of what I like to call The Small Town Phenomenon. The most famous symptoms that you will see around Mombasa are:
1) Your business is everybody’s business but your own. This especially happens when you are a girl. So here’s a common story; a girl gets a wedding proposal in her first year of college and the husband doesn’t want her to work after graduation so the mother and aunt sit and talk on whether she should accept the proposal and quit school or reject the proposal and go on with school. Here’s a thought; anybody thought of asking the girl what she wants??? Or is she too young and immature at 18 to make important life choices? Okay, assuming she is too young at 18 to make life choices, isn’t she too young to get married and raise kids?
2) Everybody’s a master in the unsolicited advice. You’re having a tough time figuring out your life after graduation. The normal advice is to experiment and figure out what you want to do (emphasis here on the word “you”), but everybody in your small town hauls a huge bag of opinions on what you should be doing with your life and the word “you” doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The best part is when the advice comes from people you don’t necessarily consider as role models; u know, the uncle chua-ing gaat on the pavement watching who’s going and coming….so what should people do with advice coming from those? Do the opposite??
3) The town turns into a huge echo chamber. Why? Because the stories being shared at any single time are similar to each other. To top it off, the reactions to those stories is also the same.
“Someone is rich? Probably into something illegal….”
4) The lone wolf is not popular. Ever heard of the lone wolf? The one who’s got opinions different from what society approves; the one who recognizes it’s a free country and everybody’s got their personal preferences; the one who understands you can’t own or control other human beings and what they think and feel about the social norms. The lone wolf gets ostracized for their non-popular opinions, they’re told to “badilisha tabia” just because their existence causes friction with the mainstream opinion.
As a conclusion, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many advantages of small towns; the fact that you can get someone to help you when you’re in trouble at a moment’s notice; the fact that you’ll always find people to laugh with you during times of joy…
What’s missing is respecting diversity in opinions and personalities, and respecting boundaries…so I hope we can get there. We can start by accepting the answer, “Because I wanted to,” when we ask someone, “Why did you do that?” We can also challenge the popular reactions to story….”Maybe he’s rich because he worked hard…it doesn’t have to be something illegal…” Most importantly, we can start by just saying, “It’s none of our business,” if a story comes our way.