Power and violence: Do we have a Mandela or a Gandhi anywhere?


A section of a planted forest at Kenyatta family-owned Northlands City that gangs set on fire. NMG PHOTO | BONFACE BOGITA

Humanity appears to be embracing violence with vigour in 2023, with Kenya keen to be at the party.

But as the opposition organises protests and the ex-President’s farm burns, what does it say about all our societies that we have lived to the 21st Century, into a digital and information revolution, face annihilation from whichever destroys us first between climate change and artificial intelligence, and yet our top form of dialogue is now emerging as violence?

Should we begin to conclude that humanity is a failed project? Or is it just the nation-state that is failing?

For sure, the problem isn’t only Kenya’s. Russia is killing civilians on a near-daily basis and running talk shows saying Ukrainian children who don’t embrace Russian hegemony should be drowned.

Israelis are protesting in thousands. The French are burning up their roads, cars and town halls, as young men in their 20s and 30s fight to stop their state pensions beginning 24 months later when they hit age 62: which will be in around 2050 when the scientists say Earth will no longer support human life.

All around, the craziness, this year, is hard to make any sense of at all.

Is it possible that this is how it is when a species is heading towards extinction? Well, it seems so.

Calhoun’s experiments with mice, repeated over and over in the 1960s to search for different results, found that free breeding and overpopulation, with larger numbers sharing the same resources, led to collapsing reproduction and family pairings, each sex withdrawing from engagement with the other, and increasing death, violence and atrocities by the most powerful.

Of course, that was only mice. Do we have more going for us in our ability to plan, strategise, innovate, and identify consequences?

Well, burning farms may suggest we don’t. Yet, the pressure on many Kenyan families, and families globally, is now extreme in all these soaring prices and post-Covid losses.

My own rage remains pointed at Russia, which decided imperialistic conquest was grounds to kill a quarter of a million people and smash up the grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy supplies for everyone else.

But whoever we see as a cause, these are now trying times.

Yet, where is our leadership? Are our leaders in Kenya going to play like the experiment mice, and use violence to gain and tussle for power, or do we anywhere in this whole big mess have a Mandela, or a Gandhi, a leader who can understand that our personal security is what we created nation states to deliver, and who can steer us through this most troubled of times with reason and dialogue, and without violence?

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