When the identity of the young lady whose unfortunate lot it had been to consort with businessman Jacob Juma almost immediately prior to his recent high profile assassination was revealed, Kenyan tabloids went on overdrive. And many Kenyans wore away their fingers typing invectives and vitriol aimed at pretty much anyone who read them. In fact, the responses were so vile it would be unbecoming of yours truly to even summarise them.
But one thing stood out; nobody was willing to address, and so all expended significant energy in dodging, the iceberg of which the unfortunate lady’s case forms the tiny tip. Lots of young Kenyans are peddling their bodies for financial favours. And lots more think it is OK to do so. Which is astounding. And scary, considering the largest cohort of the Kenyan population consists of these same young people.
Call it by any other name, but we have short-changed the youth.
This is what happens when parents, instead of inculcating responsibility in their children, either chain them up like dogs or let them out like marauding hyenas. In the first scenario, they grow to resent authority. In the latter, they grow up without a sense of it. Then university comes along and the race to be the glitziest in campus dogs their every move. Freedom is admired and then thrown to the pigs, instead of being used.
This is what happens when a society lies to its youth that they are in charge of their lives when in truth what they need is guidance. When you slap condoms and contraceptives at their faces in response to all their questions, you make them think they have unlimited dominion over their bodies and lives. In truth, this is no more than an illusion.
In a classic case of garbage-in-garbage-out, the seed sown in these youth is now showing in the decadence that has accompanied their entry into mainstream society. And now everyone is ashamed of it. But instead of acknowledging that they were wrong, they resort to insulting one another to the four winds, and forget the very topic that spurred the conversation in the first place.
What we have here is an entire generation consumed by wanton lust and the pursuit of material prosperity. Any attempt to rein in this trend is shouted down as backward and contrary to individual freedom. This is what happens when a society puts material prosperity, instead of virtue, on the pedestal of success. We have sacrificed the future of our sisters and brothers (and our very existence) on the altar of unfettered freedom and loose choice.
The trend may be, and has been, attributed to many factors. Laziness. Superficiality. Impatience. Generational differences. Name it. But the truth is that these are just manifestations of a much deeper-seated problem. Dealing with them will be like plugging the vents of an active volcano. Unless you quench the hot magma boiling beneath, the volcano will erupt.
The problem is that we have divorced responsibility from freedom. That we have brought down time-proven pillars of public morality and replaced them with the god of choice. We have disdained the wisdom of old for the shiny trinket of material prosperity. Means have been turned into ends. And so our children cheat in school to pass exams, and our youth sleep in every bed whose owner can maintain their flashy lifestyles. As my father would put it, they enter adulthood with their brains closed and flies open.
The youth are not the problem. They are victims. They have no ideals to aspire to, and fall for anything that bears even the least semblance to ideals. Our dear Cheryl Kitonga isn’t evil. She’s a pawn in a game, the masters of which are those of the previous generation who have abdicated their natural duty of taking care of them. And like in all games whose masters have a finite lifespan, these same rotten pawns will go on to become masters and perpetuate the very corruption of which they are victims. The ultimate result is that the society consumes itself from within and in the end ceases to exist. This is already happening in the West. A civilisation that was once glorious totters now on the brink of crumbling.
What we need therefore is to go back to the basics. What does real happiness consists in? Is it in owning ten flagship phones or in solid friendships? Is it in subverting the natural purpose of the human body or in respecting it and standing in awe at its potential? Is it throwing the youth into the maze of life, or guiding them by the hand to the destination? Is freedom the ability to do anything one feels like or the willingness to do that for which one has been made?
Unless we sit down and answer these questions, more Cheryl Kitongas will pop up on mainstream media, and even more will become masterfully adept at hiding their wayward ways so that we never get to know of them. Our fingers will fall off typing vitriol. Our necks will stiffen with our heads in the sand. And the chain of destructive events will continue unabated, until we find ourselves the custodians of a lost society.
Feature image: Source unknown.
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