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January 16, 2019

Youthful idealism is music to my ears in the struggle against corruption

There is an old saying, some might say platitude, which maintains that the older a person gets the less idealistic they become.

Bruce Springsteen, the American musician, singer and songwriter, once said, “The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence.” If you are over 40 years old, you can almost certainly relate to this.

Think back to your late teens and how you believed your generation would change the world. Recall some (or even just one) of the great teachers you had at school who inspired you to want to go out and do good in the world. You were practically high on idealism and were all set to be a crusader for justice, equality and all those wonderful ideas.

It was easy to be young and idealistic. Most of your major life choices and decisions were still on the horizon. They would be taken by the adult you and even though you were unaware of it at the time, these choices and decisions would change you - and not necessarily for the better.

I got to thinking about the hopes and dreams of youth recently while reading about President Uhuru Kenyatta telling young people at a convention that “the youth have the power to change the leadership structure and fight for their rightful place”.

It was the same day the President said, “For this country to succeed we must fight corruption; for this country to succeed we must fight impunity and forces that prevent us from achieving our dreams. It doesn’t matter if you know the President or a minister. That should not be what makes us human beings. We should be ready to judge ourselves by our character.”

The cynical journalist in me was ready to say these were just pretty words aimed at pacifying an increasingly restless public. But the hopeful, idealistic youth of my subconscious wanted to believe that the President had remembered back to 1980, a year after he left our shared alma mater, when the St Mary’s School Operatic Society staged the musical Haki. Though the future President had left the school headed for university, his younger brother was in the cast.

Written and produced by a number of idealistic (and perhaps slightly privileged) youths, Haki dared to question the values and attitudes of society. It asked tough questions such as, does influence bring true happiness? Who is our brother (or sister for that matter)? Is material development, human development?

A close friend who was involved in the show sent me the lyrics to the theme song, which asked: “Haki, Haki, Where Oh God is Haki?/Is it then the answer to life?/Will it put an end to the strife?/Will it free us all to love?/Will the leadership come from above?”

If the President was thinking along these lines, it is fantastic news. If it is just a flash in the pan, then here’s what Mavis Staple sung in Graffiti Bridge, the 1990 rock musical drama by Prince: “I've seen a many bridges in my time and crossed every one of 'em/ With no trouble at all/ I had trials and tribulations, heartaches and pains (well that's alright)/ Survived 'em all baby.”



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