MORE HUMANE

Covid-19 crisis opens our eyes

We’re no longer occupied with nonsense, meaning Kenyan politics.

In Summary
  • One concern we have been forced to think about because of coronavirus is the inequality in our society.
  • Because of the coronavirus more Kenyans are now talking, reading, and thinking about our poor, our unemployed and our underemployed with a bit more urgency.
A Kenya Red Cross official trains Kabarnet prisoners on hand washing to prevent coronavirus on Wednesday.
SIMPLE, CHEAP, EFFECTIVE: A Kenya Red Cross official trains Kabarnet prisoners on hand washing to prevent coronavirus on Wednesday.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

The thing about a crisis, especially a long-running one like the coronavirus pandemic, is it’s difficult to talk or write about anything else but the crisis.

Almost every conversation we’re having today or article we’re reading or news report we’re listening to is about the pandemic. This is understandable, Covid-19 is unlike anything we have seen. As important as it is to stay informed on government mandates and the latest pandemic news, the constant updates and worrying developments can feel overwhelming. As such, one might find themselves needing to tune out for a bit, switch to another channel that has nothing to do with coronavirus.

Of course this is not a realistic expectation to have, for as much as one might not want to talk about, read, or watch coronavirus, this pandemic, this crisis, will come up in conversations, in articles and on the news.

 

But here’s the other thing about crisis; you can look at it from a different perspective. Seen sort of from the side and at an angle, a crisis can be the lens through which other, previously overlooked concerns can be seen. Crisis and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage; they force us to think, said Jawaharlal Nehru.

One concern we have been forced to think about because of coronavirus is the inequality in our society. This crisis has laid bare the wealth disparity in Kenya for as a small section of society rushes to markets, supermarkets and malls to stock up on food and supplies in case of a pandemic-curbing-lockdown, a majority of Kenyans can only look on and worry – barely able to afford a day’s meal, let alone food for a month and dried foods for three months.

A total lockdown is among measures the government of Kenya has considered but the reality to grapple with is, what will Kenyans who depend on a daily wage to survive, to feed their families, do? What will these Kenyans, who are in the majority, eat? A complete lockdown to stymie the spread of Covid-19 is not a bad idea, but how many can afford it, how many can survive it?

Because of the coronavirus more Kenyans are now talking, reading, and thinking about our poor, our unemployed and our underemployed with a bit more urgency. And if you’re not, you ought to be.

This global crisis is also having the effect of filling our minds with things that are actually of use. We’re no longer occupied with nonsense, meaning Kenyan politics. We’re instead getting to know about public health and healthcare words like ‘flattening the curve’, respirators, ventilators, and PPE (personal protective equipment). 

We’re even looking to the future, after coronavirus, with plans and longing and enthusiasm, with organisations like Kenya Tourism Board already out with an advert promoting travel after the Covid-19 dark cloud passes.

The ad is not as strategically well thought out or as good as the South African Tourism advert with a similar message, but that doesn’t change my point—that our minds in Kenya are currently occupied with useful thoughts. One can hope that moving forward, this constructive thinking will set permanently.

 

Close scrutiny will show you that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are.—Maxwell Maltz.