THE INVISIBLE HAND

BBI consensus and the elite's long spoons

In Heaven those with arm-long spoons cooperate, feed each other prosper, not here in hell.

In Summary

• All we hear is BBI this, BBI that, BBI will save us and take us to Caanan. BBI ad nauseam.

• We're not allowed to examine the issues, think for ourselves, and perhaps doubt and disagree because we are insulted. Can't we reason together? 

Deputy President William Ruto speaks after meeting seven governors, 146 MPs and other leaders efforts to build consensus on the Building Bridges Initiative, at his residence in Karen, Nairobi, on December 2, 2020.
RUTO SPEAKS: Deputy President William Ruto speaks after meeting seven governors, 146 MPs and other leaders efforts to build consensus on the Building Bridges Initiative, at his residence in Karen, Nairobi, on December 2, 2020.
Image: DPPS

Once upon a time, there was an itinerant preacher called Rabbi Haim of Romshishok.

During one of his teachings, he narrated to his audience his visit to the firmaments where he saw two doors, one written Hell and the other Heaven. His curiosity led him to first open the one written Hell.

What confounded him was the unexpected sight on multiple tables of the most mouth-watering and scrumptious food that appeared fit for a king, and which filled the air with an exquisite aroma.

 

On each table were several diners who held spoons in their hands. However, what bewildered him was the emaciated and sickly condition of the diners.

Upon closer inspection, he realised that though they were able to scoop the food from the huge pot on the table, they could not feed themselves because the spoons were longer than their arms.

He also noticed that all the diners' elbow was tied with a slat of wood that made it impossible for them to fold their arms to bring the spoon up to their mouths. In spite of the close proximity of abundance, the diners were starving and moaning with hunger.

Unable to stand the sight any longer, he ran out of Hell and quickly opened the door written Heaven.

To his surprise, the same scene confronted him. But what baffled him is that unlike the diners in Hell, the ones in Heaven were well nourished, contented and sated from the abundance before them.

Leaning closer, he realised the difference was that unlike in Hell where the diners were struggling to feed themselves, the diners in Heaven sat across each other, dipped the long spoon in the pot, and instead of trying to feed themselves, they fed the person sitting across from them.

Kenyans are tired, or are they tayad? Every waking moment, every news headline, every social media jibe sounds like a broken record. It is all about BBI: the BBI amendments,; the BBI signatures, the BBI referendum, the BBI consensus. It never ends. It tires the spirit.

And what’s worse is the swiftness with which we are so ready to brand, condemn and insult one as pro-Raila Odinga and anti-William Ruto, or vice versa, depending on which argument you make regarding this BBI. We are not allowed to think independently anymore.

We no longer have the liberty to objectively examine issues, without a barrage of assaults being hurled our way. We have denied ourselves the sovereignty of reasoning together. Resultantly, those with alternative views who lack the thick skin to withstand the unwarranted epithets, opt to keep quiet.

Indeed, they have become the silent discontented majority.

Undoubtedly, Kenya is endowed with diversity in natural resources, in economic production and productivity, in innovation and re-engineering, in thought and in process and in the gift of the gab.

However, similar to Rabbi Haim’s hell, all this abundance and mélange is right in front of us and within our reach and control. But our children sleep hungry; our patients lack medicines in our health facilities; our pregnant mothers deliver on the streets; our medical workers attend to us without proper protective clothing and our educated youth clean drainages and collect garbage.

All because, like in Rabbi Haim’s hell, we are trying to feed with long spoons that are longer than our arms; and where a slat of wood has been tied to our elbows. Hence, we are unable to fold our arms to bring the spoonful of food to our mouths.

In spite of all the wealth and abundance that is at our disposal, we are dying of hunger, of preventable diseases and road accidents, and of ethnic and political conflicts.

If this sounds like a fable to you, all you need to do is visit the Kemsa warehouse where reports allege that PPEs are rotting as investigations continue, while our medical workers are dying from Covid-19 exposure.

Or visit the expansive lands owned by individuals, if they will let you, while many are subdividing small parcels of land to the point they have become unproductive. Or read the stories of public funds allegedly being carted away in gunny bags by individuals, while many cannot afford an evening meal.

But don’t be fooled. Not everyone is suffering in this hell. The politicos and elites are in Rabbi Haim’s heaven. Yes, although just like us they have spoons longer than their arms, with slats on their elbows so they too cannot fold their arms to feed, they have discovered that they will waste away amidst plenty that is within their grasp.

And that for one to eat, they have to feed the other. And so they feed and protect each other’s interests. Feeding each other is an art the politicos have perfected to a tee. Subsequently, they thrive while we shrivel.

Their wealth flourishes, while our poverty increases. And the rest of us continue to watch in incredulity as the politicos and elites satiate each other to their heart’s content, while we continue to wallow in want, tribalism and political affiliations.

And as they have routinely done, rather than allow us to peacefully and voluntarily feed one another as they do, they keep introducing so-called panaceas to us.

First it was Independence, then they apportioned the resources to themselves; then it was multi-party democracy, then they allocated ownership of parties to themselves; then it was the 2010 Constitution, then they refused to optimally implement it; and now they tell us it is the BBI, but they will not allow us to reason over it.

I submit that it is very impolitic of us to continue allowing our gluttony, tunnel vision and shortsightedness to enslave and emaciate us in Rabbi Haim’s hell, surrounded by abundance yet unable to partake of it.

In economic-speak, what the politicos and elites have discovered by feeding each other is called social cooperation or the invisible hand. Allow me to illustrate.

Imagine you are one of the best lawyers in the land. Your hourly fee is $500. You are also one of the fastest typists in the region. The theory of social cooperation dictates that it is in your interest to hire a typist even though he may be slower than you.

This is because, for every hour you spend typing rather than practicing law, it will cost you $500 minus what you will pay a typist. Ultimately, when you hire the typist, you both benefit from cooperating.

Social cooperation elucidates how societies develop by motivating people concerned with their own interests, to behave in ways that best serve the interests of others. This means that while pursuing your needs, you use your means to cooperate with those that have what you need.

Whether your goal is wealth accumulation, peace, protecting the environment or helping the needy, your success is assured if you enlist the cooperation of others.

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to us all: the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk. Likewise, human beings tragically come to understand things fully only when it is too late. Do not let this be our fate. Let us reason together to see how we can feed each other so that we can partake of our land’s abundance.

First, they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win – Mahatma Gandhi