Shallow materialism underpins graft eating away our moral fabric

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Wikipedia defines bling bling as “a slang term popularized in hip hop culture, referring to flashy, ostentatious, or elaborate jewellery and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn, or installed, such as cell phones or tooth caps.”

Kenyans are used to bling bling. We see the watches, the handbags and the earrings on the one hand. And then the starving Kenyan trying to afford some unga on the other.

We see poverty on one side of the street, yet grandiose houses in a high-class neighbourhood on the other. We see SUVs and expensive European cars racing all along our broken African roads with potholes aplenty. In fact, to paraphrase the Leonardo di Caprio film, Blood Diamond, in Kenya, bling bling meets bang bang. Inequality is all around us, and the bling bling is blinding.

It is not just blinding for those ‘have nots’, it is also blinding for the haves. It blinds their moral paths, it blinds their ethical compasses. Bling bling says, “follow the money” no matter what it takes. The shallow materialism behind this world view underpins the corruption, which is eating away at the moral fabric of our society.

However, today there are those at the top who are looking to clamp down on this bling bling culture. Indeed some who used to flash the cash, and were perhaps happy to show their hands in public (and their dirty fingers!), are now being caught and locked up. For these Kenyans, the looting Kenyans, the corrupt Kenyans, it appears that overnight, their time may just be up.

This is because Uhuru and his inner circle have decided to step up. The new Director of Public Prosecution, Noordin Haji is leading the charge. He is Uhuru’s very own General Titus and he is now leading the charge!

And it really is a cavalry charge as officials at all levels are either on the run or petrified of the infantry following on. And no one is being spared because of rank or reputation, with sitting and former governors being arrested and facing serious charges of corruption.

Recently, the battle has also been taken to the illegal building practices on riparian land. When multi-million dollar malls are being ripped down in broad daylight, you know this is no longer mere lip service.

Both the president and vice president are making sure that the battle against graft stays right at the top of the agenda; mentioning it in every speech, and calling for lifestyle audits on all public officials, including themselves. Raila and Kalonzo too, the old nemeses of the ruling Jubilee party have thrown all their weight behind the initiative.

Raila Odinga recently noted, “Thanks to the bipartisan support, public lands whose recovery started then stalled under the NARC regime in 2003, has kicked off, with the grabbers denied the ethnic and political party sanctuaries they usually hide in. The political atmosphere has enabled us to look at our problems minus the usual ethnic lenses. Attempts by suspects to appeal to their ethnic bases have therefore generated near zero support.”

Who would have imagined old Raila Odinga could put aside his animosity towards Jubilee and get behind a joint campaign? But he has.

Anyone who has been seen as a burden has been ‘reshuffled out’.

Uhuru’s tough leadership style is truly Caesarean; just with a smaller motorcade! He is making sure to travel around the country and check on projects while getting involved in the details of each and every part of his Big Four agenda. The devil after all is very often in the details. He also understands that without the money brought in from repatriating stolen Kenyan funds, he simply won’t be able to fund his big four plans.

Rumour has it that he has become even more of a workaholic than his previous terms. His battle against corruption is by all accounts a pure obsession. By empowering the EACC, the DPP and the long-disenfranchised courts, he is ensuring that Kenya has the capability to take real action.

So while ambition and capital creation are of course positive things, stealing it is not! We must beware of the bling bling culture, which drives greed and inequality. There must still be a place for humility and modesty in our modern day Kenya.

So next time you see the flashy car, or the shiny earrings on a government official, make sure to ask the tough questions. Corruption has been seeping into the gaps in our society for too long, enriching some, while impoverishing many many more. It is time to say “bye bye” to all this unlawful and immoral “bling bling”.

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