Lately, as part of the election silly season or something, there has been a lot of talk on if there is such a society creature as the ‘urban middle class.’ My friend, the award-winning activist Wanjeri Nderu –Musembi engaged me on the topic a couple of months ago.
The Goethe Institute, in conjunction with Bayreuth University (and a Bayreuth buddy Ulf Vierke) even had a session at the National Museum in early April on the topic – ‘The Middle Class as Fiction?’
However it was my pal, the TV personality Wallace Kantai, who best nailed Nairobian middle class wannabes. Here is a mix of some of his, and my own sentiments, about our wannabe middle class.
We are the ones who complain about the slowness of the Internet connectivity (that we’ve paid for), moan about ‘crazy traffic’ in this city but cannot bear the thought of climbing a PSV or even walking even a kilometer because, why, when we have our Japanese second-handers to ‘walk with us’?
Of course even if we walk nowhere and stuff ourselves with junk, we will JOIN the gym ... one day ... and lose the gut and stave off the bloody heart attack. Never mind that we were so pumped up, pardon the pun, about getting fit that at the start of the New Year, even with school fees to deal with, we squeezed out a year’s deal of gym membership. Now, 130 days after we last went to the gym (on January Third), we are yet to return.
Of course we the middle class wannabes are VERY politically aware.
We will complain about the government giving some odd looking laptops to young school kids yet the children have no classrooms and do their study under the trees. We will whine that the Opposition has no plans on how to deal with famine and buy into the ‘four men looking for four jobs’ thing.
We will moan about the ‘Zimbabwe’ like rise of basic food products – unga, skuma, sugar and milk – but still continue buying them, because, what to do? At least we are not like that wannabe in the village who can no longer afford to eat anything, but come August 8, will still vote on tribal basis.
Whatever happened to the old Kenyan ‘vote with your stomach’, and if your tummy is empty, turn up to turn the turncoats out?
Speaking of which, kale got its Kenyan name of ‘sukuma wiki’ because it was meant to ‘push the week.’
Ask Aenea Bolingo, was reared in the middle class estate of Buruburu (as we got bred in Nairobi West).
You had ugali, mala and skuma wiki weekdays – and meat, like a guest, showed up during the weekend.
It is time to leave our wannabe ways, and get back to basics. For example, now that a packet of milk has reached the same price as a newspaper, time is to give up on chai ya maziwa and drink ‘sitirungi’ (black tea) as you read The Standard – because when the choice is down to news or nutrition – news wins!
The problem with the politics of the middle class is that most of it is conducted over the social media.
Take the unfortunate case of one Peter Kenneth, for example. The man from Ziwani and Muranga had a great record both running a company (Kenya Re) and a constituency, being voted best MP with CDF in Kenya every year that he represented Gatanga.
Contrast this with our current urban governor with bitter suspicions over Mumias Sugar and MIA, almost, since inauguration because the street kids, the filth on the city streets, etc.
Now PK, as he was known, had a nomination showdown with the flamboyant ‘senator wa mtaa’ Mike Sonko on a Tuesday or Thursday, and what happened? While PK received overwhelming support on ‘Twirra,’ the wannabe twits were twittering from their offices as the boyz n the hoods stood in the hot sun – and voted Sonko for nomination.
Now we are complaining about our Nairobi gubernatorial choices – it is either EK or Sonko ( Miguna Miguna for me is just a verbose sound byte on TV) – but where were we on nomination day? On FB.
But, no worries! Because Election Day is always a public holiday, we’ll be there to vote. As long as things are made convenient for us, we always show up, amigos.