The news mill is so fast that those who are not well strapped in are more likely to miss the next big thing or quickly forget what made a headline the other day. From Syria you are quickly thrust into something as confusing as the government shutdown in US that many interpreted to mean that the US government was broke and should therefore be called a failed state.
In East Africa Kenya continued to dominate the news pages thanks to the Westgate Shopping Mall terror attack. During the flood of news about the incident many paid little attention to the fact that one of their own, Wilson Kipsang had broken the world record for the marathon. After all bad news always trounces good news in the media world.
On Westgate, attention quickly moved from the horror to the numerous unanswered questions regarding the missing, the total number of the dead or whether the terrorists escaped or were killed.
The moment the site was declared safe and some shop owners were let it in, the narrative quickly changed to the massive looting that has become a monkey on the back for the Kenya Defence Forces. No one seems to think that such systematic looting could have been carried out by any other party.
During the noise about how soldiers deployed to rescue and kill terrorists could end up emptying cash registers, safes and jewellery shops the army leadership decided to ‘call upon the public to surrender any evidence of the looting at Westgate.
It is hard not to laugh at this since for most of the time the siege was going on, KDF had total control of the mall but now expects people who were at home on Twitter to produce photos of how the looting happened.
However, of you listen carefully to the Westgate story there is something more shocking than the deaths or the looting. Most of the people witnesses who talked to the media kept saying something dangerous but few were listening.
When asked what they thought when they heard the first gunshots, many replied, “at first we thought it was just a normal robbery.” For crying out loud, what is a ‘normal robbery?’ At what point exactly does armed robbery become a normal occurrence in a country that has security forces paid by the tax payer?
In other words, it is now normal for someone to be robbed or shot at in Nairobi that when you hear of it then you need not panic because after all it is just a normal robbery. What is not being said is that this kind of resignation is the real problem in out societies.
By the way this is not just a problem in Kenya. All over East Africa there are so many ‘normals’ we are quick to accept instead of dealing with for the better.
If you have driven out the city of any of the capitals you will hear about black spots. Areas where accidents are common and yet no one has bothered to ask why we do not have speed bumps to slow down the cars or the widening of the area if it is a sharp corner.
Police organisations love releasing reports that show areas that are crime infested but they rarely tell us how they plan on dealing with the crime in these areas. A lady who complained on Twitter that as she was driving thugs tried to open the door of her car was told by a friend, “That is Uganda for you.”
In Kigali the disease appears most common in the hospitality industry. One goes to a restaurant and gets poor customer service. On narrating the ordeal he/she is reminded that “that is how things are in here (in Rwanda).” It is important to note though that on several occasions the president himself has urged Rwandans to resist this poor service.
One of the biggest ‘normals’ on our midst is of course the runaway corruption. We have been conditioned to think that nothing can be done (or even should be) without some kind of favour exchanging hands.
In some places there is even a known name for this. Kitu kidogo, chai, soda, lunch etc. Others simply ask you what they stand to gain by doing their job which by this time is simply help. We should not accept bad situations simply because of the frequency of their occurrence. There is simply nothing normal about bad manners.