The more things change, the more they remain the same?


As I am writing this reflection; my thoughts are preoccupied with my splitting headache and sore head. I can’t stop recollecting how this week has tested the limits of my patience. Last Monday, I participated in the launch of a tree nursery, at a remote area in the outskirts of Nairobi. The program ambitious. It intends to grow more than 10 million bamboo, fruit trees and indigenous seedlings most of which will be for sale to the government which is striving to hit 30 million trees to restore 10% of the nation’s lost forest cover by 2030. Further ,details of this ambitious project can be found at Ecological Justice.

The hot sun, coupled by the trip to and from for the launch of the program had me walking dead on my feet. The day made me feel as though I was  going through a sand storm inside a furnace. This was only Day One of the work, yet my body had shut down even before I got home.

Tuesday was World Water Day. This day had been planned for some time and in the spirit of solidarity and comradeship, I joined my comrades in Ruaraka to commemorate this big day together. I found myself deployed to assist in running the day’s program as Comrade Sister, Damaris Auma, our host, was untangling equally important duties which were integral to ensure everyone was catered for in the event. To coordinate such a daunting program and to make attendees comfortable are very important skills you need to have as a proper community organizer.
Delegation of duties is also another skill you need for one to shine in performing revolutionary work . After the mid-day event, I rushed to another meeting that was starting past midday. I choose to remember my fellow comrades from Kayole; Gerald Kamau, Gladys Wambui, Boniface Kanini and Solomon Kiama who we’ve been moving together since yesterday. Painstakingly, balancing on a shoestring budget, these comrades will show up when you need their  solidarity. Some of the other comrades were from Kasarani, namely Clinton Ojiambo, Nahashon Macharia Kamau (Black Lion), Edwin Api Masale and many others. A network of committed cadres to the struggle. Tough urban guerillas. We arrived late for the meeting of the Kenya Organic Intellectuals Network (KOIN). A philistine attitude, which I do not regret as the situation was beyond us. Material conditions for community organizers who are building the movement from the base is deplorable. Most of the time, which is always, we are compelled to walk for long hours stand for long, talk for long, as we engage in struggles to improve our communities and the larger society,carrying forward class struggles in actual practice. The meeting of the Kenya Organic Network was (KOIN) was sublime. The long awaited copies of our latest book “Breaking the silence on NGOs in Africa” had arrived. That was the highlight of my day. I was so spent by the end of the day on Tuesday that I can’t remember how I found my way home and retired for the day.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to cancel all engagements and stay home to recover. But it’s always difficult to stay at home idling and penniless. So I found myself busy working on a variety of tasks at the compound; rearranging structures, digging trenches, lifting bricks, farming and mending fences. Two days later, here I am tonight, still feeling my body aching from head to toe. I can’t stop thinking how torturous the sun has been. For the past few years,  the heat has been consistently rising and this week feels like the worst. I have to do this again tomorrow. The rest of the week is actually booked till late next month; my in-tray is overflowing with work. The quote; “The more things change, the more they remain the same” comes to mind and I find myself in deep thoughts. Why do things change? Why do things remain the same? If I was weak in my ideological resolve I would have backed out and lost my brains a long time ago. But thanks to constant self cultivation and revolutionary study, I’m aware of my social realities and I’m thus constantly at grips in the understanding of my current conditions as a youth living under the bureaucratic-comprador Kenyan state. For instance, I can interpret the world that I experience, I can value the labour that I commit to the struggle and to this country. Sadly, the system in place does not see what I do as ideal for its nourishment and so we are automatically demonetized. We are looked down upon by the bourgeois class, majority of who constitute the baby boomer generation, outright conservatives. Even some philanthropy and greedy organizations have plastered a name for our kind of  labour —volunteering. they hide behind this insidious vocables, to churn out measures where they can continue exploiting peoples’ energy, sweat and blood without any dignifying compensation. No wonder there is zero economic progression for committed cadres, this is how reactionary forces thwart justice and kill the spirit of the oppressed from getting freedom and recovering their lost humanity.  Then again, the question still lingers in the corner of my thoughts… If things are changing, then why do they still remain the same? Now I ask myself, if in my individual capacity, I am able to interpret my reality, am I on the correct path in pursuit of transformative change?

What I’ve come to learn as a radical community organizer is that, if I measure the progress I make with the same capitalist lens of success, I stand no chance. Money, the “object of eminent possession”, is something that I do not have in abundance. This is the dominant negative societal mindset in Kenya, the backwater of Britain (an imperialist nation). The conservative society believes that without money you are as lazy as they come, that you don’t work hard or smart, that you must be stupid, a beggar, dishonest, a criminal and/or person unworthy of dignity, that you amount to nothing. On the flip side, corrupt powerful figures, disloyal and shameless people in the society who happen to be filthy rich (majority are from the same baby boomer generation) have a high social standing above everyone else. They live like small gods with the rest of us, viewed as their subjects. Money, the world’s most powerful sanitizer.

My hypothesis drives me to some soul searching. For me, the week and the days gone by ,have been successful. In our perceptions in building movements, driving change and refining our party (Revolutionary Socialist League) has translated into important achievements, however small. They have been steps in manufacturing progress, small steps towards the right direction. For instance, our ability to read the times and engage our ideological battles in the new age of information by use of technology. Another show of progress is that political education continues to significantly expand the mass work of our institutions. Kayole Community Justice Center that is grounded on revolutionary study has been able to conclusively raise leaders and inspire out grower human rights organizations like Njiru feminists network, Transfom Kayole social justice center and soon to be established Kayole Smart green generation community group. Progressive as this may be, we need to properly understand the system is rigged against us, our strength lies not in being subdued, begging and looking towards becoming another sub oppressor, we need to constanly fight these distortions through solidarity to the oppressed, supporting our true-friends and forging ahead towards dignity and rule of justice.

 *Okakah Onyango is a community organizer and a member of the Revolutionary Socialist League in Kenya.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Visited 676 Times, 3 Visits today

Also in the current issue

1 Comment

  1. Nahashon Kamau

    It is a very simplified political education tool with practical realistic experienced easy to understand. Long live the undying organizing spirit of Pio Gama Pinto.