As opposed to Kenya,In America, there is no Class! Behold The Equalizer
It was raining in Kenya as we pulled to a gas (petrol) station in Westland. Two attendants came quickly to the driver’s side window and as the driver was lowering it down, one of the attendants started washing the windshield. The attendant requested with a smile and sense of duty how much petrol should be put in the car. After he went out to do his thing, the Americans with me looked at each other, “very nice, can we move here?”
There is something special about certain things in our republic. Sitting in the car and watching while the attendants check the oil, antifreeze, and wiper fluids and clean the windshield is a pleasant service to enjoy. Of course this emerges from our culture of need. The American automation eliminates the need for pump attendants. In a country with thousands of fast food joints, the young have enough jobs. In Kenya the only jobs available are usually in the ‘dark forests’. Nairobi Java house stands out as a great employer of the young. This however should not be taken in isolation. The Kenyan culture is that of submission: sometimes boiling down to utter slavery.
At a dinner in a house of one of those hard-nosed rich Kenyans, the mansion required a soft approach. When we sat down in the vast living room packed with sofa sets, the servants came dressed in uniforms. The way they approached us made me freeze. They walked with hands folded in the back and it was as if they were walking on needles! The fear in their eyes was piercing strait through my mind! It was weary.
It is not as if we have not have maids and workers in our home. But I guess Kijabe teaches you to not see one self as greater than that which one is. Of course it also taught us not to drink or smoke: an Ideal I have kept with pride! Those who started the mission station embarked on a the philosophy that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” With this as the foundation, property and wealth becomes separated from self. Riches represent the other: the impersonal entities whose status is silenced by their destruction . . . “the heavens and the earth were rolled up like a scroll and thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation.
Note that within the biblical tradition, it is man that takes the center. “All these I have given to you for food.” Genesis 1. In fact the creation narrative presents the earth as being ordered for the benefit of man. Without man, the world is NOT. Within the loving one’s neighbor as one loves self, the impersonal IT is muted and you and I become living beings. I love my neighbor as self because I have loved myself. I have made analysis of self and having affirmed ME, all others become ME. Therefore the maid and the servant in my home are I. I therefore treat them as I treat myself.
One Kenyan aristocrat informed me that if you treat Kenyan workers with respect, they will ‘Karia wewe. Hivyo lazima uwaoyeshe wewe ni nani!” I guess our independence rescued us from the British colonial ethos to a new ethos, which justifies black on black oppression! It is the thing in Chicago, Illinois: Black people can kill other black people and justify the murder. But when a white person kills a black person, it is evil!
There are several good things I have picked up in the United States of Amazements. Of course there are questionable practices I have also entertained. Recently while driving around with Rev. Christopher arap Mutai, chairman of the new Bibilia Broadcast Network, Radio/TV (Equatorial Multimedia Group), I noticed he was concerned about my status. He kept looking at me whenever we stopped to get gas. I walked out, went to the pump, inserted my card, pumped gas, walked and took the window cleaner stuff, cleaned the windshield, popped the hood, checked the oil and after entering the car to drive, I said nothing: It was just the routine.
He was silent for a while, and then he could not contain himself, “professor! Kumbe professor mzima anaweza fanya mambo hayo yote?” He laughed. “Can you imagine an MCA pumping petrol in his car . . . Nyinyi waamerica muna mambo.” We laughed. At the next gas station in beautiful Cape Canaveral, Florida, I gave him a chance to ‘drink’ the American Humility. I had him go to the cashier, line up, pre-pay the gas, come out and pump it. “Hiyo sio mbaya . . . now I see why you fight with my wife in Kenya over your desire to walk to the fridge and get yourself a drink.” He noted.
America has great evils, which, through Hollywood and the Internet continue to migrate to the minds of the world. But pumping own gas is humbling! Anyway, at the end, we are just but meat . . . the bible calls us dust! Humbling.
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) HTBluff Associates. An EMG Consortium. Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist. @HTTBluff