Just read a fascinating article by Dr. G. Ogola of the University of Central Lancashire in Monday’s ‘Business Daily’ – a rather depressing newspaper for me nowadays (which only proves his point!)
Anyway, he addressed the role of the middle class in the current issues facing our country. He makes several interesting observations…
§ There is a serious disconnect between Kenya’s emerging urban middle class and the urban poor/rural peasantry.
§ The former was created through the very process that simultaneously alienated the latter
§ The former perceives power as manifest in our institutional structures and these structures give them a sense of protection. The latter see these very structures as responsible for their plight and incapable of representing their interests. Power for them is manifest in big cars and farms, and in the ethnic identity of the owners of these big cars and farms.
§ The two groups perceive nationhood very differently. The former exalts loudly its Kenyanness, oblivious to the fact that the notion of Kenyanness has now become tenuous! The latter conceives their nationhood as residing in their ethnic identities
§ The Kenyan middle class is an ‘aspirational’ class, whose status is not based on owning property as in Western countries but on skills and jobs. They are thus very threatened by an unstable society and government and will be the first to call for peace and want to get on with their lives.
A great quote – ‘exalting our nationhood to the urban poor and rural peasantry is unlikely to solve the Kenyan crisis precisely because we relate to the nation state very differently (!)’ Ouch!
The Prof argues however that though the middle class is still small and lacks critical mass, it still has the potential to define national agenda. They (we) must engage more actively with this crisis, and refuse to be simply consumers that support the political and economic elites.
I heartily agree!