The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference- Elie Wiesel
I first came across this quote 6 years ago, when I was still a young girl in high school. The weight of truth in the statement bore upon me, and I felt I had to share this with the entire student population during one of our school assemblies. I did.
Years later, these words still ring true to me, validated by the fact that Nairobians are such an indifferent people.
A video was doing rounds on social media of a woman being robbed in broad daylight, in the middle of traffic, as passengers, passers-by and every other human in sight watched in serene calm and comfort. This is the people we now are. It is not a first for someone to be robbed or beaten up or humiliated in public and the rest of us remain uninterested and indifferent and adopt a ‘really-none-of-my-business’ attitude as we watch the events unfold. It is your business!
Let me tell you a story. Two months ago I planned to travel upcountry to visit my grandma, but there was no Transline or Guardian or Easy Coach with space available. So my only other option was to walk to Country Bus stage and see if I will get a bus. This was the worst decision I ever made, and (Amen), will ever make again. Country Bus stage is the worst part of Nairobi town, populated with arrogant, insane touts and idlers who will make you want to get a gun and blow off your head. Or theirs, if it wasn’t a crime. So I get a bus with available space, after paying a guy to get me safely to the exact location of the bus, so that no other person grabs my hand or harasses me along the way. Once seated, a confrontation ensues. A woman has been offered and charged money for a seat that was already offered to someone else, and paid for. So this woman has no place to sit in the crowded bus. So she asks the tout who was collecting the money, and driver to get her a place to sit, or get her another bus, or give her back her money. They say no. We are not getting you another bus. In fact, you have not given us any money. The woman swears (she is carrying a baby on her back btw) she has given them a thousand shillings, and she is yet to receive her balance. They refuse. It happens that there are a few passengers who saw the woman give the money, (all female), so they remind the two men that they actually received the money, and it would be wrong to keep it from the poor woman. They are told to shut up. They do. Now I am angry.
Without getting into details of what happened, the woman was given back her money, but of course after I received a few insults from the driver and tout, and also after the entire population inside the bus rallied behind her. This bus is not going anywhere, if you don’t give this woman her money. All the bus crew needed to help them make the right choice was more than one voice(including the men) rallying behind their victim. All the voices in the bus wanted for them to take action was one angry person(whether it was just a little girl) ready to go to war.
Now deep inside I was actually very scared, but it is only when we are afraid that we can show courage, right? Haha. Throughout the whole drama, at the back of my mind I was asking myself, what if they beat me up? What if they kill me? What if no one else rallies behind me? But then I also thought, what if she was me? Would I hope and pray that someone, just one person, stands up for me? Just one person be on my side? Even if I don’t get justice at the end, the fact that there was someone who cared will mean so much.
If you know my family, then you know that I have four sisters who are fire. No, for real, they are fire. Stir them, and you will not want to see the end of the war you just started. One way to do this is try humiliate, mistreat someone who happens to have less power than you do. Who has no chance against you and your madness. Do that in their presence, and you will remember this article.
I learnt from them what it means to fight battles that sometimes are not primarily mine. I learnt from them the power of showing I have seen it, I have heard, and I care. That I have done, or tried to do, something. I learnt from them that most humans are just undecided, or afraid, or too timid, or torn between, and all they need is to see another person take the first step. Tell them what to do, how to do it. And that they need to do it NOW. Even if they don’t take action at that time, one day, they will look back and be inspired to do for another what they saw you do for that person. They will be inspired to reach out and hold another person’s hand.
What many people look out for, is the person who makes the first step. The person who leads the pack. And that person can be you. Start standing up against oppressors whose power comes from bringing others down. Whether that person is a stranger, an uncle, a cousin, or even your own siblings. And especially if it’s you! Stand up against the evil spirits of mediocrity that want to feel superior by bringing other people down.