Anything’s Possible. The Millenial Conundrum

Michael Onsando
15 January ,2019

“Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.”

― Chinua Achebe, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra

It’s hard to be a millennial and not navel-gaze on the state of millenials. Perhaps the proliferation of social media has made us more self indulgent. Or maybe the number of think pieces written on millenials has us thinking there really is a problem. Are millenials really the first generation to be obsessed by avocados?

“I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!”

– Nina Simone

It’s impossible to detangle dreams from the fears and insecurities that birthed them. In order to know what a generation was collectively dreaming we need to know what they are running away from. When it comes to “the dream” as is consistently shifting and changing, it is impossible to disentangle it from the society at large with major happenings changing the course of our desire.

My grandfather was a member of the independence generation. For this generation freedom was important. Having lived through a rapid period of political change and witnessing several major structural changes they knew that change was possible. That the permanence of things was an illusion and it could be changed through repeated action and sacrifice – they respected what this sacrifice meant. Sacrifices whose consequences my father’s generation had learned to live with. Soon a generation came about that consistently made decisions toward stability. And the environment was perfect for this. The market that was hungry for skilled labour due to expanding infrastructure and a new government eager to lay the foundations for a new country.

This all came crashing sometime before or after ‘82. I can’t say it with much accuracy – I wasn’t born yet – but there seems to be a consensus that  the generally psyche was not the same after the attempted coup. With his trust betrayed, Moi became more Moi than he had ever been. Conservative decision making was further enforced. Perform your role, stay silent and stay out of the way was the mantra.

So where did the loud, disrespectful millenials with their Kanga hoodies, Sauti Sol and natural hair blogs come from? And what purpose do they serve? (Besides perpetuating a love for casual clothing)

It is two decades now since Beijing began prioritising its relations with Africa, recognising the continent’s value as a source of minerals and other raw commodities and its potential as a market for Chinese goods produced at low cost. The relationship has grown at a staggering pace since, encouraging other emerging nations in turn to look at Africa with different eyes. On the heels of the Chinese, Brazilians, Indians, Russians and Turks, among others, have all intensified their courtship.

The 21st Century Great Game is Africa’s to lose

To be a millennial is to be poised on promise.

We were brought up to follow our dreams because anything is possible. We are unsatisfied with the current state of affairs (especially when the person telling you it’s impossible can’t rotate a PDF). And the Internet has fueled this desire; suddenly things seem within reach.

In this way, I believe, we share certain optimism with the independence generation. Too young to remember Moi (some of us even claim to miss him) we are more aware to the idea of a Kenya that is changing – that can change. We have seen the fall of Moi and the construction of bypasses. We have also seen political violence, monarchial politics and terrorism. We know that anything – good or bad – is possible given enough willpower.

“We had become our parents, silenced, cynical of everything political, distrustful of those who did share our story and uncertain about what the future held for our children. It might be 2018, yet 36 years later Moi’s protégés continue playing by the same rule book of economic mismanagement, rampant corruption, political assassinations, electoral theft and violent suppression of dissent. The uncertainty that defined the 80s is still here but the unbwogable generation that came of age in 2002, is invested in personal cultivated bubbles of security, no longer willing to rattle the status quo.”

“To acknowledge that the ideals that make up the society should not erase or ignore certain people whose existence are in/within/revolve around the same society. It does not mean I am ignorant of the moral fabric of the society, but it allows me to believe in recalibration or readjustments of the society and to re-evaluate what works to include the largest number – as many as everyone – into this society.”

And maybe then to be poised on the promise that anything is possible is to hope and work towards ensuring that the possibilities we evoke are beautiful, because they will definitely be ours.  

Towards Realising Affordable Housing in Kenya

Guest Writer
30 October ,2018

by Mukami Githagui

Housing is a fundamental human need. With the rising cost of inflation and other economic drivers making life very expensive, President Uhuru’s focus in affordable housing is a much welcome reprieve. In 2017 the President launched “The Big Four” agenda for economic development in Kenya, focusing onfood and nutrition security, manufacturing, affordable healthcare and affordable housing as his blueprint not only to deliver a legacy government, but also to bring long-term meaningful change to Kenyans.

The government plans to deliver 1 million housing units over the next five years. The president’s ambitious housing plan aims for at least half a million more Kenyans to own homes by the end of his second term. In Nairobi for instance among the areas to be covered include Park Road, Shauri Moyo, Bachelors’ Quarters, Suna Road/Toi Market, Pangani and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. It has also been reported that at least 36 governors have signed agreements with the national government to extend the project to their regions. Can this dream become a reality or is it going to become yet another white elephant?

According to the National Affordable Housing Summit Group of Australia, affordable housing is housing that is reasonably adequate in standard and location for lower or middle-income households and does not cost so much that a household is unlikely to meet other basic needs on a sustainable basis.

The National Housing Corporation, puts the housing deficit at 2 million units cumulatively and it’s growing by 200,000 units per year. With a rapid population growth of 2.6% per annum and the rate of urbanization standing at 4.4% it presents a dire situation. For context, the global average is 1.2% for population growth and 2.1% for urbanization respectively. The supply of housing in Kenya is constrained and the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development estimates the total annual supply to be at 50,000 units.

To further underscore the need for affordable housing, the ministry indicates that 83% of the existing housing supply is for the high income and upper-middle-income segments, with only 15% for the lower-middle and 2% for the low-income population. In summary, while 74.4% of Kenya’s working population requires affordable housing, only 17% of housing supply goes into serving this low to lower-middle income segment.

Long story short, it’s not good. But what’s going wrong?

According to a Cytonn Investments report there is an inadequate supply of serviced land at affordable prices due to soaring land prices in urban areas. In Nairobi, for example, land prices have been growing at a 6-year compound annual growth rate of 17.4%. This has led to increased development costs as land costs account for 25% – 40% of development costs in urban areas, which consequently impacts on end-user prices. Even in most of the areas earmarked for this housing land prices are steep, which again begs question.

The report also cites costs of construction. Mid-level construction costs in Kenya range from Ksh44,000 – Ksh64,000 per square metre depending on the level of finishes, height and other related factors, and account for 50% – 70% of development costs.

According to Hass Consult Ltd, in Q3 of 2017 the prices of housing dropped by 5.1% due to the political instability we faced last year. However, the average value of a residential property in the country surged to KES 29.8M in September last year. The same report cites that property purchases in Kenya are purchased cash, mainly because the mortgage industry remains underdeveloped.

What solutions are available?

The government, the Capital Markets Authority, NSSF, Retirement Benefits Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority, private sector finance and development, all have a role to play and the specific solutions need to be wider.

Given the need for funding businesses in a growing economy where SMEs create majority of jobs, private markets such as structured products offer a compelling alternative for developers to seek financing.

Strong government support and strict housing policies are also necessary in order to boost home-ownership. It is necessary to set up and adhere to strict rules and eligibility measures for house-purchase such as minimum occupancy periods and housing to income ceilings, so as to restrict to prospective home-owners only as opposed to speculative buyers.

There’s need for efficient planning to allow the best use of land in a sustainable manner to cater for the growing population with key considerations on the provision of services such as water, power, garbage and sewage disposal. Hand in hand with this is exploring cheaper building technology to lower construction costs. Training of labour on the use of alternative building technology is essential so as to boost its application.

An article in Nairobi Business Monthly, argues that the construction industry needs to embrace technological changes that will result in a mind-shift on the use of innovative products and services whose aggregate effect would be to lower the average cost of building. Despite the emergence of innovative construction materials, building a house in Kenya is still costly.

In Nairobi where land prices have sky-rocketed significantly, we need to make use of land in the neighbouring areas outside the metro region such as; Kitengela, Ruiru, Ngong, Kiserian, among others to put up low-cost houses.

An efficient mass transport system linking the above areas to the city’s central business district will incentivise private sector investments in the greater metro region. Ethiopia is a perfect example where they have built a light rail system that connects Addis Ababa to the neighbouring towns where low-cost houses have been built. Due to the efficient mass transport system, Ethiopians are able to work in cities and towns but put-up kilometers away.

Given the rising cost of land, the cost of construction materials, taxation on these materials and of course corruption which sees title deeds irregularly issued, buildings constructed on riparian land and other irregularities, becoming a property owner is not a walk in the park. Only time will tell whether the government’s ambitious project is feasible or not.

Mukami Githagui is a freelance writer based in Nairobi. Mukami has covered business and written features for two of Kenya’s leading media companies, the Standard Group and Nation Media Group.

Are Kenyans Over-represented?

Brenda Wambui
17 July ,2018

Before we passed the 2010 constitution, we voted for the president, and members of parliament for our respective constituencies. After 2010, a Kenyan voter now has to elect the president and their deputy (on one ticket), the governor and the senator for their county, the woman representative for their county, the Member of Parliament for their constituency, and the ward representative (also known as the MCA) who sits in the county assembly. The first time this took place was in the March 2013 general election.

Kenyans who voted elected six representatives per person (if we consider the president and deputy as one representative – the presidency). If we had felt under-represented before, this was no longer the case. We have one president (who comes attached to a deputy president), 47 governors (and their 47 deputies), 67 senators (47 elected by counties, 16 nominated by their parties, 2 members representing the youth, and 2 representing persons with disabilities), 349 members of the national assembly (290 constituency representatives, 47 woman representatives, and 12 nominated members of parliament). We also have 2,526 MCAs. That’s 2,990 members (if you count all the deputies, it becomes 3,038). We have 43 million Kenyans. That’s one representative per 14,000+ Kenyans.

This over-representation shows in our public wage bill. In 2014, our public wage bill was 8% of GDP, which in that year was USD 61.4 billion. This increase in our number of representatives reflects in the jump in the wage bill, which was KES 249 billion in 2010, and KES 418 billion in 2014. Much of this jump was caused by the introduction of county governments. The average annual growth rate was 14% between 2010 and 2014, yet the average annual growth rate of GDP was only 5%. Where are we magically getting this money?

Debt.

This is why public borrowing is out of control in Kenya. In 2015, our public debt was USD 32.54 billion, which was 52.8% of our GDP. In 2016, our public debt was USD 38.9 billion, which was 54%. In November 2017, our public debt reached USD 45.8 billion, which was 57% of our GDP. In 2018/19, our debt to GDP ratio is projected to rise to 59%. Each Kenyan owes KES 100,000 worth of national debt to external parties. We borrow to survive. We don’t make enough to live on.

In the year ending June 2015, we spent KES 11.2 billion on Senate and the National Assembly, up from KES 9.2 billion in the year ending June 2014. Each year, as shown here, they have increased their pay. In April 2013, the Speakers (the highest paid Members of Parliament) earned a monthly salary of KES 990,000. In April 2017, they earned KES 1,320,000. Regular members of parliament increased their monthly from KES 532,500 in April 2013 to KES 710,000 in April 2017.

On average, Kenyans spend 55 million shillings per Member of Parliament (both senate and national assembly). This is about 2% of our national budget. For comparison, the global average is 0.57% (this is for countries with a population between 10 and 50 million, which is what we are). That is almost 4 times more. Why do we spend so much? South Korea’s GDP per capita (this is GDP per person per annum) is USD 27,538.81. Japan’s is USD 38,894.47. The USA’s is USD 57,466.79. Ours is USD 1,455.36. Yet, per 1 million people Kenya has 9.18 representatives, while South Korea has 5.9, Japan has 0.4, and the USA has 1.7. Nigeria has 2.6 representatives per million people, Ethiopia has 7.1, India has 0.6, Venezuela has 5.3.

The first resort for most is to suggest the scrapping of quota seats for women, youth, persons with disabilities and other minorities. In many discussions, women representatives are said to be unnecessary, yet this is untrue. The purpose of woman representatives is to increase the representation of women in parliament, in line with the two thirds gender law which requires that no one gender have more than two thirds of elective seats. We still have not met this requirement. Only 19% of the national assembly seats, 27% of senate seats and 6% of county assembly seats are held by women.

Yet, even with these numbers, women representatives have spoken actively about the budget, education, health, security, agriculture, women, youth, water, land and so on. They have sponsored major bills, such as The Victim Protection Bill (Millie Odhiambo), The Access to Information Bill (Priscilla Nyokabi), The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act (also by Priscilla Nyokabi) The Kenya Aids Control Authority Act (Rachel Nyamai), The Food Security Bill (Beatrice Elachi), The Reproductive Healthcare Bill (Judith Sijeny), among others.

This translates to 8% of the National Assembly Bills and 18% of the Senate Bills in the last parliament. Quite good for a contingent that only made up 21% of the 2013 parliament. The answer is definitely not to reduce the number of minority representatives in parliament. Having more of these minorities represented can only serve to enrich our society. A discussion on minority representation should not only focus on women representatives, but on all minority representatives, and it is crucial moving forward, especially since we already didn’t meet the August 2016 deadline to have a framework in place to ensure the enactment of the two thirds majority rule.

The solution is clearly not to scrap these positions. It is to have a ratio of legislators to general population that makes sense. In the words of James Madison, “However small the Republic may be, the Representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and however large it may be, they must be divided to certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude.” Deciding on an optimal formula is tricky. A parliament with too few representatives won’t be democratic enough, and can lead to an unstable political system. It can also lead to political violence.

Too many representatives lead us to where Kenya is now. There are many social costs, as well as financial costs. They interfere too much with how our markets operate (see our real estate market), increase bureaucracy, and they create many opportunities for rent-seeking activities and corruption. It is important to ensure that the general population is reflected in parliament, but this comes with many direct and indirect costs.

According to our Auditor General, Edward Ouko, we need 290 MPs (both senators and members of the national assembly), not the 416 we have now. That is a 30.28% reduction of MPs. In turn, we would save KES 6.93 billion a year. To show the effect of this under current situations, let’s assume this money would be used to pay for free day-school secondary education for children. Currently, each child has an allocation of KES 12,870 (up from KES 10,625), so the KES 6.93 billion would educate 538,461 secondary school going children each year. Assuming it was used for free primary education, it would also make a huge difference.

In 2014, the government increased FPE allocation per child to KES 1,420 (from KES 1,020) to cater for enrollment of about 10 million children in over 23,000 public primary schools. Annually this costs KES 14 billion. KES 6.93 billion would educate 4,880,281 children each year. Here, we are assuming that we are only reducing the number of MPs. What if we reduce them and reduce their salaries? Each of them currently takes home over KES 1.1 million in salaries and allowances monthly. If we reduced it to what he proposes, which is KES 931,000 per month, we would save even more!

When it comes to MCAs, 1625 are elected and the rest, 1901, are nominated representing the minorities we discussed. We can further reduce the number of wards to reduce the wage bill. Perhaps we can change the smallest unit of governance in the county from the ward to the initial divisions we had back when we had 72 districts. At their most, they were once 262 divisions. Even when we include nominations, the number of county representatives would not be more than 500 given the current ratios. That way, we would come down from 2,526 to 500 county representatives, and from 416 to 290 MPs.

Of course, to do so would require a referendum, but it is necessary. Our government is bloated.

Kati Kati – Somewhere Between Death and Freedom

Michael Onsando
14 November ,2017

Spoiler – they all die in the beginning.

Actually, no. By the time the movie starts they’re all dead. We set in on Kaleche, who finds herself in the middle of the wilderness. It is through the eyes of Kaleche that the world of Kati Kati is revealed to us and it is through her experience that we discover its nature. It is through Kaleche that we learn that Kati Kati is basically a form of purgatory.

The film uses this train of thought to weave a narrative on questioning, understanding ourselves, loving, and letting go. What would you do if you had to stop telling yourself the stories you told yourself? If you were forced to face the stories that you have put together to keep you afloat? The space of Kati Kati does not only ask that you face yourself in this way – it demands it.

This definitely becomes interesting when we found out that Kaleche herself has no recollection of the past. How can you face a past you don’t remember?

Of course piecing together this memory immediately becomes a key motivator for Kaleche and it is in this piecing herself together that we see her trigger the film into action – pushing people into different spaces of themselves. And Nyokabi Gethaiga plays this role well. She leads us to question with her and to seek with a similar earnestness and (possibly) naiveté.

Kaleche’s role is supported by that of Thoma, (played by Elsaphan Njora). The longest residing resident of Kati Kati, he has found himself their somewhat sensei, with an alcohol dependency and this all knowing smile. All from the beginning we see the group naturally turn to Thoma for direction on what to do next, and he always has the plan. Later in the film we found out that he is the one who set most of the traditions of the little commune – which makes sense as he has been there longer than most.

There’s something about this film that reminds me of growth. Because growth cannot truly happening without healing.

We see the question on healing particularly strongly in the scene where King(Peter Mwanzia), a clergyman of sorts (won’t even try to trip myself up on this one) is forced to face the burning of his own church during electoral violence, perhaps the director’s hat tip to the events that happened in 2007/2008 at Kiambaa. The context and meaning of the scene to the film is important. But, for a moment, allow me to dwell on the sheer beauty in the scene. We see King painting frantically, perhaps in a bid to silence his own guilt. Then we see his parishioners gathered around him, singing. The harder he paints, the more they sing. Until he gives up.

It is struggles and moments that like that the film manages to capture so well. All through Kati Kati we see characters grapple with the things they need to confront. And, while the film is about death, death doesn’t become the central theme of the story. Rather, death is a way the story moves, a way to show that something has happened in the story. In a twisted way death loses its meaning to departure. We see this as Kaleche ‘saves’ Mikey from drowning to the laughter of all – but when the thunder claps we see a different face of sorrow. The members of the commune throw a party for everyone who leaves – no one can tell if it is a happy party or a sad party because no one has ever come back (and because your fate is dependent on whatever demons you faced). But the sorrow is clearly seen on everyone’s face when the thunder claps to mean one has gone.

Sorrow is the overtone of the show and, when characters are not participating in an activity we see them moody, brooding and reflective. We watch them develop different coping mechanisms to handle the strain of having to find their way out of Kati Kati. And this sorrow weighs on their conversations. Characters tread lightly over each other, ensuring not to say words that could trigger each other too far over the edge. When Kaleche arrives on the scene her lack of memory seems to walk all over this unwritten code, setting the stage for a winding plot with a dramatic finish.

Another interesting thing about the film is how the camera wobbles. Not that it seems unstable. Rather, all through the film, the shots are bobbing – as if to remind you that you are in an eerie place (cue X Files theme music). The shots seem to hoover a bit – over characters shoulders, around their faces, behind their backs. As if peering. It makes one feel rather more like they are watching the film through their own eyes – rather than a captured, packaged and edited version. The scenery of the set is amazing with the semi-arid background somehow speaking to the barrenness of death.

The film was written by Mbithi Masya and Mugambi Nthinga. Mbithi, formerly of just a band, also directed the film. It was first released in September 2016 and has gone on to win several awards including Best Movie at the East Africa AMVCA (2017), The Fipresci prize at the Toronto international film festival (2016) and Cinemafrica Stockholm (2017).

Kati Kati is available to view on demand on several platforms including Showmax and on One Fine Day Film’s website.

A Supermarket Fell in the Forest

Michael Onsando
10 October ,2017

Somewhere between the rise of Carrefour, the fall of Nakumatt and the scramble for space there is an interesting narrative of politics and resource. This narrative that really sells itself hard given recent reports of racism at Carrefour (they have since promised to look into the matter) – and Naivas seems to understand what is happening, but can’t seem to move enough product to be a top market player.

Which is perhaps one way to try and understand what we mean when we talk about a racist system.

Recently I have been thinking about internal narratives vs. net results – or what we imagine happened based on what we know, feel and understand and what actually happened (or our mutual misunderstandings met each other). Many words to say that sometimes things aren’t what we think they are. What we experience in the world is often just the crashing point of several ‘net results’ if you will. Perhaps this is where empathy comes in – in seeing where someone is coming from, you can better understand that the things that are happening might not be about you. Yet at the same time knowing that some actions need to be stopped no matter what the internal narrative (like, don’t kill your wife because she wants to leave you).

But what does this have to do with Atul Shah’s business, once valued at Sh34 Billion? And Carrefour, whose first half sales in 2017 were Sh5.3 Trillion – twice our national budget.

What a racist system is, is the net result. The net result being that the retail space is taken over by a French company. Thus taking a large chunk of capital out of the country. Now, of course, this is not to say that Carrefour isn’t also distributing a lot of capital within the country, the sourcing, labour etc. is mostly local (I’d imagine up to a certain point in management but I haven’t really looked into this, so don’t quote me). But the ‘big bucks’ are going to leave – back to Carrefour’s shareholding.

The internal narrative is slightly more complicated of course. A struggling Nakumatt either expanded too far too quickly, squeezed their own suppliers off the shelves or took too long to pay their suppliers. All three – or two of three in whichever combination you choose. Tuskys are, as anyone would in a capitalist space, trying to expand. There’s no better time for them. After all, that’s how Nakumatt stole the country from Uchumi right? (Or, the king is dead – long live the king). Naivas won everything of course. Further it’s not like Tuskys haven’t had their own wrangles – the latest actually getting in the way of them catching some scraps from the Nakumatt fall out. And let’s not talk about how the Naivas family battle was brutal.

The net result insists that this is a neutral playing ground. That somehow this is what fairness looks like. A vulnerable market where few can raise the funds to set up and maintain a large retail chain is thus open to the world.

The consumer is less complicated. The consumer’s primary concern is that they have a nice clean place to shop where they can get their Nutella and Fanta. So this is not even necessarily a plea to ‘buy local’ because what does that even mean? Whether you buy the soap from the shop or from the supermarket, it’s still Unilever’s money. Local brands would be good if it wasn’t for the absence of mass local manufacturing of most goods.

Instead, this is an attempt to approach what is meant by this idea of systemic. Because what is framed as systemic is often heard as an affront, which gets in the way of actually having conversations about how to disentangle ourselves.

Whose fault would it be should the largest chunk of our Sh1.8 Trillion retail market end up in the hands of the French? (Fault is a heavy word. I don’t mean to connote a particular horribleness, rather asking to whom shall we assign cause for this effect?) All Carrefour did was seize an opportunity. If they hadn’t, any other multinational would have come into the market for the prime bucks. All Nakumatt have done is grow and fight to continue growing every step of the way, as with Tuskys and Naivas. The government has done all they can, they’ve laid the framework for business, they have competition laws and company laws – there’s little more. Market restriction, after all, would only put them in the bad books of the consumer (who, coincidentally, is also the voter).

This is why it is called a system. A system doesn’t make any moves of its own – it merely creates the environment where any moves made will lead to a predetermined outcome. This system was born out of history originally of the design of total subjugation (colonialism) and is now just what is around after you partly remove something. A nothing space that is difficult to quantify but always shows up in odd places. Like KQ’s new Polish chief hiring five senior level executives from Poland as four local top executives quit. We ask ourselves questions. Is it? Could it be? Surely, it must be something else.

It won’t be anyone’s fault if Carrefour becomes the market giant (they already are?) – no one in particular anyway.

It will just be a thing that has happened – and we won’t be hard pressed to figure out why because the answer is quite obvious isn’t it? They had the money to do it. And because they had the money they will continue to have the money (the poor get poorer, the rich get richer anyone?). Tuskys will live to fight another day and we will be left wondering whether there is an actual ceiling to how high a local supermarket can grow.

From the Roof Down

Michael Onsando
2 August ,2016

Only once we place human dignity at the centre as opposed to capital can we fight this disease.

Why the World is on Fire

Previously, on Brainstorm, Brenda Wambui closed her article with a note on human dignity. To place the idea that hall human beings are “worthy of honour and respect” (dignity). It seems completely impossible to think about dignity without thinking of bodies and how we are around bodies. Which is to say it’s very difficult to be dignified, or act in a dignified manner, if your body is being infringed upon.

We ask, for example, that the person who was harassed in the workplace to be dignified in the same place, and often before the same people, that harassed them. Or we ask of the worker who was mistreated to be dignified in the same household where they were mistreated. To demand for dignity without taking what this demand entails is to unevenly distribute the burden of understanding. And I call it a burden because to be in privilege is to be able to go through life completely unaware. To be able to not understand – and be understood.

This is why this particular framing sits with me. What does it look like to place human dignity at the centre?

It surely does not look like laughing down the fact that students are burning dorms across the country. Neither does it look like holding onto an institution that was designed to maim and kill those who it is meant to protect. I’m not even sure if it looks like running away from justice in the name of self determination.

But, of course, to say that we have gone through a period where dignity and a dignified existence (whatever that may mean) is at the core of the things we would like to do is a lie. One only needs to look at the news to know that it is not people that are at the core of the agenda. Rather, we seem focused on cutting all the shortcuts to “catch up” with the west (without even thinking about what’s happening, and how the west is eating itself). Our imagination shaped by tall buildings, large highways and big screens in the centre of town.

All these things are not without advantage. To have a better road system is to have easier access. To have more office space – well that’s debatable. But largely ideas of development and progress are not without advantages. Even as I write this I am relying on fairly modern things, like a laptop, electricity and the internet.

But one does get the feeling that there is some opportunity being missed.

We seem to be in a space where we are either focused on moving forward into whatever we are chasing or continuously romanticizing the past. This leaves us particularly blind to the present. Instead of now actually sitting down and trying to imagine new ways (yes, that definitely emulate and are mainly formed by the old) we’re chasing an illusion.

Whether this illusion is something we would like to go back to, or something that we would like to become, none of these things seems based on what we have at our disposal right now. We don’t have the past at our disposal. At least not as readily as we’d like to. We are gathering and analyzing pieces to put it together but that isn’t there for us. We don’t have the funds to develop to the imagined future either (as our national debt shows clearly).

This is not to ignore the large capital disparity between nations globally. Or to say that these are not problems that we should work on.  The question of capital will always be one that must be addressed.

Perhaps it is to ask, if this is a journey – where are we going? And, is there space for us in this world we are creating. Or are we busying ourselves making the very things that will destroy us? Are we participating in creating institutions that will be as toxic to us as the institutions we found? These are things that must be considered right at the beginning. We don’t create and then try and fit humans into it. Rather, we place ourselves, and our needs as humans, at the centre.

Then we build around that.