IS BEING COOL THE ONLY COOLEST THING TO BE IN MOMBASA? Part 1
By Lubnah Abdulhalim
Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy
Well since Mombasa is an amazing island with blue oceans and beautiful scenaries, the immediate first instinct of any person would be ‘if Mombasa is not the place to be cool then where else?’ but my ‘cool’ that i mean here is the extended kind which to some would be termed as laziness and irresponsibility. I am a resident of Mombasa myself; of course i wouldn’t want to talk ill of our people but truth be said; youth and even some of the elders are misusing the word ‘cool’ and how to be it.
In a research on community resilience against violent extremism that I participated in four different areas in Mombasa, there was this common factor among all the four places, which is the behaviour of the youth of Mombasa. It’s nice to be cool and to feel nice about oneself but that is totally a different case when a person decides they are too cool to do a certain thing.
So the typical scenario of a Mombasa youth is that of: I wake up at nine or ten in the morning, I go to the table and my lovely mum has already left some good breakfast for me on the table. After eating I will go out and do totally NOTHING sensible but when I come back home at lunch hour, my lovely mum has already covered some food for me. I may be 24 or even above that, I am jobless and probably so is my dad but there is nothing to worry, because this lovely woman in the house will always find a way to provide good food or at least some food on the table even when we don’t know how or where she gets the money from. So where is the coolness I am talking about here? You may find that this young man has been offered several jobs but his ego won’t allow him to go sweep in the streets or carry cement. come on that is totally not cool right? ‘I mean, what if pretty girls come by and see me in shaggy clothes sweating under the hot scorching sun, carrying cement?!’ Isn’t that the mentality that most youth have? So what they would rather do is wear their lowered torn jeans revealing their inner wear, have a funny ‘cool’ haircut sit at a maskan, chew miraa and smoke bhang, walk with some swag and have the ‘you-cant-tell-me-a-thing’ attitude. The best any of these young men can do is wait at the maskan for an attractive classic matatu with banging music so that they can ask for a one round of reckless driving like in ‘fast and furious’, because to them, that is what is ‘cool’.
The reality is that this kind of young men are untouchable in these times because the kind of power and command they put even in their actions has created fear within us. Right now we are having very young boys below 16 walking in gangs, carrying pangas and murdering people and scaring us out like hell because we know they are no joke; that once they raise their pangas up then there is no way that they will let the panga fall down without touching blood. Another not surprising factor that emerges is that most of these young gangs start with a fight over a girl. Then a boy from a certain place is beaten up to death and the others come to revenge and it goes on like that till the gangs become organized groups with full leadership. And this to them is so cool because it is giving them the recognition they want. They want people to talk about them in every corner and be scared when they hear their names and well, they have succeeded in that. Yet when you see them, you would never think that such a young boy can fight you to death.
It is only in Mombasa where you will hear a person saying, ‘come on I am learned, how do you expect me to sell water’ or such kind of a thing. It is also only in Mombasa where you will hear a youth demanding that their parents give them the freedom they want yet they can’t take responsibility of their lives. They want to be left alone so they do evil and harm people yet they still want to come back home and find food ready on the table. And this where we have to admit that the upcountry fellows are doing a pretty good job in raising their children because at a very young age, they teach their children to take responsibility and how to take control of their lives. Whereas for us, that is where we have failed terribly. Our parents have shown us clearly; ‘My son, for better for worse I will provide for you even when you have a wife and children, I will cover up your mistakes for you, even if you are murdering and attacking people aimlessly. I will give you the money you need, even when i know you will use it in buying drugs.’ And that is the attitude most of Mombasa youth grow up with in these times.
Then we complain when our upcountry brothers come to Mombasa and lead us. But we have no right to complain! These fellows come from wherever they are from, they start from the very bottom; sweeping streets, cleaning toilets, making tea but give them just two years and you will see the same guy already a secretary in the organization. Give him five more years and he will be the manager. Then the Mombasa lad will come to the same organization and be given the sweeping task and he will say, ‘I am more educated than the manager. I completed form four while he dropped out of class eight. I can’t accept such a job.’ Ask him why he will tell you because it is unfair. But they never put into consideration where this manager started from. I have a neighbour from upcountry who is a graduate from pharmacy course yet she opened her own saloon when she didn’t get a job. Then try asking a Mombasa educated lady to do the same and you will hear the response, ‘That’s not my kind of job.’ And this where the difference comes from; our fellows have a focus while we don’t! We are always comparing our journey with someone else’s! “He has a Subaru while I have a probox or, I have nothing that can’t be!” We give the lame excuses of ‘upcountry people run the country that’s why they advance in life’ yet we all know that they are not coddled and that’s why they never lose neither their cool nor their focus. As for us, we just want the short cut. We want to get employed in an office that will make me the boss from the first day. A job we can brag about and get recognition. When you ask why the response will be, “because it is cool isn’t it? to be the boss, to own a nice car, to come in the time you want. If not that then i’d rather sit at the maskan and have a good time.” And it is this mentality that has made most of the youth remain jobless, because they want heaven without struggle. They therefore create their own ‘heaven’ by being in gangs smoking bhang and other hard drugs, harm people, maintain some swag and well, life goes on!
Yet another sad truth is that, even when parents know their children are causing harm, they would do all they can to release their children when they are arrested; even if it means selling their houses and property. Well, understandably, parents will still be parents especially the mothers. In the end of the day, they still want them to be fine and be with them. They will always be protective, but the question is, are they doing any good favour to their children by bailing them out always yet they will still continue to murder and beat up people? Till when will the parents keep pampering grown up youths instead of toughening them up to be responsible youth?
It is at this time where no one should even talk about the children of others. It’s scary. Really scary. Today you may be pointing fingers of how lost the neighbour’s children are, yet you don’t know what surprises your own might bring you tomorrow. We just have to ask for God’s mercy and protection; even for ourselves as youth. As the Swahili methali says, ‘Ukiona mwenzako anyolewa, chako kitie maji.’