EXCHANGING IGNORANCE; ARE YOU A PERPETRATOR?


BY: JUMA HEMEDI

13/04/2021

The late 90s and early 2000 were marked by industrial union unrest among these was the Nationwide teachers strikes called by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT). As a Kenya Red cross volunteer and first aider we would be on high alert during such days.

EXCHANGING IGNORANCE 1

On one such day of teachers strike, the teachers and their union officials had been denied access to the Moi garden and Thika stadium where they were to meet and be addressed before starting their procession to the DCs offices, among those to address them was the then Juja MP Hon. Stephen Ndichu. 

The striking teachers and their officials after engaging the riot police in running battles retreated and gathered at the then TAC (teacher’s advisory centre) grounds also known as Red Cross ground to hear what Hon. Stephen Ndichu had to say to them in support of their strike. The man never missed such occasions.

They had only gathered for a few minutes when a police land rover passed by and an enthusiastic officer saw a gathering. A teargas canister was lobbed at the centre leading to everyone scampering to safety. Hon. Ndichu took refuge in the Red Cross office where we were also holed up waiting for the situation to calm down. 

When all was clear, an enthusiastic member of the public came and said to Hon. Ndichu “Mhesh usijali sisi wote tuko hapa na wewe, hawatakugusa” (don’t worry we are all here for you, they (police) will not harm you). Hon. Ndichu asked the seemingly shaky guy “you and who? The guy looked around and realized he was all alone and seemed to speak for a nonexistent crowd of people. “He gave himself busy”

EXCHANGING IGNORANCE 2

A few years ago I was riding in a taxi on my way to Alanda Airport, Stockholm to catch my flight back to Kenya when the taxi driver decided to engage me in small talk. It was a long ride so I obliged. He told me that he was originally from Iraq and that he had fled the war situation to seek for asylum and later refugee status in Sweden. 

I asked whether Saddam Hussein was a bad person, to which he replied in the negative. I told him that all we know about Saddam was that he was a bad guy and that he was oppressing his people. He told me that all that was International politics and that he had done a lot for the common people. After establishing that we were both Muslims, his next question was even more interesting. “What kind of a Muslim are you?” “Sunni or Shia”?

I realized I had no idea, so I asked him what those categories were and if they matter to him. After struggling to explain the differences, I informed him that the first time I heard of the two divisions was when there was fighting in the Arab world Iran Vs Iraq and Israel Vs Palestine. And I only thought it was their way of identifying their different tribes, (of course I went back to read more about them later) and that I had no idea of how to differentiate between the two sects. He was very surprised that I didn’t know. But to me it didn’t matter.

EXCHANGING IGNORANCE 3

Severally we have found ourselves exchanging ignorance just because we want to be the first ones to break some news, give information or contribute to a debate. We do so in political debates, economic, social, legal, technological, medical, and religious and even matters of government and state. 

I was asked by a Mzungu once where I came from and when I replied Kenya, he asked me if Kenya was in Nairobi. I calmly told him that Nairobi was the capital city of Kenya, to which he asked if “Nairobi Country” was in Africa. I made myself busy before he could ask me whether I live with lions in the African jungle. As I went I whispered to myself “ignorant muzungu”.

While it is important to contribute to discussions or even set the agenda, many times we find ourselves exchanging ignorance instead of useful and factual information we suffer from “Intellectual laziness”. 

I meet a lot of individuals who ask me how come I speak and understand Kikuyu and yet I am a Muslim or I have Muslim names. Sometimes I reply that there is a difference between ability to speak a language and religion and while religion is a matter of faith, language is a matter of interest. 

Other times I also tell them that I understand and can speak a little Norwegian, Arabic and listen to bangra (Indian) music (just to brag). That there are many Kamaus, Njeris, wambuis who cannot even utter a word in Kikuyu and then there is my friend Onyango who knows no word of Dholuo but he speaks fluent Kikuyu.


We see messages daily of people saying that in 2022 “we” shall not vote so and so, or “we” have refused, “we” will show them and so on, only to discover that they are actually talking about themselves. It’s like when we say that “life is hard and that there is no money”, only to realize that you are the only broke guy around. 

A few years ago a friend bought a top range fuel guzzler and our mutual friend asked, “Doesn’t that car consume too much fuel and the way fuel has become expensive? The car owner asked, “How much is the fuel? Anyone buying a fuel guzzler is not worried about the cost of fuel.

While exchanging ignorance can land one in trouble it definitely seem to be a daily occurrence that helps keep social media alive and help Humans pass time especially now with lock downs.

What is your funny story, on people exchanging Ignorance? are you a perpetrator or victim?

JUMA HEMEDI

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