Saturday, May 21, 2011

Talking 'Bout A Revolution

Our society has reached a point where fewer and fewer people bother to follow laws and rules. Just spend a day in Nairobi and you will see what I mean. Overlapping reins on most roads with even a little bit of traffic (overlapping is the Kenyan name for the phenomenon of overtaking traffic queues and cutting in close to the junction), pirated CD's and DVD's are being sold on every street corner, watch news and you will hear politicians threatening and inciting. Do business and you will realize that corruption, nepotism, cronyism, dishonesty and theft are rampant.

The question now arises: How do we change this state of affairs? How do we arrest this slide into lawless anarchy and change our society into one where decency, honesty and respect for law are the norm rather than the exception?

I have had a couple of short twitter conversations with Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo (@bantigito) where he says we need a "moral revolution". I unfortunately disagree with this point of view. Strongly.

Infact, I have said before that we need to design, implement and enforce systems that are not only effective when applied to the best set of hardworking, devoutly religious and honest people, but we need to design systems that stay effective when applied to bone lazy, dishonest, thieving miscreants.

The systems/rules/laws we produce must be efficient, effective, easy to understand AND carry a very big stick when not adhered to. This in my opinion is the only way that our society can change. Moral imperatives alone cannot and will not work. 

The reason impunity has flourished is not because we are lacking or have ever lacked sufficient moral guidance, it is simply because we have lacked efficient and effective systems/laws. And mainly it is because even where laws and rules exist, we have lacked effective policing and enforcement. 
- If the penalty for overlapping was one year in jail, and if this penalty was seen to be enforced with no exceptions, would there be any overlapping on our roads?
- If the penalty for overloading was taking the vehicle off the road for 3 months and suspending the driver's license for 3 months, would there be any overloading?

I firmly believe that effective and efficient systems, coupled with strong penalties and real enforcement would transform this society very quickly. 

I therefore put forth that what we need first is not a moral revolution at all but rather an enforcement revolution.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who Is To Blame?

Problem Arises....

Person 1: It's your fault
Person 2: No! It's not my fault, it's your fault
Person 1: (tentatively) It's everybody's fault?
Person 2: Yes. Everybody is to blame.
Both: Everybody is to blame. So nobody is to blame. It's everybody's fault. It's nobody's fault. Yes. It just happened. Let's form a committee to oversee a taskforce to investigate this problem and identify exactly what went wrong.... 

No, I have not taken to writing satirical plays now. This is the impression that the recent fuel crisis gave me (Read Coldtusker's blog for detailed commentary of factors that caused the fuel crisis). I know CYOA (cover your own ...) is prevalent everywhere but we seem to have taken it to new extremes in this country. Problem management by those in positions of responsibility has become a game of "blame me, blame you, forget". I blame you, you blame me, we eventually figure out it was everybody's fault, hence it was nobody's fault and institute a long winded process to "get to the bottom of the matter". Nobody is ever responsible for anything that happens. Ever. 

Think this phenomenon only manifests in the public/political sphere? Wrong. It is in our private sector too. Big time. Small example; I once gave instructions to someone at my bank. A few days later, I asked for a confirmation, I was then told that the instructions had not been carried out. The lady who'd served me the first time told me that apparently another lady (who I had never seen, spoken to, dealt with or even heard of up to this point) was the one who is in charge of executing the instruction and she had not done so. The first lady did not so much as apologize for not following up with her anonymous (to me) colleague. I guess she felt everybody was to blame, so nobody was to blame. 

I hope this post doesn't cause any offense to anybody. But if it does, may I say in my defense that my friend....errr...Bob, yes Bob suggested I write it so he bears the most responsibility for it's publication. Actually we are both equally culpable. Infact, come to think of it neither of us can really be held personally responsible, he is a product of his environment & I of mine thus we just have to say our environments are to blame for causing any offense. We must conduct a thorough examination of our environments to deduce exactly what made him suggest that I write this post and what made me follow his suggestion. This may take some time but I will be sure to communicate results as soon as they are ready.