errata

mess of pottage?

I may be a luddite. Perhaps touched by a little too much unwarranted nostalgia. But.

Am I the only one troubled by the eagerness with which apparently “very many” Kenyans wants us to become a “world-class economy” which offers extensive (and overly-expensive) “tourist packages?”

Is this desire the equivalent of selling our birthright for a mess of pottage?

Here, perhaps, the ideological critique of a Marxist-inflected postcolonial perspective runs up against what often seems like a more pragmatic developmental agenda. As my brother might put it, ideas bang against reality. Marxist-inflected it might be, but as more astute minds have noted, a certain Marxist posture is all-so-attractive to a certain middle-class subject.

Away from, but informed by, the realm of “high ideas,” I wonder at the glee with which “we” receive ideas and assessments by foreign “experts.” Tom Friedman’s comment that Kenya might become some kind of economic animal, for example, was a source of incessant, and annoying, debate in the pages of the Daily Nation. More recently, a Harvard professor’s views on Kenya’s “potential” as a haven for “investors” were received with perhaps too much fanfare. (I leave aside, for the moment, the well-known ideological conservatism of economists. And also our fetishization of “Harvard.”)

While, on the one hand, the idea of a “prosperous” Kenya should seem welcome, I am troubled by the assumption that foreign investment will secure “our” future. The few visions of 2030 of which I am aware seem driven by an urge toward wealth, less so the extension of much-needed services to populations who may not be able to afford them.

I am probably the least suitable person to ask about “birthright” and “culture” and “tradition,” and those may not necessarily be the right frames through which to elaborate my discomfiture. Perhaps I simply continue from my previous post in asking about the rise of that most troubling of contemporary phenomena: middle-class philanthropy.

At my most alarmist, I understand vision 2030 as consolidating the importance of middle-class philanthropy.