#LifeSnippets – Guilt Tax (Kenyan welfare)

Setting : A middle class estate in Nairobi.

Cast : A group of men are seated at the ‘base’. Chewing mugoka, drinking spirits and smoking as they ‘escort the sun’.

‘Base’ is the name for where jobless, hustling guys seat in Nairobi estates passing time, abusing drugs, taking in the sights of the neighborhood and debating anything and everything.

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Me: (passing in front of Base, waving)

Cast: Come for a bit!

Me: (walk over wondering wsap)

Cast: We need to talk.

Me: About?

Cast: Ever since you moved on up and started working there is something you have not done.

Me: What?

Cast: Blessed the Base

Me: Ooooh!

Cast: You need to buy us drinks till we drop. Do not think of us drinking your money but more like you pouring liquor on this base and the base thereby blessing you and your money.

Me: (laughs a lot) I have heard. (Walks away)

***

Unemployment is huge in Nairobi. You may think its only prevalent in the slums and lower class estates but even the so-called middle-class estates are not immune.

Its effect is worse in the middle-class estates as the unemployed are children of retired bankers, civil servants, teachers. They saw their parents work their butt off to secure their education but now that education is redundant as job search becomes the job. Their parents being working class also limits their entrepreneurial spirit as all they were conditioned to aspire to is employment.

No job leads hopelessness. Hopelessness leads to life apathy. Life apathy leads to a drug-full life. Whiled away at base.

Simplification? Yes. Reality? Yes.

If you are lucky enough to get a job and you are from the hood then you will at one time or another pay guilt tax.

TAXES

Guilt tax is paid when you are walking/driving through the hood and someone asks for a ten bob for a cigarette or you are in the local and someone hustles you for a beer or for additional cash to buy a drink.

You pay the guilt tax not because you are rich or because you have to but because you know but for the grace of God there goes you.

You are not special just lucky.

Away from the hood setting, the guilt tax is also paid in family, extended or nuclear. We all have that uncle who texts asking for an MPesa donation because he has new wife, new child or new cow.

In retrospect, the guilt tax maybe Kenya’s version of welfare.

Plugging the gaps and pushing the broken societal wheel forward.

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So maybe I will bless the base after all.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


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