Just A Man: You must educate yourself or perish!

Just A man

It is important for a man to get an education outside his neck of the woods, so he can glean life lessons from folks from different backgrounds.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

In a recent appearance in the podcast, “Drink Champs”, Shaquille O’Neal spoke of how, years ago, he turned down a lucrative Starbucks deal because, from where he was coming from, he had never seen anyone drinking coffee.

Well? One player’s miscue is another’s magic moment. Earvin “Magic” Johnson deftly snatched that rebound and slam-dunked all the way to the bank.

Shaq confessed that he did not see further ahead to know there is such a thing as gentrification. He only saw what was, not what was to come. Sometimes, when presented with a golden opportunity, we do not see the latent potential because of our preconceived notions or prejudices.

In Jericho Estate, the ‘hood I was born in and brought up in, our term for gentrification was, “ubabi”. This is Sheng’ for, having a Babylonian nature. In our thinking – and growing up listening to reggae music and being indoctrinated by rebel notions – Babylon was the system, mostly by the rich and political elite, who made our lives a living hell. It was considered an insult when someone told you, “wacha ubabi”. Which means to stop acting like our oppressors, the Babylonians.

That’s how a whole generation can get it wrong and get lost, while others who are more educated in the ways of the world get ahead. Way ahead. Some of us used to call ubabini, “ushenzini”. Now being savage is hip.

I remember the late Papa Leftie, the greatest ever reggae DJ hollering: “Hapana enda kula ice cream tao; kunywa uji mtaa! Sindio hio?” (Don’t go uptown to savour ice cream, instead feed on your porridge in the ‘hood! Isn’t that so?) As young street soldiers, we all hang on to every word these reggae generals uttered. Oh, what a joy it was to hear the utterance from a Rasta. The song that was playing when Papa Leftie made this hype was “West Livity”, by Misty in Roots.

Wheel-back. That’s one big tune.

Whereas the lyrics of “West Livity” are profound and talk about our culture not being inferior; a young soldier can get it twisted, and believe he is being commanded to reject everything that’s coming from the West. He can think there are only two hues; black and white. And he’s the former and Babylon is the latter. He won’t know there’s such a thing as a gray area.

And if this young soldier has chewed tons of chewable twigs from Meru and inhaled that mind-warping “kushung’-peng’” from Luanda, he can flip the bird at a six-figure endorsement deal from an ice cream company because, from his miseducated POV, it doesn’t line up with his worldview ... or is it street view? ‘Nuff respect to the departed generals. I know these legendary DJs and MCs were just hyping – as we said in reggae-speak - “the youth them”, but some impressionable young minds can take hype literally.

Speaking of street view, that’s why it’s imperative for men to think and explore beyond their limited streets and spheres. Living in the ‘hood and not opening your mind and eyes to the outside world can make you to not see beyond what’s happening outside your streetscape.

It is important for a man to get an education outside his neck of the woods, so he can glean life lessons from folks from different backgrounds; be they wababi, wabenzi or wa-ghetto. Me? My mind was opened when I went to high school and met other boys, from different backgrounds, who had different worldviews. They taught me to think widely and made me realise the world is my oyster.

And? Here I am; the better and wealthier for it.


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