Economy, National Cohesion

This is How We Can Use Our Brains to Transform Kenya

Tumia akili! Use your brain! This phrase is com­mon­ly used in Kenya when an agi­tat­ed per­son lash­es out at their offend­er, urg­ing them to use their brain. How­ev­er, it need­n’t be con­fined to angry out­bursts. Today, I urge us all to indeed use our brains, espe­cial­ly in pol­i­tics, as a part of nation­al development!

I am inspired by a recent meet­ing I had with a top brain sci­en­tist from Cana­da, who pas­sion­ate­ly shared insights with me about the role our brains play in rela­tion­ships. My main take­away from this enlight­en­ing dis­cus­sion was that we can use our brains to sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve our rela­tion­ships and pol­i­tics, lead­ing to tan­gi­ble devel­op­ment for our great nation.

In the famous words of for­mer Pres­i­dent Moi, siasa mbaya maisha mbaya – bad pol­i­tics results in a bad life. The oppo­site is true. Good pol­i­tics results in a good life. Our brains are the key through which we can acti­vate good pol­i­tics for the bet­ter­ment of Kenya.

Just like a house, the human brain com­pris­es three dif­fer­ent lay­ers. Embed­ded in these lay­ers are pow­er­ful tools that can trans­form our coun­try. How so?

The first brain lay­er is known as brain­stem. It’s like those base­ment bomb shel­ters that are fair­ly com­mon in con­flict prone regions. Dur­ing air raids or even ground attacks, peo­ple in these regions bar­ri­cade them­selves in bomb shel­ters that are usu­al­ly in the base­ment. Sim­i­lar­ly, the brainstem’s pri­ma­ry role is to ensure our safe­ty. Every time we don’t feel secure, we retreat to the brain­stem. When we do so, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pos­i­tive action are severe­ly compromised.

Secu­ri­ty is a pre-req­ui­site of pros­per­i­ty. The Unit­ed Nations reveals that ‘for almost 25 years, extreme pover­ty was steadi­ly declin­ing. Now, for the first time in a gen­er­a­tion, the quest to end pover­ty has suf­fered its worst set­back due to COVID 19, con­flict, and cli­mate change.’ Con­flict fuels pover­ty. Here in Kenya, we may thank­ful­ly not be hav­ing vio­lent blood­shed but vio­lent polit­i­cal rhetoric remains com­mon­place. This keep forc­ing Kenyans to retreat into the brain­stem lay­er of their brain.

In order to change our nation, we must pro­vide Kenyans with both secu­ri­ty and eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty. This will pro­vide Kenyans with the emo­tion­al matu­ri­ty need­ed to scale up from the base­ment of their brain to the sec­ond lay­er, which is known as the lim­bic sys­tem. Love and con­nec­tion thrive in this lay­er, which is like the ground floor of a house.

Just as we gath­er in the liv­ing room and kitchen to bond with fam­i­ly and friends, a nation thrives when its cit­i­zens are unit­ed and con­nect­ed. Can you hon­est­ly say that Kenyans are cur­rent­ly unit­ed and con­nect­ed? No. Because they are most­ly in the base­ment lay­er where fight or flight dom­i­nate. Hence the con­stant con­fronta­tions (fight) and switch­ing off from pol­i­tics (flight).

To change our coun­try, we must shep­herd Kenyans from the base­ment of their brain to the ground floor. This starts with fos­ter­ing pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships among indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties. When peo­ple feel con­nect­ed and val­ued, they are more like­ly to work togeth­er for the com­mon good.

After con­nect­ing Kenyans for com­mon good, we should pro­ceed to the frontal cor­tex, which is the third, upper lay­er of our brain, where crit­i­cal think­ing thrives. This lay­er can be com­pared to the bed­room or office in a house. Its pri­ma­ry func­tion is to reflect, think crit­i­cal­ly, and plan. This is the prob­lem-solv­ing level.

To change our nation for the bet­ter, we must pri­or­i­tize edu­ca­tion and the devel­op­ment of emo­tion­al intel­li­gence that enhance crit­i­cal thinking.

That’s why I sub­scribe ful­ly to Nel­son Mandela’s words that “Edu­ca­tion is the most pow­er­ful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In con­clu­sion, I sug­gest that our approach to nation­al devel­op­ment and uni­ty should shift towards rec­og­niz­ing the pro­found influ­ence of the human brain and the emo­tion­al intel­li­gence it hous­es. Safe­ty, con­nec­tion, and prob­lem-solv­ing form the pil­lars upon which a pros­per­ous and unit­ed nation is built. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Founder and Chair­per­son of Green Africa Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion that was found­ed in the year 2000 that cham­pi­ons Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment in Africa.

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