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Laughing our troubles away

As soon as a scandal makes headlines, Kenyan netizens will quickly make memes to make fun of it. Are we burying our heads in the sand? Is humour and satire our new way of escaping the raging storms?

Kenyans, we are humorous lot. We have outdone ourselves when it comes to making light of our problems. We have a way of looking past the errs made and focusing solely on laughing about corruption, the dilapidated state of our roads, our nation’s economy or even social issues such as unfaithfulness.

The issues glaring on our faces are even detrimental to our wellbeing as far as a healthy nation is concerned. Be it the alleged heavy metals in sugar or the rise in the cost of commodities such as maize flour, Kenyans have mustered the art of not looking too much into anything. After all, what can we do? #Borauhai (being alive is all that matters), as Kenyans are currently putting it online. But they are certainly not happy.

Stanley Kibunja, a counselling psychologist, notes that for a common mwananchi, having material things, being less worried, a stable family and a great relationship with people goes a long way when it comes to being happy.  

More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of wellbeing that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction, according to Psychology Today. “It is joy, contentment, positivity and fullness in life. It encompasses bubbling sensations, worthiness, feeling good and meaningful vibes, it is what define happiness,” Kibunja said.  

Everyday genuine happiness is largely based on capital income, absence of corruption for the economy, good health, social freedom and caring deeply for others. “Happiness levels may be temporal and permanent. The temporal feeling of joy and pleasure are derived from material objects and from companions. It is possible to be dead inside,” he said. But since we are not dealing with issues, our resort is satire.

Perhaps that was why Kenya was ranked among most unhappy in the world. The UN World Happiness Report 2018 ranked Kenya in position 124 out of 156 countries.

“I think as a nation, we are sick. Both sick of the fact that we can hardly do anything to change our current situation, but also sick in the way that we deal with such sensitive matters,” Catherine Gachutha, a psychologist says.

Sometimes humour and satire are used to deal with the pain and frustrations we encounter. “It is a defence mechanism that we have adopted and it protects us from the anger and frustration that is beyond our control most of the times,” she says. Kenyans make fun when they face issues that they cannot resolve.

“It is unhealthy and it is sad that we cannot be honest with ourselves and face our problems head-on. Humour helps us run away and while we hide behind it, we become dysfunctional,” she says. The continuous accumulation and helplessness that we are cultivating will catch up with us if it hasn’t already.

“Laughing about say, someone’s death is denial in itself. When we start to lose our empathy and start to laugh at serious matters that concern us directly, we are losing it. We are indeed setting ourselves up for more pain because we lose our ways of dealing with problems and the rise in mental illness cases attest to our failure,” she affirms.

However, there is hope. “We are the ones that have the power to change our way of life. Elect the right leaders and put them into account. Face the fears head-on, mobilise and change the face of Kenya. But instead of nipping the problems in the bud, we let it grow and are reduced to laughing. The gradual build-up is not healthy. We will lose the essence of life and wonder why other countries are making strides while we are laughing at our problems,” Gachutha says.

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