I HAVE been fighting what I consider a noble battle with my grandkids. You know how the young ones are so quick to tell on each other on the tinniest of misdeeds. My sister does not want to share. Or my friend is playing too much with my game.
All they complain about are genuine grievances, albeit minor and mundane, but they should spare me the agony. What I have been drilling into their brains is not to report unpleasant behaviour or practice to me or a parent, but to tell the wrong doers what wrong they commit and ask them to stop and not repeat the offense.
I think somehow I see womenfolk listening to each complaint and summoning the bad kids for mom’s special earful. To me that could seemingly encourage young reporters to spy on their kith and kin so as to report back to mama or the house girl.
At this rate, when they grow older and they have phones that will be smarter than the Apples, Motorazors, Galaxies and Tecnos we parents have, they will be updating their profiles with hourly gossip and sharing with the whole universe.
I also do not entertain much those who come and tell me the bad of others no matter if they are relatives, friends or just acquaintances.
Anyway, there are very good reasons why I do not want to be told bad things that others do regardless of their age, past history, present physical condition or future mental health. There are medical reasons.
Suppose your son likes racing motorcycles and you have expressly forbidden him to do so because you worry he might end up in hospital with serious injuries or even fatal ones.
Someone in good faith comes to report that he just saw your son racing towards Bagamoyo an hour ago. You may suffer a heart attack from sudden rise in blood pressure.
Cultural reasons too. Maybe you have a daughter who likes to play Arusha mixed-doubles tennis matches with a boy from another continent or country and as a parent you would rather marry her off to a third cousin and avoid point five grandchildren.
There is no law against mixing and matching and even if you do not believe it, love has no age, race, religious or geographical boundaries.
The neighbour comes to your house ostensibly for tea but really to give you the earth-shattering news that she saw your dear daughter boarding the Dar-Nairobi bus while holding the hand of a dashing Antonio Morinari from Milan, the one who was her tennis coach. To cover up your surprise you pretend you knew about the trip and your daughter is only going to Moshi.
Didn’t the daughter say she was going to field practice in Iringa for her undergraduate degree? There are many routes to reach Nairobbery, but is Dar-Nairobi via Iringa a viable bus route?
While your heart does a rapid lub-dub-da-duuuu thereby missing a few beats, you urge the neighbour to take another cup for which she declines, having accomplished her mission to snitch on the erring Beyond-Say.
Here is the thing. If you had not found out about your racing son or city flying daughter, your mind would have been at ease and they would come home without any visible scratches.
Didn’t wise folks say ignorance is bliss? Maybe you are the type who loves to know the good with the bad, as it happens or asap. How is your stress level? Is all well with your soul? I am at the point where am seriously thinking of going on a TV news diet.
Every time you switch on the TV, there is an earthquake, a hurricane, car bomb or missile strike somewhere on planet earth with scores killed and hundreds injured.
They warn you that what you are about to see can be distressing to some. Unless you are Stone-cold Steve any news of other humans suffering death, hunger, persecution (sectarian wars in the middle east and the Rohingya come to mind) and oppression (like minorities and immigrants in the USA), you will react. And different people react differently to tragedies.
I feel saddened. Sometimes I try to imagine what life would be like if those things happened in Tanzania. So what is the mechanical or psychological advantage of watching depressing stuff occuring all over the world?
Or in the neighbourhood? Maybe Al-Shabab have blown up some place in Mogadishu, again. Or police have arraigned 40 Somalis in Mbeya, enroute to Malawi trying to flee their war-torn country.
I imagine militants who do not value the sanctity of life and compare that to a government with little mercy for persecuted African brethren, and authorities following the law on illegal entry into sovereign territory strictly. What era are we living in? And what future for our children and grandchildren?
At the moment I don’t want to think about it. Maybe I don’t even want to know.
But switching off the TV is the easy part. How can we switch off the bad (gossip, breaking news, accusations ) from friends, neighbours and relatives? If you keep listening to tales from the colourful past, you may hear that your dear spouse had dozens of lovers, and start wondering if there are tons of other stuff s/he has not told you.
Thing is, nobody is perfect, and some of us are as far from perfect as the east is from the west. Even your work mates have things they would rather keep where they belong, in the past. And another thing, when people tell you something negative, they have an agenda.
And it is not to make you happy with the supposed guilty party.
These are the politics of life. If you know anything negative about any of my political, spiritual or social leaders, do not tell me.
I can safely assume each one has their thorns and warts. I value the people in my life not from their failures but the good they are or can be. Spare me the anguish.
What the mind does not know, will not bother my heart.