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Monday, May 6, 2013

space to dream


Its a plan straight out of an action movie. Some friends of mine and I board a plane. We rob the inhabitants and contents  one of my friends gets out a parachute and jumps the rest of us leave the plane with the rest of the passengers and somehow avoid detection.

The next scene finds me in my bed unable to sleep because of how stupid all this was. How could I go out and rob a plane with my face in full view. All they need to do is look at the flight manifest, get the picture from my passport, show it to a few passengers and they have me. I’m worried that they’ll come, break in the door and pull me half asleep and half naked from my father’s house. That they’ll charge me with this heinous crime, that I’ll get to go to court as a defendant and leave as a prisoner and thinking of all the horrible things they do to people in jail I can’t get to sleep and I’m breathing really hard.

Then I realise that it must have been a dream, that there was no way I robbed a plane. As soon as I tell myself this the air rushes right out of me and I can breathe easy, much , much easier. I was filled to bursting with tension, anticipation and fear and now I’m good in fact I’m great. It happens for me that some dreams seem so real that I am convinced they are and I worry that I’m going to go crazy if they don’t mean something or go somewhere.

I met a girl the other day who told me she was a fashion designer and I smiled.
“Why?”
“Because anyone who’s a fashion designer is doing exactly what they want to do with life.”
This is probably not true and a fault with reasoning. But my logic for jumping to this conclusion is the state of our economy right now. It’s still at a place that rewards traditional career paths, at least that’s what the people who pay our fees think, that’s what the people who give us advice and influence our future decisions think. To become a fashion designer or musician or artist is something you do against the grain. It’s a thing you do against enormous pressure to do otherwise and it’s a thing you do when you are really, really good at it. The truth is our economy does still support traditional career paths over the more daring. There are plenty of mediocre, even bad lawyers, doctors and accountants making a living off of practicing their trade. There aren’t that many mediocre musicians and fashion designers and artists making a good living out of being mediocre, it’s just the way that particular cookie crumbles.

A few weeks ago I went to a music video launch at a club called aqua blu. This club is on or near bandari plaza (this sounds ridiculously like legal phrasing but I’m just not sure where the club is.) its themed water. Water and it solid equivalent. Not ice but glass. There are glass doors leading to the toilet which is on the other side of a corridor filled with glass and blue. Inside there is a fountain gushing out water and outside there is a zone for smoking all kinds of legal inhalants. It’s a beautiful place one of the few where the owner seems to have paid attention to dĂ©cor and atmosphere in a quest to be different and see his dream come true.

10 to 15 music videos were launched that day from artists I have grown up listening to those I have spent the last few months hearing about like octopizzo.  I asked a friend of mine how this was going down, how it was  so coordinated. He told me it came from the brain of a guy who is a content service provider and owns a company that I’m going to assume is called bernsoft because this was splashed at the beginning of every video. Basically this guy provides funding, distribution and promotion for artists in exchange he takes a cut out of their royalties. In this particular instance he even funded the music videos that were dropping that night.

By doing this he helps the artists achieve their dreams of making music, he gives them someone who believes enough in them to front them money and if musicians are anything like writers having someone believe in you is a nice balm for that plaguing self-doubt and he makes money in the process. Probably doing something that he wants to do with life. This got me thinking about all the business opportunities available in Kenya. There are the big leagues that are controlled by those in powers and their cronies(you cannot be called a crony unless you too are powerful in your own right) those deals that make you billions of dollars require you to know someone. They require you to be able to navigate the system of kickbacks, tribalism, politics and hand-ups that pervade the world economy at any higher strata. However there is opportunity to do things at a few levels below that. To do things with people who respect the power of a good idea more than the power of a man with cronies(well maybe not respect more but because cronyism is out of their league they better are able to appreciate idealism.)

I do have faith in Kenya for the next couple of years. I remember arguing with a friend of mine about the unique position that Kenya is in right now(this was a couple of months ago) a country with a free press, one that has experienced a fair election and bears the scars of an unfair one, a growing middle class, huge literacy rates… our history as a whole is too complicated to believe that what happened in other countries would have to happen here. There doesn’t have to be bloodshed for there to be peace and plenty. In a few generations what’s happening to Greece may happen here and poverty will begin knocking on our doors again. However there will be the 7 fat cows in that dream the pharaoh had. We are lucky enough to live in a time where the grass is being grown for those cows to feed on and maybe feed on the cows itself.

There is space enough for all our dreams or at least there will be. A lot of people call me an optimist and an idealist because I see a rosy picture in the future no matter what the present seems to hold but then it happens for me that some dreams seem so real that I am convinced they are and I worry that I’m going to go crazy if they don’t mean something or go somewhere.