The Kenya Forum | Kenya's Tragic Surrender to Narcissistic WIIM Culture - The Kenya Forum

March 8, 2024


According to Transparency International, over a third of public revenues – a soul-crushing USD 6 billion annually – is allegedly captured by vested elite rackets and graft syndicates

More by Waweru Njoroge

Kenya’s Tragic Surrender to Narcissistic WIIM Culture

Kenya’s Tragic Surrender to Narcissistic WIIM Culture

An utterly corrosive “What’s In It for Me?” (WIIM) mentality has metastasized like a ravenous cancer across the Kenyan social fabric. From politics and business to institutions meant to impart ethics and knowledge, this ravaging personal interest über alles ethos is crippling the nation. Hard data reveals how this pathology of rampant narcissism is sabotaging the nation’s development across virtually every sphere.

From Government

The public sector, meant to serve the interests of the populace, has become a prime example of WIIM run amok. Despite a new constitution enshrining transparency, cronyism and graft remain endemic as officials profiteer from embezzlement and kickbacks.

According to Transparency International, over a third of public revenues – a soul-crushing USD 6 billion annually – is allegedly captured by vested elite rackets and graft syndicates putting personal enrichment over public good. The repercussions of such pervasive corruption are devastating, with real-world consequences felt by the citizens who depend on essential services. The infamous COVID-19 millionaire heist, where USD 629 million was shamelessly pilfered, stands as another poignant example. This astronomical sum, intended for life-saving medical funding during a global health crisis, was callously sacrificed at the altar of personal enrichment.

To Goods

The corrosive influence of the WIIM mentality in Kenya also stretches its insidious influence into the private sector, where unbridled avarice takes form in blatant instances of ethical neglect in pursuit of profit. A closer scrutiny unveils startling statistics that underscore the profound extent of the harm wrought by this prevalent mindset.

The USD 3.8 billion substandard Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, riddled with graft, reflects the disregard for ethical norms, with reports suggesting over USD 200 million in misappropriated taxpayer funds. Food adulteration is rampant, as up to 50% of milk sold contains automated supplements, posing health risks and eroding trust. Carbonated drinks fare no better, with a staggering 80% found contaminated, underscoring the profit-driven compromise on product quality.

These numbers expose a troubling trend of placing profit above ethical considerations, necessitating immediate regulatory interventions and accountability measures to alleviate the widespread prevalence of the WIIM mindset within Kenya’s private sector

To God!

Even once-sacred institutions in Kenyan society have succumbed to WIIM’s ethical decay. Recent findings have brought to light disturbing patterns, indicating that more than 20% of academic credentials issued in the nation were acquired through fraudulent means. This shocking revelation exposes the extent to which corrupt cartels have infiltrated the education system, extensively undermining its integrity through exam cheating and bribery rackets. Such practices not only devalue the educational credentials of honest students but also erode public trust in the education sector as a whole.

In addition to the educational sector, the religious landscape in Kenya has been equally compromised. Self-proclaimed “Evangelical Grifters” have hijacked pulpits nationwide, exploiting the faith and trust of congregants for personal gain. These individuals have built million-dollar empires by aggressively peddling crass Prosperity Gospel falsehoods, promising wealth and success in exchange for tithes and donations. However, instead of fostering genuine spiritual growth and community development, these practices perpetuate a culture of greed and materialism, preying on the vulnerability of believers.

“Everyone is doing it”

While WIIM behavior at these levels is clearly destructive, the roots of this narcissistic social decay appear deeply entrenched, stemming from a toxic mix of demographics, impunity, and historical grievances. At its core, WIIM’s dominance is enabled by a “hustler” attitude borne from limited economic opportunities and mobility for Kenya’s youth demographic tsunami.

A 2020 survey revealed over 83% of Kenya’s total workforce was trapped in low-paying “vulnerable employment” sectors like subsistence agriculture and informal urban jobs. With such precarious livelihoods and lack of a robust social safety net, it’s logical that the mindset of looking out for oneself above all else would take root.

A climate of impunity where crimes motivated by greed rarely see serious punishment has further emboldened transgressors and dampened moral compunctions. The shredding of public trust in institutions has been cyclically eroded by decades of graft under previous regimes. From the staggering Goldenberg scandal during President Moi’s tenure, to the Anglo Leasing infractions under President Kibaki, and more recently, the malfeasance in the National Youth Service (NYS) during Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency. Numerous instances of impunity for white-collar crimes have fostered a resigned acceptance that “everyone is doing it.”

When citizens perceive government systems and institutions as fundamentally rigged against them, embittered individualism becomes an unfortunate survival mechanism. Personal responsibility and “pulling yourself up” is venerated when the state and businesses are seen as serving only an elite few. Some personal ambition and looking out for one’s own interests has merit – the spirit of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and family perseverance in trying circumstances. But when perverted into a hyper-individualistic ideology that disregards the common good, WIIM poisons societies from within. However pervasive, WIIMism’s pure egoism is ultimately self-defeating. Even the most lavishly enriched cannot inoculate themselves from broader societal implosion in services, security and stability.

“Yes Please & Thank you”

Yet WIIM’s most insidious impact may be its anesthesia to our profound shared humanity. By continually prioritizing narrow self-interest over enlightened collective prosperity, individualism calcifies into alienation. Societal fragmentation enables exploitation to fester as the idea of stakeholder-ship in communal wellbeing dissipates.

Which is what makes those rare glimmers of basic civic graces feel so jarring yet uplifting. A warm smile from someone after you hold a door. A heartfelt “asante” (thank you) for a simple kindness extended. Adding “tafadhali” (please) to a service worker rather than an entitled demand. Watching a younger person offer their seat to the elderly. Small civil sacrifices in service of human dignity that reaffirm our tenuous connective bonds. Such moments poignantly illustrate that even as WIIM narcissism festers, flashes of our better selves endure.

These are the embers still flickering in the ashes, glimmers of the indomitable Ubuntu spirit with which Kenyans must collectively overcome the WIIM pathology. Just as the nation rallied to achieve independence, a new liberation struggle calls us to redemption – this time by reviving ethics of communal duty, mutual accountability and equitable participation.

Setting The Bar

In this pivotal moment, there is an urgent need for leaders at the highest levels of governance to step into the role of moral exemplars, showcasing unwavering integrity in their public service. This entails not only setting the bar for ethical conduct but also reestablishing stringent and enforceable standards for governance that prioritize the common good over individual interests.

Simultaneously, the responsibility extends to the citizens, who play a crucial role in shaping the ethical landscape of the nation. By actively participating in advocacy, exercising their voting rights, and engaging meaningfully in civic endeavors, individuals can collectively voice their demand for reciprocal norms. This involves rejecting the WIIM mentality, recognizing it as socially unacceptable, and understanding its detrimental impact on the well-being of the entire community.

The call for moral leadership and citizen activism is a symbiotic relationship, each reinforcing the other. Leaders must be responsive to the ethical demands of the populace, and citizens, in turn, must actively hold leaders accountable for their actions. This reciprocal dynamic is vital in fostering an ethical governance culture that prioritizes the greater good, curbing the influence of self-centered motivations that undermine the social fabric.

The Heart Of The Matter

The central necessity lies in emphasizing economic inclusion and mobility as essential elements in dismantling the WIIM mentality utilized as a means of survival. For Kenya to break free from the grip of this self-centered mindset, it’s crucial that a significant portion of the population grasps the idea that the progress of the nation is intricately tied to their individual prosperity.

Economic inclusion involves creating opportunities for all strata of society, ensuring that the benefits of growth are accessible to a broad spectrum rather than concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. This inclusivity is not merely a matter of altruism; it is a strategic move towards eradicating the conditions that perpetuate the WIIM mentality.

Furthermore, the concept of mobility is essential. It goes beyond economic inclusion, emphasizing the ability of individuals to progress and advance within the societal structure. This upward mobility breaks the chains of survival coping mechanisms rooted in a scarcity mindset, offering a pathway for individuals to contribute meaningfully to the collective advancement of the nation.

The Zero-sum Game

A critical paradigm shift is necessary to break free from zero-sum competition, where opportunities are artificially limited and predominantly controlled by the elite. Creating an environment where national progress is synonymous with the prosperity of its citizens will unravel the WIIM mentality, fostering a sense of shared destiny and collaboration instead of cutthroat competition.

Though the path forward is fraught with challenges, it remains traversable. Kenya’s resilient Harambee spirit has historically rallied the nation through even graver threats. Overcoming Kenya’s WIIM narcissism demands moral courage to opt for redemptive struggle over resigned cynicism. The solution lies within our grasp – a resurgence of ethical values and an “I am because we are” philosophy to mend societal fractures and reconstruct the cherished equitable community we envision for our future.


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