The Wolf of Wall Street is actually about morality

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There is a LIMIT to everything and we believe the Kenyan public deserves better. WOLF OF WALL STREET has been RESTRICTED. The film is NOT for sale, exhibition or distribution in KENYA. Violators shall be PROSECUTED.” I mean there are other things we deserve better – like a better supply of electricity and water but…oh well I guess this will do for now. lol. Take that Hollywood. Kenyans deserve better movies.- Sharon Nyakundi

Three things. One: I watched Wolf of Wall Street. (Just say it: my street cred is better than yours). Two: my government has banned the Wolf of Wall Street. Three: the Wolf of Wall Street is actually about morality.

I watched it on the whitest coldest Christmas Day that I have ever experienced. It is not up for discussion that those temperatures had been sent by my enemies (zilikuwa zimetumwa). I know it in my heart. It didn’t help that I was trying to keep the Kenyan tradition of wearing your nice clothes on Christmas Day. No, I am not too old for that. The metal part of my earrings in contact with my skin lost all its heat, and my ears started to freeze up, and I felt like any time my ears would just fall off and I would put them in my pockets and walk on because I was that numb.

Since the weather was not going to be my source of Christmas cheer, I made my way to the cinema and hurriedly paid my 8 bucks (yes, I say bucks now, don’t judge) and entered the auditorium, getting refuge from the cold.

The Wolf of Wall Street is graphic. Granted, I was raised Catholic and my definition of graphic is pretty extreme but even for the most liberal people that movie is at least slightly graphic. Someone made a four-and-a-half-minute video of the 509 times the word fuck is repeated. There are scenes there that made me blush because there were old people, like over-sixty-years-kind-of-old, in the seats behind me. But when I heard them laughing I relaxed and kept watching.

But language and unsettling jokes are the least of what is disconcerting to someone conservative about the Wolf of Wall Street. The issue is the themes. As the advertisement so clearly puts it: sex, drugs and money. It’s like someone was trying to make a highbred headache for Nairobi parents from the three things that they most fear will ruin their children.

Small exercise: If you watch the Wolf of Wall Street, I would like for you to try to answer this question honestly: Would you want to be him?

It is Leonardo Dicaprio (THE).

He is bathing in money and power and all the things that these have to offer. Plus, he is the kind of intelligent that is charming.

His wife is breathtakingly beautiful.

I am confident enough to ask you: Would you want to be him?

It hit me on my way back to my room after watching that movie. The Wolf of Wall Street actually brings out more than anything the shallowness of overindulgence. In its own twisted way the bizarreness of Leonardo’s life shows us that contentment is from the inside out.Banning the movie does not change the fact that these are real issues in our society. (I mean it is based on a true story). Bereft of the cliche plots of killing the villain, or happily ever after, or paralysis, this movie succeeds in tricking you into thinking  of it as shallow, while secretly imparting on you certain notions towards… you guessed it… sex, drugs and money.

We all try to find things that make us happy. I tried to watch a movie to cheer me up on Christmas Day. Leonardo tried to own all the money in the world. Both of us at the end of the day remained the people that we were before we sought fulfillment from other things.

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Mejja’s song: “Kweli jana kuliendaje” – someone told me in 2007 that it was a campaign against irresponsible drinking. It blew my mind. But when I listened to it, I realized it was. At the end he says, “pombe ataacha kesho.” Apart from addiction, the song points out negative effect after negative effect of irresponsible drinking, so much so that it is in actual sense a ‘deglorificiation’ of alcohol. It snuck up on you—didn’t it? I guess that was his point— imagine what would have happened if Esther Wahome had written a song aimed at doing the same thing.

You would not watch the Wolf of Wall Street if it was a documentary about money not buying happiness.

Credit:

Image-wikipedia

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Nowadays

My demons-someone keeps letting them loose, and then they make me rent my own brain.

In the past, I did not have nightmares. Every time something extremely bad happened in my dream I managed to tell myself, “Wake up. Pinch yourself. Do something. Anything.” Nowadays, I can’t wake up in the middle of a nightmare when I prompt myself. And the dream proceeds oddly. I am aware that I can get away from the clutch of the misery, the fake sadness, by waking up, but I can’t get myself to leave. It is like I am in a hole, and there is a ladder, but every time I try to climb out, my feet and the ladder repel each other, the way like poles in magnets do.

It gets to me—the solitude. The fact that holes are the cliché loneliest places that mankind ever imagines. Think about it. Rock bottom, light at the end of the tunnel, falling into the abyss—holes. You are always there alone. It gets to me. It gets under my skin- being here. Being alone. I hate it. But I hate it as much as I love it. The telenovelas. The girls in the telenovelas. They love so much the men that make them cry. The men that break them and then come back to mend them. It is not a courtesy when you mend what you yourself broke. That is what I feel for this hole. It breaks me. It mends me. And I am thankful. I love it here where no one looks. I love it here where no one asks. I love it here where I listen for my own heartbeat, lose my own temper, rub my own back and stop myself from crying. I read stories I wrote. I drive myself crazy doing so. I raise the gavel at my own trials. I am my own minority. Thus, I am always guilty. When the right lyrics play in my head, it seems so real. I imagine them leaving my mind. I imagine them taking form and seating next to me. Like me, they are happy, totally, but they fold into themselves. Thankfully, the hole understands. Happy or sad is not a box we have to check here. We just sit. Books are the only other things that break in here. Sometimes, when they are hammering the trap door’s latch to force it open, I wake up and I let them in myself. I do not try to leave. I live in them. I live their stories and abandoning my own does not seem like a bad idea. I like the lethargic ones. I do not want them to be happy. I do not want them to be sad. I hate their themes. I hate that their themes attach themselves to me. I feel like a hooligan who has just listened to a brainwashing speech from the rebel he supports when I find out what stories the books are trying to tell. I take it in and I do not know how to have it let me go, to stop it from deciding what I feel and what I think. This hole—it belongs to me. No one is allowed to come with her her-ness and tell me things. It is mine.

I miss the nightmares from which I could wake up and intrude on reality—pay it back. These new ones with their seductive complicatedness— I do not know how to navigate them.

Barely breathing

I just seemed to be in this black void-thing, No floor, I could move and stuff, but I couldn’t see anything but a light below me, like an inverted shadow of sorts.-LaFayelle

Standing at the balcony of her college room at the outskirts of Nairobi, Archie mused as she noted that the view was nothing extraordinary. You go on balconies and you expect to stare at the horizon and be mind blown by the beauty of the collage of God and man’s creations. Not in JKUAT though. In this university, a balcony was just a balcony. Branches of a huge tree blocked her view to the right. There was a grey cloth on one of the branches and a black paper bag on another. A badly designed tuition block- seemingly half finished even- hovered in the background. She thanked the tree for blocking her view.

“I can’t get myself to study for that statistics paper,” said Shiru, coming up behind her. Archie saw her roommate’s shadow first, slender, as she was, before she saw her.

“Can you imagine doing all this and still not being assured of money in the end?” said Archie. She watched as grey water from the clothes the inhabitants of the forth floor had hung at their own balcony drained onto the cemented ground of theirs. As it collected into something icky at the corner, its color matched that of the ground. Yet it still lay there, distinct.

“I want money,” Shiru said. “I can’t do that Aunty Ann thing.”

They laughed. Aunty Ann was Shiru’s aunt. Archie had met her twice, but knew everything about her. Aunty Ann and Shiru were close. The kind of closeness that meant a lot of her stories ended up being about Aunty Ann. Archie was amused by their relationship. She told Shiru that she would not even talk about her boyfriend with her elder cousins let alone her aunts.

Their closeness meant that Shiru knew things about Aunty Ann. For them, Aunty Ann was their window to adulthood, and it was no surprise then that they were so reluctant about embracing it. For them JKUAT was a capsule. A capsule before you, like Aunty Ann, get a job where the salary is two thirds finished after you pay your rent at a lower middle class housing area. A capsule before you have to worry about the prepaid electricity meter. A capsule before your friends start to get married and start to get children and grow happier everyday. A capsule before desperation starts to eat at your cheerful personality, and eat at it, and eat at it, and eat at it, until all you have is the outside cheer. You still talk and you still make your niece and her friends laugh at picnics. If they weren’t looking hard enough, you could have convinced them that you really were joking, and that it did not hurt.

A sudden breeze blew Archie’s loose-fitting white top towards Shiru, who was now standing beside her. Archie was dark- the color of riverside clay. Her cheeks were plump. In fact, the only thing about Archie that was not plump was her waist. She was of medium height, but seemed shorter because she was plump. She had her right leg bent, with her knee kissing one rim of the balcony. Her toes barely touched the floor, and her left leg did all the anchoring. Perhaps this with her sense of style, or her confidence, or something, was what made her so… enchanting to men. Shiru often teased her about the number of men who were willing to buy her flowers. And you know Kenyan men and flowers.

Aunty Ann was too— enchanting to men. She had, apart from her beauty, a great sense of humor that made her loveable. When Archie read Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman, she imagined Aunty Ann as the subject. She was not dating anyone- had not been for three years. Aunty Ann always joked about how no one wanted to marry her, but everyone knew about her suitors. Everyone knew men had tried and given up. Everyone knew Rotu was still trying. Only Shiru knew that he would never get through. Well, Shiru and Archie— if you tell Shiru a secret you might as well tell Archie yourself.

Only they knew why Aunty Ann would not give Rotu a chance. In her own words: “I cannot say that I have not been tempted to say yes. But I know deep inside that if Rotu had come to me exactly as he is now, but without the Benz and the mansion, I would not have looked at him twice. I want someone I can look at twice, even if there is no Benz and mansion.” Then she would go on to make a joke about how it was no coincidence that her sisters, much older than her friends and herself, and who had been married for longer than her friends had been, were much less emphatic about pushing her to get married.

“Those women have seen things,” she would say and then laugh the kind of laughter that made you join in before you were sure whether what had been said was funny.

It was also an act of pride. Aunty Ann said that at some point she and Rotu had been exactly the same. She had been better than him in school. He had gone through most of campus surviving on bare minimum. He had duplicated her assignments. He had missed at least half of his classes. He had… But he still got the job they all, as classmates, coveted. His life was now the template for most eligible bachelors. Their classmates still said there was something fishy about the appointment. “No one gets a job bila mdomo,” their friends would say. Loosely translated, everyone who gets a job had someone put in a word for him or her. Aunty Ann thought that it was just as likely that Lady Luck had decided to be kind to at least one of them.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Aunty Ann had asked during the picnic when Shiru joked that maybe Rotu was her best bet.

Archie knew the worst that could happen. After all that toiling, they become like the view from the balcony- nothing extra-ordinary. The worst that could happen was that like that water draining onto the balcony, they matched the ground and disappeared into the crowd, yet they were distinct people.

Follow your gut

Mary’s got the same size hands 
As Marilyn Monroe
She put her fingers in the imprints
At Manns Chinese Theater Show
She coulda been a movie star
Never got the chance to go that far
Her life was stole 
Now we’ll never know

Apparently, it is  a good idea to remind your brain after a holiday that daytime is for being awake, and night-time for sleeping. I thought that instinct, especially a woman’s, would be sufficient. I was wrong.

How much should you trust your gut?

As the year is still young, I am (and am sure you  are too) in the middle of making decisions upon decisions. I am being faced with academic decisions, career decisions (not really, I remain unemployed because someone spread a malicious rumor that education is a better way to spend your youth than being out making money, it’s all a conspiracy people), and decisions about my social life or my extra-curricular life. I have found many times that how happy I am in the end depends very much on how enthusiastic I am about something.

Yet, enthusiasm is in actual sense an emotion. Everyday we are told to follow our passions yet again everyday we are discouraged from making ’emotional’ decisions. It is a grave contradiction. For instance, let us say I like singing (what, Nairobi’s got talent!). Should I spend my holiday going to singing school or interning for a bank. I love singing. I do not hate banking. I bet you my chances at being the next Sara Mitaru (very high, despite public opinion) that the ‘logical’ thing to do is to intern at a bank.

It is also true, though, that I will probably be happier singing. Even if I have a decent interest in banking, what I am passionate about is singing. Yet singing will do little for my curriculum vitae. As much as I will work just as hard, it will do little to tell the next employment panel I have to face (even if not for a bank job) that they can use that to judge my work ethic, . Almost insinuated is the idea that I had better be a bad banker than a good singer. When it comes down to it though, you can only do your banking job so well when a good portion of your daydreaming allowance (yes, that’s a real thing, and so are imaginary friends) is going to singing instead of dreaming up new financial solutions.

Perhaps, though, we need to trust our gut more.

As much as I often manage to distance myself from the cliche of doing things I do not like, there is a grey area. The best traps are the activities that are ‘not bad’. You know how Ben Kiruthi (the amazing photographer; I know all of you know him) talks about his past job in IT and how he even has an MBA. He did not hate it. He was just not in love with it, and it was the only thing that kept him from following his natural inclination towards photography sooner. It’s the only thing that kept him from taking home the 450,000/= that he does now sooner.

In an article in the Daily Nation, Yvonne Owuor, a Caine prize winner, says the only regret she has in her writing life was starting late.

I understand that there are situations in life where you do not have the luxury of doing what you love, much less abandoning everything for it. I know that we have responsibilities, to our fathers and mothers, and to our sons and daughters. I am, despite my crusades for passion, one of the greatest supporters of the money is in fact a prerequisite for happiness rationale. (And for us money-minded ones, Ben Kiruthi’s story kind of cripples our right to any excuses.)

I am a coward and would really appreciate some company pursuing my revolutionary ways. If only in our little, almost insignificant daily life protests, let us begin to rebel against the great contradiction. Passion before ‘logic’. I can hear the whispers from afar already. Follow your gut. It’s getting louder.

Happy Old Year

I called Adrian earlier today, at midnight. From the obvious enthusiasm in his hello, I could tell that he was uuum… angry ‘only mildly excited to be woken up from his sleep’. This coming from someone who had told me “By midnight he is sure he will have figured out something chill to do.” Something popping. Something rocking. Something befitting of his ‘cool kid’ status. After laughing the appropriate cynical laughter (it was my duty to human kind-you’re welcome), I thought that maybe Adrian, more than most of us, had got it right. Perhaps the New Year is the celebration of an end rather than a beginning. And nothing marks the end of a significant era for a human being like good sleep.

I move to have us stop saying happy New Year and instead start saying happy Old Year.  1st January is less about looking forward and more about looking back. We look back at the mountains on whose peaks we have pitched our flags. We look back at the mountains that we are still training to climb. We look back at the mountains that looked down upon us; sneered at us, let us know we were no matches for them. On New Year’s, we are allowed to pause and take it all in.

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Mt. Longonot

 

 

As students, and parents, and career men and career women, and brothers and sisters and friends… As human beings, we spend everyday climbing mountains. We work to get into our employers’ good books. We try to fix relationships gone sour. We watch friends and family in pain. Money bosses us around. Exams have us on our knees. We are unsuccessful at learning Beyoncé’s moves (yeah, me neither). Everyday we climb. Everyday we grow more and more out of breath. 

On New Year’s you are allowed to ‘ostrich’. Ostriching is the (very reasonable) action of filtering everything unpleasant from your mind. Close your eyes. Imagine your toes caressing Mombasa’s sandy beaches. Imagine yourself as a child on a swing in a grass-covered backyard screaming with delight (or an adult, no judging). Imagine looking out the window on a moving car and taking in the breeze. Imagine the view of the Nile from a plane.

New year’s is actually a celebration of the old year. We are not happy because we are looking forward to a new year. We are happy because we are silently proud of the heights we scaled the previous year. We are proud of the scars we got and the wrong turns we made on our way up. We are proud we got somewhere, even if that somewhere was not where we had hoped to reach. We look back because we need it. We look back because it is the only way we can build up confidence, if but little, to take on the New Year.

 And when Adrian, a light drinker, tries to convince you in the morning that he had passed out drunk, at midnight, an hour after you had talked to him when he was sober as a judge, say you believe him. Say you believe him because New Year’s is for catching your breath.

Truth is, you know and I know that today is the first of three hundred and sixty five days worth of mountains we are setting out to climb. And we would rather look back at the ones we succeeded at climbing- if only barely- and celebrate that we must be doing one or two things right.

Bravo, dear readers, and happy old year!

Credit

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To Adrian, who is always so kind about allowing me to tell his stories