19 November 2012

Kenya: Baragoi - Black Swan or New Normal?


When I was young and the heat was at its most intense in the afternoon in Mombasa and only the sound of crows would occasionally pierce that heavy hot stillness and my mother was having her siesta, I would read and I consumed books because they were my lifeline to the world.

Today, the world is flat and my laptop [nicknamed my 'lovetop' by my better half] connects me but then it was a different time, a world when we were all disconnected.

The one author I always wrestled with was James Joyce whom I later learnt was the inventor of the 'stream of conciousness' style of story telling and my piece today might be characterised as a little James Joycean, I admit.

I start with Nassim Taleb who has written a number of very prescient books. Taleb is the author of The Black Swan [fooled by randomness] which caught the attention of folks who live and breathe the financial markets.

"What we call here a Black Swan is an event that is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility and it carries an extreme 'impact'."

And I refer to the randomness of the fact that 41 people have died in the Gaza Strip and 48 police officers were killed in Baragoi, Samburu.

Let's set aside for a moment the share of voice that the events in the Gaza Strip are receiving which simply dwarfs the share of voice the massacre in the Samburu received by comparison.

I pray that the souls of all the departed [and I include the three Israelis as well as the police officers as well as those in the Gaza Strip] rest in eternal peace.

I am left wondering what on earth is going on? When did we start ranking worse than the Gaza Strip? Are these spikes and paroxysms of violence Black Swan events or are we entering a new normal?

Everything starts with security and without it, we are in very deep trouble and these spikes have been increasing in frequency, in intensity and spreading geographically.

The Swahili coast remains a potential tinderbox and the Rift Valley is hardly a demilitarised zone. Somehow, the genie was put back in its bottle in 2008 but when you keep stepping close to the precipice, there is a high chance that you misjudge distance and you fall over the edge.

Can the system regain control? Will lashings of blunt force trauma be enough? What happens if it all kicks off all at once and together? Is the system responding with enough sophistication? Or do we only have one tool in the tool box?

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