The Perils of Hash Tag Activism

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When our Country is faced with a social, political or moral quandary, two things happen; we either engage actively in activities that will take us out of the quagmire, or choose to be indifferent. It is so much easier to avoid rude interruptions to our work, our dreams and our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbors are of no consequence. So, instead of being indifferent, most Kenyans choose what we call hash tag activism.

hashtagAccording to Techopedia.com, Hash tag activism is the act of fighting for or supporting a cause that people are advocating through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites. This is the kind of activism that does not require any action from the person other than sharing or “liking” a post or “retweeting” tweets on Twitter. The term gets its name from the liberal use of hashtags (#) that are often used to spread the word about a cause over Twitter.

On 15th April 2014, suspected jihadists with the Boko-Haram Islamic group raided the Government Girls Secondary School in the northern Nigeria town of Chibok and kidnapped nearly 300 girls. The girls haven’t been heard from since. Instead of the world sending military to flush out the illegal group and rescue the girls, the best we could do is engage in hash tag activism by creating #bringbackourgirls in Twitter thinking that this will compel the illegal group to release the girls. This is not different from being indifferent. We should note that indifference elicits no response because indifference is not a response.

When the cost of living is skyrocketing at exponential rates, when insecurity is at its highest peak to an extend of the rich and mighty being insecure, when the inflation rate is hitting double digit and when high corruption prevalence has become an embodiment in our country due to poor governance, the best we can do as Kenyans is create #someonetelluhuru in Twitter thinking that our president will be jolted from his nonchalant state and act because of this hash tag activism. Well, I don’t even think if the president has time to log into his Twitter account. I have a feeling that it’s somebody else who manages his account. So we are just flogging a dead horse.

Gone are the days when like minded Kenyans will engage in street activism to compel the government to act on something. Nowadays that kind of activism is given a wide berth because we fear distractions from our daily activities. That’s why we perceive people like Okiya Omtata and Boniface Mwangi as people who engage in activities that befits an insane person. These are the only few men of our generation who have come out in the streets to shed off the tag of being indifferent when Kenya is going to the dogs. But no sooner they come out, than we start asking which foreign NGO is sponsoring them. Then it seems these foreign NGOs love Kenya more than we do.

Recently, University students went to the streets to protest against hiking of their fees by the government. The government had no option than to listen to them because this is the only language it understands. I wonder if it would have listened to the students if the student leaders would have created something like #bringdownourfees in Twitter. In 1992, Kenya transited from a one party state into a multiparty state after Kenyans applied pressure to the then government in the streets. If Twitter would have been in existent then, I wonder if the government would have bowed down to pressure if Kenyans would have created #wewantmultipatysm.

Hash tag activism has never and will never bring change in Kenya. It is not different from being indifferent. Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor and never his victim. In case you want to fight for any cause, don’t go online; stop reading this article, switch off your computer, get your hands off the keyboard, get your a** off the chair and mobilize like minded Kenyans to take tangible action. Let me be the first one to log off.

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