KENYA AND THE GOLDILOCKS PRINCIPLE

The posters are back again, lots of them, haphazardly placed and all screaming for attention, party primaries are almost upon us and aspirants for various posts are desperate for our votes. Conspicuously missing though, are the presidential campaign posters, urging voters to lend their vote to the most powerful and bitterly contested political seat in the country. In Kenya’s recent past, the choice for the country’s chief exec utive, given the candidates on offer, has been about choosing the lesser evil, or at least that’s what the majority of the voters feel, and not necessarily choosing the best of the lot. Too corrupt, too high-handed, too likely to be drunk with power, too inexperienced, too old, too vengeful and full of vendetta, too privileged to have the masses interests at heart, too..the list of reasons to deny a particular candidate and give another goes on and on. Perhaps what Kenya needs is a Goldilocks moment, and less posters, (there are already close to 40,000 aspirants for 1,000 local government posts, that’s a lot of posters).

The Goldilocks moment I speak of is from the Goldilocks principle, which states that when some quality of the items in a sufficiently large given sample can be arranged on a scale ranging from one extreme to another extreme (for example from extremely cold to extremely hot), some items will fall in a moderate range between these extremes. When the effects of the principle are observed, it is known as the Goldilocks effect.

The name of the Goldilocks principle is derived from a children’s story, The Three Bears, in which a little girl named Goldilocks finds a house owned by three bears. Each bear has its own preference of food and beds. After testing all three examples of both items, Goldilocks determines that one of them is always too much in one extreme (too hot or too large), one is too much in the opposite extreme (too cold or too small), and one is “just right”. The Goldilocks principle is not a hard law, but examples in which it applies are found across many disciplines, particularly developmental psychology, biology, economics and engineering.

In the often-divisive Kenyan presidential election, there are two main players in the race to occupy State House after the August 8th election, the current President Uhuru Kenyatta, and son of Kenya’s first president, and the opposition chief, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the son to Kenya’s first Vice President. To a section of the population, President Uhuru’s government has been the architect of unheralded grand corruption, accused of ballooning the national debt at the expense of projects that are mired in allegations of graft, all this while lacking political will to change the status quo. To another section, Raila Odinga’s camp mirrors the government’s corruption and abuse of office track record, and the only reason their numbers aren’t as talked about is because they are not in charge of the country’s coffers. Two leaders at different ends of the spectrum, one capitalist and Kikuyu (Uhuru) the other Luo and socialist (Raila), but both wildly popular in their constituencies, and both accused of being elitist, the sources of their families’ fabulous wealth questioned, an insatiable appetite for power at any cost and questionable service delivery to the country even after decades of a stranglehold on the countries leadership.

In the story, Goldilocks walks into an empty house in the woods after the owners, a family of bears, take a walk as the porridge, that was too hot to drink, cools. Of the three seats she finds, two are either too hard or too big, and one is just right, the three bowls of porridge are also either too hot or too cold, but one is just right and she eats it before taking a nap in the bed she also finds to be just right, (not sure how sensible it is to sleep in a bear’s house though). Looking at the lesson from the fable, surely there has to be a leader that can save the country from these politics of patronage and one step forward, ten steps backwards? A candidate with no links to the cartels that dictate the policies that affect price, and consequently, standard of life. A candidate that will ensure that our fellow countrymen in arid areas will not queue for relief food and water as the country hemorrhages money to inflated tenders, duplicated roles and paid-for-but-undelivered services. That our shilling will not keep losing to major currencies as only a few well-connected individuals benefit from a weakening shilling. A candidate that will provide quality, consistent social services to his/her people not because it is a photo opportunity, but because he understands that it is their right as taxpayers. A president that will give Kenya hope, restore her people’s pride and set the tone for the rejection of mediocrity and embracing brilliance.

The story about Goldilocks and the three bears ends with the bears coming back and noticing an intruder had been to their house, and finding Goldilocks in baby bear’s bed, she manages to take off and avoid the wrath of bears angry at an empty porridge bowl and a broken baby seat. That is Goldilock’s story, the Kenyan one will be written on the 8th of August, and read out to the world a few days later, whether the electorate will settle for candidates accused of being at the extreme ends of the moral and ethical yardstick, or the right candidates is a decision they still have four months to mull over.