Monthly Archives: August 2015

Is The Dearth of Real Heroes Made Worse By Commercialisation Of Heroism?

Recently, a hitherto unknown crop of ‘Mau Mau veterans’ from Murang’a sent a petition to the county’s Assembly, seeking to have schools and hospitals named after them.

They sought ex-gracia payments to be made to them as tokens of appreciation and compensation. 

It is absurd, in my view, for individuals who undertake good deeds to file for reward. Such acts reek of corruption – at least that of the mind.

Real heroes are those who step forward from the shadows to rise to an occasion. To help. To save. To fight for a cause. Their good deeds being done without any contemplation by them of a reward, or to be in tomorrow’s headlines to soak up the limelight. That’s the stuff that distinguish ordinary men (and women) from extraordinary ones. 


I have a lot of disdain for people who step forward to claim some recognition or reward on the plea that they did well. 

My great uncle was a Mau Mau oath administrator. He fought for land freedom. He died, nay passed on, without much fanfare. I admire the way he sailed on, humility with him. Great. 

A veteran of WWII, he just played his part as a hero once he returned to his country.

I have a lot of disdain for, say, would-be good Samaritans who, finding your car stuck, hint or even explicitly negotiate for a reward in exchange for help.

However, recognition is good. What I find outrageous is people doing things for recognition sake. Our society, led of course by its government, should look up heroes hidden in the debris of humble obscurity, and recognize them.

And many heroes are found away from prime time news and screaming newspaper headlines.
Recognition can take the form of a plaque, monument or naming of a road after someone. 

Speaking of which…..why do we name a road ‘Thika Highway’? Why do we have Westlands Road? Or Jogoo road?

This country teems with so many heroes. And their name is not ‘Jogoo’.

We all know where Thika is. How about naming the highway after Muthoni NyanjirĂ» – that gallant woman who was shot dead in 1922 leading protests against Harry Thuku’s incarceration? Or Abdul Haji – he of the Westgate rescue effort? 

Certainly, both Haji and Muthoni never contemplated reward, or the limelight. Their sense of action was undoubtedly instinctive.

Such are my true heroes.

If I had it my way, the country would be replete with monuments and plaques celebrating real heroes. I’d name, say, Riverside Drive Abdul Haji Drive. And I’d identify a spot along the road on which a symbolic sculpture of the man would immortalize him. 

I’d do the same for other heroes on many roads, or structures. 

Besides serving as bookmarks of history, these monuments, if well conceived, could as well then become attractions for tourists, if not history enthusiasts such as I. And our kids would better appreciate and be inspired by the virtues of selflessness and heroism.

But to start off, we need to redefine the criteria and tactics that we use to recognize our true heroes. Otherwise future generations will judge us harshly on the approach we used to determine heroes.