A tale of three countries

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I want to tell you a story. There once was a small peaceful country on the coast of a large continent. A country where people voted on tribal lines and lived in tribal enclaves speaking tribal languages. A country where violent invasion and occupation defined recent history, where the older generation could remember the fight for liberation. One day recently this country held an election and no-one was sure who had won. In fact no-one was clear for half of a year. And so there was no government in that country. And yet there was no violence here. No fighting. No murders. This country is Belgium.

I want to tell you another story. There once was another country. A vibrant diverse country – full of different tribes and voices. It was a young country still feeling its feet in the world. A country noticeable for its inequality – where wealth and poverty sat side by side. One day recently this country also held an election and no-one was sure who had won. Although, in fact, half the country was sure – they were sure their man had won and the other half were sure that he hadn’t. And for five weeks no-one knew who would rule – and rumours spread of fraud and election rigging. And yet there were no riots, no looting and no violence of any kind. This country is the United States of America.

I want to tell you a final story. There once was a third country, that was much like the other two. It too was a small peaceful country on the coast of a large continent. It too was a diverse country where people voted on tribal lines and spoke tribal languages. Its older generation could also remember liberation day. And it too was noticeable for its inequality – wealth and poverty sat here side by side. Just like the others, one day recently this country held an election and no-one was sure who had won. But this time as the rumours of fraud and election rigging spread, there was violence, there was looting and there were murders. Kenya has now gone 7 days without a fully legitimate government and 300 people are dead.

So what is the difference between these three stories? Why are 300 people dead in Kenya, but none in Belgium. What have 70, 000 Kenyans had to flee their homes, while not a single Gore-supporter felt the need to even move down the road?

The thing is Belgium and America have something that Kenya doesn’t. And – to make matters more complex – it’s not something you can see. It’s not pothole-free roads, schools with textbooks or affordable hospitals (although those sure help!). But it is something you’ve experienced every day of your life. It’s the thing that’s made every group you’ve ever been part of work or not work – whether it’s a marriage, a church or a business. What is it? It’s trust. Why didn’t Belgium become a government-less anarchy? Because the Belgiums trusted each other to get on with their lives in the interim. Why didn’t America fall into a second revolutionary war? Because the Americans trusted the courts to make a decision and everyone else to respect it. The trouble is that trust isn’t built in a day, but it can be destroyed in a moment. And at the moment, Kenya seems to be doing more destroying than building.

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One Response to “A tale of three countries”

  1. Rob Says:

    Jon, a moving tale – well done. How do you start to build trust after a downward spiral such as this? Your insights are appreciated…

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