The mall culture has finally caught up with us in Kenya. Anything that starts in the US, both good and bad, will eventually land in Kenya. Before it was due to the influence of TV and movies, most of which are dominated by the US. Now there’s the Internet, especially YouTube and the like. The Kenya government really needs to speed up that law of 60 percent content in the media being local. Lots of content is being created in the radios, on the web, TV, but it’s not yet enough. But we are certainly headed in the right direction.
Not that I have a problem with malls. Of all American imports, this one is far from being the worst. But it is a habit that feeds onto other habits. I admit being one of the mall wanderers. A person who walks around the malls looking for latest shops, new ice-cream flavours, good internet “hotspot”, free magazines. No real goal or destination, just people watching and spending. I like malls because they are safer from pick pockets because of being in enclosed areas. Few people will try grabbing your phone. But they pose more security risks when you think of political terrorism for the same reason of being enclosed. I also love the idea of getting all my stuff done in one place. The supermarket, shops, dry cleaners, newspaper vendor and others are all under one roof. In town, you would need to walk for long to locate different things. And while walking is not such a bad thing, malls make us lazy and unwilling to strain. Being indoors also makes malls free from the elements, the sometimes excessive heat and heavy rains of Nairobi.
But then, malls are making us into a consumer society. Shopping is a hobby in the same way as golf, painting and jogging. Idle people with some money head directly to the mall. It seems that there’s an itch that comes from having too much excess money. People get kind of constipated if they do not empty their bank accounts and their wallets of the excessive dollars and shillings they made last month. And they need to release that extra burden in a mall, possibly in the presence of as many witnesses as possible. And much of this is done in clothes shops and food joints. The kids will not go home without pizza, and ice-cream and mama will have a supermarket attendant load her several trollies of more food into the new Range Rover Sports.
Ok. I admit some green envy. I hated walking into the fashion store last week to try on and hopefully buy the yellow top at the window. Alas! It costs more than my monthly rent. Before I walked out in a dejected state, Madame walked in with her kids and she loved the same top, among other things. When I saw her swipe the visa to cover several items worth my current annual income, I must admit I turned greener. But I swear to you, as much as I envy the SUV comfort, I don’t want the unhealthy lifestyle and I certainly don’t want to reach the point of jotting down shopping as my hobby on my CV.
I mean, with all that money, you can get a life. But before I point some fingers at others, I have to look deep inside. I admit, if I had the money, I would have certainly bought the damn top. Which means, I’m no different. I’m just several shades broker than the others.
If I had still more cash in my name after 2 houses and two cars, how would I behave? In the same pathetic way.
It makes me wonder if there’s a point, a kind of wealth threshold that we cross, after which we lose our heads in the money. The threshold is different for each of us. Some people lose their minds after they have their first hundred thousand shillings, for others it’s the infamous “metre”, Kenyan speak for million. Then suddenly, you think you must have any yellow top that you fancy. I will write about that threshold when I cross it. For now, I must admit, that I’m at the mall again, and I will damn well have any ice-cream flavour that I can afford, piled high, because after paying my rent last week, I have a cool five-hundred bob to spare.