Not Fearing the Crowd
On a lovely day in May 2007, I reported at JKUAT to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering. And during my first two years, I came to like the university because it was close to such big urban areas as Thika and Nairobi yet it was pristine enough to offer a rural environment that made me feel at one with nature. I would never, in the life of me, have imagined any riots to occur in such a relaxed campus as JKUAT's. Only in bigger institutions in busy city centres would I have expected students' strike to happen.
But then what I thought unimaginable happened. One morning around August 2008 when I was in my second-year, I woke up to rumours of an impending students' strike. Then moments afterwards as I was walking on one of the university's highways, it dawned on me the rumours were true when I saw a crowd of about 200 students charging at the university's officials who were at the graduation square trying to organize for a meeting to iron out any differences.
Fortunately, and I say fortunately for a reason I will explain afterwards, I didn't bother to hang around to see what would happen next. I just walked past the charging crowd, and then continued with my walk on and on to the neighbouring communities on the Western side of the university that I had hitherto not seen.
When I came back to the university after an hour or so of walking, I learnt that the usually relaxed JKUAT's campus had turned into a war-zone. The crowd that I had left charging at the university's officials became more hostile. It went on a rampage during which it smashed glass panes of some of the university's buildings and then went ahead to set a public service vehicle on fire. And when police were called to quell the violence, the rioting students engaged them in running battles.
Later on, I heard through the grapevine that the police managed to arrest some of the rioting students who were arraigned in court, probably to deter the students from engaging in such kind of chaotic strikes in the future. So I am thinking had I hanged around to observe what the charging crowd would do next, I would probably have been caught up in the fracas and arrested by the police. That's why I have said it was fortunate of me that I walked on and on to the environs in the Western side of the university.
Getting back to my story on the students' riot, there was a heavy police presence in the evening of that day the strike happened and in the next few days that followed. The university was closed down and students ordered to vacate their residential halls. And when it re-opened a few weeks later, each student was fined a certain amount of money for the damages that had been caused by the rioting students.
I later learnt when the university re-opened that the students rioted to protest against frequent power outages, and also because of food offered in the mess but I can't recall what exactly it was about the food that made them strike.
As to how such a violent riot happened in such a relaxed campus as JKUAT's is something I didn't get to understand. Also beyond my grasp was how someone could galvanize a crowd of more than 200 students into causing such horrendous damages. All I can say now is that I learnt that day the students rioted about the power of a crowd.
Well, I had read and heard about the power of a crowd before. A senior staff member in high school at Starehe Boys' Centre had told us that the intelligence of a crowd is equal to that of the most stupid person in it. That day at JKUAT when the students rioted, I came to realize how true that was.
Today, I have resolved to live without fear of the crowd. Ha! That reminds me of the following verse from a favourite hymn of mine:
By living without fear of the crowd, I mean not worrying about what others think of me. Or what they are saying about me. So help me God.
Teach me to look in all my ends,
On thee for judge, and not my friends;
That I, with thee, may walk uncowed,
By fear or favour of the crowd.
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Defeating the Goliath
I suppose everyone, at one time or another in life, faces that problem I call the Goliath. It is a problem that seems to be the only obstacle to experiencing happiness and achieving our dreams. "If only we could overcome this problem," we think, "then life would be a piece of cake."
The problem I refer to as Goliath could be an illness, financial constraints, confusion of mind, difficulty in understanding a subject at school or having to deal with a difficult person at home or at workplace.
I have borrowed the term Goliath from the giant in the Bible who headed the Philistine army. He was a mighty warrior with extraordinary fighting abilities. Under his command, the Philistine army was unconquerable. Sometimes, Goliath would challenge any soldier of the Israelite army to fight him. But so much was the fear that he aroused in his enemies that all soldiers in the Israelite army trembled in his presence.
It was in the midst of one of those taunting episodes that there arose a young shepherd boy named David who volunteered to fight Goliath on behalf of the Israelite army. David had heard about the giant and how his fighting expertise was worrying his senior brothers and their comrades in the army.
At first, David's challenge to Goliath appeared laughable. Here was a naive boy with nil battle-ground experience about to face a giant with an arrogance born out of spectacular military victories. David's body couldn't even fit in an armour because he was smaller in size.
But alas! The unexpected happened. David killed Goliath by hurling a stone to his head with a slingshot. That victory was so surprising that it has earned David praise from his admirers throughout the ages.
I can imagine how it was that day David felled Goliath. Every soldier of the Philistine army fled in fear with the whole Israelite army in hot pursuit. The defeat of a single Goliath caused on the one hand, every soldier of the Philistine army to be filled with fear and on the other hand, every soldier of the Israelite army to be rejuvenated with strength and courage. It was like Goliath was the only obstacle to the military success of Israel.
As you can see, there is indeed a similarity between Goliath of the Bible and the problem I refer to as the Goliath: the one that seems to be the only obstacle to experiencing happiness and achieving our dreams. And what lessons can we draw from David's victory in dealing with the Goliaths in our lives?
First, we need God on our side. David had a clean heart and loved the Lord with all his soul. And it's because of that reliance on God that he attained victory over Goliath.
Secondly, David used his skill of using a slingshot to defeat Goliath. Similarly, the key to defeating the Goliaths in our lives may be found in the skills and talents God has endowed us.
Lastly, the other lesson we can glean from David's victory is the courage he summoned to face the Goliath. We also need courage to confront the Goliaths in our lives. It could be by talking them out with a counsellor or by asking for help from a person we are intimidated to approach.