Six Stages of Political Growth

We were taught severally in school across may different subjects about the transitions of life: Birth, Initiation, Marriage, Birth again, Marriage again, Grandkids, Death, and that is what we came to expect of life, but that is not the reason for this article. I am writing this article today to express something I seem to have noticed about the stages of political consciousness in a typical Kenyan (not exclusively). Let us see where this goes.

The first stage I would like to talk about is the Naive and/or optimistic stage. This stage is usually the stage at which a young pre-to-mid-teen Kenyan starts waking up to the nature of political interactions in their country, the way you can smell chapati and meat stew being cooked from hundreds of metres away and know it is chapati and meat being cooked; only you do not know who, why, where exactly, and what is actually being cooked. It could be human meat being cooked by hyenas which your neighbours keep as pets.

In this stage also, you will notice a person has a definite political leaning and supports whoever supports whoever it is this person is leaning towards, optimistically, without thought, judgement or criticism, and expects "their" side to win. Whatever their political focus says is the truth and good.

The second stage is idealism. This stage is usually seen in mid-to-late teens and might extend to early twenties in the case of comrades. In this stage, the person in question starts to see the ills bedevilling the society, knows what needs to be done, is vocal about it and in many cases is also willing to do something about it. This is probably partly why Kibaki removed the mandatory NYS pre-university programme for youths because police officers were getting beaten like molasses in riots by people who were similarly trained to them. These are people willing to die for a political cause bigger than themselves and probably in vain, too. Most usually in vain. This is sad.

They may still support a political faction or ideology, but they are going to be disappointed badly.

The third stage in this process is outrage and anger. This is usually a brief stage in which this person realises the politicians they support are as dirty as their perceived enemies. They become angry at them and express their outrage vocally in vain hopes of trying to make them change or remind them of their ideologies. This does not usually work because the politicians either do not care, are far removed, or if the youth is in a position in which they can actually be heard, silence them quietly or loudly.

This is also a stage in which the youths themselves may try to form their own ideological outfit or go their own way. It usually ends disastrously for them.

Oh, and by the way: sometimes they are just angry at the politicians in power who they do not support and might wish that their side was in power instead.

The fourth stage in this report is disillusionment. This is the stage, usually from early-to-mid twenties onwards, in which this person finally realises that all politicians are the same. This is where their rose-tinted glasses break and stab them in their eyes, blinding them to all possibility, and all they care about is their broken, disappointed hearts crying about their betrayal by their political leaders who either joined the other side or is just the same type of wolf in different-coloured sheepskin. While a lot of (not necessarily but usually) learned people enter this stage and slip irreversibly into the canyon of political apathy, others (also not necessarily but also usually) less learned can usually be easily seduced by the same kind of person over and over again, just the same as happens to most women when it comes to love.

The fifth stage is acceptance and/or understanding. This is a junction, and a citizen may easily choose one of two or more ways, or even to loop back to idealism depending on which of their toes has been stepped on. In this stage, this citizen finally realises that nothing is really going to change despite their best wishes, efforts or prayers and may choose to join the Romans because thay have finally been converted to seeing politicians for who most of them really are: people who just want to eat, like them. Most of them usually proceed into one of two or more stages succeeding this stage.

The first fork succeeding the fifth stage is apathy. In this stage, a person is fully resigned. They realise their vote counts for nothing and their effort and time count for even less. In this stage, the citizen chooses to mind their own business and look for money instead. They may be vocal, however, about their apathy and claim all the points raised above: all politicians are the same, all of them are thieves, they would rather mind their own business - even when this business is directly or indirectly threatened by the actions of the politicians in power - and claim pseudo-unity. They may also distance themselves from their social backgound or immerse themselves further in it but at the end of the day, they are dead to politics. Bloody violence may shake them from their stupor but by then it is usually too little, too late, or they may resurrect as some sort of zombies; looking for food to eat, and not to provoke the dogs in the garden into biting them. This stage usually loops into itself.

The second fork is resignation. While this may sound similar to apathy, it is in content rather different. While the apathetic citizen chooses to do nothing, the resigned citizen realises that human beings are just that - human beings - and nothing will change that fact. Despite that, they still participate in political activities because they realise these activities actually touch their lives in one way or another and the impact of the actions of their leaders cascades down and touches more than they can immediately see. This person may temporarily loop into stages two or thee - sometimes one - also depending on which of their toes get stepped upon.


A lot of people have noticed that a lot of rich people do not openly or actively participate in political discourse which is a loud market but usually tend to come out at the other end of whatever cycle or event is in progress with fatter pockets. These people may understand that impact politicians have on their pockets and will look for ways to make it favourable, like through dirty deals, kickbacks and friendship. It annoys a lot of people, but the ugali will not bring itself to the table.

Secondly, you may notice parallels to whatever you are seeing in whatever political landscape you are in. Do not worry about it. It is all going to end soon.

This article assumes a level of unselfishness in political participation. Once a person starts becoming politically selfish, they usually tend to act in a manner that will give them access to money, power or prestige at whatever level their ambition takes them and will also probably do things that you would not normally expect of them.