Sunday, May 12, 2013

Occupy HELB, says the Fiddler on my Non-existent Roof

Tom, as Rabbi
“Rabbi! Rabbi! Is there a prayer we can say for the Tsar?”
“Yes! May God bless the Tsar…and keep him far far away from us!”

-          Scene III of Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Dear HELB*, 

(*Higher Education Loans Board)

90%Sold Out, you say?

Where have I heard that sold out threat before? Oh, yeah, that’s right. Every new skyscraper that litters the lines in Nairobi’s horizon has that pitchfork aimed at our sights, long before it’s actually complete.

Every event organizer threatens that advance (cheaper) tickets are about to sell out, despite tickets also being ‘available at the gate’. Every other radio show host will promise you juicy call-in sessions that are (I swear!) unscripted. Safaricom threatened to trap all unregistered trappers in the whole of Kenya oga oh. Digital TV threatened to go ham on Analog TV late last year. 

We’ve become a society that feeds on – nay; gobbles up and hobbles off with, to use pigliamentary language – Public Relations exercises and marketing gimmicks. I have no doubt that this SMS I received from you during the course of this week was inspired by State House’s hyperbolic antics.

Your loan balance is Kes. 888,888 for Idno. 2xyz2abc. Repay your full University Loan by 6th June 2013 and get a full penalty amnesty; contact HELB - 0711052000
Sender: (no name) HELB 

Received: 18:43:27 0y.05.2013

So allow me to respond in kind, dear no name.

I will not contact you.

As we have already established, I have no money. See text you sent me above. In case you need advance settings on that simple message, I will be willing to assist. Bank statements from my 2 money changers should bring you to tears. I can assure you that they will be no joy drops, either, as the Revenue Authority may well choose to alert you. Simply put, even my Mpesa statement - nay, Okoa Jahazi Account! -  is by and large a casting call for phantasmagoria. *Google is your friend, dear no name*

‘History records that money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance. ’
         -          President James Madison

I am willing to pay.

If I could eat will, I would be one helluva fat man. Complete with the willing wrist and neck chains, glistening with will as I stand on a podium of will, next to the president of will, and chant willingly about the will of the Kenyan workers' ill will against the House of Common thieves. I am sure, however, that you understand that will is not yet a currency. As soon as it is, however, I will more than likely pay you.

‘You can be killed just as dead in an unjustified war as you can in one protecting your own home’
       -          Will Rogers

I have not refused to work.

This is not a statement of my lack of intent to pay. I know you bureaucratic types have a way of selecting what you listen to, and even then you've already filtered out what you hear. 

This is a statement of my lack of ability to pay. 

Show me the money, and I will quickly give it to you. So in the spirit of giving back, and all, how about you give me back my dignity before you attempt to take away my liberty?

‘We don’t have to worry about anything. No nation in the history of the world was ever sitting as pretty. If we want anything, all we have to do is go and buy it on credit.’
          -          Will Rogers

Of course, to quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (the movie), "we don't eat like kings, but we don't starve either."

I will not be threatened.

You said there’s a penalty amnesty? I wish, oh how I do, that I had 2 weeks of my area MP’s salary. The current one, not the one he wants. 

Then I would, in order of priority, buy a quarter acre of land in some Savannah of the un-silicon kind, buy a trailer container, use it to ‘develop’ said kaquarter, buy a mattress and fit it midway into the container, then – and only then – I would send you the change.

In the meantime, take a chill pill as my MP and I negotiate. 

Unfortunately, he is not a cougar (that’s an older woman into younger boys, no name) – and I don’t roll that way, neither does he; I haven’t heard it on Ghafla! anyway. If he was a she, an actual she, not a he-she, I would consider giving him some.

‘A man only learns by two things; one is reading, and the other is association with smarter people.’
              -          Will Rogers
Find yourselves a book. Or else look for smarter people. You’re reading one right now, by the way, no name. Thanks to your Loan, Varsity was a blast. The reading part, the partying part and the women part; we even learnt to do all three at once. Don’t believe me? Google the World’s Loudest Library (@pmbclibrary)

Are you so out of touch with reality, in your penthouse offices and leafy suburban bliss, that you forget why you gave me the loan to begin with? Because I could not pay my way through Varsity on my own; now you’re going to sit there paying for this bulk SMS system, advertising rigorously that I pay ‘or else’?

You are called the Higher Education Loans Board – higher education is pointless if I will not be working anywhere without being either underemployed, or overworked and underpaid. Then you expect me to simply watch as you deep your claws into that piggy bank I call an existence? Whatever happened to a saving culture?

‘We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.’
                 -          Will Rogers
I have a right to peace of mind, and a piece of meat in my daily meal. Not the 3-course you’re on as you demand your money back! And you have the right to a piece of my mind. I’ll try serving you to your fill.

If I were a rich man ... there would be no questions. When you're rich they really think you know

I will put up my own house.

This particular one is a message from my ol’ man. He may be my guarantor, but there is absolutely no way he is paying that loan. He says, by the way, that you can find him on Twitter, and he'll gladly reiterate that sentiment. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way. He builds his own houses, and I will build mine. If that means the penalty (Kes. 5,000 a month is it?) will continue to dig a hole through my as torn pocket, then so be it.

I have after all been out of Campus for two years, and by my estimation of my own worth, I should be paying the Revenue Authority at least Kes. 15,000 a month. That, over a duration of 24+ months means I owe the Government of Kenya at least Kes. 360,000. By my reckoning, I have at least 2 more years before my loan, plus the monthly penalties, gets that far. I can live with that…scratch that; I can SURVIVE with that.

‘Ten men in the country could buy the world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.’
                    -          Will Rogers
Just as I will pay my own bride-price should it come to that, I do not expect to be emasculated any further by having the man who foots my bills when times are thick (whale-skin thickness, not your regular hide) and has fed me regularly over the past 24 months, also have to pay my dues at no name.


Incidentally, what is the world coming to when a man has to take out a loan to pay back a loan he was granted as a student loan? Forget interest-free loans, President Uhuru…we want a rebate!

So as we plan to #OccupyParliament in less than 48 hours, I challenge every defaulter who has defaulted not by choice but by lack thereof it, to join me in asking President Uhuru to budget for a government bail-out of we the meek.

I do not seek to ask for a handout. I seek to receive a scrapping on the BS penalty that ignores the fact that I need to earn to pay back my dues. So before any Salaries and Remunerations are upgraded for 400 odd able-bellied men, how about the richest man in Kenya by Forbes’ account help us #OccupyHELB?

Think of it as indemnity for the youth, Mr. President, and your soon-to-be parliament.

"He's right and he's right? They can't BOTH be right!"
"You know; you are also right."
                                       - Fiddler on the Roof 

If we deserve to ‘accept’ your nomination of political devil incarnates who have ‘moved on’ and reincarnated as technocrats, don’t we deserve to also give the youth a second chance to pay back their student loans interest- and penalty-free?

As a man who appreciates more flair and panache in a speech than Kibaki, I’m sure you can relate with this one.

‘There is one thing in common with all revolutions (in fact they are pretty near like wars in that respect) nobody ever knows what they are fighting about!’
                                                  -          Will Rogers

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