Self – Preservation

December 30, 2018by Wanjiku J. Kiarie1

This vice has a couple of sayings around it. Top off my head is “Everyone for himself and God for us all”

I see ‘Self-preservation’ in my society everywhere I turn, including inwards.

Self-Preservation says:

“As long as I am ok/safe, I am not very concerned about my neighbor”

“As long as the people I care about are safe, the rest can perish for all I care”

“As long as I . . . I don’t care about . . .

The Kenya National Anthem is one of my greatest fascinations. As I have studied it I really do see how ‘self-preservation’ has eroded the national values embedded in our National Anthem.

From how we relate to the environment, to our work ethic, to our relationships with each other. Self-preservation is like a cancer eating away our very being.

The story of the ‘Rat Trap’ is to me the classic explanation of the futility of ‘self-preservation’.

Please read on . . .

The Rat Trap

(Author Unknown)

A rat looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. What food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a rat trap. Retreating to the barnyard the rat proclaimed the warning; “There’s a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Rat, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

The rat turned to the pig and told him, “There’s a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!” “I am so very sorry Mr. Rat,” sympathized the pig, “but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers.”

The rat turned to the cow. She said, “Like wow, Mr. Rat. a rat trap. I am in grave danger. Duh?” So the rat returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s rat trap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a rat trap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever.

Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

His wife’s sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well.  She died, and so many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern you, remember that when there is a rat trap in the house, the whole farm is at risk.


Next time you have water running in your tap and your neighbour doesn’t and you are tempted to snort and walk away . . . remember ‘the rat trap’

Next time someone is in a kind of trouble that really is not in your radar in the forseable future and you are tempted to ignore their pleas for help or mercy . . . remember ‘the rat trap’

Next time people from another tribe are under attack and people from your tribe are safe and you are tempted to keep quiet . . . remember ‘the rat trap’

Next time evil, injustice, wickedness is made known to you and you are tempted to ignore, keep quiet and walk away . . . remember ‘the rat trap’

One Rev. Martin Niemoller (1982 -1984), a Lutheran Pastor spoke the famous words on why the Christians kept quiet in Nazi Germany

Martin Ne

Kenyan award winning Photo Journalist and Activist Boniface Mwangi re-wrote these words in the Kenyan context and cartoonist Gado did what he does best to bring them to life


Now what?

Self-preservation is a lie. It is a lie that because you are not affected now, you will always be safe

Self-preservation is against our very African nature of Ubuntu. I am because We are.

Now that you know better, do better.

Speak up. Act right. – not the safest option, let no one lie to you, but certainly it is the RIGHT option.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Not sure where to start?

Start where you find yourself now. Yes, look around, then look inward and see where ‘self-preservation’ has consumed you. See where you can speak up. See for who you can speak up. Then go ahead and do it!


One comment

  • Evelyn Okello

    June 4, 2019 at 4:45 PM

    I have read over 10 of your posts today and my heart is screaming “Why didn’t I meet her sooner?” Truly truly, I want to do better. Thank you Joyce. Ubarikiwe!


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