If there is anything that the Covid-19 global pandemic has dismantled, it is the fallacy of the middleclass. The platitude that the bourgeoisie are always only a medical bill away from sliding back into poverty has ever been told, but that reality has never ever been laid bare as with this crisis.
Kenya, as with the rest of the developing world, with nonexistent social valves that would cushion its underprivileged in the face of an epidemic, is in reality only comprised of the superrich and the poor. The middleclass is a mere fallacy that exists only for theoretical purposes. This became clear with the crumbling of the economy as social distancing became inevitable and a possible total lockdown imminent once the country announced on March 13 its first confirmed case of the Covid-19.
With businesses closing shop and economy slowing down at an unprecedented scale, it dawned on a majority of the population that, with March salary being uncertain, they were not going to make rent for April, leave alone putting a meal on the table. A Kenya Airways pilot making a monthly gross in the upwards of Sh3m, for instance, is mired in growth loans probably with a residential construction in Karen. A complete lockdown as was being gleefully advocated for by some, with a possible cutting off of his revenue streams for months on end would bring him ulcers.
How about the rest and majority of the touted middleclass with monthly grosses of say from Sh150, 000 and above? Though displaying comfort; a personal car and staying at a nice estate, this lot lives on hand to mouth basis, bogged down by the online money sharks. They definitely cannot afford to skip their paycheck for two months. Wasn’t it telling that the Government’s first step in mitigating the effects of the pandemic was to call on financial institutions to relax loan regulations in the period of the crisis?
If that is the case for Kenya’s perceived middleclass, how about the poor, those who, according to the World Bank, live on less than a dollar per day? Do you now understand why the panicky fleeing of the masses from cities to the upcountry? It was never about fleeing the disease; the exodus of those who earn their bread on a daily basis was about the fear of starvation in the face of an imminent disruption.
The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted world order in unprecedented way. Nothing seems certain anymore. Even after it will have been conquered, and it is our prayer that it happens sooner than later, the world will never be same again.