A Good Read (20mins)
“A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with a dear friend who is no stranger to Nairobi’s night life. He was talking to me about B-Club -which I hear is the holy grail of the high-end partying experience in this city. You all know me. I’m a village boy. The closest I come to partying in Nairobi is listening to Ohangla artists in dingy pubs and drinking beer. The most expensive drink I’ve ever bought is a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label.
I’ve been to Space Club along Ngong Road once and I hated the place. Nothing nauseates me as a crowd of college girls screaming their voices hoarse against a backdrop of loud shady music, delicately balancing their drinks as they stagger in their stilettos. Ain’t it fascinating how these young women manage to hold their glasses still as they stagger in six-inch heels? It beats the Newtonian laws of Gravitational Physics!
So my friend here tells me how he went to B-Club, bought a bottle of Hennessy XO worth 27,000 shillings and still couldn’t find a seat. I was shocked beyond words. How does anyone buy a bottle of alcohol worth 27,000? It reminded me of the Late Captain Apollo Malowa, our Luo son who I hear could buy Hennessy XO at B-Club every weekend but could not build a home for himself. “Class!” My friend quipped. “I’m a man of class. When I go to places like B-Club, I drink the finest Cognac. Hennessy XO is the finest Cognac you’ll ever find.” One thing about me is that I love information. I ask questions.
Later that evening, I did a bit of research about Cognac. Cognac is exclusively produced in France and includes brands like Rèmy Martin, Martel, Hennessy, and Courvoisier. What I found shocking is that although France produces this exclusive drink, the French do not touch Cognac. As a matter of fact, 97 percent of the Cognac France produces is meant for the export market. Now the United States is the largest importer of Cognac and guess who the largest consumer is? Black America.
Cognac is so important to Black American culture that Hip-Hop artists compose songs about it. Remember P Diddy’s “Pass the Courvoisier?” Of all the Cognac brands in Black America, Hennessy is the most visible. Why do they consume it? Why is it that from time to time, a Kenyan is likely to brag on social media about how they bought Hennessy XO and even show us pictures of their bill at the end of the night? Because Hennessy is a status symbol, a signature brand, a luxury item. And we Black people are preoccupied with status symbols.
France produces Hennessy but the French don’t drink it. Instead they sell it to the poor, ignorant, black man so that he can brag about it. I’m not done yet so please stay with me to the end and you’ll get my point.
White people own 12 times more wealth than Blacks all over the world. Yet according to a study by CNN Money, the Black man is six times more likely to buy a Mercedes Benz than the White Man.
When a Black Man buys a luxury item such as the Jaguar, his wealth is probably one-third less than what is owned by a White Man in the same social class. Black people are Gucci’s primary market. They are likely to buy more Louis Vuitton compared to White people. Yet their total wealth is only one-tenth of what White people own. How did this happen?
White people knew that the only way they could maintain their dominance in the world was to mess us psychologically. In the West, they put us into slavery. In Africa, they colonised us. While under slavery and colonial rule, the White Man taught us that we were inferior, that we had no sense of worth.
Later, the same person who enslaved us gave us freedom in the name of democracy. But they didn’t fix the mess they had put in our heads.
With the advent of market liberalization, they knew that they had to retain the upper hand in global economics. Whereas they had freed us from physical chains, they kept us in economic slavery.
They introduced status symbols and told us that the only way you could be like the White Man was to drive a Mercedes Benz.
The only way you can have a sense of worth is to put on Louis Vuitton and drink Hennessy.
So the French produce Hennessy -which they do not touch- and sell it to us. The Germans produce Mercedes Benz and ship most of their units to Black America and Africa. Nike produces Air Jordans, put a Black face on it, and sells it to Black kids. We are always giving them our money and boasting as we do it. We are slaves. We are still in chains.
What is even more saddening is that while we are taught that financial success is characterised by consumerist indulgence and the worship of luxury, the White Man teaches his children that financial success is defined by conspicuous production and the worship of labour.
That it is not about how much you spend but how much you make.
In White communities, productivity is the symbol of class power -not consumption. What we need to do as Africans is get rid of this culture of “arrivalism” which teaches our children to work hard and drive Mercedes Benzes, slave the whole week and drink Hennessy XO on Friday.
We should teach our children the important principles of financial literacy which is a critical component of the foundation of economic development -that of conspicuous production and not conspicuous consumption.
Otherwise we’ll keep on being the Niggers bound by economic chains.”
-astonishing kenyan writing-