Sunday, August 05, 2007

Barbed Wire - technology of the future

In a country of as much inequality, disparity, and insecurity, protection of property is a difficult task. Nations struggling with these issues could learn a thing or two from Kenya, which has developed exciting new technology and employed it on a scale unseen before in the modern world. It is called "barbed wire."

Kenyans use barbed wire in such proliferation that it is surprising that crime, or poverty for that matter, still exists. Homeowners use barbed wire and broken glass to fend off intruders. Schools wrap entire compounds in barbed wire to protect their valuable sports fields from rogue athletes who don't know how to open a gate. Government offices, libraries, and businesses line their sidewalks with barbed wire to guide visitors in the right direction. Public parks even incorporate barbed wire into the bordering bushes and the groundcover shrubs located throughout the towns. While the purpose of this last use may escape you, you can be sure that the person who put them there knew what he or she was doing. Unless you're a Kenyan, you're not a Kenyan - don't judge Kenyans blindly using the standards of your own native land.
Aside from the obvious security that barbed wire provides, its seemingly excessive use (to the untrained eye) has an added benefit: it eradicates poverty. This little-known development strategy accomplishes this in several ways:

1. It encourages tourism. Any country with this much barbed wire must be secure enough for rich tourists. "You are safe," it says. "You are welcome here. Thieves are not." Many foreigners likely find the abundance of barbed wire to more than make up for the inept, corrupt police force. After all, barbed wire can't ask for a bribe. It can only protect you.

2. It promotes consumption which, as we all know, is good. Every day hundreds, maybe thousands, of shirts, pants, shoes andother articles of clothing are shredded on the barbed wire by unsuspecting pedestrians. This seeming annoyance is actually a proactive strategy employed by the government to encourage people to buy new clothes. The more things people buy, after all, the higher the GDP! This is simple math. It's amazing that more developing nations haven't recognized the brilliance of this policy.

3. It is educative. It keeps Kenyans alert and aware. People who don't pay attention to what they're doing or where they're going will inevitably get a sharp wake-up call. My technical trainer in Peace Corps had thick scars on his face and arms from one such instructive session during his childhood. He was riding his bike to school - recklessly no doubt - when he hit a bump and crashed into a barbed wire patch disguised as a flower garden. He had to go to the hospitel (creating employment in the health sector!) and was unable to leave his house for several days. You can be sure he learned something from that incident.

Kenya is an up-and-comer in the developing world, and for what reason? The police and government are still uncontrollably corrupt (look up the Goldenberg scandal for your own reference), most of the country is still without running water or electricity, and the country's roads are laughably poor. Obviously, the recent economic growth and probable decrease in crime must be due to other factors. Heavy use of barbed wire is clearly the policy of choice for developing nations struggling with poverty and crime.

If you're still not convinced, visit Kenya for yourself. Just bring enough cash for a new shirt.


  1. Anonymous12:29 PM

    You forgot to mention the education component which I found so refreshingly enlightening. If I remember correctly, the high school students had to buy a bundle of barbed wire as one of their forms of disciplinary punishment. If only western civilizations could be so forward thinkin. It was amazing.

    Love Always,

    Daddio Babba Mezze


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