• Caleb Atemi

Lessons from a House Fly

The lakes, rivers and oceans are clapping in joyful celebration.

The fly on my laptop

I looked at the fly and smiled. I can swear it smiled back. This was the umpteenth time it had landed on my laptop. My attempts to shoo it away were futile. A long time ago, I would have smashed it without a second thought. But a lengthy discussion with my last-born son had endeared me to the weirdest of things that nature has to offer.

“Dad why would you want to kill an innocent fly which only has 21 days to live? Why not let it live and enjoy its life to the maximum? You, how would you feel if a Daddy lion killed your son?” The questions startled me. It woke me from my intellectual slumber. I had just smashed a fly that kept buzzing near my delicious plate of stewed fish. It never even occurred to me that it had a family.


A few months after the conversation with my son, the reality of the importance of flies in our lives became clearer. NTV, a local television station, ran an investigative feature revealing how crooks “treat” meat with poisonous chemicals to maintain its freshness. The hazardous chemicals were known to cause cancer and other deadly complications.

The easiest way to tell whether the meat was fresh and without chemicals was to find out if it attracts flies. Flies would only be pulled towards natural, authentic meat. Voila! These irritating insects that sometimes carry germs and bacteria on their little feet had become detectives.

So, in a society like ours where the greedy thrive, the fly had won itself an important place in the fight against the human hyenas.

The Reuben Kigame Sermon

I looked at the fly more keenly. It had not moved. I wondered what it found so attractive on my sanitised laptop. As I visualised its smile, I recalled a powerful sermon many years ago at the Christ is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), in Karen. The famous musical artist Reuben Kigame was the preacher.

“To God, a 1000 days is like a 1000 years and a 1000 years is like a 1000 days”…Kigame used the analogy of a house fly to tell us that God does not look at time the way humans do: ”If you met a 7 day old fly and asked it ‘how are you feeling Mr. Fly?:’ it might reply ‘I am fine’, then you asked it :” How old are you Mr. Fly’’, in a shaky aging voice, it might respond “I am 70 years old my friend”. In the fly kingdom, days could be years.

The World on its Knees

Today, as I worked on my book writing assignments, it dawned on me that we had a lot to learn from a house fly and Mother Nature.

The corona virus, which spewed and seeped its way from China in December 2019, has crippled the entire world. The world’s leading economies, from the United States of America, to Germany, Britain to Russia, Japan to Brazil, are on their knees. The man that American’s cursed themselves with as their President seems the most helpless. The superpower, that has reigned supreme over global affairs since World War II has no response to the virus. Donald Trump, who some refer to as the Mad Man of America, has been turned into a cartoon character by the vicious virus. More Americans had by end of April 2020, died from Corona than those killed during the lengthy American war in Vietnam.

Corona is so powerful that it closed down even places of worship. Both Christians and Muslims have to worship from their homes. The Muslim world even has to celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadhan with no activity at all in the Holy City of Mecca. Almost all global airlines have halted passenger travel. Countries have closed their borders.

Billions of people worldwide are hiding in their homes. Isolation. Quarantine. Social Distancing…have become the most common words today. As we hide in our isolation, petrified, ruled and terrorised by fear of the unknown, flies continue carrying out their businesses.

I almost burst into laughter when I imagined how many generations of flies have been around since December 2019. The Fly Kingdom is telling us that we must never again take them and nature for granted.

The Smiling Skies

Since the Government of Kenya imposed drastic measures on Kenyans in order to contain the Corona virus, I have been doing my Karate exercises in a beautiful open ground behind my house. It dawned on me that more birds seem to have emerged in our midst since the onset of Corona.

During one of the workouts that served as my daily dose of free Vitamin D from the sun, my son reminded me that Corona virus was a major blessing to humanity. The lakes, rivers and oceans are clapping in joyful celebration. For the first time these massive water sources have been freed and liberated from more than 100 years of industrial pollution.

Animals in our national parks and game reserves are celebrating. For the first time since colonialism, they can enjoy being animals in their natural habitations without destructive characters called tourists criss-crossing their homes. The lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and cheetahs…the hyenas can steal and scavenge without preying eyes of some fellow documenting their behaviour. The animals have at last tasted freedom that their ancestors enjoyed before the invasion of Africa by the destructive habits of Mzungus of hunting for trophies and fun.

The forests are singing and dancing. Trees are celebrating. Even loggers and illegal harvesters of trees cannot dare venture into the forests to do damage. There have been reports that peaks of some of the tallest mountains in the world can now be seen. The skies have cleared since motor vehicle movement has been reduced to the minimum. Millions of cars are asleep as people stay at home, the sky is clear and mountains can breathe.

My son prays that Corona should hang around for another two years so that the earth rejuvenates and sparkles once more.

Back breaking schedules

Corona has slowed down humanity for its own good. We had been turned into unfriendly, temperamental, moody and evil working machines and robots. Times and schedules defined our lives. We barely had time for ourselves and for nature.

Meanwhile, as we try to relearn how-to live-in isolation, as we grapple with the drastic changes imposed upon us, houseflies, cockroaches and other creatures thrive. Animals are now visiting human habitations. Animals are telling us:” You humans think you know it all while in reality you know nothing. You must start respecting and preserving nature for your own future and for posterity.”

Conspiracy Theories

There have been many theories in circulation that the corona virus was manufactured and released into the world by the Anti-Christ. That they want to spread enough fear to force governments to impose a vaccine upon the world population.

Being a student of literature and history, I have learned never to dismiss any argument. My only comfort is that assuming these theories are true, we need not worry. God and Nature, have a good response to the billionaires who may want to play God. In their machinations, they will be brought to their knees and destroyed together with their families. God’s foolishness, says the Holy Bible, is greater than man’s wisdom.

Our Kenyan politicians, Corona has taught us, are the most useless creatures Kenya ever had. In fact, we have learned that Kenya would be a great country without them. Those that used to steal billions meant for the health sector are stuck with the rest of us. If Corona or any other disease visits them now, they will have to seek treatment from the doctors, nurses and the health institutions they impoverished and insulted.

In the 1970s, when Uhuru’s father Jomo Kenyatta was President of Kenya, the government had a slogan; Water and Electricity for all by the year 2000. Those in power thought the year 2000 was too far away and would never come. They ate money meant for water and electricity for all. Now we have cartels stealing and selling us our own water. We have an electricity supplier that steals from us every day through expensive power supply. But Corona is telling them that: “Once I visit that slum dweller whose water and electricity you stole, I will reach your bedroom through your impoverished house managers, drivers, bodyguards and gatemen.

Lessons we must learn

From President Uhuru Kenyatta, to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, from Cabinet Secretaries to Governors, the house fly is telling them something, you are all mere mortals. You are all vulnerable. None of you has extra stomachs. You must learn to build Kenya and share wealth equitably. If Corona visits your home, the only thing that will save you is your immune system. Not even the best ventilators will save you if your immune system is compromised. I hope the rich and wealthy families that have impoverished our great nation for decades are learning from Corona. If they do not learn, then it will be tragic. By now they should be sharing some of the billons in their possession because in death, both the rich and the poor, the wise and the fool, the fly and the lion…are all the same.

Those who have amassed billions of dollars in wealth have done so in vain. When the tolling bells sound and death comes for its harvest, none of what they stole or amassed will count for anything. Flies will have to rummage their corpses to validate their authenticity.

The housefly, whose brief life cycle allows them to multiply quickly if left uncontrolled, have great lessons for us. Houseflies are known to carry over 100 diseases, including tuberculosis and cholera. They transmit diseases both by feeding and by carrying pathogens on their feet and mouths. But I am almost sure the one on my laptop is disease free. The social distancing has drastically reduced mountains of garbage…I smiled again. This time the fly must have got my message. It flew away through the dinning room window into the camouflage provided by a huge avocado tree.

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