Yesterday the internet went crazy after the release of one steamy video called ‘Same Love’. The video portrays the struggles of gay people in Kenya and Africa and likens it to that of slaves and Jews in years gone by. This is intercepted with some serious guy on guy action and some girl on girl action to sweeten the deal, footage from epic human rights’ movements and then a suicide.
It’s very emotive, and predictably, brought out the ugliness in Kenyans, re the usual ‘THE BIBLE SAYS HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN!’, ‘GAYISM CANNOT BE ALLOWED IN OUR MIGHTY COUNTRY’, and ‘HOMOSEXUALITY IS UNAFRICAN’ , ad nauseum.
The next morning, the topic for conversation on one radio station was the story of a young man who was assaulted by his employer for not meeting his sales target. He was a matatu condutor, and failing to meet his daily quota, was hit on the side of the head by his boss. He fell unconscious, slipped into a coma and was in ICU for three weeks and now is partially paralyzed. Meanwhile, his boss was almost lynched by a mob, before being arrested by the police and thereafter released for a cash bond of 20 000 shillings. A few highlights of his story include:
- The injured man was taken to KNH and had to wait until a bed was available for him
- The injured man’s brother ‘was taking care of him and taking him to the toilet’
- The police initially refused to give his brother a P3 form to report the assault. They insisted that his unconscious, hospitalized brother collect the form himself.
- The police also said that they could not take the case further because they needed a statement from the injured man (who was unconscious and could not speak)
- The people trying to report the case complained of harassment from police officers
- Eventually, after three days of waiting around at the police station, the victim’s brother got the police to agree to visit his brother in hospital and assess the situation. They never showed up.
The discussion also involved a brief on how the matatu industry works, including the system of ‘taxes’ paid to the police while on the road, and how some vehicles are ‘untouchable’ because they are owned by police officers. (Including the vehicle that the the now paralyzed conductor operated.)
The talk show hosts got hold of the DPP, Tobiko, who advised the unfortunate family to follow the ‘right’ channels, and if they had a complaint, lodge it with the Police Oversight Authority.
This is how we ended what has been a very intense week, what with the millionaire hairdresser coming out and damning Anne Waiguru and bringing the NYS scandal back into the spotlight.
But honestly, who can imagine what 790 million, or 900 million or what the guesstimated eurobond millions actually look like? How about the millions that went to buying Tanui and his fellow judges? Who can imagine their impacts, or what they could have been used for? We struggle to grasp such huge numbers. Can you visualize what it means when they say that up to 20% of our budget simply cannot be accounted for?
We became numb to such fantastical figures a long time ago.
In any case, we know we have to save our outrage – a new scandal will erupt soon enough.
Stories like the one I heard on radio, however, make things much more visceral. It’s not an abstract figure , it’s something that I can imagine something similar happening to me.
I could be walking home one day and a car hits me from the back, leaving me at the mercy of well wishers and opportunistic bystanders. I could be dumped at Kenyatta Hospital, and before someone identifies me and whisks me away or insists I get treatment, waste away in the waiting bay. I could be manhandled and a relatively minor injury could turn into a life changing disability.
We can hide behind our high walls and cram ourselves into the right corners of town, but at the end of the day, our lives are just as worthless and as unprotected and as vulnerable as that young man’s.
Which brings me back to my main point. That our society lacks morals and values and for that, we are going to hell.
Not because a couple of artists released a raunchy video on a taboo subject. Not because our youth have ’embraced’ western values and forgotten their ‘true’ culture.
But because we have allowed ourselves to completely debase the value of human life. We get angry about corruption, but we don’t call it what it is. Wrong, immoral and a sin before the eyes of the God in who’s name we insult other people.
Stealing is a sin. Corruption is a triple sin because it involves lying, stealing and robbing people of their lives. So then why do we allow suspects with pending court cases into our churches? Where do we get the audacity to call on the power of God to save suspects from the due process of law? Why do we allow them to speak at the alter of our precious God?
It’s not just the NYS millions, or the yet to be fully disclosed euro-bond saga, or the wheelbarrows or the thousands of little procurement scams no doubt going on as we speak.
It’s the contempt with which we are treated, everywhere we go. The way we have to supplicate ourselves every time we speak to a police officer. How our precious theses disappear in the halls of esteemed universities and we are forced to wait for years before we graduate. How we have to haul our own sick up and down halls to the toilet. How we have to beg for services that we pay for. How we know that the police cannot protect us from violent home invasions, and if anything, we are better off avoiding them and their rusty guns and bad breath.How everything is shabby, broken down and neglected.
The rot in our country began a long time ago. It probably took root at independence, festered during Kenyatta’s golden years, grew ever more potent during the Moi days, quietly simmered beneath the surface during Kibaki’s age and now, seemingly injected with steroids,exploding in our faces as we come full circle with our prince, Kenyatta junior. Who knows what the next election cycle will bring? (Hint, probably not sanity)
We have been sold a lie.
We know that corruption is killing us, but our only response is
this is what you get for voting along tribal lines.
Is it though? Is the answer to corruption voting more intelligently?
I understand that ethnicity can be used to divide Kenyans, and to cause violence and unrest and for political gain, but blaming corruption on voting habits?
I don’t think so.
Our system is rotten. It is so deeply rotten that it has become immoral. It stinks with the corpses of millions of Kenyans who died for the stupidest of reasons. As they were waiting for treatment at a hospital. As they were brutalized in police cells for breaking imaginary laws. As they were run down by drunk drivers on a busy road. As they were treated with sub-standard medicine in far away government clinics. As they waited for radiation therapy with a machine that broke down every week.
We are drowning. Not in videos that teach our children to become ‘gays’ but in actual sewage overwhelming a system that was built to service a tenth of what it does now. We are drowning in illiteracy and poor quality education that leaves the vast majority of us semi-literate and, unable to think critically, vulnerable to superstition, magic and propaganda from other half educated fools.
We shout meaningless phrases like ‘culture of impunity’ and ‘tribal cocoons’ that we no longer see what robbery does to our lives. We have become so accustomed to a non-existent police service that we no longer bother to report crimes (unless for insurance purposes) and instead pray to God for our protection.
We have been browbeaten so mercilessly that we have become the perfect victims, defending our abusers. We blame ourselves for this sorry state of affairs, saying ‘how many times have you paid a bribe? Corruption starts with you and me.’ Insisting that, if only we stopped paying bribes, our country would fix itself, and the cartels would disappear. (If only I made sure the food was the right temperature and the kids were quiet, he would not have broken my nose…)
Angered at our powerlessness, we shoot the messengers, turning political activism into an insult, mocking people who try and rally support as attention seekers, wannabes and failed artists needing support from ‘the west’.
And all of this, all of this can be changed just by standing in line for one day and making a few ticks on a piece of paper?
Maybe the biggest con of them all.
The truth is, democracy is hard work. Democracy means constantly engaging with your government at every turn. Primary elections in the US. Over the top demonstrations in France. Townhall meetings and public rallies. Lodging complaints with the right channels (if only, at the moment, for show). It means organizing. Joining civil society groups, consumer groups, even political parties. It means getting out there and asking questions.
I hope to live to see the day that Kenya will be blessed with its mythical ‘benevolent’ dictator. The day when we can all sit at home because we have the second son of God leading our country, righting every wrong, and immune to every temptation.
But until that day, let us remember that we are choosing between wolves and hyenas. We are voting in people and political parties with shifting loyalties and non-existent ideologies. People who, no matter how impressive, will likely fail when they try to fight against the status quo.
I would argue that, with the quality of leaders that we have today, the work does not end after we cast our votes. It only marks the beginning.