Thursday, June 30, 2005


Every society imposes sanctions, legal and social, on their members in order to encourage approved behavior. It's my considered opinion that sanctions often fall short of what ought to be their ultimate purpose: justice. That sanctions are counter productive is a matter of fact. That they're often so, is a considered opinion. It's easier, however, to prove travesties of justice due to legal statutes than those that occur on account of social sanctions: While proof of legal injustice is often plainly visible, the signs of social wrong are almost never obvious. Therefore recognition of social repression requires a little less self-infatuation and more perception than is common. Hence the a significant number of people in every society live lives of quiet desperation; desperation exacerbated by the fact that in such a situation, reprieve is beyond hope: one can hardly expect it from the those responsible for the distress.
While i believe, in principal, that social sanctions can play a significant role in forstalling the defects of the legal system in preserving justice; am not convinced of their efficacy in reality.
Who defines justice? Legal standards of justice are often set to benefit special interest groups. Therefore there many things that are legal but not fair, partial to the priviledged, or simply inequitable to the poor. The origin of social criteria are less clear as are the standards themselves. Furthermore, one cannot know social limits until they're infringed. My grievance against social sanctions is that their impact on justice is contingent on the collective ethos of a society; which is basically a composite of averages: average intelligence, humanness, level of progressiveness, toleration..... Winston churchill was onto something when he said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.Am apprehensive of entrusting fairness to a mechanism whose ideals are often questionable at best. "Often" i say because if a spciety's values are questionable even once then it's one time too many. Many atrocities have been committed as a result of social attitudes: slavery, the Rwandan genocide, the spanish inquisition, to mention but a few. But there are horrors, which beacuse they're not quite as arresting in their iniquity that escape notice. The quiet desperation of families who lose loved ones to disease because they can ill afford the requisite healthcare for instance. And yet as a society we are complicit in such tragedies: we worship wealth without concern for how it's amasses. Don't we then implicitly sanction corruption. Is it any wonder than that there insufficient funds for social services deperately required by so many and afforded by so few? But the pervasive influence of our social standards stretches to the crib to ensure that children are taught compliance from an early age. It stretches to the classroom too; to ensure that troublesome students don't slow the education process by asking too many questions. But as if those restraints aren't enough, society purports to dictate what we'll do in our private lives; how we'll relate in relationships, what we'll read, listen too.. A propensity for rock music and western literature carries with it the risk of being referred to as one who possesses "white tastes"; which extrapolates to mean one has a fondness for white people. In light of our history, that's hardly complimentary.
Perhaps i shouldn't like anything by white people on account of the injustice they perpetrated against us but then by the same token, i shouldn't like anything by black people either. Because when i seek the enemies of my people, they who impoverish them, and rob them of their dignity; i find that they look like us, and even speak our tongue. And yet if such those crimes are accomplished subtly, then the culprits face no repercussion. Are such people closer to the ideal espoused by our society than the misfits. Is he who steals tomatoes and onions worth 3000 shillings less desirable than one who "misappropriates" millions of shilings? Are we to sacrifice all individuality so that we can belong? Are we to sacrifice all instinct and reason at the altar of social sanction? Surely we must reassess and redefine our ideals!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Quote of the week

"My fear . . . is my substance, and probably the best part of me." Franz Kafka

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Random thoughts

Hey y'all, i've been away on a journey of self discovery; which explains the abscence of posts during the past week. Such draughts, while inconvenient to you, are necessary if am to avoid the wide and easy road to bland ville. My journey, which comprised of a roadtrip down the information super highway, manic bouts of reading, and deafening music came to a gratifying culmination last weekend. The atypical nature of this post is testament to the impact of respite on attitudes. But am getting ahead of myself! I've always placed a premium on profound articles at the expense of inappreciable intimate stories. I am learning, however, that expression need not always austere to be substantial; that a mundane story can be very telling: Subject matter needn't be earth shattering to make a difference. But, perhaps, most significant has been the recognition that to disregard the mundane is to be false: Life, after all is ordinary most of the time, and issues are important because of the way they impact on commonplace concerns. My former concepetions of expression are probaby reflective of a desire to escape what seems like an unremarkable existence. But i'll leave psychanalysis to the experts; am rather ill equiped for it! A wise man once said that life does not cease to be funny when someone dies any less than it ceases to be serious when we laugh. Only now have i come to truly appreciate that statement. At any rate, since last week had such a profound impact, i've elected to share highlights of it with you. (And if, after reading this, you're not particularly partial to my improved outlook, worry not: They co-exist quite well with the old ones.)
Friday night was brilliant: I was at work till 9pm. With the the wonderful music of the fantastic Counting Crows, Peotic legacy of the Beats, and all information one could desire at my fingertips, i was comfortable and happy. Perhaps too comfortable, for i was almost locked in the office. A strange way for a young woman to spend a friday night? I think not! I've long cease believing in the possiblity of meeting "my prince" in a club; I did meet one once but he was too akin to the prince in Shrek 2 for my liking: He professed enchantment but could not remember my name after 15 minutes. Furthermore i've lost the illusion that transcendental frame of mind and unhibited dancing to abstract techo tunes may result in a mysterious and spontaneous release of the spirit from the confines of the body. In respect of the desire to show off my body in barely there clothing; there's a phrase that fits my attitude: Been there done that; moving along then!! So i went home, and read for three hours before going to sleep.
I spent the weekend reading or sleeping, and somehow found the time to prepare a meal, do my laundry, and clean house. Those pesky diversions make me think longingly of the hunting and gathering phase of human evolution; however will i make any appreciable dent in my ever growing list of books to read if i must constantly tend to banal activities!! But then our hunting/gathering ancestors didn't have books at their disposal. Perhaps i'll have to put up with cooking my food as a necessary evil:-).
On Sunday night i listened to highlights of the Glastonbury festival on the BBC. It was a bitter sweet experience: Alongside the delight of listening to some of my favourite rock acts- Coldplay, The Killers, The white Stripes..- perform live was the strong countercurrent of sorrow at not being able to be there in person. The high point of the broadcast was coldplay's rendition of Kylie Minogue's "Can't get you out of my head". A poignant homage to Kylie who was originally slated to appear at Glastonbury but was unable to due to her illness. The moment captured why, despite the hype, i love Coldplay as well as i did when i first heard their music back in the year 2000: They embody the best of our flawed nature; genuine compassion, consideration and empathy. I almost cried at the beauty of the gesture. Inspite of the spirit of the moment, i was struck by how moving their rendition was: it thew the sentiment of Kylie's love sick schoolgirl original into stark relief. (No offense to love sick schoolgirls). Alios y'all, i'll write again before the full moon resurfaces; just kidding! I'll write before the week is out; definitely maybe;-)!!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Mental Slavery

Slavery, apartheid, and colonization have a whole lot in common, but perhaps their most fundamental similitude is the fact that they were all justified by the premise that the black man was inferior. Slavery and apartheid were unscrupulous, unapologetic exploitations of the black man. Colonization, however, was for his "benefit". The high minded British were motivated by the desire to civilize us and save us from our savage selves. The unscrupulous, and perhaps more honest, Belgians, of course, were not unduly concerned with the appearances; they needed no guise to maim, kill, and plunder. (Hey Belgians, we know what you'all did and as soon as our house is in order, we'll come to collect long over due reparations!! Therefore you have atleast 50 years to raise the money. Fore-warned is fore-armed, so get to it.)
Behind the veneer of benevolence, however, the British were akin to the Belgians; they too were self serving. Even their magnanimity was a selfish gesture intended to assuage their guilt. But perhaps am too hard on the good old British. In spite of their motives, they did after all hope to convert us from our pagan ways, teach us their noble language, and all together make imitations of English men out of us so that when the "extreme makeover" was done, we'd be worthy to serve as maids in their homes!! But we exceeded those expectations and proved to be an unexpected match for our "benefactors". Predicatably we demanded equal treatment; and faced with such impertinence, our benefactors' facades cracked then fell apart: It became clear that the argument for the inferiority of the Black man rested on the colour of his skin. Although they'd have had it otherwise, Caucasians could no longer hide behind guises; their pretexts had fallen apart! Hence the new the new maxim; "All men are equal but some are more equal than others." (RIP Dude)
One would think that with independence we'd have shaken off those condescending shackles. But it's hard enough to free fools from the chains they revere (w'sup Monsieur Voltaire). To expect them to free themselves is fantastic attempt at self delusion.
A few months ago i read a job Post on the campus notice board that advertised for marketing seniors who were interested in working for the the customers relations department of a local mobile phone provider. The only other requirement was an American or British accent. (Yes, you read right, an American or British accent!) To say that i was stunned would be an understatement! That Caucasians are so audacious as to presume that they can condescend to us in our own countries is bad enough. That their confidence is well founded and presumptions borne out is worse still. Why, i wonder did we bother fighting for independence, for our dignity when we would, a few years later, turn around and hand them back to the colonialists on a silver platter. It's a wonder that the British didn't heed Benjamin Disraeli when he said that a colony doesn't cease to be one just because it gains independence. The audacity of such condescension is appalling. But consternation at it pales in light of the fact that the contentious recruitment criteria actually taps into a part of our psyche that is inclined to revere Caucasians. For instance it's not uncommon for white people to get preferential treatment in hotels, restaurants and the like. How else can one explain the fact that a Caucasian male masqueraded as a guest at The Serena for three months before he was discovered to be an imposter. Billie Holiday was right; You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation. Perhaps we are not outraged at condescension because we not averse to it; or are expect it. And if that's the case, is it an offence to our dignity to be treated as we think we ought to be? Are we so blind as to be satisfied with the illusion of freedom? Peace out!

Quote of the week

"I want a man who will not treat me like a woman, but won't forget am one either!"
R.M.W on the distinction between condescension and consideration.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Live Aid

To the "huge and loyal" following of this blog :-), i extend my sincerest apologies for the week during which i've posted nadda. Whoever said the pen was mightier than the sword must have lived in utopia. The futility of social criticism is so daunting that sometimes one can't help but give in to it. But as a wise man once said; there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but we must never fail to protest. That and an editorial i read in the Jerusalem post (the online edition) got me inspired for the first time in weeks!
The article is about the controversy surrounding live aid. For those of you not in the know, the upshot of it is that Andy Kershaw, a DJ at the BBC, has criticized the live aid project, which is intended to raise funds and awareness of the dire plight of Africans, for including only one African, Youssour N'dour, in its artist lineup. "If we are going to change the West's perception of Africa, events like this are the perfect opportunity to do something for Africa's self-esteem," said Kershaw. "But the choice of artists for the Live8 concerts will simply reinforce the global perception of Africa's inferiority." The insightful Mark Steyn, author of the article, points out that Bob and Andy agree that paternalism and condescension are the only ways to deal with Africa, they're just quibbling over the particular form of condescension.
I do not doubt that Africans are inferior- of course, there are exceptions:-) - and neither should anyone who views reality objectively. And skin colour has nothing to do with; any moderately well read 15 year old knows that. (Narrow minded Caucasian and Asian- Take that!) All races were equal to begin with; yes even Ashkenazis were not always exceptionally intelligent: European Jews in medieval times were restricted to jobs in finance, money lending and long-distance trade — occupations that required greater mental gymnastics than fields such as farming, dominated by non-Jews — their genetic codes over the course of some generations selected genes for enhanced intellectual ability. But i digress; Africans are inferior because we have forfeited the right to be equal by shirking our responsibilities; we have failed master our fate: we are at the mercy of the weather, when the rains fail, famine breaks out and we forced to beg for relief. Further more, our governments have failed to provide the most basic services: access to medical services is limited, the few education institutions we have have failed in their duty to alleviate our children's ignorance and have made them stupid instead -they are taught compliance above all else. How is it that decent housing is beyond the reach of most Kenyans? Our people have been robbed of their dignity, they are at the mercy of benevolent Europeans!
Yet, we , the people are ultimately responsible for the quagmire in which we are. We have allowed our leaders to rob us blind. We too have forfeited our rights: we do not demand our due; and show gratitude for travesties of it. We turn a blind eye to all manner of ills in the name of patience. But patience taken too far is cowardice. The fact is that we are all cowards; yours truly included. We express no outrage when we should And on the rare occasions when we are outraged, we are easily pacified by government tokenism. Our governments understand us perfectly; which is why they stay in power for long period in spite of their ineptitude and incompetence to govern. Indeed, we get the leaders we deserve!

When we don't stand up for ourselves, then those who are too humane to stand by and watch us sink are obliged to advocate for us. And yet their advocacy for debt cancellation, fair trade, and greater aid donation is a recognition of our inferiority. Why should Africa's debt be cancelled? When one borrows money, it's generally understood that he or she will return the full amount with interest. But reason and common sense do not apply to Africa. Appeals to pity will do just fine for us, thank you. Shame on us!!