Silence is a form of poisonous knowledge. A paper I’m reading quotes Veena Das on this. It comes at a time when I’m thinking about the current state of the Somali people in Kenya. I’m thinking about the stories we’ve heard and seen. And, more particularly, I’m thinking, and frustrated over the large scale silence the dehumanisation has received.
Even when the stories come out, they have been denied. Mothers losing their children, police with guns in homes at 1am, rape, extortion.
We have heard these stories.
We have experienced these stories.
We know, because we know, that the police are as the police are. We know, because we know, that there is rarely such a thing as police interaction without transaction in Kenya. Yet, somehow, in this particular instance, we act like the police will be a model of politeness.
And even within all this knowledge – silence reigns.
No, silence thrives.
We stay silent not because we don’t know, but because we do.
Because not talking about it will make it go away. Because, in not talking, problems disappear. And, more importantly, because feeling safe is more important than actually being safe.
Meanwhile, as we protect our illusion of safety our silence sends a message of approval. Now, the state can do as it will to people that it doesn’t like. All they have to do is tell us that it was in the name of security. That we are now secure.
not subject to threat; certain to remain or continue safe and unharmed.
The thing is, this attack on Somalis doesn’t make one feel safe. Not in the slightest. The idea that the police can prance around with their guns barging into homes and doing as they will doesn’t create an illusion of safety. Even to that standard it has failed.
We hang on to the operation because we want to feel safe. We want the police to be right. We want Somalis to be terrorists because then we will have a face to look at. We will have a place to point and say ‘there lies the problem.’ We will have, what we have now. A constructed other that we can point to and blame.
And so we continue to stay silent, hoping that somehow someone else’s disposability will buy our safety.