Justice, A Concept We Used to Know

A friend narrated how she went into a room and talked about the Kenyan honour at a party. After she said those words, everybody burst out laughing. It was a joke. Integrity as an integral part of Kenyan thinking? Unheard of. It is common knowledge that the government will, inevitably, steal from us. Anyone who dares dream otherwise is naive, or just dumb.

A story is told of a Kenyan politician who goes to talk to his predecessor. He is about to make a decision that will make the public despise him. His predecessor tells him to do it anyway. The newbie is confused. The rule he is about to implement won’t really help the people, so why should he? “Do it anyway, then buy them some beer; they’ll forget.”

This disturbs me, deeply so. But, as a people, it is the brand we have developed for ourselves. We will bicker, tweet and even sign online petitions, then we will forget. Columns have been written about our society’s alzheimer’s; we’ve talked about it left, right and sometimes even in the centre. But we do nothing about it.

I deeply believe that society is smarter than it would have us think. Evidence of this is in plain sight. How can you explain inception making the list of top ten grossing films of 2010? Or the current market domination of HBO? Suddenly, it is cool to be smart. People are even wearing geek glasses as a fashion trend – if you can’t be smart, pretend you are.

Of course, it could be argued that evidence of society’s lack of intelligence is all around as well. Kids are still wearing skinny jeans,  KOT are attacking everyone online, and Justin Beiber is still popular. However, I’d like to see the glass as half full, and assert that society is smarter than we think.

And, if society is smarter than we think, then society doesn’t forget. We just accept. We agree that it is the norm. We must elect someone who is corrupt, corruptible or open to the concept of corruption. Somewhere in our mind that’s one of the traits of a leader. We view anyone who hasn’t been corrupted skeptically. As if there is something wrong with clean hands. We haven’t lost faith in out government, as has been widely suggested. No, we have utmost faith in them to do the wrong thing. We strongly believe, nay, we urge them to do the wrong thing. Raise your salaries? Why yes, please do. Don’t worry we’ll still vote you in, and crush anyone who dares suggest that we recall you.

Boniface Mwangi was arrested yesterday. Technically, he was assaulted by Atwoli’s army; semantics. However it is not the army I have a problem with, nor the police; heck, I don’t even have a problem that Atwoli had the audacity to proudly declare that he assaulted a private citizen for exercising his freedom of speech. It’s the guys who watched it happen that I point a finger at. And this isn’t an isolated incident. We watched as a protestor was bundled out of Museveni’s talk at mindpseak. Sad to say, I was present that day, and I did nothing too. Then there was the guy who was bundled out of Kasarani stadium when he started speaking out against the Baks. Thousands of Kenyans watched, completely fascinated by this character who dared speak.

We have mastered the art of silence to a fault.

We will stand in line and grumble when the teller decides that it’s lunch time. We will silently sit through bad service at a restaurant, all the while complaining to our friends about how bad the service is. Then, when someone gets up to complain about the service, they are rude. Do we expect justice to come find us in our homes? When Kenya got its independence, I am told, that it was a glorious day. We demanded a seat at the table, and we got it. Today, all we do is grumble for scraps – let’s not pretend to be angry when that is what we receive.

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