Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Incompetent or Clueless

Our governor, it seems, just can't catch a break. A "Chinese" restaurant has blown up another of the illusions that our governor labours under. Before one can operate an establishment at which food will be served for a price or drinks served to the discerning, certain permits ad licenses must be applied for by the proprietor of the establishment, an inspection conducted by the municipal authorities, and the permits and licenses granted, if the establishment meets the standards for which permits and licenses are required. The "Chinese" restaurant was in operation; it's proprietor did not posses the requisite permits or licenses. 

The governor heads a government that cannot police establishments operating contrary to the provisions of law at which even senators can be entertained. It would not be to much to say that either he is among the most incompetent men in government today or the rot he claims to be trying to clean up is so ingrained it may never be cleaned up. That latter is a dystopian outcome that Hollywood favours. We are not in Hollywood - or in a movie. The former is increasingly looking like it might actually be true.

Let us begin with the simplest problem that the governor could solve: public sanitation. His has been one wrong decision after another followed by one unpersuasive excuse after another. What is true, more than two years since he took office, is that public sanitation is in the crapper and he and his government are to blame.

Look at traffic management too. The governor and the national Executive carry the blame equally for the mess in our capital. Stupid rules regarding public service vehicles, on-street parking, traffic lights, traffic cameras and traffic management, and an obsession with making driving the preferred mode of movement in the Central Business District, guarantee that for the foreseeable future, gridlock will remain a fact of life. (The idiotic debate about roundabouts versus four-way intersections just confirms this line of thought.)

However, the saga of the "Chinese" restaurant shares disturbing parallels with the sad state of our public sanitation infrastructure. In both there is a casual disregard for the rules. In both the city's inspectorate is asleep at the wheel, if it behind the wheel at all. In both there is a casual mistreatment of the "less-fortunate" - less fortunate because of skin colour or economic circumstances. In both the governor appears clueless.

Anyone who has ever visited City Hall Annex in order to "push through some paperwork" will know that the governor lives in his own fantasy world. Anyone who has suffered the casual corruption of the yellow-clad corruption-is-evil parking attendants will scoff derisively at his e-ticketing system. Nairobians, it seems, will suffer the governor's incompetence and excuses till 2017 and then they will be forced to make a choice - do they double down or do they elect a real leader for their city and their county?

Time to accept and move on.

I sometimes forget to follow my own advice. When I put my foot in it, the effort it takes to take it out is always greater than the ease with which I put it in in the first place. Thankfully, even by the truly lax standards of the Digital Age, I am not a "public figure" and what I say quite rarely causes a ruckus in the public domain. That is not so for some of my fellow countrymen who have built careers on being in the public eye, seemingly, all day every day.

A famous comedian recently stuck his foot so far down his throat that he quite probably stepped on his kidneys. As part of his public act, and following the alleged vicious sexual assault of a woman by a parliamentarian, the comedian asked an insensitive, callous and asinine question regarding the presence of the woman in the parliamentarian's office after ten o'clock in the evening. Kenyans on Twitter were not soon far behind in reminding the comedian that sexual assault is never, ever the victim's fault. He is still trying to put the whole ordeal behind him.

I can almost guarantee that his friends will use the phrase "he did not mean it that way" as an explanation for his words. This confirms that when it comes to sexual assaults on women, Kenya is still in the Dark Ages. Women victims of sexual assault are always partly or wholly to blame for the attacks against them. That was the message the men who stripped and assaulted women recently were perpetuating. It is the same message that the comedian was repeating with his words. We cannot let these ideas stand.

I believe that we are far from reaching the point where we treat the rich and famous with irreverence. We adore the rich and famous. We make excuses for their bad behaviour - and crimes. We are prepared to debase ourselves in front of them in order to catch some of the fairy dust that covers them. We are prepared to ignore the poor choices they make that sometimes lead to tragic results. We are only prepared to see their "good works" and "heroic achievements." If this means that women or girls are forgotten in their hours of need, so be it.

It is not just asinine comedians who confirm our casual misogyny. The church too is in on it. And I am not restricting myself to the fly-by-night Kanyari-like operations that have flourished in the last decade. The "mainstream" denominations too have a stake in the erasure of women and their accomplishments from the public psyche. When they "reserve" women congregants to the softer side of the ministry, when they decide what is decent ad not decent dress for women, when they refuse to acknowledge that some of ther male congregants are criminals for sexually assaulting women - when they keep quiet when women and children suffer, the church is just as complicit in the crimes as the attackers are.

There is no explanation that will justify assaults on women and girls. There is no joke that will erase the pain, humiliation and tragedy of sexual assault. No amount of mealy-mouthed apologies will whitewash the comedian's casual misogyny. If hs friends and fans cannot see this, if they cannot appreciate this, then they are complicit in his misogyny - and they should also be treated with the same contempt that he deserves. The time is right to acknowledge that women and girls are the equals of men and boys in all respects. All. In the words of a campaign slogan of ill-repute, it is time for us to accept that fact and move on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Our true selves.

Arlington, Virginia, has invisible drains. Arlington is massive; there is no way a boy from Nairobi can walk the entire hood in fourteen days and discover its many pleasures. But it was quite clear everywhere I went that Arlington has invisible drains. When it snowed on Friday, and the snow melted, and started to flow down the road, it...disappeared. Like some kind of architectural, civic engineering juju, the drains and the apertures that let in surface runoff are disguised and invisible and unless you are in on the magic, the water simply disappears. That and the broad and magically empty public sidewalks on which the mechanised transport allowed is the bicycle are a miracle of civic planning.

The week that the Governor of Nairobi City County made a spectacle of himself walking to the five-star Kempinsky from the CBD, I marveled at the sidewalk along Arlington Boulevard that, despite the rain and the melting snow was not muddy or flooded with water from blocked drains. Had it rained the day the Governor decided to go walkabout along Waiyaki Way he would have needed gumboots and raincoats because he would have slogged through shin-deep mud and he would have been splashed with water from Nairobi's incredibly hostile motorists. But I suspect he would have found a way to bully other road users off his path on his way to his Very Important Meeting.

It rained last night and this morning I wished I was back in three-degrees-Celsius Arlington, my ass frozen to a Popsicle because all that is wrong with the Governor's priorities came flooding back, literally. Drains were blocked. Sewers overflowed. Motorists made a sport of splashing hapless pedestrians with muddy water at every opportunity. What few paved footpaths there are were commandeered by the ballooning swarm of boda boda riders determined to rival the late great Evel Knievel in motorcycle stunts.

Our governor thinks that the solution is the incredibly expensive, and stupid, idea of doing away with roundabouts and replacing them with traffic-light-controlled four-way intersections. If motorists have refused to obey the rather helpful rules of the Highway Code when it comes to roundabouts, what makes the governor think that four-way intersections will work out any better? This whole project has a whiff of the let-us-spend-billions-for-the-sake-of-it about it. Some fatcat is about get fatter from the tender to flatten the roundabouts and fatter still when he wins the tender to rebuild them.

The billions that the Governor is about to pour into this harebrained scheme should go to expanding paved footpaths, clearing out drains, unblocking sewers and putting up street lights. But those billions will not be spent on things that make the lives of the walking public better. The billions will be spent to make motorists more miserable and hostile than ever. Because that is how we do. We are a wash-rinse-repeat kind of people, and our government appeals to our true selves more and more every day.

Orwellian pigs and Schiphol memories

Maybe they did not want to harass a lowly government lawyer, but that weird company that runs Schiphol airport or that strange army called the TSA that runs America's airports just floored me with their laid back, laissez-faire, couldn't-give-a-damn style. Schiphol, first. The Nitpicker touched on this some time back and it wasn't until I found myself in the cattle-class lounge that I truly appreciated just how far behind Kenya really is. This gem from the Nitpicker is spot on accurate:
"Apart from the fact that the shops, restaurants, lounges and rest areas are of the highest quality with very friendly and professional staff, the visual layout of the airport is a constant reminder that there is more that lies to the country outside the confines of the terminal buildings. The success of the customer experience at Schiphol means that there are several repeat customers. 67% of the total passenger throughput in Schiphol are from outside the Netherlands."
As a passenger on transit I did not have to deal with immigration officials à la Johannesburg. Schiphol has these conveniently located terminals on which one can confirm their itineraries without having to trouble the professional, polite, English-speaking airport staff. The eight cumulative hours I spent in Schiphol's Lounge 3 were among the most restful I have ever had in an airport, Jo'burg's Oliver R Tambo International's and Sydney International's departure lounges included. Not even Dulles' International Airport's excellent facilities came close to Schiphol's. Before the Kenya Airports Authority can claim that it has achieved its vision of providing “globally competitive airport facilities and services” it will have to flee from the ridiculously cartoonishly hostile manner in which it treats its customers.

Now to Dulles International Airport. One thing it has in common with Schiphol but absolutely not with Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the ease with which one can move from point to point without having to take of shoes, laptops out of laptop bags, jackets or belts. That was the most shocking bit of coming through immigration control at Dulles: a casual confirmation of the details on my passport and visa and I was out of there in twenty minutes. Not the hour and half I shuffled in line when the hideous shuttle finally deposited me and the four hundred and twenty five other KLM passengers at the hostile garage passing for International Arrivals at JKIA. But Dulles outdid itself with the "ushers" at immigration control who made sure lines moved smoothly and counters were always manned. Not for  Dulles to have unmanned counters when three 747s drop down on the airport at the same time. Something else that the folks overseeing JKIA could pick up from the much-unfairly-maligned Americans.

We are a century behind in customer-oriented service. We are paternalistic, defensive, hostile and passive aggressive. JKIA's beautiful T1-A is proof that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig. That terminal is beautiful; the wackjobs running it are the Orwellian pigs that made life so difficult for everyone on that farm.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jail the granny.

Why are people appalled that an old woman was charged with contempt of court, was convicted and jailed to purge the contempt? This is not so far-fetched in a nation where combat over land has all sorts of casualties. This is the nation that we call Kenya, where courts are held hostage by the black letters on the white, or yellowing, pages of the law books of the State. Prosecutors have no discretion over whom they will prosecute for contempt and whom they will not. And now we are called to be sympathetic to the plight of a woman, and her aged sons, who defied an order of a competent court to give satisfaction to another old woman in the small matter of succession and land.

Why should the age of a contemnor, as the lawyers would brand her now, be considered when that age was not a barrier to the commission of the act of contempt in the first place? We make elaborate provisions to protect children, especially children of tender ages. We order the behaviour of all adults using the law. If you are above the age of eighteen years, you cannot argue that you do not know the meaning of the law when you commit an offense or a crime. 

When a court orders you to do something, and you refuse to do that thing that the court ordered for whatever reason, you are not just defying the magistrate or judge who ordered you to that thing, but you are defying the entire institution of the Judiciary and the authority of the State. There can be no mercy when you are that contemptuous of the State.

The press, if they can still be called that, want us to sympathise with the granny in jail because of her age. Little is reported of the actual contempt though. We know not why the granny and her sons refused to heed the order of the court and subdivide the land in favour of the other woman. We know not what motivated them to offend so much that she would sue in court to get satisfaction. What we know is that the granny and her sons in a fit of sheer contempt defied the court and ignored its orders and now she is in jail, her sons are in jail, and the press want us to sympathise with her.

Why should we go around praying for a rule of law label when we are willing to cut some slack for contemptuous grannies? We might as well start on the slippery slope of positive discrimination for good reasons, before it is special interests that are being protected over one thing or the other. Old people have had the benefit of experience and education, formal or informal, and they cannot be the reason why institutions of the State are treated with contempt by anyone. If grannies, whether justified or not, and their aged sons think that they are right on defying courts of law, what is to stop presidents from doing the same and claiming executive privilege, or policemen by claiming national security exemptions, or ministers by claiming national interest as the basis for their contempt? Rather one granny go to jail than a hundred run amok in the corridors of justice.

Our grand future.

There is something slimy about a person who tattle-tells on his friends, especially when they have made a bargain to keep each others' confidences. A sneak who would record his friends' intimate confessions and then broadcast it to the narc's is worse than a rat. There is no way the business of the National Assembly will go back to business-as-usual after the revelations regarding the Parliamentary Accounts Committee are dealt with, one way or the other.

I don't know why people didn't see this one coming after what John Githongo put Mwai Kibaki's government through, especially as revealed by Michela Wong in It's Our Turn To Eat. Since those halcyon days, the technology has gotten better, and the sneaks have gotten sneakier. No one is beyond the reach of the sneak. Your position does not protect you from the sneak. Soon enough Parliament will ban all cellphones from its premises; they have become way too smart for the comforts of the lawmaking class, as wayward lawmakers are discovering to their grief the world over.

Is this the end of the Kenyan Age of Innocence regarding our government? We have always suspected without hard proof that it is riddled through with corruption and corrupt beings. Until John Githongo made his explosive revelations - revelations that reverberate till this day - we always assumed that the grandly corrupt were a few very bad apples in bushels of moderately bad apples. 

Even after Ministers and Permanent Secretaries resigned, we were not seriously concerned about the corruption of the State. Even when lawmakers were caught taking handouts to ask questions in Parliament, we didn't think it was a crisis. Even when heard about lawmakers and ministers conspiring to profit from desperately hungry or homeless Kenyans, we let it slide; exceptional situations were a recipe for graft, we whispered to ourselves. The PAC revelations are finally the cause for the last scales to fall from our eyes. Kenyans can no longer pretend that they have a government they can be proud of.

The only person who seems to be sure of the direction he must take, ironically, is the President. Unless one is blind, our President's failings do not include a penchant for grand five-fingered discounts. He is truly the only one not on the take. He is the only one truly frustrated by the anti-graft efforts of his government. His anguish is palpably clear every time he is forced to confront the networks that have made such a grand comeback in his government. He can't fight them on multiple fronts. If Justin Muturi and Ekwe Ethuro will not be his partners in Parliament or Willy Mutunga in the Judiciary, I don't know to who the President will turn to win the war, because we, the people, have our own problems to deal with.

We are now confronted with the same spectre that haunts the President. We can no longer casually swat the fly away; it has become a swarm and we are its target. Lawmakers are accused of engaging in such flagrantly corrupt acts it is a wonder they even get to enact any laws. If we truly lose Parliament to corruption, it will be a short hop to Nigerian-style civil chaos. Our al Shabaab problem will become something along the lines of Nigeria's Boko Haram's problem. That is what we can look forward to if we keep turning a blind eye to every failing of Parliament.

Dictators are not the answer.

Being the boss is not easy, is it? Being the boss in a "democracy" is twice as difficult, isn't it? They may have vastly different administrations but the President and the Governor of Nairobi City County have remarkably similar problems. The massive edifice that is the Government of Kenya and the glorified city council that is the County Government of Nairobi City suffer the same problems, both political and administrative, and for both leaders it is attractive to flirt with the idea of authoritarianism in the short term to set things on an even keel for future glory.

The former could do it, but it would come at a great cost. The latter can't even fire slothful workers without it attracting the wrath of his Senator, his Woman Representative, his vengeful MCAs or the shadowy cabal of city MPs who don't seem to do much other than get shot at in mysterious locations.

Going by the commentary by respected columnists, the idea of a a dictator is gathering pace among the intelligentsia. In their minds, it is simplicity itself to round up the corrupt and the lazy, remove them from the administrative corridors of power, and banish them to purgatory for all time so that the honest and the diligent can get the economy running like a well appointed Rolex. That would be so before the internet and the information revolution; it is not so simple any more when it is easy to link private developers and sundry other pigs-at-the-trough to those making the make-me-a-dictator proposals.

China and North Korea have a done a bang up job of policing the internet; one is an economic powerhouse that can afford to do so, the other is a Stalinist prison camp where the only one who's free is the one buried six feet under. Even if the Government of Kenya wanted to do it, the irreverent innovation of the Nairobian would all but guarantee that dictatorial proposals were exposed and lampooned for their sheer lunacy. Kenyans will continue to bitch about the cost of this, that or the other, but only the elite think that re-imposing KANU Era controls is a good idea.

Democracy is expensive and chaotic, but it is the only way, today, to assure the people of involvement in the questions of the day. The people, so far, are content to elect slothful, mindless zombies to make decisions on their behalf. The Second Liberation will not end until the people realise that the Second Liberation was not about the election of their favoured sons or daughters, nor the blind faith reposed in their tribal chiefs, but about the calibre of the men and women who would seek to impose order on them. Until Kenyans can make that intellectual leap of the imagination, water shortages, traffic jams and terrorist attacks will continue to plague them. Dictators will not be the answer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A glorified mayor of a slum.

What is wrong with the people who make decisions for the City of Nairobi? I saw a picture of the Governor of Nairobi City County walking to a meeting at a fancy five-star hotel because of the traffic jam. His motorcade couldn't bulldoze its way through so he was forced to reckon with the incredible stupidity of a city with no footpaths for the millions of walking Nairobians long neglected by the government. Instead of the governor sympathising with the hapless ones without the wherewithal to splurge on a three-pointed star, four rings, or airplane propeller, he intends to implement the "raft of proposals" designed to make motoring that much easier for the motoring classes. What is wrong with these people?

Some of us, on someone else's shilling mind you, have had the privilege of visiting "world class cities" and they all have some things in common. Functional public transport systems, superb facilities for the walking public and traffic management systems that are logical, predictable, efficient and effective. Nairobi City has a public transport system that can only be envied by the weak-minded and lazy. 

The facilities available to the walking public are not just inadequate, they are an indication of the great contempt with which their government, and motorists, hold them. But by far the worst thing about the city, I think, is the fact that the Governor, his government and the national Executive have conspired to create the most illiberal traffic management system in the world. It is corrupt, corruptible, inefficient, wasteful, and chaotic, and it has proven to be a drain on the time and resources of Nairobians, whether working stiffs or gazillionaire private developers.

The Governor of Nairobi City is a lost cause. Those who still hope to see him make our city the envy of the world are blind to the incredible lost opportunities our city has suffered in the last two years. When he was first elected, and the national Executive in a fit of pique denied him Shell/BP House, the governor said he would work out of his car to provide services to the people of Nairobi. Every time we are bullied off the road so that his quasi-presidential motorcade can glide past, those words mock us cruelly.

Being a glorified mayor of a metropolitan city must gall for the governor. Being the glorified mayor of a metropolitan city that is more than two-thirds slum must really, really gall. But being a glorified mayor of a slum with no money for slum upgrading must be the worst. Until this simple fact sinks in, until he lets go of his stubborn, misguided idea that he is in charge of a world class city, the governor of Nairobi will continue to live in the Utopian world where there are metro systems and mass transit buses run on a timetable and he can get to his meeting at swanky five-star hotels without having to share the dusty sidewalk with the sweaty, smelly, unwashed working stiffs who seem to crawl out of every wooodwork in Nairobi.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bad, bad Senator.

What would possess a Senator of Kenya to posit that a return to semi-nude dress for the entertainment of foreigners would lure tourists to our beautiful, sun-kissed coast? Why would she speculate that our "culture" is best expressed for the benefit of dollars-bearing foreigners? Is this the nature of the deliberations that the Senate of Kenya engages in as a matter of habit?

Kenyan tourism has suffered since an elderly British couple were attacked in Lamu in 2010. Bombings, shootings and political turmoil have chased tourists away. The national Executive enacted, in the Finance Act, 2014, a law to permit value added tax rebates for employers who financed their employees' holidays at Kenya's hotels. The President appointed a task force to recommend solutions for the persistent slump in tourist numbers. Every governor and his uncle has made arrangements to encourage "local" tourism.

All these have come to naught. Now a Senator of Kenya thinks that if the women of the Mijikenda went about topless and danced for the benefit of the tourists, tourism might, perchance, improve. In the middle of a serious crisis this is the best that a nominated Senator of Mombasa county can come up with. What is wrong with these people?

There are many moving parts to the revival of an economic sector. There is no benefit to be derived from the ill-advised musings of children in the Senate. Instead, we are to be pitied that this person would even think it appropriate to appropriate the sexuality of an entire community of women for the entertainment of lecherous foreigners. We may quibble over the finer points of the national Executive's proposals regarding the revival of the tourism sector, but we cannot ignore the fact that the proposals are founded on facts and figures available to the makers of policy at the highest level of government. I doubt that this Mombasa Senator has founded her misogynistic proposals on anything other than a juvenile desire to make a splash on social media platforms.

We have made strides, small one albeit but strides nonetheless, to eliminate sex tourism from our shores. The challenges we face in the name of poverty are profound. We cannot afford to go back on our progress with asinine suggestions that a community be exploited for the sexual gratification of foreigners. For tourism to improve in Kenya, the safety of the people and their visitors must be assured. The casualness with which the elected (and nominated) representatives of the people are treating the question of public safety does not inspire confidence that they can be credible partners in the revival of the tourism industry. This Senator has just confirmed that Parliament is not the repository of wisdom, careful deliberation or good taste.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Safety, always. (Then politics.)

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb hand book is ninety-four pages long. The section on car/truck safety and construction is fifty-eight pages long, excluding diagrams. While the annual event, held since 1915, is supposed to a fun day out for motor racing enthusiasts and spectators, the safety of both the racers and spectators is paramount. Among the requirements for the safety of all the participants is that cars must have roll cages, and all drivers must possess valid competition licenses and medical insurance certificates. The organisers of the event reserve the right to reject a competitor who poses a risk to himself or others, and they are free to interpret the rule book freely in order to ensure utmost safety during the event.

A cursory examination of the fourteen-page Club Motorsports handbook for the KiambuRing TT, billed to be an incarnation of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, leaves one with a feeling of dread. It is unclear what the eligibility of the competitors is based on. The KiambuRing TT handbook claims to focus on public safety, but it remains unclear how this safety is to be achieved when the criteria for qualification remains muddled, at best. No mention is made of the requirement for roll cages, competition licenses or medical insurance certificates. It is unclear what motor racing organisation has sanctioned this event too.

This is not surprising. In Kenya the rules are for the squares, the mindless sheep following their leader, lemming-like, off a cliff. When it comes to the operation of motor vehicles, especially for sport, I believe that only the Kenya Motorsport Federation, KMSF, has the technical and organisational capacity to organise an even such as the KiambuRing TT. It may have lost a step or two since the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the FIA, removed the Safari Rally from the calendar of the World rally Championship, but it remains the only credible organisation with the institutional memory to oversee the complex machinery that is an event such as the KiambuRing TT.

The KiambuRing TT has been held twice, in 2013 and 2014. It has been endorsed by the Governor of Kiambu County. It is an attractive event, especially for amateur racers, owners of fast cars not built for racing. In memory of the death of a racer on the roads of Kiambu it is time that the Club Motorsports and Kenya Motorsport Federation agreed to collaborate to make the event safe for both competitors and spectators alike using the same stringent rules as those the KMSF and the FIA use.

The traditional knee-jerk reaction to tragedy is usually to ban the thing that caused tragedy. That would be a mistake. Clearly, there are people willing to risk life and limb to test their mettle in motor racing. If the government is determined to exploit their enthusiasm for revenue and publicity, the least it can do is insist on the application of the same rules of motor racing as apply elsewhere. This way, even when in practice, the lives of competitors and spectators alike will be prolonged a bit longer. (My obsession with the insidiousness of such events will not be assuaged, but at least I shall have live specimens to poke my finger in their eye.)

I am not penitent.

In a state of nature, we are cruel beings. We endeavour to cause misery by the very fact of our existence. The very act of our birth, whether it is accompanied by copious amounts of barbiturates or not, creates pain on an unimaginable scale. But by our civilisation, by our education, we are taught to temper our baser instincts. We are taught humility. We are taught kindness. We are civilised. In our civilisation we are reminded that it is in bad taste to mention the dead in anything but the fondest of words. And especially so in my homeland, we are taught to expunge all memory of imperfection from our minds, to hold aloft the memory of the departed as something approaching a singular truth of perfection.

I am confronted by my words. I am accused of abjuring that civilisation to which I owe my livelihood. Yet I am not penitent. I refuse to eat crow. I shall not apologise.

I will not rely on my right to be mean, though I refuse that characterisation for my words. And, yes! I have a right to be mean. So long as I am not slanderous or libelous, I am well within my right to say the meanest things about that which catches my fancy. But, pray tell, what is so mean in employing the words of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to demonstrate that context is vital to examining the place of the individual in the grand scheme of things?

We are a nation of contradictions. A tiny elite has the wherewithal to support racing teams - racing drivers living the dream. It can afford to take over the public commons for their amusement. It is blameless even when its actions come to grief. It has the capacity to rationalise its every selfish act. Try this one out. "It is Saturday. There are few members of the commuting public heading off to work. Besides, these are not really busy roads. Moreover, our use of these roads will encourage more people to visit our county, spend money in our county, generate revenue and, crucially, jobs. This event is an important part of the economic fabric of our county."

When tragedy strikes, as it must every now and then, we the Others must bow our heads in respectful silence. We must pay obeisance to the fallen great ones. We must elide what we know to be amiss. We must deploy solipsism and cant in the service of civility and good taste. We must not loudly declaim in the agora that the emperor is not habillé. Yet I am not penitent. I refuse to eat crow. I shall not apologise.

My words are not meant to denigrate the one who has crossed the river. If possible, they should help you confront the utterly desolate situation in which a death has occurred. A people called to greatness are misled, lied to and cheated of their future by an elite that promises the moon but instead provides rocks for bread. How can it be that when the fate of millions is in jeopardy once more the nation should mourn a man made famous performing feats those millions can never engage in? How can I allow a tragedy befalling a small elite distract me from seeing the utter incongruity of that same elite's fleecing of a people? I am not penitent. I refuse to eat crow. I shall not apologise.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Death of a boy-racer.

I do not fit the description of an angry man, young or otherwise. I am endowed with a skill-set that affords me a decent enough living that I am only in fear of losing that life to which I am now accustomed. I sleep hungry only by choice. I commute only by choice. My suits are threadbare only by choice. There are millions of Kenyans who do not enjoy the same life I do, while there is a tiny elite who will never ever want for anything - nor will their children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

That elite is no longer invisible. You will hear of their exploits from time to time. When one of their own passes on, the nation is usually gripped for a time with tales of their goodness and accomplishments. In regard to how high up the tree of elitism they are, the examination of their lives will be calibrated to establish just how important they were, with the attendant public expiation of their goodness by someone or two of similar rank.

Yesterday a man died in a road traffic accident on a road in Kiambu. He was driving a very expensive racing car. Few Kenyans could afford it. His death was not an "ordinary" accident, in that it did not occur on his commute to or from his place of work, or on his way to an appointment with his dentist, doctor, chiropractor or mistress. He died while driving very quickly on roads that were not designed for driving very quickly. He died in the company of his friends who were driving similarly expensive cars beyond the reach of the majority of car-owners in Kiambu. His death was examined and re-examined in the free press and on the internet. Even from thirteen thousand kilometres away I am forced to confront the death of a man I have never met, would only have heard of in the most exceptional of circumstances, having died something that I could only dream of if I were a member of the fat-wallet society.

It is something that should enrage us, this celebration of wealth for celebration's sake. In his acquisition of the wealth, or riches, that permitted that dead driver to purchase that expensive toy, we are left to speculate about how much worth he was tot he men and women who walk or commute to work every day, those who slumber with rumbling stomachs of hunger, unable to walk into a shop and purchase off the rack new sets of suitings, shirts, stockings, underwear, belts and whatnots. That while the just government of the people is engaged in an orgy of self-immolation at the altar of corruption we must engage what little of our public commons to the mourning of the death of a boy-racer should enrage us to seismic proportions. It is a complete negation of the priorities that should order our lives.

No, sir. I do not deny that he was a man of some worth; I refuse to accept that his worthiness was greater than that of the four men who labour day and night to watch over my property while I toil or slumber. When their ilk is attacked in the dead of night and murdered in cold blood, they are not mourned save by their loved ones. Their day to day exploits in service to others are not celebrated - instead, they are tolerated when they ask for just a little more when they offer to wash our cars for us or clear out the gutters of our roofs.

So I shall not mourn the boy-racer. He died doing something foolish. He died in the company of other boy-racers doing foolish things. All that promise his family and friends saw in him was sacrificed to the vanity of the elite who must show us that they have more, they are more, they can do more. I should not be asked to mourn him, though I mourn every loss of life. I need not know of him. He was not me, and I could not possibly be him.