Friday, October 31, 2008

Another crack at the church

Regular readers of this post may be worried that I am an atheist - or worse, an apostate. However, let me make it clear that I am a Christian who holds traditional Christian values like loving thy neighbour and honouring my father and mother ... You know the rap. I am also a firm believer in the judge-not-lest-you-be-judged creed, and I take great pleasure in judging those who purport to judge me. This week, it is the various Christain denominations that went out of their way to ensure that their (female) congregants were dressed "decently".

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It seems, that decency is also in the eyes of the beholder. But I have to ask, what have these leaders of the flock been reading and watching to determine that tumbo-cuts, micro-minis, drain-pipe trousers, body-hugging tops, et al are indecent? I would have though that so long as you were not walking naked, that was decent enough.

This is where I differ with the church. We claim that Kenya is a free country - that we are all free to make certain choices so long as those choices do not impact on my neighbour. I also have the freedom to worship where I am welcome. However, if at the beginning of my relationship with your church, the only rule was to open my wallet for the colection and the tithe, tou can't come later on and add new rules as to what colour underwear I will wear.

We have come a long way in the past 15 years. Even the stodgy old government has given up the rule that prevented female civil servanats from wearing pant-suits. It is called choice and we have failed to teach our children and the less intellectually curious the responsibilities that go along with choice. We cannot try to impose our own sartorial, or other, values on an ignorant and resistant polity. Therefore, the Church and its affiliate institutions, must take on the arduous job of teaching and guiding once again and concentrate less on making money. You are here to save souls, not people from fashion faux pas.


In recent days, some have stated that the cost of treating cigarette smoking-related ailments costs the government a significant amount - six times the revenue generated, by some estimates. Now, this figure may be correct - or not. It all depends on some facts being brought to light. Do the anti-tobacco campaigners have any hard data to present? Let's see if they can answer these questions:
1. How many cigarette-smoking ailments are recorded each year in Kenya?
2. How many of these cases are treated in government-run health facilities?
3. What is the cost of treating these ailments?
4. How much of this cost is borne by the government?
5. How much revenue is generated from tobacco companies?
6. How much revenue is generated from tobacco-users?
7. How many of the tobacco-users suffer from tobacco-related ailments?
8. How many of them seek treatment from government-run health institutions?

The list is endless. Now unless the likes of Mr. Ndubi and Co. can answer these questions, their position starts to seem like a case of over-enthusiastic anti-smoking do-gooding. He quotes EMCA - specifically section 3 - on the fact that every person in Kenya is entitled to a clean and healthy environment. He forgets to mention that every person in kenya has a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment.

It is a fact that the air quality in Nairobi is not affected only by cigarette smoking, but also by the many factories in the industrial area, the thousands of vehicles that are poorly maintaining spewing sulfates and oxides into the air, the open-air incinerators in residential areas - the list is endless. If one were to stand along the sidewalk of a busy Nairobi street s,oking a cigarette, it is my contention that the amount of air pollution caused would be negligible. Indeed, I would argue that it would be next to impossible to cause any form of second-hand smoking-related ailment. One is more likely to suffer from URTI due to the general poor quality of the air in Nairobi, of which second hand cigarette smoke is a minor component.

As a smoker, I am for reasonable restriction on where smoking can take place. The restrictions, however, must be reasonable. I agree with the total ban on smoking in government premises, houses of worship, hospitals, schools, colleges, universities and public conveyances. I agree that restaurants and pubs must designate proper smoking zones where non-smoking patrons will not be at risk of second-hand smoke. I do not agree that the street is off-limits to smokers, save for a few poorly designed and poorly-sited 'smoking zones'. Given the aforemetioned points, the street is hardly a paragon of air quality. It defeats the purpose of enhancing human health if the least contributor to poor air quality is controlled - because it is easy to do so - while the more obvious causes of respiratory diseases (cars, buses, motor-cycles, lorries, taxis, etc.) are allowed to proliferate and pollute. The lunatics who came up with that provision in the Tobacco Control Act, must make amendments reflecting this reality - or else, they should simply outlaw smoking altogether. That would fix things, wouldn't it?

In my defense...

In the past few days, the debate on whether the PS in the Ministry of Local Government can purport to amend by-laws promulgated by the City Council of Nairobi have inevitably focussed on the venality and avarice of lawyers. I wish to state categorically that every profession has its share of greedy and corrupt mebers - take teachers for example; you know, the ones that charge you an arm and a leg for 'extrra' coaching simply by refusing to complete the required syllabus within the time allocated; the doctors that prescribe expensive procedures for routine ailments. The list is long and sordid. To point an accusing finger at the lawyers is to simply find a convenient scapegoat and to give up responsibility for ones actions.

The legal profession would not exist if we were all honest and law-abiding and were willing to take responsibility for our actions. The legal profession becomes an asset only when our hides are in the firing line - else, we are content to blame the lawyers for every error that has been committed through some badly formulated statute.

Mr. Clay Muganda's attack on Mr. Haroun Ndubi for his comments regarding the tobacco legislation and subsidiary legislation (Legal smokescreen, DN 31/10/08) at the centre of the conflict between the ministry and the council are so unwarranted as to question whether he truly studied the law at university. He called lawyers "spineless, pretentious, vile and reptillian" who have failed to guide Kenya out of the woods because each is pulling in his own direction. Of course it is in his interest to ignore the lawyers who do admirable work for very little reward in the arena of human rights, consumer rights, children's rights, women's rights, etc. The numbers of lawyers that have faced the cruel hand of the state upon them for fighting for the public interest is large ... to forget them and label them in such uninformed phrases is to ignore the struggle for the soul of this country. Sure, the National Assembly has attracted the more amoral members of the profession, but in this instance they are politicians first, and lawyers next.

Perhaps, I should shine the spot light on the Fourth Estate. Where were you when alleged meetings were being arranged in Stae House to rob Kenya of its youth in the months of January and February? Is it true that many of you received cash handouts from the architects of the Goldenberg saga to report the news in a less than professional manner? Didn't some of you take to the streets, figuratively, in support of Moi's iniquitous regime? Like the good book says, do not attempt to remove the speck in my eye before you have removed the plank in yours.

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...