Thursday, December 11, 2014

Digital illiteracy.

My father is a professor. He has degrees in subjects that guaranteed I would forever have a special and abiding loathing for the sciences, both physical and biological. My father has taught, including teaching my brothers and I, for the better part of my life, and he has been exceptional. My mother is one of the few linguists I know who isn't terified of forensic linguistics. She knew that we would part linguistic ways when it took me the better part of ten seconds to explain clearly what an adverbial phrase is. In their areas of expertise, my parents are not only undisputed leaders, but original thinkers; those PhDs of theirs were not in vain, I can assure you.

In the use of modern technology, especially information and communications technology, they are not slouches either, but there are limits to their tech-dexterity. But because of their liberal-arts training, they are not shy about inquiry. Frequently they will forget whatever it is I took them through the Sunday before, but that does not stop them from pestering me over the same thing over and over again over the same thing. If I didn't love them as much as I did, I would set their iPads and S5s on fire, bury the ashes in a mine shaft, and replace them with a Nokia 3310, if I could find any in this tech-obsessed market.

Sadly, the Government of Kenya has none of the positive attributes possessed of my parents. It is ultraconservative in that the phrase "over my dead body" seems to be the prevailing mantra over any kind of change in the corridors of power. The promulgation of the Constitution in 2010 almost caused the entire machinery of government to seize up and stop. It was the largest reorganisation of government since the mbeberu packed his horse-and-buggy and slunk back to the cold and dreary British Isles. Pet institutions were set to undergo total change. The "over-my-dead-body" die-hards need not have worried.

You must have read the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014, currently exercising the minds of the honourable members of the Eleventh Parliament's National Assembly. In a world where the threats against the safety of the people can be realised as much as with firearms and explosives as with ones-and-zeroes, don't you get the feeling that, save for the ad nauseum repetition of "digital government", what we have in the here and now is a peculiarly Kenyan version of George Orwell's Animal Farm writ large?

The toolkit is made up of equipment that everyone though the last Governor-General of Kenya had carted off to the fusty corridors of Whitehall. Kenyans do not have a sense of history. They refuse to learn the proper lessons from the past, even the recent past. Our safety and, with it, our security, is not in the hands of brigands or in the hands of secret police; it is in our hands, but not in the spy-on-your-neighbour leitmotif peddled by the likes of Joseph Kaguthi and his ilk with that nyumba kumi shit. 

The day a majority decides that it is no longer preferable to be ill-served by semi-literate, ill-educated, greedy men and women of low morals, and that we it no longer bow down to a political aristocracy, and that everyone will pay their own way and carry their own weight, we will not need a secret police to keep us safe from ourselves and we will be feared by the brigands who would wish do us harm. All the kibeberu legislation in the world, all the holdovers from Baba Moi's bload-soaked twenty-four years, will not keep us safe or our nation secure if the software that makes us tick is still as corrupt as the day we bought a new Constitution for sixty-four billion shillings.

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