Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A disproportionate response

Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis RomanusI am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens.Jed Bartlett, West Wing (Season 1, Episode 3)
The world has changed considerably since the Roman Empire crumbled and was ground into dust. Where once Roman citizenship was a guarantee against the nefarious attentions of other powers, no nation has kept the faith with its citizens in the modern era. Today, whether one is the sole superpower like the United States or a Stalinist hermit death camp like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, citizens have much to fear of their governments. Citizenship no longer guarantees safety.

Yesterday, the Government of Kenya reminded the citizens of Kenya that they could expect no mercy for questioning the legitimacy of its institutions. The Government of Kenya reminded the citizens of Kenya that they were the subjects of the Government and that any acts that displeased the Government would be considered, at a minimum, acts of disloyalty and would be suppressed and crushed pitilessly. The Government of Kenya reminded its subjects that though they cover themselves in the cloak of the Bill of Rights, that that Bill of Rights will not stop a combat boot from being brought down with deliberate and great force upon the head of a subject who has overstepped his or her bounds. The Government of Kenya, through one of its ardent agents, declared its intention to acquire "extra-lethal teargas" in order to "defend the Constitution and the rule of law."

If you want to test the salience of my declaration, I dare you to walk from one end of our fair capital to the other, in the dead of night, wearing nothing but the cloak of the promise of swift justice by your Government should anyone molest you. In my estimation, you are likely to be molested by agents of the Government wearing the uniforms of the security services. Theirs will not be polite enquiries as to how well you enjoy your nocturnal perambulations, but, in rapid order (a) demands to identify yourself, (b) threats if your identification documents betray a certain ethnicity out of favour with your Government and (c) extortionate demands, demands under the colour of authority, for a bribe. You are more likely to pay the bribe than not.

But where the full might of your Government will be brought to bear is where you deign to challenge its authority to order your life. Take, for example, the organisation of an election: the Government will brook no dissent from its position that the arbiters of elections are as trustworthy as can be, that no shadow of a doubt exists as to their integrity. Sore losers, those with presidential-scale axes to grind, are troublemakers and those that support them are anti-constitutional anarchist out to destabilise the State and in the pay of hostile foreign powers. They are to be dealt with swiftly, brutally and pitilessly. They are to be gassed, clubbed, kicked and stomped into submission. They are to experience the whole gamut of coercive measures available to the Government until it goes through their thick skulls that they shall not be allowed to prevail. Blood shall be spilt, heads shall be cracked and the City Mortuary will hum with activity.

Do not, dear reader, live under the illusion that your citizenship accords you certain rights; it never did. Your citizenship is a burden your must bear stoically. It is a requirement for total and unquestioning obedience. And when, dear reader, you get too big for your breeches, it is the promise of a disproportionate response. Like death.

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