Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The face in the mirror

"Babu Owino"What do you expect of a society where children are raised & socialized by maids, shamba boys, drivers & boarding schools? -- @alexawiti
The arrogance is breathtaking, isn't it? When it was announced that domestic workers -- maids, shamba boys, drivers -- were entitled to fair wages and fair working conditions, the loudest voices against the announcement belonged to men and women you would have thought belonged to the "middle classes". Then, it seemed to me, that the paternalistic attitude borne against domestic workers reduced these humans to an un-humanity, against whom it was permitted to be inhuman, to use and abuse them, to gratuitously insult them without facing any sort of social sanction, and to treat their inherent dignity by pretending the dignity didn't exist.

Whether or not Mr Owino was raised and socialised by a maid, shamba boy, driver or boarding school, is neither here nor there. What is important is that @alexawiti holds the view that only a maid, shamba boy, driver or boarding school could so socialise a human who would call another human by an epithet that is frequently employed against maids, shamba boys and drivers. It doesn't occur to him that the middle and upper classes are just as poorly socialised in Kenya. It is how a presidential candidate, campaigning in 2012 saw fit to bring up the vexed question -- to his mind -- of Kenya being "ruled" by a candidate from a community that does not circumcise its boys. It is not so much how the candidate brought up the question of circumcision-as-leadership but the actual words -- crude epithets that revealed the same insinuated lowness of character that @alexawiti attributes to Mr Owino.

We all, of course, remember the daring offer by the then member for Nyeri Town who offered, should the unthinkable decision to try a prominent Kenyan at the Hague for international crimes, to strip naked and parade herself as a curse against the tormentors of the prominent Kenyan. The last time aged women had stripped in public in such a publicly political manner was in 1992, when the mothers of political prisoners stripped naked in the culmination of an eleven-month long strike. Needless to say, Baba Moi's government was sufficiently embarassed to release the political prisoners soon after. The mothers' action was not a stunt as the Nyeri Town MP's was seen to be.

The pièce de résistance is of course the salacious innuendo -- subtle and unsubtle -- by a very prominent Machakos politician, a billionaire and a pillar of the business community, at a rally at Uhuru Park in 2015 that lowered the bar even further in Kenyan politics. What he said about a member of the Cabinet ranks as one of the lowest points in Kenya's political sensibilities, reminding Kenyans that when it comes to class, civility, dignified conduct, self-respect and common courtesies, money, wealth or power are irrelevant to whether one has such fine qualities -- or one does not.

As for boarding schools, they are a reflection of our national priorities. As a people, we are are committed to turning boarding schools into incubators for the production of university-ready "A" grades and nothing else. The fires that are breaking out -- again -- in boarding schools all over the country in which our children are being injured or killed are a reflection of our determination to secure "top marks" for our children regardless of their living conditions or whether these schools are educating our children as opposed to simply drilling them for national examinations. By his broad tarring brush, @alexawiti refuses to admit that Mr Owino is not an anomaly; Mr Owino is the face in our mirrors. Like I said, the arrogance is breathtaking.

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