Friday, March 26, 2021

I tell you Maina...

In the olden days of 2005, when I had no choice in the matter, I was a passive, albeit annoyed, listener of the various morning shows on FM radio. Depending on which of the deathtraps called PSVs I boarded, I would sit through apparently humorous and entertaining renditions of "adult" subjects, mostly by male presenters, mostly in remarkably crass ways, mostly for prurience and titillation. The shows, even then, had little to commend them on the moral or social end. They almost universally bad. The FM stations made up for their bad-ness with music by Kenyan artists - and artistes - some of whom were very, very good. Some others produced pop songs whose beat still makes me bop my head whenever an earworm nestles in there. (Nameless, for sure, had a knack for belting out headbangers and I miss the man's songs something fierce.)

Then came along Mandevu - rather his wife - and my morning commute became this island of calmness because, I tell you Maina, Double M buses elevated the PSV game to levels hitherto seen in the mid-1980s when Kenya Bus stuck to a schedule and matatus were confined to the outskirts of the City. But I digress.

Morning FM radio, that vehicle for advertising products that a burgeoning working class aspiring to greatness wanted, was dominated by salaciously risqué shows that almost always engendered great discomfort when parents and their young wards happened to commute together. (We will cover the dysfunctional family life of parents who are afraid - and a bit ashamed - to discuss sex with their children another day.)

For me, though, it wasn't just the notoriously and relentlessly sexualised monotone of the likes of Maina and King'ang'i in the Morning that put me off, it was the determined efforts they all made to be on the wrong side of every single public interest issue of the day. If someone managed to break through their obsession with undersexed spouses and oversexed watchmen with a topic with real-world implications - say, Nairobi's notorious traffic jams - our sex mad radiomen would find a way of colouring the ensuing discussion with a bit of sex. These specimens of journalistic execrableness did not and could not find it in themselves to elevate the public discourse into topics that would, in the fulness of time, benefit the hundreds of thousands of commuters who tuned in day in, day out.

So it comes as no surprise that even in radio stations that have done many positive things, their presenters remain wedded to a determined almost-always patriarchally misogynistic view of the world. More importantly, they are prepared to share their worldviews loudly and without shame. Nuanced discussions about the wars of the sexes and similar cultural shibboleths receive only a patina of reason and thought. The depths of muck that these radiomen are prepared to plumb in their single-minded pursuit of the "sex sells" philosophy is sometimes quite staggering.

I have come a short distance from my Double M commute, but on those days when I have the luxury of driving myself to the office, it is to podcasts and my spectacularly eclectic collection of MP3 songs that I turn to. I cannot imagine my brain being addled by the pap peddled by the Mainas and King'ang'is of FM radio.

And yet these human specimens remain popular, their radio stations continue to promote their shows - and their views - and millions of Kenyans are made not just more stupider for their choice of entertainment, but worse as humans. If it is reinforced in your mind that men are superior to women, that women are men's sex objects, that women deserve every bad thing that happens to them for denying men sex - if the reinforcement is done day after day after day, we are worse off as humans. We will do bad things to each other as result. We will harm each other. We will injure each other. We will murder one another. What's worse, we won't care.

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