Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Have they read us right?

"I wrote the constitution" can be taken as the typical hyperbole of a politician seeking electoral glory, a statement that all know is made tongue-in-cheek. It is rare that the maker of such a statement expects to be taken seriously or, indeed, he himself takes the stamens seriously. Ordinarily, it is not considered a lie but merely an exaggeration. But, as we have pointed out in the past, Kenya plays differently in this league. Lying is so commonplace that it is safer to start from the presumption that a politician is lying than the other way around.

Quite often such a lie is part of a pattern of behaviour that paints the liar in even dimmer light. The problem is that the liar assumes that those he is lying to are so stupid that they will not even attempt a basic fact-check, and so he gets bolder and tells even bigger whoppers, attempting to paint himself as the paragon of political and constitutional virtue, and all his rivals as second only to Beelzebub for their chicanery, lying and unfitness for public office.

Were it a mere decade ago, the liar could hope to get away with his lies. In the here and now, with affordable internet bundles for the vast majority of people, access to multiple sources of information and databases quickly puts paid to most of the lies told in the heat of political combat. One can no longer allege, for example, that a person is an alum of a university and hope to get away with the lie without being called out for it by online sleuths.

But our vote-seekers reserve the biggest raspberries for their record of thievery and they amass massive legions of praise singers whose only job is to shout down the truth about the thieving ways of their masters. It is possible for a salaried politician to strike it big. It is possible in the same way that it is possible for lightning to strike twice in a bottle. Kenya does not traffic in "possible". In Kenya, the salaried politician makes his own luck - quite often in aggressive and inventive ways.

It begins with a truth that is verifiable and then it takes on a life of its own and consumes his whole existence. It is why we know, in our hearts of hearts, that what the peddle as truth is the largest load of malodorous buffalo excrement this side of the Maasai Mara. What is worse, they don't care anymore when they are caught in the lie. They pretend that the truth-seeker and truth-teller liv in an alternative universe, and that the universe of lies is the one that is real. This fantasy that they paint of themselves blinds them to the anger that is bubbling under the surface among the people whose votes they seek.

They ignore the goings-on in far-flung places like Sri Lanka where they have burnt down the ill-gotten wealth of some of their storied politicians. They seem to think that so long as they toss a pittance or two our way, we will be so grateful for the crumbs from the high table that we won't let go of the reins on our rage and give it its head. They imagine we shall remain quietly docile for all eternity.  They have invested their political and material future on that assumption. Only time will tell if they have read us right.

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