By MAKAU MUTUA
Posted Saturday, August 10 2013 at 18:04
Posted Saturday, August 10 2013 at 18:04
We are malignant, uncouth, corrupt, and – get this – cursed with an evil eye. But we weren’t always so little, small, and spiteful. We used to dream big. But our dreams died. Now we have nightmares – and night sweats.
We’ve become a defensive, easily slighted nation. We are an epithet-riddled people. Our mouths need to be washed with soap. Our hate-dripping fingers shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard, or keypad. Which begs the question – why have our brains shrunk? Are we “devolving” instead of “evolving?” Here are five unarguable secrets we are mediocre.
First, we’ve “outsourced” our brains – and inner conscience – to mobs. We no longer think as individuals, but as mobs. We are no different from a herd of buffalo. Look – “tribal identity” is the first thing you most want to know about any Kenyan you meet.
Admit it – that’s what you hear in the person’s name. Bingo – Makau must be Kamba, Githongo a Kikuyu, Ochieng a Luo. That’s how you decide into which “mobs” you will “confess” or which political cartels you will support.
We’ve become Pavlovian dogs – we “salivate” on cue upon seeing our “mob.” We lose our individual agency within the tribe. Full professors become tribal bloviators. They revert to nature, and start crawling on all fours.
Tell you what – the tribal mob robs us of our intellect, and turns us into morons. Our noggin becomes an empty calabash. Our heads become incubators of genocidal thoughts. That’s not as big of a leap as you think. If you doubt me, flash back to the 2008 Eldoret Kiambaa church fire.
Our state’s – and society’s – proclivity for anti-intellectualism is woven around the tribe. It’s all about “eating” or looting, to be less euphemistic. Like maggots, we look to the state for pork when “ours” are in power. That’s why power is a zero-sum game. Never mind the existence of so-called devolved counties. The same folks who yesterday used to “eat” in Nairobi are now pillaging county governments.
Second, we are a corrupt people. That’s right – we are victimised by small dreams because we have become one of the most corrupt people on earth. Virtually every Kenyan wants a shortcut to money. Lie, cheat, steal, kill – it doesn’t matter how you get the money.
I know – you want to blame it all on the MPs. But – and don’t argue here – the “little people” are equally corrupt. It’s ironic the “little people” have the gall to complain about the naked and rapacious greed of MPs. That’s nothing but jealousy. The “little people” would rob us blind if they got the chance. The kettle shouldn’t call the pot black. We’ve become a nation of thieves.
We’ve no problem stealing from strangers. We mug each other in broad daylight. We knock down the old and infirm and make off with their purses and wallets. But we also steal from family members. Raise your hand if you haven’t been victimised by a relative. But we pretend to be a religious nation. Don’t make me laugh. Unless being religious – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or a kamuti believer (Kamba spell) – means that you can “pinch” that which isn’t yours with impunity.
Remember the expression – “why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?” Even judges have been for sale. I sure hope Chief Justice Willy Mutunga stamps out the vice in the Judiciary. Can he defeat the corrupt networks?
Third, we are in love with leaders with shady or even criminal backgrounds.
Just look at who we’ve elected into county and national offices. One wink and we all know what I am talking about. Some are land grabbers, suspects of egregious offences, drug addicts, and a sordid assortment of beefy-necked pillagers squat in public offices. That’s your fault – because you either elected them, or allowed them to manipulate their way into office.
Remember the statement by French philosopher Joseph de Maistre – “every country has the government it deserves”. We elect our tormentors, and then wonder why we are being tormented. We aren’t victims, but self-victimisers. We just love that boot of the oppressor on our necks.
Fourth, we are jealous and spiteful. Like maggots, we like to pull each other down.
Why aren’t we happy for the success of others unless they belong to our mob?
The election of Senator Barack Obama to the White House was one of the most important events that’s ever happened to Kenya. But a segment of our population has trashed him because he’s “Luo.”
They’ve done so because he shunned Kenya after the 2007 re-election of President Mwai Kibaki, which he viewed as illegitimate. Then he skipped Kenya on his recent Africa tour because of The Hague trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. Haters can’t see beyond President Obama’s Luo heritage. Hate only diminishes the hater.
Finally, we are mediocre because we refuse to accept our mediocrity. We are the terminal patient living in complete denial. But denialists are usually doomed. Will damnation be our lot?
What, as a country, can we do to accept that we are below average? For one, we can start by stopping hating everyone who tells us the bitter truth.
When Mr Obama said he would skip Kenya, a prominent pundit asked Kenyans to “show him the contempt card.” Wow – as if Mr Obama cares. We should stop being so sensitive, and acting like silly brats.
Makau Mutua is Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of the KHRC Twitter @makaumutua