I will not start this with an introduction about how long I have been away. I will not even refer to the fact that my poems seems to fall on really shallow eardrums. I will not even admit how much of my fault that is. I am normally thinking of a movie I watched when I was 7, referencing an event that happened in 1992 whilst using words of songs produced in 2015. I am the anti type of Ken Saro Wiwa. Asking questions about the government while fearing for the lives of those I care about. Cowering behind rhymes and ambivalent statements. Hoping that some people will get it. A perfect example is this one. Wenyenchi’s theory
Today, that is not the case. I will be honest, I might be brutal, I might even shed some tears on this canvas. But believe you me, today, you will not leave this page trying to figure out what I was on about.
WHEREVER YOU STAND
This message is not being directed to a certain clique of people. I am not speaking to the Kikuyus, the Luos, the government, the voters, the apathetic or the believers.I am speaking to humans. I am asking you to pay heed. To grow, from whence you are. Be a better you. Stop looking at others. The vibes you project onto others reverberate across boundaries, religions and generations. If there is a problem around you. You are either the problem or you are fixing it.
I’M CALLING EVERY WOMAN, CALLING EVERY MAN
We have been part of years of women coming into literacy and power. Still miles away from the dream but women have been shaping and changing the world long before they could vote. Long before women were allowed to get an education. Long before they were allowed to lead. For isn’t every man who has led before, the son of a woman? Did not the same woman not teach him how to wipe his nose and tie his shoe laces? Does he not look up to her more than he can admit? Isn’t a man who believes in “genuine” feminism the proponent of the change the world needs? Isn’t he the guide other growing boys will need as a mentor?
WE’RE THE GENERATION
I have probably heard these 2 statements more than I would care to count.
“This next generation of teenagers will be the worst adults ever.”
“Our generation was messed up by our parents.”
These statements come from the same group of double tapping, G.O.T loving, keyboard smacking 25 to 35 year old millennials.
They have relinquished their responsibilities in actually making sure they change themselves or mentor the younger generation not to follow into their what they call misplaced and misguided footsteps. The politician who is 30 has no difference from the one who is 60. Most of them are after power, money and fame. The pursuit of who will make the best sponsor.
WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO WAIT
“I will one day open a children’s home. I will one day give like 10% of my money to the poor”. I hear this every month from friends and colleagues. Meanwhile a girl who is 23 has been saving her pocket money by walking part of her distance to college. Keeping fit while at the same time giving others a chance at a well fed life if not a good life. I am in no way chastising you. You mostly choose how you live your life. You should not feel bad about what luck and hard work has borne you. But a bottle of Tusker and a fancy phone cover could buy 20 homeless kids lunch for the day. I am not suggesting that I am any better. I am just giving you an idea. A better way to see the world, a better way to see yourself.
“If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down” –Kevin Spacey
THE FUTURE STARTED YESTERDAY
I was watching the comedy Blackish. In Season 2, Episode title “Hope”, Anthony Anderson goes into a monologue that opens and rips your heart apart. It smashes your skull in as your mind blows all over your already stained carpet. And you go like: “You talking to me? You talking to me?”
“Oh, so you wanna talk about hope, ‘Bow? Obama ran on hope. Remember when he got elected? And we felt like maybe, just maybe, we got out of that bad place and made it to a good place. That the whole country was really ready to turn the corner. You remember that amazing feeling we had during the inauguration? I was sitting right next to you. We were so proud. And we saw him, get out of that limo, and walk alongside of it, and wave to that crowd. Tell me you weren’t terrified when you saw that. Tell me you weren’t worried that someone was gonna snatch that hope away from us like they always do. That is the real world, ‘Bow. And our children need to know that that’s the world they live in.”
In 1992/1993, I cannot be sure as I was very young. While my sister had taken me to Hospital in Limuru at a place we called “Kwa B/Fateri” (I would find out it was Patel years later). Clashes erupted between cops and people who were having a multi-party “Kamukunji”. My sister and I ran and had to plead with a shopkeeper to let us in. And then stay locked in that shop for the next 2 hours before the coast was clear. It has now been 23 years since then. We have enjoyed freedom of speech to a certain extent, we have enjoyed good leadership, again to a certain extent. But in the same years we have seen what complacency can yield. We are comfortable with watching other people’s fathers and sons protest injustice for our sake from the comfort of our homes. We have decided to use the word “reality” vs “idealism” as the reason for our inaction. Can you imagine how many people once thought slavery was a reality? How many people believed colonialism was a reality? Why do you choose to believe that impunity, corruption and injustice is?
AND WE’RE ALREADY LATE
We have seen that the quiet overlooking of laws and the constitution comes for your enemies, your opponents and then for you. We support laws only when they work for us. When the cops inhumanely beat up protesters, hawkers and looters. We nod and agree. Sometimes we even smile and make memes and then laugh some more. When the cops under the same training and disillusioned justice come for one of your own. You are up in arms. You will make noise and tell your friends about how you did not get a government tender because they needed a bribe. The truth is that is not the problem. You could not afford the size of the bribe. Otherwise you would be in jail every week for over-speeding and running red lights. How soon do you decide to change? How soon do you decide not to give up?
You have to let the fear go. We all die in the end. Death comes for us and we can only choose how to face it when it comes.
I don’t want this to be a write up that ignites a spark in one man that he uses to light up the world and burn all our hypocritical iniquities. I want this message to ignite just a big enough flame in every human. I don’t want this to be shared just so we can discuss how many likes it got and whether my blog stats are on the up. Thereafter the message will be lost and the point will one day be found in some deep rusty annals of the wreckage that would have become Kenya.
I am looking for that person who will read this and internalize it. Use it to change a friend or two, a generation or a family. Make sure that even if we don’t get to benefit from the fruits of our actions, our children or their children do; for we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our children.
There is nothing as strong as an idea. It gives more will for action than the reality can. The reality is scary but an idea, a probable future is full of hope. I am looking for the person who shall keep this idea burning. If you’re out there….
In her past they sang a song of victory.
They won the war.
In my past they sang my dirge.
Yet I won the war too.
But my victory was short-lived.
For a bullet fired in victory found its target on my knee.
And as I fell down to the ground.
My bayonet had gone through my throat and then tongue.
To say I was dumbfounded is understating it.
But their victory songs did not stop but the dirges did.
Because I did not die. I crawled to safety.
Away from their trampling celebratory feet.
I crawled to her.
She had seen me while atop her kraal.
She spread her “shuka” on the ground for me.
We fell in love in silence.
Then we became blood lovers.
As her fingers got covered in mine. Hers became cold.
Under the golden African sun.
Her wails were a harmony to the rapping of the “victors”.
In her sobs I found my inspiration.
Covered in her tears, I accepted my expiration.
I had a harder time coming up with a title for this post than I had writing it. This is because I always knew how I would tell the story. How I would pass the story across. How despite my Kiswahili influenced phrase translation, I knew most of my audience would get it. That’s because they are Kenyan. When they read this, they don’t apply a particular accent to it. No, they use that familiar pronunciation that most are accustomed to. Yes, that way Kenyans speak that makes people always question where I’m from every time I travel. They seem to easily recognize the Oga and other Western African accents, I have been told the Tanzanian’s English is more sing-song than we can tell. And of course in Omugurusi’s country, they are easy to identify and well popularised by the hilarious Anne Kansiime.
Most of us especially writers insist on writing British English despite the fact that it’s harder to speak in the same accent. We have “U’s” in humour, favourite and all our endeavours. See what I did there? We also have “S” in place of “Z” in the past participle of most verbs. I actually forcefully use the S in my posts no matter how many red lines appear under my words. If you have been on my blog before, you will realise that these first two paragraphs are what I use to get my mind to focus. ADD is a bitter gift and a sweet curse. But I have the hang of it now.
About 3 weeks ago, I was to do a post that would have started with the simple phrase: “I HATE KENYA!!” My reasons would have been justified. As far as my perspective was concerned. See, I had been in Angola for just over 2 weeks. In those 2 weeks, I had to contend with knowing blood was flowing back at home. My brothers and sisters were getting killed or maimed for life. And this had prompted quite an emotional post from the south side of Africa. Ironically, here I was in a country that had experienced civil war into the 21st century. They had obviously learnt their lesson from what I could see around. They all mostly speak Portuguese and marry without discrimination on tribe or colour bases. This is saying a lot. The country has a machete in its flag for Chrissake. And yes, I know that was not the intended meaning.
Back to why I hated Kenya at that particular moment. I landed on a Monday at 3 am. And I was still a bit sad from the news I had read while abroad. I was supposed to be off work for the next 2 days due to travel and jet-lag. But I had a conference on Tuesday and so despite the fatigue, I was up by 6 am to pick up a Ugandan guest who was here to attend said conference. Long story short, by 8 am that day, I was not nodding off to sleep at Geographical Information Systems conference. I was standing in a stuffy, ammonia smelling, wall graffiti ridden room at Kibera Law Courts.
Yes, I had been arrested. For failing to use a pretty non-existent pedestrian crossing as I crossed Waiyaki way. Yes, I was at fault as long as the rule of law is concerned. But, yes I would do the same thing over and over as I told the cops as other guests at the back of the “Maria” tried to negotiate for their release. The thing is, on Waiyaki way, it does not matter where you cross the road, (that is unless you have a foot bridge close to you), you still have to rush across it like a demented oryx who learnt how to walk from Bambi to avoid getting hit by the onrushing traffic. See, no one slows down at the said pedestrian crossings. Some cars actually seem to speed up near them so as to avoid traffic that might be caused by people crossing. It does not help the case that the road is sometimes widest at these same points. I tried asking why not arrest the reckless drivers first who have made the pedestrian crossings unusable. I got comically stupid answers like “We will start with you today then we will move to the drivers.” Yes, you would have to use the Pedestrian crossing for the moment and if you got hit while following the law, they would make sure the driver paid heavily for your physiotherapy or your funeral. I had to pocket just to avoid slapping the tiny brain out of his ear.
But the arrest alone was not the reason I was so angry at the country. Neither the fact that I had to wait a whole day, standing till my old sports injured foot hurt like hell to pay a one thousand Kenya shillings fine. Nor was it the fact that some people charged the previous day with the same offence had been fined 20K or a month in jail. I thanked my stars I was not one of them. No, I was angry at the fact that in that one day, we were about 1000 people that were charged with such a minor traffic offence. I was angry as I saw a man arrested carrying business wares in a paper bag; weep at the fact that he could not afford the fine. Yes the poor would become more poor. But most of all I was angry at the fact the perpetrators of Mpeketoni attacks had gone through traffic blockades without getting arrested. I was angry that the grenade attackers had evaded these same cops. This great law enforcement order that could arrest 1000 people in one day for not crossing the road properly. Yes, they had missed an internationally re-known terrorist who would end up bringing terror and bloodshed at Westgate. Yes, my innate patriotism was gone. I could not afford to be loyal to this country. The next chance I got for better pastures, I would not even cross the border chewing cud. But that was 3 weeks ago.
My rationale is always too strong. So with time, love for my country has come back. As always we know who to blame. But we always forget about the man in the mirror. Yes, 26 years since the Michael Jackson hit. We still sing along without taking into account the lyrics. I will not adopt a holier than thou attitude and pretend I have not been in the least bit tribal before. But I have over time always worked to negate any history I might have had with that ugly attribute. I actually stopped using my actual second name so that one could not easily tell what tribe I was from. That way we could act with no prejudice. Be friends unconditionally. My 7 best friends are Kalenjin, Punjabi, Meru, Giriama, Luo, Kamba and Taita. I did not choose for them to be. No, their personalities are what makes them be accorded such honours. I have to state that I am Kikuyu otherwise this will not make sense. In that cell, my best friend was a Luo. Yes, in the eyes of our so-called leaders, we are supposed to be water and oil. They make jokes that never can you eat Omena with Githeri. Such shameless and archaic analogies.
We had been talking since the bumpy, overloaded, no-safety belt ride from Waiyaki way via Ngong road to Kibera. None was benefiting from the other. We just shared jokes and political quips. But by the end of the day, the relationship was forced to become symbiotic. He had no one to pay for his fine at the bank so I had my best friend do it for him. And with his knowledge of the Luo language he made sure he negotiated with the senior cop so we did not sleep in a cell. He was a brother in alms. (Yes I spelled that right). We even took the same cab to work from the hell in a cell. “Omera, Nyasaye ogwedhi”
I have written a post on how I was taught how to love growing up. One thing I was not taught is how to hate. I was actually taught of how evil that would be. How much of a sin that was. In later life when certain people have driven me to such an extent. i have only learnt of how consuming hate is on the person producing it than the one receiving it. It is a cancer. And its consequences are almost as deadly if not worse.
Yes, we called Luos, “Mera” growing up but that had loads to do with the repeated phrase; “Omera” . Which I later came to learn is one of the most endearing words in the language as it means “my brother”. I admired the Luo workers who used to live in Central Province then. This number has since significantly dwindled. They were hardworking, astute, muscular and if you know me then you would knowI kind of very much followed in these footsteps. (Just like being Luo, GymRat is a lifestyle 🙂 ) I have said before, I am a child of the world. I really do not care where my good qualities come from. All humans are my brothers and sisters. My enemies are those who try to oppress them or hurt them regardless of their creed, race or tribe.
Because whichever political rally you attend, whomever you vote for. It’s that neighbour you sell your wares too, that driver who drives your kids to school, that friend in your network who informs you of a vacancy at his workplace. That is your real friend. When in need, your wedding committees, your burial and funeral arrangements, your hospital bill Harambee does not have IDs being checked for tribal name tags. Yet, all and sundry who have known you, have respected you and have loved you will show up at your door.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children
We are the perfect generation to exact change in this country. We are not the leaders of tomorrow but those of today. We can change two generations at once. We can change our parents and make sure our kids never learn otherwise. They learn nothing but love. They never learn to be Luo, Kikuyu, Kamba or Kalenjin. Teach them to be Kenyan. Yes I know it will be not be easy. Nothing worth it ever is. You cannot give up on this. The whole country will depend on you. Your heroism will be unsung. Not a single verse will be written in your honour. But I will stand too. I am sure as hell that I am not alone. My brothers and sisters from all parts of Kenya already ride with me. Are you willing to join me? I am not a Kikuyu, I am not black. #IAmKenyan
This will not be poetic, this will not be prose.
And for some time the thorns will outshine the rose.
The book will not be written. The history not recorded.
The wise will understand for the message will be coded.
The blind will hear the message and communicate it to the deaf.
The couriers will be the dumb so the secret will never be known.
We will have not seen, heard or said anything evil.
The war will be fought by the crippled, master minded by the bald heads of cancer patients.
You see the battle will not need brute strength.
The lid on the jar is already open and the concern will be how to get it back on.
The man in the mirror will already be one with his reflection.
The step of the Boy Scouts will sound like the army, but we will not hear it.
The bubble wrap around this new world will sound like gunshots but we will not fear it.
Peace, love and unity will be tissue thin but we will not tear it.