Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ghururi Ya Mutula Verdict: It’s ok NOT to mourn him - Pt 1

Nairobi. 30th April, 2013 |

I wrote this post in the dead of the night, perhaps hoping that I could publish it in said ungodly hours. Partly because my significant other, aka consort, disclosed to me how she thought my blog was becoming rather “sudden” lately. Translation: it has gone Ghafla. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that mheshimiwa Senior Counsel (SC) Mutula Kilonzo’s hardly gone cold yet, which in Kenyan and African circles decrees that thou shalt not speak ill of him. Let alone suggest that he not be mourned. 

It also might explain why I opted out of entitling this piece “How to write about fallen heroes [though scumbags would be the actual term I circumvent in this case, depending on whose story you’re reading.] 

Which is precisely what I want to get into today: the scumbag/ hero that was Mutula Kilonzo, a concept otherwise referred to in political discourse as an “if-by-whiskey.” This is the subjectivist fallacy – meaning a claim that something is true for one person but not the other – supposing that a response to an inquiry is contingent on how it is made; is it made using strong negative connotations, or using strong positive undertones? That is to say, ‘was Mutula Kilonzo a scumbag?’ or ‘was Mutula Kilonzo a hero/saint?’ This is the same ideology that would have you pointed at the MAUMAU* or South Africa’s ANC (African National Congress) as terrorists on the one hand, and freedom fighters on the other. Ditto the Taliban, the Afghan Mujahedeen, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia…oh, sod it! the Middle East.

The same creed can be applied in doublespeak, thereby seeming to assert both faces of the matter at hand, and acting on the listener’s subjectivity to concur with whichever part he or she supports. In essence, when well-executed, the if-by-whiskey allows skilled politicians to take a position without taking it. Listen to Obama often and you’ll pick up on this nifty little trick.

In its original context, the if-by-whiskey draws this name from a speech delivered during a trial in 50s America, as to whether alcoholic beverages should continue to be forbidden or legalized. In essence, it was a reversal of Kenya’s Mututho Laws, seeing as liquor was illegal, and the lawyer who made the speech was looking to have it authorized:

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools; then I am certainly for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
-         Noah “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., lawyer, State of Mississippi
Now, let’s ignore the obvious political incorrectness of some bits and pieces of the speech – it was, after all, 1952; blacks and women still had no tangible rights in the good old US of A. The 19th Amendment to the US constitution, establishing women’s suffrage in 1920, was still in its youth, and it would be another 13 years before the Voting Rights Act outlawed the prejudiced practices accountable for the pervasive disenfranchisement of ‘niggers.’ All that overlooked, was that a great speech or what? It had everything so well orchestrated and maneuvered that I could picture the jury nodding in agreement. As were you, possibly, and I, certainly.

Remember how I mentioned the listener’s subjectivity, though? Well it would seem that “when [the jury] said whiskey [they meant] the devil’s brew . . . that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous[ness]” and not “the ale that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on [good fellows’] lips.” It would be a long 14 year wait before this legislation came to pass.

I hear you want to think, “Why the extended analogy?” Well, here’s why:

i.                    It’s an analogy from the legal canons, for one, one that fits SC Mutula’s first love, one that he so thrived in.
ii.                  It allows me to make use of my “if-by-Mutula” relativist fallacy.
Now if-by-Mutula you mean ‘the dead object that does not agree with my living spirits,’ the University of Nairobi lawyer who persecuted innocent ‘student leaders who served a decade or so ago at the height of Moi's KANU rule,’ arguing that they should be suspended for 55 years; if-by-Mutula you mean the scumbag who ‘spent the better part of his illustrious career entrenching the skunk that today pervades so many sectors in the Governance of Kenya,’ minting his firm billions while at it, or the ‘late newcomer in the reform process who was part of the brains that negotiated a heavily imbalanced power-sharing accord leading to a rancorous Grand Coalition Government in which he was rewarded with a ministerial position;’ if-by-Mutula you mean the man who ‘was very much a pro-establishment intellectual care-giver,’ the man who, had he ‘chosen to advance the rule of law and positive jurisprudence on certain cases in this country’s history, Kenya would have made massive leaps in the manner those in government handle public properties and human rights,’ then ‘in all fairness, let those who mourn him wipe their tears in somber ululations, but let those of us denied the luxury of shedding crocodile tears by knowledge and appreciation of the checkered past of the fallen legislator toss champagne (if you can afford it) and breathe a sigh of democratic relief, knowing so well that nature has rebalanced the earth.’ 

If-by-Mutula you refer to this despicable man, then ‘as to whether he deserves to be remembered as a reformist, I leave such niceties to his pack of irrational mourners, and people who lack the core to put his past in the political context it belongs,’ because ‘this is a sad week with spasms of celebration by true revolutionaries, and as they say at the University, "a comrade is always right"!’ If this be your Mutula, then like my Alma mater comrade and Facebook friend Dikembe Disembe, quoted extensively in the last two paragraphs, ‘I will not mourn Mutula Kilonzo. Period.’ I acknowledge that ‘it is indeed shocking that I remain indifferent even as the "country as a whole" is engaged in mourning,’ and I will accept the insults ensuing from the partisanship inspired by my labeling him thus

Continue to part II

* MAUMAU - Mzungu Aende Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru, literally translates from Swahili to White Man Goes [back] Abroad, African Gains Independence. Note how MAUMAU sounds waaaay cooler than WMGAAGI. It was the freedom fighter/terrorist organization that fiercely opposed British rule in Kenya.

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