Monday, July 8, 2013

Viva Afrique: The Good, the Bad & the Shame of Tana Country

It’s been a month since I presumed to have what it took to level an entire county and claim that the bad and ugly in it could possibly be whitewashed by the valiant frontline made up of these young men and women: men and women of a tender age, who have risen against the tall order that is a nightmare of conceited – and bigoted – perceptions and misconceptions about a people.

While I retain the optimism with which I wrote my first piece for Storymoja’s Imagine our World, life is a continuum of moments that can – if we so choose to let them – define us.

As I write this installment on literacy in a far-flung county, the country rests against a backdrop of mutiny: in the teaching ranks and in parliament – where Members broke into the veritable rabble they truly are, to mock teachers’ pay demands with redundant chants in their support. Here’s a thought: give up the ‘astronomical emoluments’ you have been granted after you ‘arm-twisted the treasury into paying’ towards your personal kitties to ‘[buy] a sinuous limousine.’ That alone would raise nearly Kes 2 Billion for the teachers’ kitty.
But rather than sit here and develop a cancerous multi-headed dragon of an ulcer – with every single one of your portraits pasted on all their foreheads – let me remember that you are but a mirror of our own society. You’ll be happy to know that your narrow-mindedness is not unique to your class. Oh no. An educated man I know had this to say of the teachers’ industrial action:

“TSC [Teachers’ Service Commission], kindly transfer all those teachers shown demonstrating in Nai[robi] to far flung counties. ‘Choices have consequences.’ North Eastern & Tana would do!!!”
A very poor sentiment, coming from the ‘ruling elite – the stratum educated enough to know better’; what he seemed to be saying was that the teachers’ demonstrations are wrong, as is the North Eastern region, and Tana County… I did not spare him a piece of my mind; I never do, when I have a piece to spare.

To quote a friend, “I think people should listen as much as they speak [if not more] to avoid the reckless mouthfuls being thrown around. It is also important that people know that their opinions, regardless of how informed they are, will not be universally accepted; and they should be comfortable with this thought. That should be a good place to begin from.”

Chanting slogans such as “Choices have consequences!!!” does not make anyone right. A nation whose baggage of unresolved historical injustices spills into a little brother and that gives us the right to ape it? Because we have more historical injustices unresolved, all tightly packed up, accepted as part of our own litany of disdainfully ugly usikondes? Kenyans do, after all, love a sideshow. This is reflective of our own society’s lack of a sense of direction, and its general good logic of ‘acceptable’ mediocrity.

Moving on, while there is of course an aspect of sideshows-becoming-the-issue, what with the Susan Tujuanes, KTN presents: laughter, KTN presents: Ciku, Art Caffe brouhaha et al; whether it’s the issue or the sideshow we discuss, it’s all very classist. Susan the classy girl who does ‘not do fries’ went ham on a poor Joe from Eastlando, so the slum that is Kenya’s mis-educated online banditry goes ham on Susan. Art Caffe staff alleged to be racist, classist, and whatnots, and so the lower caste that has never stepped into Art Caffe reacts. One fortunate lady actually has no idea what a croissant is – or crossiant, as the menu at The Mug calls it. Cue the French Mandazi retorts from the so called upper caste.

Instead of focusing on collaboration, coming together to understand each other and forge ahead with the understanding that we coexist in ONE bloody country, we result, always do, to the lowest form of wit and shared witticisms. You don’t need to imagine it: this failed state of mind is our world.

Yet creative collaboration, even with real issues in our society, is not only necessary to progress. It is critical in our development beyond self-interests. Why does your face always have to be on the landing page of every website you own? Every issue there is to talk about? What, pray tell, do you do with your time, other than sit around and wait, hoping that another Huddah shows her boobies so you can get credits for the most retweets and shares? Or are you retarded enough to believe those shares mean anything in the market?

Nairobi is trying, if not hard enough, to be LA. A newly made British ‘friend’ says we’re building a copy of California’s infrastructure with nearly zero of its industry. I 100% agree. And while I realize that many feel they have no employ, or choice of employ, that thought in itself IS the problem. Until we realize that the people are, ideally, stronger than The Industry and The System combined, and remember that Post-Election Violence in 08 was not a Horror Movie, there’s no changing jerk. Hence there’s simply no point talking about it either.

But we’re living in a country that gives no damn about itself. Because if you feel your job sucks bad ass, it’s your fault you’re there. That you earn shit and so need tips which don’t flow from dark skins is not your employer’s fault. You made a choice; it has its consequences. The ‘nyeuthi’ guys being generalized as having been served only to give a ceiling of 50 bob tips don’t live in the bubble these generalized high-tipping wazungus and absolutely ignored other races do. I guess we can rest the classist vs racist case in pieces.

Tips are not essential to your job, so quit acting like they are already, and get a real job. Where you get paid for what you do, and how you do it, not because you think you deserve it! Watch a few sports – I’d suggest football – and soon you might learn that deserving to win, and winning, are two very alien concepts.

As we established earlier, having an opinion does not entitle anyone to being listened to. Ergo, you do not have to listen to me.

However, if you’re still reading, another opinion:

“Not everybody is like that; many accept the choices and conditions of others. I’m an agnostic atheist, hopelessly straight, 1% biker, geek, nerd, Gamer, and much more similar crap, but I accept people of all religions, homosexuality and all the spectrum of consensual sexual orientations, weekenders, cagers, athletes and whatever, so long as they do not want to change me, from my freakiness to their freakiness.
At the end, it’s a question of tolerance, of quid pro quo.”

We’ll call this a re-introduction to my piece on Tana County. Simply because talking about literacy, with all this fucking illiteracy floating about, beats the shit out of any conceptual framework I would intend to pass on through any form of report on the Tana County literacy project.

I’ll end with a couple of quotes from a Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi talk:
On Classist separations of complaint:

“Complaining about our problems is an art form [for Nigerians]… But if a European were to say the same things … to recite the same litany of complaints exactly, Nigerians become defensive; sometimes angrily so. I have always been curious of this brand of defensiveness, which I myself often exhibit, by the way. It seems to me that we have it because we assume that the complaining Nigerian is aware that Nigeria is not only about its problems; is aware of the human complexities; knows of the intelligence and ingenuity of people; knows how they cry and laugh; knows what motivates them; what they aspire to, and what they find meaningful. And we suspect that the European – entrenched in a view of us as ‘needers’ of charity – does not know these other stories, about us…”

On the illusion of Privilege:

“That I understand the structural setup of the world, speak better English and send my relatives money, does not make me morally or metaphysically better … than them.”

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