What Next

It’s been a while since I wrote something here. In this time, I can say a lot of things have changed. Firstly I’m older and wiser, at least in the ways that I think matter. I can’t help but think about why I started this blog in the first place. I was going to tell the stories of the world. I was going to be the voices of the people that didn’t have one. I was going to change the world, one blog post at a time.

One year later, and that’s not what has happened. Stories have not been told and the world has not been changed yet. This, of course is a failure in my part, and in the world as well. A lot has happened over 2016 – the year that some privileged millennials will call the worst year in the history of mankind, completely ignoring 1914-1918, 1939-1946, the four-hundred years of slavery, the years following the conquest in Africa that saw the death of millions of Africans, and every year preceding the development of modern day medicine, but what the heck, who cares about that. Well, 2016 was not a glorious year in any interpretation of the word. We have seen wars in Aleppo and South Sudan and the continuous displacement and exploitation of humanity in Congo and Cameroon.

In retrospect, there’s not that much that my humble blog here could have done. Perhaps taking on the atrocities of the world was biting off much more than I could chew. It only took a casual conversation with my friends in IR to know that my self proclaimed voice of reason, was ignorant in the worst of ways. I dreamed of changing a world that I did not understand. I hoped to have the world listen to the stories that I told here. However now that I think of it, perhaps the only reason I wrote anything here was to put down what I was thinking and somehow hope that the random words I put together made sense to anyone else that wasn’t me. Perhaps I only wanted the world to listen to me criticize it. But for how long has the world been criticized. How many times have expert writers taken to the pen to tell cautionary tales and speak truths that the rest of the world would blind itself to. Your Harper Lee and George Orwell twitch in their graves as governments exploit their people and sects and cults bundle up and vocalize their disdain for others. We’ve been here before and the only explanation for the recurring atrocities is the inexorability of human nature. People are dying because human nature demands that war prevail over all other things. There is no hope. Hope is for the dogs, or as those whom I’ve constantly used this phrase on would sing along, hope is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.

What then? I ask. What must we do? If all hope is lost, then what does this say about our children and our children’s children. Do we just throw the world away? No we do not. Not this easily. The kind of hope that we must lose is the hope that the world will change by means of words and poems. Literature is a pleasure that only the rich can afford. I believe I speak for my dear compatriots when I say that no number of patriotic poems and/or songs will stop the corrupt from robbing us of our dues. No lyrical ingenuity will stop the massacre of elephants in our parks. We are past raising awareness for causes long fought for. I say to act on the world in ways that involve more than just dissatisfied outcries on Facebook or Twitter. If we see injustice in the streets, then it is the streets that we must make right. When our anger is stirred by the inexplicable disappearance of public funds, then we must set our able sight on the seats that have been so unjustly abused and make right the wrongs that have been done. We are a people set on a pedestal unlike any other in history. It is this very pedestal, of education, social awareness and equality that our forefathers died to give to us. We are a generation brought from darkness. We are a generation without shortage of teachers, volunteers and medical enthusiasts. So fill not your newsfeeds and blogs with cries for the atrocities in the world. Do not change your profile picture in support of the Paris shootings. Do not share that picture to prove your moral standing or capacity for compassion. Go out there! Make a change!

And  I too must stop using this space in the ways that I criticize. It won’t work. I must look up to better ways to change this world, instead of writing and hoping that you will listen.

This kind of mindless hope is dead, I will leave it to the dogs.

 

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I’m a little upset!

And then before the antagonist can initiate his plan for global destruction, possibly at a global (read American) monument, the protagonist in an effort to assuage the villain, tries to appeal to his ‘humanity’. This hero talks about humanity’s ability to do good and the hope that lies in our posterity. He talks about our capacity for compassion. He mentions his wife and children and he probably asks how this villain could possibly sleep with himself knowing that he destroyed an entire civilization. I brim up with vitriol at these words. I do not understand what the hell this man is talking about.
I think about my fathers ages back, who were forced into ships and ferried into slavery. I think about African leaders that sold their people and land for things as vain as wealth and stature. I think about tribes that killed and stole from each other regularly. I think about the colonialists that forced my grandmother to work on their (but not really their) fields with little or no pay forcing my father and mother to live off of the morning dew and the barks of trees. I think about the independent government that ignored the men that fought for the country’s liberation. I think about the leaders that stole more land from their people hording them in acres for their own puerile satisfaction. I think about the same leaders that rounded up, tortured and or murdered their own people who had risen up in protest. I think about these same leaders who set out their loyal followers to murder citizens over something as ill-fitting as a governmental post. The words hope, compassion, potential ring violently in my ears as the hero reiterates on these humanity’s traits.
I die a little inside.
I think to myself that perhaps the protagonist hasn’t really seen the side of humanity that I have seen. But then I remember that the people who were taken from these parts centuries ago were whisked off to this hero’s land. I burn up inside as I recount the exploitation, degradation and cruelty that they were exposed to as slaves. I then think about what more they faced after emancipation, the Jim Crow policies and the overall discrimination that loomed over their skin every place they went to. They were always being reminded, with great emphasis, that they did not belong in this free land (This free land that was forcefully taken from yet another people.)
I think about the countless stupid wars that have been waged and the toll they have taken on the world (Syria, Congo, Vietnam, Burundi, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chad, post war Berlin, Rwanda, 2008 Kenya and the likes.) How many people died? How many nations fell? How many others rose? How many stayed the same?
I think about the capitalist bullies in suits exploiting the lesser folk for their own personal gains; Jacob Rothschild, Steve Jobs, JP Morgan, Thomas Edison. I weep for the naivety that covers our eyes so blindingly that we hail some of these people as heroes of our and past times. I weep for the children forced to mine gold and other metals in DRC because a neo colonial system has taken over their world. They spend their entire lives extracting the very seeds of prosperity their motherland was blessed with, for the benefit of another entity keenly watching over their every move. Literary allegories like the mines of Moriah, the eye of Mordor and the focused gaze of big brother come to mind.
FUCK YOU FRANCE, YOU KNOW WHY!
I scowl over the people so desperate to find something to believe in that they take up radical belief systems to rationalize suicide, homicide, genocide, infanticide, filicide, patricide, matricide, mariticide, prolicide, senicide, uxoricide, nepoticide, avunculicide, geronticide, neonaticide, misogyny, classism, cruelty, rape, mutilation, immolation among other atrocities.
I frown over the people so desperate to be told their worlds are utopian that they believe with absolute certainty the bullcrap forced down their throats by mainstream media. They conscientiously ignore the cold hard facts placed before their eyes, like the evident suffering of colored people at the hands of select (but not few) racist law enforcement officials. These people refuse to believe that the world is evil and more accurately that the world is made evil by men.
I try to convince myself that it’s just a movie; that the actor is just reading a script. I can’t help but think, however, that this is the same type of bullshit everyone else wants to believe. I feel like this movie is lying to me and worse still, that I paid money for it to.
I finish the rest of the film with my hand rubbing my temple, occasionally facepalming myself. In the end, the villain dies and the hero survives. I throw up in my mouth. I am agitated now. This is a prodigiously inaccurate reflection of life. The villains never die, the heroes hardly ever win and the line is always too blurry for the people to tell the difference.
The next time I want to watch a movie, I also want to see the truth but I know it will be eons before Hollywood gives me something real. I leave the cinema greatly disappointed. My friend asks me to turn down the cynicism, that things will be better if I put a smile on my face. I ponder over his words for a moment and then realize two things: first that the dystopia we live in will not get better if I cover all the foaming evil with a smile, and that I need to stop wasting my money watching movies in theaters with this guy.

 

Am I who I am

I am a staunch believer in the morality of self. The belief that morality should not come from a religious, legal, cultural or educational doctrine, but from an inherent understanding of right and wrong. For it is only then that a person’s self is revealed.
Jean Paul Sartre in his public lecture, ‘Existentialism is a humanism’ explains that man is nothing before he chooses his path. What Jean Paul puts forward is that a man’s life is only determined by what he does. This is primarily because his actions are a direct reflection of what he means to be in his heart. It then follows that the reflection of this person would be corrupted if his/her actions are only directed by set laws and doctrines.
Take a high school student in a boarding school for example. He comes from the classroom to the dormitory and finds his locker broken into and his belongings stolen. Before him are two options, to pay for the repair of his locker and buy new belongings or to decide that he must also break another’s locker and steal another’s belongings as recompense for his losses. The school rules and regulations would force his hand to work in the former fashion. What I am proposing today is that the rules (if followed without the understanding of self) would rob him of an opportunity for self actualization. His actions would not be in accordance with his true self, but with the law.
What then, you might be thinking, is the problem with that? Is it not that he did not steal, what really matters? To this I respond: Granted, the law made him do what is right, but then what gives him the right to call himself righteous if it was not by his choosing that he stayed his hand?
With staunch adherence to lawful doctrines, we lose a measure of our own consciousness and by extension, our humanity. George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ depicts this loss rather unequivocally. It envisions a dystopia under a totalitarian regime led by Big Brother. In reading this novel it becomes exceedingly clear that when every course of action is dictated by a law, then the populace loses its ability to choose and react. As such, it becomes a flock of thoughtless beings. I should mention that this unfolding would devastate an entire people if the law were placed under an immoral leader.
Image result for george orwell 1984 images
What I am presenting here is not a call for rebellion. Far from it, I am calling for the understanding of self before the law; that every action taken should first be acceptable to the self before it is considered acceptable to the law.
This understanding of morality would provide a course of action even when the set doctrines are unclear; like when the bus conductor gives you excess change. Here, you will receive no guidance from the law. What -outside your religious inclinations- is the right thing to do?

A toast to Someday


 

Its morning already and I have to struggle to get myself up. My life is not what it used to be. I say my prayer, as I always do (whatever good that seems to do me). I think to myself, maybe today Mama Tony atapitia stage ya Githurai. She always gives me a cup of her coffee. Chances are she’s off making rounds in 44 though. Goooooood! I’m so hungry, what’s it been, two days? I can’t remember the last meal I had. Well that’s probably for the better. The hungrier I look the more inclined they’ll be to spare a coin.

I reach for the bar fastened above me and pull myself to a sitting position. When am I going to get that wheelchair? Soon! It has to be soon!

I look around the shack to see if I was robbed last night. Apparently I wasn’t. My jacket is still on me. My makeshift rubber pads are still fastened on my knees. My cup is still safely tucked in my mattress. I have that to be thankful for; that and the fact that it did not rain last night. You don’t want to know how bad it gets when it rains. The water drips through my corroded roof, soaks through my breeches and carries with it a bout of flu. Thank God it did not rain.

The room reeks of decay. Maybe I should have mopped it clean.  On second thought, maybe it should have rained. The water would have washed off the stench. Oh well, What is it they say about wishes, horses and beggars again? Funny thing is, even if they were horses; I still wouldn’t be able to ride them. Can’t ride without legs.stock-photo-bangkok-thailand-september-thai-crippled-man-on-the-streets-begging-september-in-52837123

I crawl to the stage. I should hurry. Don’t want to miss that wave of early risers. Not that they’re the best givers, but I take what I can get. Oh look! Njoro is pushing that trolley of his. I should hail him. He could give me a ride. He stops right in front of me and smiles. This is good.

He says what I think is good morning in Kikuyu. Maybe I should get around to learning Kikuyu. I push that thought to the back of my mind, right next to growing my legs back. He mumbles some words in Kikuyu and stares at me blankly. I assume he’s asking me where I’m headed. Truth is I’ll go anywhere he takes me. He seems to be heading to the stage too. I say Naenda stage so he knows I prefer Swahili.

“aah! Hata mimi! Panda nikufikishe”  He caught my drift!

I struggle onto his trolley and let him push me. I then flex my hands that are already beginning to cramp. I really should get that wheelchair.

It takes a couple of minutes to get to the stage, enough time for me to plan out my day. I’m going to go to Thika stage. If I’m getting any food, that’s where. It takes a little over twenty minutes to get to my spot. I ease from the trolley with what little dignity I can master. I give my thanks to Njoro as he moves on to his work station. It would have taken me about an hour to get here if Njoro didn’t give me a ride. I should be grateful for that as well.

With the familiar noises, come the hordes of humanity.

“KU, Kware mbao, Kahawa Kumi!” The touts sing.

I set my cup before me and wait. That’s the hardest part, waiting. I look at the people, rushing about; trying to chase their dreams. Oh if I could chase mine! But I’m too slow for that. What I would give to walk like them. How do they feel, I wonder, walking all high and mighty. I bet it doesn’t smell as bad up there as it does down here. I wonder what it feels like to get home in the evening and not have to beat the dust out of half my body. But I’m stuck here for all the good wondering has done me. I still can’t shake the thought, If I walked like them, would I be any different. Well for starters I’d probably have found my dream easier, but hey, I think I’m doing pretty fine at my pace.

If I had that wheelchair though… I mustn’t dwell on the ifs.

Maybe today will be the lucky day. Maybe today they will say, ‘He has been there a while, we should probably help him get to his feet.’ (of course, they can’t do that, literally or metaphorically)  It’s not like I want them to anyway. Unlike them, I’m in no hurry to catch that dream. It’ll take its time but it’ll get here someday.29362

Oh looky here! Twenty Shillings! “Asanti sana ndugu!”

Day’s started on a good note.

Another coin! Wow! This really could be my day. Hours pass and the coins are stacking up. Great! A few notes here and there too. Here comes Mama Tony. Oh the Luck!

“Habari ya asubuhi Mama Tony?”

“Siyo mbaya, kazi leo nzuri, wewe umeamka aje?”

“Nimeamka nikikufikiria wewe…”

She laughs. Laughter, I remember what that felt like.

“Utakunywa chai leo?”

It’s been a good morning. I can spare that twenty bob.

She pours a cup and hands it to me. She takes out a mwihoko and raps it in paper. I then fumble in my coin cup before she stops me.

“Hii siyo ya malipo.”

I smile genuinely (I think) as she picks her thermos from the ground.

“Asante sana Mama Tony!” I reply taking a bite of the mwihoko. Oh how good it tastes. I had forgotten how hungry I was. I stare as she walks away. She cannot possibly understand how grateful I am. Someday I’ll show her just how much. I wonder how she’s really doing. She’s lost some weight. I don’t think that bruise on her cheek was there the last time I saw her. But what can I do about it. Probably nothing now, but Someday I will.

More hours, more coin, Great! More hours more dust, Great!

Dusk creeps in. It’s time to call it a day. I pour the coins into my jacket’s inner pocket and make my way to Kairu’s shop.

‘Daktari wa Viatu’ his sign reads. He sees me approach and sets his work aside.

Niwakinya?” he asks

“Nidakinya!” I reply. Would you look at that! I’m learning some Kikuyu. Never say never, I guess.

We count the money I have collected today. I smile as we pull the totals. Four hundred and seventy three, that’s definitely a good day.

Now the deductions: fifty bob for the rent, fifty bob for Kairu’s cut, a hundred bob for our chama, and the rest for my future (Kshs. 150 for my shop and Kshs. 123 for my wheelchair.

Tonight, I say a prayer. For Kairu, for mama Tony, for Njoro and for all those that spared something for a poor old cripple like me. Someday I might be able to repay them. And that day is approaching really fast. Another month of good tiding and I just might be on my way to a stable income. When I shut my eyes, I dream I’m on my wheelchair and I hope that when I wake up, it shall be so.

maradinigerwheelchairbeggars

To share a day in shoes that we wouldn't want to fit into