My late mother – may she rest in peace – had one cardinal rule about speech rights. This was it – shut your mouth if you have nothing good to say. Otherwise, you lost your right to say even a word in front of her. Lately, I’ve noticed there is an epidemic of verbal diarrhea among some senior state officials in Kenya.
Either their parents utterly failed them, which I seriously doubt, or they are the work of very bad demons.
I don’t know how a senior official can accidentally put their foot in the mouth every time they open it. Perhaps they are always inebriated because what former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga calls the “devil’s urine” can kill one’s mental faculties.
People in high office anywhere in the world are symbols of authority and role models. Whatever they say, whether in public or private, reflects on themselves, society and their employer.
It’s in essence a microcosm of a society’s culture. Remember that culture is the accumulation of a people’s wisdom. That’s because a people can’t exist without a culture. This means that the utterances, or outbursts, of high state officials, are a window into the soul of the state, and by extension the bed of culture on which the state sits.
A culture in which state officials hiss like snakes is a violent, fascist society without empathy. A culture of antipathy produces emotionally stunted and stupid moral dwarfs.
Every people, and state, has a zeitgeist, a people’s consciousness. Have you stopped to ask what Kenya’s zeitgeist is? Are we a crass material society? Are we raising violent thieving brutes in our boys and material girls without conscience?
Are our citizens raised to believe they are the center of the moral universe, and that nothing – and nobody else – matters?
Are we unredeemable socially irresponsible egoists? If so, was this always the case? If not, how did we lose our virgin innocence, and to whom? I distinctly remember growing up in the 1970s when the school teacher was the most important person in the village. Today, the teacher is an object of despair and ridicule. How did we get here?
I ask these questions not to condemn us wholesale, but to implore each and every one of us to look in the mirror. Be honest with yourself. Do you like the person staring back at you? If so, what do you like about that visage?
Decrepit human being
I am not asking how beautiful, or ugly, you are. No – I am talking about the moral you. How many times a day or month do you lie to yourself and others? Are you a decrepit human being?
When was the last time you performed a kind act without expecting a reward, or something in return? How many times a week do you hurl insults and unprintable epithets at strangers on social media? Have you asked why you are such an idiot?
Are you self-aware? Do you talk all the time, or do you ever listen to yourself, let alone others? Are you self-critical? Brutally self-critical, or are you always the victim? The reason I ask these questions is that we all must engage in a personal inner jihad against our demons.
Personally, I realized a long time ago I had a proclivity for intellectual arrogance. I have spent most of my life trying to cure that clinical condition. I admit I haven’t succeeded although I am making progress. I am a recovering arrogant intellectual. I ask that you identify your evil spirits and work on them. When I listen to or watch our most senior state officials, I regret they don’t know themselves.
We have in Kenya a scourge of foul-mouthed, crude and insufferable state officials.
They are drunk with power and money in their public and private lives. They spit at people with such ease that you wonder whether they think they are immortal. The incredulity with which they abuse and violate others in public and on social media boggles the mind. You wonder whether they ever use their noggin.
They hiss like snakes every time they are given a microphone. I have never understood why this sense of invincibility – which is most common among juveniles – persists into late adulthood in state officials.
Is it our state that makes them primaeval Neanderthals? This is the question – how do we defang them?
Kenya’s young and fledgling democracy has failed to tame officialdom. The disease is getting worse. How do we return innocence to our culture and public life? How do we instill public shame in our officials? Should the government – both central and county – conduct mandatory moral boot camps for public officials?
Should our school curricula include mandatory courses on ethics and morals? Should those who fail those courses be forced to repeat them until they pass? How do we inculcate a deep virtue of honor in our citizens? We are doomed as a people if we don’t change.