Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where's the outrage?

Recently, while reading the daily soap opera paper devoted to rival politicians, The Daily Nation, I came across an article which held a particular resonance for me. The title was "No, it's not easy to write about magical Kenya" by Rasna Warah.

She wrote "it is difficult for many Kenyans to experience the magic of Kenya simply because they are too hungry, too desperate, and too downtrodden to marvel at the beauty of a scarlet sunset dipping into the Indian Ocean or a herd of gazelle dancing across a savannah".

How is it possible for a writer to write about the magic of Kenya when the world around her is crumbling? If Kenya burns, we will all feel the heat, regardless of income or social status. I am finding that all my blogs mention the rotten state of Kenya rather than the beautiful people or sunsets. Every week, another scandal erupts, reminding me of corruption, impunity and total disregard of the political elite for the welfare of their citizens. Already several scandals involving theft of free primary education money, the profit from stolen maize and the pocketing of money allocated for the building of infrastructure, have depressed both Kenyans and foreigners.

But where is the outrage? Why the complacency?Are people so scarred and oppressed that they cannot take a stand?

I have found myself in recent weeks, erupting in uncontrolable rage at the pole pole rate of change here. I realise this is a developing country and that I am not here to impose change on anyone. But day after day, reform seems to creep along at a snail's pace. There is no public outcry at the state of politics or anything else for that matter. Rather a fatalistic notion that this is Kenya and this is the way it will always be.

On a return trip from Uganda, I asked the bus conductor to put on the chick flick "The Notebook" on the dvd player to relieve us from the constant monotony and freakish films they had chosen- a film about Nigerian dwarves pinching women's arses and bribing officials followed by Kenny Rogers Live and then to top it all off, Gospel music. I suggested a change of scene- some Hollywood romance to ease the nerves. After ten minutes, a harmless love scene involving the two main characters (they kissed at the beach), jerked the conductor into action. He quickly changed the film, opting for The tragic South African film "Sarafina" which explicitly shows the violence in Soweto during the aparteid regime.

When challenged about the appropriatenss of this film, one man retorted "we are used to this violence". Hollywood romance does not translate here. Kissing is strictly taboo, reserved for tourists and honeymooners.

I recently imploded when a manager in the organisation suggested that I was doing too much and that we should scale down activities. Scale down to what- nothing?

I am reactive. I have always known that. When I am angry, my eyes bulge, my face reddens and my hands fling about. Its a scarry sight but somehow people find my facial changes funny here. As a taxi driver said to me last night; " you look funny when you are angry". Kenyans seem more controlled in their anger. The stoney faces remain stoney faced. There are no explosions, or drama or raised front of me anyway. Such repressed anger..even in children. How do they not burst with emotion with all they carry inside?

Cultural differences I suppose- fascinating and unfamiliar but frustrating as hell.

The paper seller on the corner of my road replied "God help us" when I asked him what was in the paper that day. Divine intervention may not be enough to rescue this state. Its up to the people of Kenya to save this place- not the volunteers or the aid workers. A little bit of Kenya protest is needed in regular doses

1 comment:

  1. Whoa. That is how children who have been abused over a long period respond. Read up on the emotional development of children in captivity. I suppose you could call it "cultural" if the horror of abuse were a wide spread cultral phenomena, but in my humble opinion it sounds like a nation of human beings made intellectually and emotionally impaired due to plan old abuse, albiet of a horrific nature.