Birthday present

In a previous post I indicated my interest in pursuing some research in an attempt to answer these two questions

  • how far did mission Christianity try to capture or delete previously sacred landscapes in Kenya?
  • how did my/our forefathers respond to such desecration of religious sites and knowledge?

and develop the research further.

My birthday comes in December, but there is no harm in making it happen tomorrow or the week after by gifting me this book. I promise to read it and write a review. And I accept ebooks (epub version).

Thank you already.

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Burying Okoth, the politics of individualism vs communalism

In this earlier post, we were reflecting on the 1986/7 saga pitting the Kager clan vs Wamboi Otieno over who should have control of the body of the deceased. In that particular case, the Court of Appeal granted the prayers of the clan, allowing them to inter the body of SM against the wishes of the bereaved wife.

We again find ourselves in almost a similar situation, albeit, with minor variations. The body of the late MP Kibra has already been cremated and so there is no contest on where it will lie. But there are certain similarities; like SM, Okoth was married to a non-Luo. Both were successful at their trades. Both lived their lives mainly in Nairobi.

The issue we have at hand is whether our bodies belong to us in death, and by extension to our nuclear family or whether the clan has a claim to the dead. Are we right, the urbane African, in demanding as part of dying wishes that we be granted private funeral, when like in the case of Ken OKoth, he led a public life? Do those who birthed us have a say in how we are disposed of? Since when we are dead we can’t do nothing, should we be the ones to determine how we will be sent off, who will be present or should this question be left to those who we have left behind to determine?

On a related matter, during nuptials, those who go to church say “until death do us part”, as part of their vows. What does this imply in the face of death? Should it not mean that death frees us of the obligations to the other? Can the society, in a sense, lay claim to this person who was yours by law, but is no longer?

Or is this, in a sense, the logical conclusion of the individualized lives we live today where Ubuntu- I am because we are- as was eloquently put by Cannon Mbiti?

So I think, I can ask these questions again?

 

  • Who owns the dead?
  • Can any person claim to exclusively own the dead?

Appointment in Samara

We are wont to say, following the death of a loved one, or even an enemy, that they died too soon or if it resulted from an accident that maybe, had they been somewhere else, they wouldn’t have died. While this maybe comforting, Aurelius, the Roman statesman dissuaded us from this kind of thinking when he said we must see our lives as part of a play, each person with their acts before they take their bow.

In appointment in Samara (as retold by Somerset M), the speaker, Death, dissuades us from thinking if we acted differently, we probably wouldn’t have died.

The story is here below

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samara and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samara.

For those studiously inclined, there is a study guide.

Is death bad for us?

Epicurus would say no. In one of his famous letters, he writes death is nothing to us, for when we are, death is not with us and when death is come, we are not. Lucretius is of the same view; before we were, it didn’t bother us, after we stop being, it should likewise not bother us.

I generally believe death, sometimes, is a great good, for it is a release from suffering. For example, for those terminally ill and in pain, death is a release, even though most people even in such circumstances want to prolong their lives.

Benatar, in Human Predicament, argues that there are ways in which death is not a good, to the person who is dead. Death, he writes, deprives us of meaning, if for example, our life had meaning because of our associations or the projects we were doing.

Death, he adds, is also bad because it obliterates us. Annihilation that comes with death is a bad in the whole. It is here also that he disagrees with Lucretius. The argument by Lucretius proposes a symmetry between not having been and not continuing to being. He says the two are not symmetrical. Not having been born doesn’t cause you harm. But to stop being, as a result of death, is not a good for one, it deprives you of possible goods you would have continued to experience, among other things.

Is death a good or a not?

Death note

Suppose you had the power to choose who dies, when and how they die by simply writing their name on a paper or saying it loudly, would you do it?

This is the theme of a movie by the same name as the title of this post.

The main antagonist kills a guy who beat him up and rapidly graduates to killing bad guys across the continents and gets a girl he admires in school involved.

A detective comes to town to help local police identify the mysterious killer and this is where everything gets interesting.

The moral question, here, is can we decide that a pedophile or a thief deserves to die? Especially where we know they really are guilty? Can it be up to us?

Or is this the problem with human beings as Satan in Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain concludes.