note, therefore, there is no such thing as cheapness

‘without some error or injustice’ argues John Ruskin.

He goes on to write

A thing is said to be cheap, not because it is common, but because it is supposed to be sold under its worth. Everything has its proper and true worth at any given time, in relation to everything else; and at that worth should be bought and sold.

He writes also

It is the part of wise Government, and healthy commerce, so to provide in times and places of plenty for times and places of dearth, as that there shall never be waste, nor famine.

And i can’t help but think about what passes for government in Ke. We have sporadic seasons of glut and famine which is all the evidence we need to convince ourselves that the fools in charge know shit or are shit.

Remember always and at all times that

Cheapness caused by gluts of the market is merely a disease of clumsy and wanton commerce.

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Atheist experience in Africa(?)

It is while reading this post that the question occurred to me of what is the atheist experience in Kenya. First, works such as those by Mbiti add credence to the claim

that Africans are deeply religious and theistic.

I also think the main thesis of the piece, that

The way and manner that atheists in Africa are treated have largely been overlooked. What atheists encounter in the course of their lives has not been adequately highlighted.

Is largely true. Unlike the author, I have not had the opportunity to attend a large gathering of freethinkers or agnostics and atheists. Well, I have attended a beer drinking session organised by my godless friends but never a conference.

Those who have followed this blog long enough recall the furore over registration of an atheist society in Kenya that wound up being decided by the high court in the favour of atheists. Generally, however, it can be argued almost convincingly that atheists are invisible. It is however hard to tell if it is by design or whether it is as a result of mistreatment or a fear of atheists to speak up.

Because I am not a social scientist, nor am I going to do a longitudinal study of atheist experience in Kenya any time soon, the sample for this post is yours truly and the conclusions drawn from it cannot be said to apply to the general population.

In many instances when I have spoken of my godlessness, others have claimed it is a phase, while others think I am confused or worse still others think I am pretending. They convince themselves that I am a believer in their god, maybe even more devoutly so, especially since to some of them, my knowledge of the bible is superior to theirs. The explanation that I read it every so often just to be able to respond to their claims doesn’t cut it with many people.

My workplace is the best. I love my colleagues. While majority are christian only divided by the cult they have opted to associate with, religious discussions hardly feature in our interactions except when I am in my cheerful self and making fun of a thing or two about their beliefs.

While I have read of people who have been disowned by their families, especially America or whose relationships have broken down, I have no such fear. My immediate family is resolved to my godlessness. It bothers no one. My extended family has no such say in how I live my life, so there is no chance they would do something so drastic. Besides, how would they achieve their ends? Block me from going to my house?

What I would however hope for is to get more writings by African scholars on atheism from an African perspective. The Judeo-Christian and Muslim conceptions though interesting, are no longer attractive to me. I am interested in whether in the traditional African societies, atheism existed and how was it articulated? How did society respond to the claims of atheism or is it a western thing in the continent finding its foundation in the rejection of both the missionary and colonial overlord.

I am aware that some of the Kenyans who were at the forefront in the fight for independence, who had at first converted to christianity either quit or only appeared to believe while in public. It is also the case that some of the Independent African Churches were a repudiation of some of the teachings of Jesus, some to the extent of claiming divine revelation without the need for Jesus. These aspects should interest a cultural anthropologist which I am not. My interest would extend only as far as how they treated of houses of worship, if they had such or whether worship took place under sacred trees, stones or in caves. The rest lies in the province of social and cultural anthropologists.

In the next month or two I will read Nkrumah’s Consciencism (if I can find it) and his exposition of materialism as a philosophy. Two books by Okot p’Bitek Decolonizing African Religion and African Religion in Western Scholarship will also be looked at.

I think the thesis of the article attached above has some truth in it, considering for example the experience of atheists in Egypt, Nigeria and so on. But since a study or poll covering Africa hasn’t been done, we can agree there is much more work to be done. Asking atheists of their experience would not be enough. To be meaningful for our purposes, I do think it would be useful to also find out how the rest of society views us.

As a starting point, any atheist, especially of African descent and living in the continent should weigh in. Ark you are not counted :0

The Kingdom of Bananaland by TT

but known here as Veracious poet

A review

But first a story. Many of you know my complains about poetry. It is not that I couldn’t understand poetry, I think it was my teacher of literature who maybe did not try to make poetry interesting. It felt much harder than plays or novels. Or maybe, I was the problem it could be an attitude thing and I have not been able to cure myself of that attitude. I tell you this because it is important for this post.

I hope my friend will make the anthology available for sale soon or if he decides to be generous to make it available to all and sundry.

The Bananaland is an anthology of poems. I want to start with the epilogue

Man is indeed capable of great feats
But he is an animal, a political animal.
And all the wrestling is with himself

I find this a great ending to an anthology of poems that in the main make me quite sad. Sad because how accurately they describe the situation in Africa and sometimes the world in general.

Having said that, and this I will only say once, I understand the artist can take poetic liberties in his choice of characters and the names he or she gives them, but the choice of ape and banana ring too close to me of a history of racial disrespect, if such exists, where although all humans are great apes, the colonizer, the racist has always seen the African person as more ape than they. There was, I think, in a football match somewhere in Europe where a banana was thrown at an African player for one of the teams which was interpreted as a racial attack. To that extent and that alone, do I have a problem with the choice of apes and bananas in this great anthology, for great it truly is.

In this short anthology, of about 60 poems that can stand on their own, or can be read as a story, one truly sees the African nation state as it is currently. The nation buys weapons in the guise of protecting the citizens from external aggression but the moment there is dissent, these guns are trained on the citizens, whose taxes were used to buy them. I agree with his constant refrain that the ape is truly stupid.

He is right on the mark when he writes elections mean nothing in Bananaland. The elections, are for him, nightmares. And I agree with him. Look at us, we have gown through two farces of elections to have the same thieves in office, whose only goal, as he says is the case in Bananaland is personal enrichment. The citizens be damned.

In Bananaland, they say we have fertile soils, a big workforce but we import bananas. Kenya imports maize from Mexico. That’s not the tragedy. The tragedy is that when farmers have harvested their crop, the national cereals board, the same idiots who will be importing maize, will do almost zilch. The farmers will sell their output at throw away prices. Because they are not in the business to keep making losses, they stop growing maize, then the idiots in government turn around and tell us some percentage of the population is not food secure. You would expect that these idiots would invest in agriculture, encourage people in rural areas to till their farms, provide necessary extension services to improve production, but nah, they steal and as for our country, they steal by borrowing loans which future generations will pay.

The current regime employs fools generally. I can say this without fear of contradiction. I can also say it hates thinkers. As in Bananaland where the author says the thinker is disdained, so it is in many African countries. Moi’s regime exiled, imprisoned, tortured intellectuals. Muigai’s regime has excelled that instead of doing that, it employed school dropouts to be at the helm of driving policy. Even our ancestors would disapprove this. They were not literate but they were knowledgeable. You cannot have an ignoramus lead. Our communities would not have long survived had they been led by idiots. This regime has made idiocy its greatest motto: in stupidity we rule. Somebody should say that in Latin. Mottoes sound almost sexy in Latin.

Two issues VP treats exceptionally well is reason and its place in human progress, and here before Brian asks, I mean with progress a society where freedoms are guaranteed, access to healthcare and decent housing are guaranteed and where the standard of life is acceptable. People are not starving because of poor planning and such like. His treatment of how Christianity has made the African subservient waiting for a heaven, suppressing his reason and initiative speaks to my heart.

He writes, and I almost want to shout with him, on the mountaintops

If one doesn’t like his or her living condition here on
Earth he ought to change it before death knocks
On his door and drags him away into hades.
One needs courage to change one’s circumstances.

That Christianity promises a heaven where there is gold, milk and honey, things which my lecturer would call goods of ostentation means the poor person is contented with their miserable existence here as long as a heaven is guaranteed. I would even propose that miserable fellow hastens their departure by killing themselves. At least they will have done one act of courage in their existence.

I wasn’t sure whom the ants were, but either way, I liked the analogies. And I think, with Mark Twain, we can all say, man while descending from all the higher animals lost all that was great. Only saving grace for humanity is it retained the capacities to do that which the higher animals are capable of but no more.

On taxes, the less said the better!

Corruption, nepotism and all social ills that bedevils us do not need much attention. All I will say is they are well dispensed of by our author.

Equality, justice and truth especially their absence is common in Bananaland. The meaning of these words change depending on what side of the political divide one finds themselves. This is a law in all Bananalands.

I laughed at the requirements of kingship and then I looked at the Kenyan situation and laughed much more. A section of the population believes and strongly so, that for one to be fit to lead, they must be circumcised. One would think this would be the concern of those they choose to have sex with, but no, in Kenya, the prepuce is more important in determining one’s ability to lead. I am sure, the ancestor are proud.

Our politics, he calls

Apemocracy means a rule by political apes.

And he hasn’t been more right.

Since, I took liberties while doing this review to start with the epilogue, I will end with the beginning. He writes

Between ape and banana
There cannot be morality,
Ethics, law or constitution.
There is only one thing and
That is desire or instincts.

I hope, VP, that I have done justice to your great work. I also hope that I have kept my word and as such, the word honour can be applied between us.

Thank you for sending me the book.

It was hilarious, poignant and at the same time easy to read.

Boundary changes and the invention of *tribes*

This is part of a summary of specific chapters of the book by Bethwell A. Ogot: History as destiny and history as knowledge.

For most of the travellers who end up here and are not familiar with the problems of ethnicity in Kenya, you can skip this post since what I talk about may sound all Greek.

In this chapter, the author discusses three boundaries

  1. inter-territorial boundaries which were arbitrarily determined in foreign capitals by foreign diplomats
  2. colonial boundaries or better still segregation boundaries: white highlands, native reserves, outlying districts and closed districts
  3. administrative boundaries

These different boundaries froze, in time and space, movements by individuals and groups from one cultural zone to another. Tribes, whatever it means, is a consequence of these administrative boundaries. Evidence for this can be found, for example, in the researches that show that 40% of Baluyia clans were originally Kalenjin. There are also to be found several Luyia clans of Maasai origin.

The author notes that the claim by the colonialists of perpetual inter-clan and inter-ethnic rivalry and fighting is undermined by consideration of the political, economic and cultural situations in different regions of Kenya during the second half of the C19. He says researches show for example Wayaiki Wa Hinga, a Maasai emerged as a eminent Kikuyu leader. The relationships can be seen too in language where the Kikuyu borrowed from the Maasai such words as Ngai, initiation rituals and military tactics. Similar reciprocal relationships existed between the Kikuyu- Akamba, the coastal nations and even in the north between the Samburu and the Rendile.

The effect of these arbitrary boundaries can be seen in how they separated several ethnic groups with one landing across an imaginary border. Examples include Abakusu/ Abagisu, Saboat/ Sabey and the Luo who would be living together with their cousins the Padhola, Acholi, Lango, Alur and Atwot instead of being isolated in Kenya.

In 1895, the East Africa Protectorate created four provinces; Coast (Syyidieh), Ukamba, Tanaland and JUbaland administered respectively from Mombasa, Machakos, Lamu and Kismayu.

What is tribe? No one knows. The colonial administration referred to the Luo as a collection of twenty tribes. The classification into tribe attempted unsuccessfully to combine linguistic, cultural, ethnic and geographical elements to create homogeneous administrative and political units. Further it can be said the definition of ethnic groups as tribes was both racist and ahistorical to the extent that it regarded the various nationality groups as being static, exclusive and homogeneous. In this sense, therefore, the concept tribe was an intellectual abstraction, a mental invention to portray the picture of a people without rulers, without government, without culture, without history to justify colonialism.

These boundaries, he writes, froze historical processes whereby dynamic interactions among the constituent elements had constantly produced either new synthesis or cultural differentiations.

It is however interesting to note, the Africans themselves, dissatisfied with the colonial tribes decided to invent their own for political purposes. The Kalenjin transformed and combined the Nandi, Kipsigis, Tugen, Pokot, Marakwet, Elgeyo into a bigger Kalenjin tribe, the different Luyia ethnic groups to one Luyia tribe, GEMA and attempts by Maasai and Samburu forming a Maa tribe.

He concludes by noting that the decision of the post colonial government to retain the colonial district boundaries is making it difficult if not impossible, for Kenyans to live in a multicultural and multi-ethnic societies that would encourage diversity and interaction, promote the coexistence of communities with multiple identities, protect minorities and emphasize intercultural dialogue and tolerance.

what do we expect of the African thinkers, intellectuals and leaders?

Bethwell Ogot, in Who, if anyone, owns the past? writes

African scholars, thinkers and leaders have a moral responsibility, therefore to create a New Africa, an Africa they want and that they have to decide to help shape. Such a new Africa will have to exist in the minds of all its inhabitants and become part of their every day life-a life that is full, vital, open and in which dialogue, co-existence, and mutual aid are taken for granted.

The collective identity of this New Africa in the making which will include peoples with different cultures, languages and histories, will be found in a shared set of values: the primacy of individual human rights, democracy, a balance between freedom and solidarity and between efficiency and equity, as well as openness to the world.

The new Africa must recognize the complementarity between its values, and the knowledge and understanding of the values of others.

Most African intellectuals have helped prop up dictatorships. They serve in the cabinets. They see no evil and say no evil. They contribute no thought in knowledge acquisition or development. They have PhDs but just for show or to get to the positions from where they can stifle thought.

The other group of intellectuals and scholars lock themselves comfortably in the academy earning meager salaries and because of fear of their employer, they see no evil. They, too, are no different from their partners who get into government and become one with the oppressive state.

I find it beyond belief in the face of human rights abuses by the state in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, scholars and intellectuals cannot find a single voice to condemn it. The academy has not issued a statement condemning state brutality at University of Nairobi or at Daystar or any other university for that matter? What role models are you? Are you cowards? Are you so fearful of university admins or the government that you can’t issue a statement in defense of your charges? You are a disappointment. You should all feel ashamed.

For the few independent scholars, Keguro, I can see you, thank you for asking the questions you do. For expanding the fields of thought in how we are showing care.

While I am no scholar, I find the attitude of the African populace towards their suffering sometimes perplexing. Are we so afraid of our oppressors to stand up to them? To mock them in our poetry? To show them our displeasure as a people and demand for better? Did the Christianization and Islamizations projects leave us as submissive and subservient to authority no matter who represents it, whether a god or a leader who claims to be from god?

Rise Africa and claim your humanity and dignity. Make the despots afraid, send them away, but save lives, if you must employ violence. But chase them away. They have caused enough misery already. They are the reasons our brothers and sisters die in the Med trying to get to Europe to be anything except poor and dirty African in Africa!

Many Africans, especially those brainwashed in the Abrahamic religions think Israel favourably as the holy[sic] land. These same people are blind to the injustices Africans suffer in that country or to the forced deportations. Fools all of you!