(Fair warning ahead, parts of this piece describe a scene that might make your stomach queasy)
There are some subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) nuances that define as a people. Cornerstones of our society, so to speak. Tiny, often easily overlooked actions we do for others, things we say that bring a feel-good atmosphere and knit us closer together. They are values that are inherent in all of us even at the darkest of our times.
Lately, it feels like these foundations have been under siege.
Several months back, while heading back to campus from Thika, our bus zipped past a body lying in the middle of the road. I don’t remember where specifically. I don’t remember how the deceased was dressed. I don’t remember if it was a man or woman. I do remember that the head was not attached to the shoulders. I do remember that cars swerved around the body and sometimes over it. I do remember finding it near impossible to keep my food down for the next two days.
Worst of all I do remember that after the initial shock wore off, my fellow passengers got down to work speculating how the body might have ended up there. Had the man/woman been mentally ill? Had they willfully stepped in front of a car, driven by an urge they could not comprehend? Had they actually been murdered elsewhere and dumped on the road to cover up the crime? A consensus, completely uncalled for, was finally reached that there was no way the deceased had not been murdered elsewhere and then dumped on the road.
One thing that, ironically, seemed to escape everyone’s attention was the fact that there was a body on the road, and nobody seemed to care about school kids in other buses and vans who would pass by that same spot and have nightmares that night or that other drivers might be traumatized running over the body, because no one stopped. Always in such a hurry to get to wherever we want to, we don’t care what we throw away, when a simple hazard sign might have well warned other drivers to steer clear.
Fast forward several months and it seems we’re living in a constant spell of expiation for a sin we have no idea about. Our country is being held hostage by an election that just won’t go away. For those of you who aren’t fully versed on this yet, we held our election this August which inspired so little confidence in our judiciary that they declared them as null and void. The repeat elections, which are to be held tomorrow, are being overseen by more or less the same officials who bungled up the original one. Which is why the opposition is having none of it. Which is why for the past few weeks we’ve had demonstrations in the country to oppose the commission. The response of the government unsurprisingly is to use force and as a result more than a few lives have been lost.
But that’s nothing compared to the fact that the people who died are now used as icons of some ‘resistance’. Uncensored images of them in their undignified state have been plastered all over the ether to elicit some reaction from all of us. I see them when am on Whatsapp, they’re in my face when am on Facebook. A more considerate person might stop to think, ‘How will the deceased’s parents feel if they see their son or daughter in this manner on the news or social media? Should I really post this?’ But we seem to have lost that. We traded in empathy for higher resolution cameras and faster internet connectivity.
Then the unthinkable happened last week. One of the officials on the electoral commission, having fled to the States, penned a letter of resignation that revealed much of what happens behind the curtains. That the ‘independent’ commission was only independent in principle but not in creed or action. That her fellow officers were imposing influence on the whole process according to how it benefited their respective party, either way.
Because of people’s irrational party affiliations she’s been mocked, ridiculed, intimidated and threatened. That she fled out of fear for her own life, even as one of her colleagues was kidnapped and murdered under dubious circumstances a week before the original election, that she resigned out of fear for her staff, in the hopes that their security would be considered ahead of the plight of politicians who seek power and nothing else, seems to be lost on us. Whether she’s being honest and warrants our attention is beside the point. Once upon a time the search for truth used to be integral to the whole idea of us being ‘decent’, whether that truth resides within the people we call family or friends or our government. But that too appears to be gone.
As bloggers, as fiction writers, we often include conflict, tension, corruption and scenes of gore in our work, I know I too have been ‘guilty’ of this a few times. But we often add these things to mock them, to deride them, to expose them so we can fix ourselves, but in truth we do not want to see them creep into our daily lives and become the norm. I want to be comforted by the knowledge that if I end up lying in the middle of a busy road for whatever reason, people would be considerate enough to stop and shield my body, and not instead take photos and post them everywhere and make light of the moment. I want to believe that in a position where I possess forbidden information critical to the welfare of the public I would not be mocked and threatened if I choose to divulge such information. I really want to believe in the people I call my fellow Kenyans.
I will not take a stand here about whether or not I will vote tomorrow because that would make this a political statement, when this is far from it. This in converse is a rallying call to all of us, especially right now to all Kenyans, to stop and reflect about where we’ve come from, where we are headed and how we want to be judged by future generations.
Only one person can ever win an election, but all of us stand to lose so much more if we don’t stop to reflect and change.
Stay safe tomorrow everyone and God bless you all!