Monthly Archives: February 2014

bad decision number x

“I’m not going to westie.”

 

I’ve said this sentence many many times. Usually it is followed a few hour and many drinks later by me going to westlands, no in fact let’s just refer to it as westie. That’s it “fun” name. The speech marks aren’t there to signify that the name isn’t actually fun but because westie really isn’t. Not for me. I don’t like going to that place at night. Every time I do it I tell myself it’s my last time at least until my next time.

 

Why do I keep going? This isn’t a question I ask myself unless rhetorically. I know exactly why I go. It’s because alcohol massively aggravates my FOMO. This is a term I was introduced to last year, it means fear of missing out. Everyone has this lurking within them, it’s what makes us club-hop, it’s what makes us leave a place that’s fun to one that we only think is. Or a place that’s convenient for one that we believe may be a good time. It makes some people get into relationships, it makes some move, it makes some do certain courses, it makes many go to church (heaven would be the ultimate thing to miss out on after all.) everyone’s FOMO shows up in certain situations and for certain things. When I drink mine does.

 

I know what my perfect night out would be. I know exactly how I want my Saturday to look. Sit in a house somewhere with people whose company I enjoy, a house or a really quiet bar where I can afford to get drunk those are the options. If there’s music I may dance this depends on either how much fun everyone is having dancing or how hot the girl I want to dance with looks. At the end of this I want to sleep. Go home and sleep or fall in a bed nearby and not wake until the sun is well and truly up. This can be done if I have the willpower to tell people when they start making noises about leaving that I’m just going to go home.

 

Last Saturday I was at a party that’s really, really close to where I live. Ten minutes’ walk which is perfect. If people want to go out I can wave as they enter their cabs while I go in the opposite direction and wake up on Sunday with no hangover and/or money in my pocket. But then I drunk and my willpower broke down. Plus I was wingmanning for one of my pals who told me not to worry about how little money I had in my pocket because he would make sure I was ok. Now not having money of your own when you go out at night is usually a horrible idea. The reason people do it is because on the days it works out it works out amazingly well. I know one friend who on a whim went to carnivore with only enough money for a beer and lo and behold a surprise Morgan Heritage concert was being held on that evening. Its stories like this that makes it easy for me to say yes

Bouncers don’t seem to like me. I think sometimes it’s because I’m drunk sometimes I think they can read my mind. There have been many, many times when I hope to be frozen so that I can go home. Many, many times I have wondered why the hell I have to put up with the indignity of convincing someone that I am worthy of walking into a club and spending more money there. I try to keep this thought off my face but it’s always in my mind as soon as I stretch my arms. I don’t like being judged but in order to spend my own money I stand there and allow this guy to make decisions about my life that change its very course.

 

Anyway we get in the club and he, my friend not the bouncer, disappears with the girl because I can be a great wingman. I am separated from the other people I was with for some reason. All of a sudden the bouncer is talking to me, he’s asking me why I’m still inside. My immediate response to any situation I find myself in is to put a hand up and say “relax” over and over again as I give my most ingratiating smile but he doesn’t want to relax. He in fact wants to punch me in the stomach. As he is the man whose job it is to stop people from punching each other in the stomach when they are inside the club he can do as he pleases and so he punches me. Then he punches me again because all shitty things happen in twos. I felt those punches. It felt like a small sliver of heat entering my stomach I kept thinking how happy I was to be drunk because this would hurt otherwise. After the second punch I don’t even try to negotiate I just left. I’m still being accosted and I can’t tell you if it was the same person or he handed me over to his people on the outside. I was in a rush to leave you see. 2 more gut punches. They hurt and I can’t imagine what I did wrong but then I take off my jumper and offer it to him as appeasement. He was punching me and i didn’t want to be punched . He was big. He had a legitimate handle on violence plus he was surrounded by a lot of other people who understand just how difficult a bouncer’s life can be. I needed to appease him before any other bouncer decided I was in the wrong.

 

Now I’m in westie jumperless. I try to think of why I would be so rudely kicked out of the club I was in. I didn’t have a memory black out because I know how they feel. I know exactly how alcohol stealing time is, I know you only realise it because of the blurred edges between the last thing you remember and the first thing you experience. You can’t know what the last thing you remember is, it’s not a still photograph of darkness coming but a 5 minute video of time disappearing. It’s soft and fuzzy. That I didn’t feel. My first experience was not the bouncer hitting me, in fact walking backwards I can track what happened until that moment. I don’t know why this guy decided to gut me in the middle of the club and I couldn’t ask him why. So I walked.

 

I try to call my friend and his phone goes off. I look in my pocket and I definitely do not have enough for a cab. Life sucks when I go to westlands. I stand around and meet up with one person who’s had a worse night than me, losing his phone in fucking westie. We get separated too. I look at the time and I can’t imagine how long I have to wait for the morning. So I decide to walk.

 

I make bad decisions. In hindsight this was another one of them. I didn’t get robbed but the possibility of it happening existed. Instead I begin walking home. I use the westalnds-kile bypass as a shortcut. The night looks as reliably awesome as all nights do to me. The red lights of cars blinking past, the yellows of private security lights, the halos of street lighting. These contrasts are my thing. I take them in as I walk and I walk and I walk. Until I am at the place where I began the night and by this point the sun has come up, I feel pissed off at myself because I could have just began walking from here, I look at the party where the party was held and curse myself. One more thing needs to be cursed so…

 

Fuck westie!!!!

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umbrellas can hurt

It’s been raining and i love when it rains. The sudden sound as what seems like millions of little raindrops rush the earth in an orgy of joy and abandon, the smell that greets the air as dust is thrown up when these little meteors hit the earth cleansing it and giving it life. I especially love how it looks. On Friday as it rained some of the sun shone through so as I walked through a sheltered part of the street walking towards more of the rain I saw the drops suffused with sunlight like a great hall with its windows thrown open to invite joy and celebration at the birth of a god or the marriage of a princess.

 

I stepped in a puddle as I rushed to a bar. I saw the puddle and thought I could avoid it but I couldn’t and didn’t. All the water got in my shoes and soaked my socks. Then it happened again and again until I couldn’t stop myself laughing at just how inept I was at spatial navigation. Around the shelters there were the most irritating people when it rains. These are people who seem to feel that one drop of water will dissolve them like a Kenyan political party after a few years. They walk with their umbrellas out and they do it in the sheltered pathways. It gets to me because they don’t walk on the edge of the pathway where there’s still a chance for those of us who don’t have umbrellas to get water on us, nope they walk right in the middle of the shelter. They walk without a thought of closing up their umbrellas; they walk not thinking about how much inconvenience they are causing everyone around them. Umbrella spokes can take out an eye, that’s how it seems and everyone is scared of that happening  so when these people walk you see crowds weaving, bobbing, and ducking in order to avoid them. They have more privilege than anyone, they are after all walking around with a portable shelter but that’s not enough they want the best spot of the roof that shelters the rest of us. The way they walk, the way they act forces everyone else to bow in their presence, to cringe at their approach. I don’t know why power and privilege has this ability to make people unfeeling but it does.

 

On Friday there was a headline in the papers that said the Jubilee government was scared that the Obama administration was trying to topple it (just realised that almost no one refers to ours as the Uhuru or the Kenyatta government, always Jubilee.) None other than the secretary to the cabinet, Francis Kimemia, accused the Americans of funnelling money through USAID to protest groups in a bid to destabilise the government. This was in the front pages of national newspapers so it’s not conspiracy theory stuff. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the US would do this. Remember Lumumba? Remember Iran? In 1954 there was a coup in Guatemala. It was a CIA operation. The victim of the coup was President Juan José Arévalo Bermejo who was instituting policies of agricultural reform in a bid to end feudalism, spur economic growth, and give poor farmers a chance to make something more of themselves. However he annoyed the United Fruit Company an American multinational that dealt in fruits, mainly bananas. They lobbied the US presidents of the time and the guy was overthrown. This is the American intervention story I find most ridiculous. It wasn’t sparked by lack of democracy, or terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction ,or even oil. Fruits, bananas. These were reason enough for a foreign regime change initiative. As anyone who has done something wrong knows its hardest the first time. Afterwards your soul develops callouses that protect you from your actions and their consequences. Is the Obama Government gunning after the Uhuru one? I don’t think so but there’s no way I will write it off as impossibility.

 

I have a friend who does not like the ICC process. He reads about it and posts his opinions and those of others on Facebook all the time. Its a very interesting feed, what’s happening in the ICC in miniature. My own feelings on the ICC have been changing as time goes by. I was pro-ICC but not anymore. I can’t feel what they are doing leads to justice not as much as I used to. I can’t ignore their history of what can only seem like discrimination, everyone ever indicted an African? Every single person? And people will make the argument that it’s because African countries signed the Rome statute en masse. Sudan did not but Al-Bashir was indicted. Syria hasn’t either. Who can say that what’s happening there is not worthy of investigation. Assad was accused of using nerve gas, fucking nerve gas on civilians. I’ll say it again fucking nerve gas and he’s not been indicted. Though since America broke the news of the nerve gas its highly suspect   . Still he has not been called a war criminal. It would just be conjecture based on fact to say that crimes against humanity can only happen when Africans kill other Africans.

 

Karim Khan: We are here at ICC on Valentine’s Day due to a failed marriage between the Prosecution and its witnesses.

 One of my friends updates. These lawyers seem to be a laugh a minute. My favourite though is our own attorney general Githu Muigai. The government refused to hand over the president’s financial records which are the final straw that the prosecution is reaching for in its all but failed trial of Uhuru. Githu was asked what happened by a judge:

Judge Henderson: How have you ensured that the court’s requests are followed? 


AG Muigai: She stated that she was entitled to the records. I stated that she wasnt. I urged her to follow the correct procedure and she didnt. I then assumed she was no longer interested. The issue had become moot.

 

 

Read it again. And if you have ever heard him speak try to say it in his voice. Unhurried, measured, smooth, knowing. I watched him speak in person once and he could convince you of anything. Eloquence is an understatement. Plus there is something cheeky in him.it may sound dismissive but it was definitely written and said by a man who has told a few good jokes in his time.

 

A British girl once told me that in England if you have had sex with an African you can’t donate blood in for a year. This hugely insulting and vaguely racist, in fact overtly racist (in my opinion) policy is because of AIDS. The girl who told me about it is definitely not a racist, a very open-minded person who takes the time to see people as people and not as groups. However she still couldn’t understand why I would be pissed off about such a policy after all prevention is better than cure and a lot of Africans do have AIDS. When I think about this conversation now it makes me more sad than anything.it makes me wonder if it really is that impossible for any of us to understand what happens to people who are different? Are all our efforts at intercultural interaction and understanding moot? Are we doomed to forever walk only in our own shoes no matter how much we try to put on someone else’s. It also made me realise that with all the institutional racism in the world it must be really difficult for a white person to know what racism is, to perceive it and understand it. It’s just the way the world is after all, all the reasons for racial profiling are based on experiences and statistics. There are strides no question but we are nowhere near where we should be.

 

In an article by someone whose parents emigrated to Sweden he talked about growing up,  Being 9 and watching action films where dark men rape and kidnap, manipulate and lie, steal and abuse. These were people who looked like him. We are growing up in a world now where the real bad guys, the ones who committed crimes so vulgar and huge that they are called crimes against humanity look like me. We are in a world where one of the most liberal western countries in matters of race(or so they would have us believe) has a policy that you cannot donate blood if you had sex with an African for at least a year. It’s as if intimate contact with someone from the dark continent soils you somehow, as if the fact that you had one of them inside of you or were inside of one of them gave you something intangible and unfindable that walks inside your veins. You can suffer having been so careless as to invite tiny African demons into your body but the government will not let you spread this mania, this darkness to people whose only crime is being in need of a blood transfusion. Because you slept with an African, not even because you are an African, you aren’t allowed to donate blood.

 

Taking the good space under the sheltered walkways pissed me off, when these guys with the umbrellas did it. What really had me riled though is they had no idea what they were doing, they had no idea that they were wrong to appropriate so much of a limited resource when they had another option, they didn’t know that it’s wrong to brandish a weapon in crowded street. They didn’t know. They couldn’t imagine what life was for the rest of us skirting around them, getting wet because of them. They just didn’t.

 

And then I remember Jesus on his cross making a prayer to his father in heaven “forgive them for they know not what they do.” And  i also know that the same prayer applies to me in some situations.

 

 

 

 

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Saturday 30th March 2013

 the first part of this story can be read by clicking on this sentence

 

the second part of this story can be read by clicking on this sentence

 

The cigarettes had stopped having an effect on him. Every drag was done more out of routine than because of any pleasure it brought him but sometimes in the end our rituals are all we have. Good Friday had turned into Holy Saturday and still people waited for the results. The work was done; it had been done for a while now. There was no more Green Book and Special Register to look at, no more form 36 and 34 to compare, no more counting to be done, no more observing, no more long days and exhausting nights. Now it was just the wait.

 

There had been many problems with the petition over the last 2 weeks. As sleep became more and more of a distant memory everyone around him grew cynical and more honest. There had been shouts and fights and then there had been the mole. Who knows how he was caught but there must have been political espionage going on on both sides. There was more money being thrown around in the four week process than most SMEs would see in their lifetimes. It made sense that somebody would be tempted to dip into secrets and strategies  for the other side, but no one would ever have thought it would be this guy.

 

He had seemed so convinced that CORD should be the government in Kenya, pointing out all that was wrong with every one of Uhuru’s policies. Talking about how a laptop for every child couldn’t work when there were places without electricity, free maternity care was unworkable in a country where even routine pregnancies usually ended up with two deaths, that a country with so many poor could not possibly be led by the richest among them. They had found out about him on the Sunday before the actual case began.

 

Sunday was usually a more jovial day. Some people took time off for church and family and all the spaces created in their office seemed to draw in energy and joy. It was as if the things blocking them could now circulate and so they did. It was easier to laugh and joke and look for a place to smoke but on that Sunday it was different. By afternoon most of the people at the top had gathered in the conference room and were talking in hushed whispers as if not giving sound to what had happened would lessen its effect. There were no jokes that day and seriousness was etched into the faces of the lawyers making them look like a rock that had been worn down by the steady application of water. The mood changed and became black as most work began grinding to a halt

 

Then the rumours started, it was said he was given millions, more even in order to do this. The end of his legal career was lamented by those who knew him. Betrayal was a stain that could never be washed off and a few of the people there had begun plotting revenge. Debates about why he would do this rang far into the week and when the rest of the country was falling in love with Kethi Kilonzo the topic of conversation was still the traitor and what he had done.

 

The mood in the office was not the same for the next couple of days. The veneers of civility and pretence that people had covered themselves with began peeling away, chipped by exhaustion, stress, and betrayal. Roy had worked harder than almost anyone in the room pointing out discrepancies most people missed but the fact of his tribe suddenly became important. It wasn’t in anything overt, but rather the subtle ways in which people skirted around topics when he was around. The way they stopped talking for a while when he was in the room, the increased dominance of all the other mother tongues when people went for breaks, the reduced frequency of smoke breaks by people who used to talk to him and give him advice on his future. When the Supreme Court ordered a retallying of votes for some constituencies and he wasn’t chosen to go observe he knew he was being crucified by the fact of his blood.

 

On the day the 900 page affidavit was thrown out they had gone for drinks, drowning the sorrows of their hard work. Unlike other days an argument about tribe came up.

“He didn’t steal the land, his father did. Are you going to blame him for who he was born to?” Roy had asked about Uhuru.

This had gone on and on fuelled by drinks and a burning resentment that everyone seemed to hold under his skin.

 “Are we going to pretend,” said Mikey at one point, “that there is no reason for what happened, that the wounds and blows dealt us by the Kikuyus amount just to land. Kenyatta 1 never stole land in Nyanza, Central and Kikuyus were the ones dispossessed. But there are other reasons, are we going to sit here and pretend that the Russia massacre never happened? That Jomo Kenyatta never opened a hospital, incited a crowd, and ordered his troops to open fire on Luos in Nyanza? Are we going to pretend he knew nothing about Mboya’s assassination? Are we going to pretend that holding cabinet meetings in Kikuyu  didn’t have an effect on preferential government policy? Are we going to pretend that Kibaki did not betray Raila and the trust of Kenyans in 2003? Are we going to say that his blatantly tribal policies had nothing to do with preparing Kenyans to see each other as others? Can we say that his rigging had no effect on the violence that happened after? Or that the killing that went on didn’t involve mostly Kalenjins and Kikuyus? Is there a stronger glue for the Jubilee coalition than the need to stay out of jail? My friend, I like you but to tell the truth I do not like your people.”

 

This had significantly changed the mood of the night, everyone hurried to polish off their last beer and claimed exhaustion and work as they excused themselves. Mikey had come to talk to him later extending an olive leaf of sorts but things had been slightly tender for the rest of the week  by Friday however they were all together again. It was the actual last day. There were no worries about work for anyone and they were celebrating no matter what the result turned out to be. This was part of the reason he had gotten up at 2 in the afternoon.

 

The television was already on and Mikey was watching. Anto had succumbed to temptation the previous night but in classic character had brought back to the hotel an old fling of his and not a girl he had just met. There was an open bottle of whiskey on the table and Roy sat down, filled a glass, poured in ice cubes and began to drink. Today he drank slowly, everything was slower today. Conversation  was muted, they all seemed more contemplative and took hesitant sips, enough to stave off the hangover, too little to drop them back into inebriation. The minutes dragged into hours, he went out for more smoke breaks in order to pass the time.

 

In this slow way it came to four o’clock and the Chief Justice took his seat. In older times a Chief Justice reading a pronouncement of such effect on the nation would have couched it in legalistic terms and buried the actual decision somewhere that only the most attentive would hear it. But as if sensing that the whole nation had been in a mood of anticipatory tension the decision was read out first and fast.

 

The little energy in the room left it. Their eyes were red and bleary. This was not joy in work well done what they had gone through was futility well compensated. Roy knew that there was no other decision that could possibly be made, he had put himself in the shoes of one of the judges and asked himself what he would have done. He had remembered the way his mother had bought kilograms of dried foods; maize, beans, flour, and green grams just in case something happened this time round. There was an actual fear that there would be a repeat of the last round of violence and with all the tension in the air an extended election cycle could have led to just that. Working on the petition he had realised just how little time a week was in the life of a law case, justice is slow and ponderous for a reason, rushed like this it couldn’t be more than a stamp of approval. The petition had done what it was always meant to do, it had legitimised the person who won. That he had won could not be questioned, only by how much. Few things were worse than a man who cannot hear you and believes he has to smack you on the back of the head to get your attention, for that reason alone the court process was worth it.

 

He went out for another smoke and to give himself time to gather his thoughts. When he walked back in a fierce debate was raging. Anto was of the opinion that even though some rigging had gone on the will of the people was substantially done.

 

“Then where are the census reports?” Mikey asked. “My friend over here knows that this rigging went back much further than registration, you have to go back to the roots. To the census that was held in the same year that Uhuru began his campaign. To the census whose results are held in a three page report, a three page report of such a long process. My university papers were longer than that, where are the demographics? Where is the proof that the Kikuyu population is actually as large or as adult as it’s claimed? There were reports of high school children being recorded as over 18 and being given voters cards in Central Province, ghosts chose this president. I tell you this thing was stolen just like last time, he was just much smarter.”

 

Me and my brother against my cousin thought Roy. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, the conspiracies went too far. He was prepared to admit that there had been discrepancies in the actual vote, that the register had been tampered with, that the emergence of a Green Book as a document that held all the names of persons registered to vote at the last minute had been completely irregular. But this took it too far. If even a smart one like Mikey could not accept this result and instead clutched at fever dreams and imaginings what about the rest of them? What about the ones who were seen crying on television what would they do? How did they feel?

 

Me, my brother and my cousin against a village mate. And he remembered Mikey talking to him the night after he had sang him the litany of wrongs telling him about picking up the British Gulag and reading about what happened to the Kikuyu population as they fought for independence. He had read about the mass torture and detentions. He had read about the summary killings, the burnings of houses, the raping of women and men, told him how he couldn’t quite forgive what the British did to his people. Mikey had told him that at that moment he had felt they were not just Kikuyus, those who fought and died, but they were his ancestors as much as the people gunned down at the direction of Kenyatta, that he felt the pain of the Kikuyu as a Kenyan.

 

And suddenly Roy couldn’t sit there anymore. He walked away from them. Too tired to try and convince them of anything, too tired of trying to convince himself that he was any better. Maybe there was something to blood and at the end of these four weeks all he wanted to do was go home and let his father know that he was right. That it was me against my brother…

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