Last week, the gods decided I needed to attend one of those peace workshops in the lead up to the general election later this year. To me, it was simply same script, different cast. The scene looked like one of those pulled straight out from the pages of a rich Hollywood movie: The latest innovation in road transport (read 4×4 cruisers) pulling outside a fancy hotel at the heart of the city dropping the so-called potbellied NGOs executives.
Inside this chandelier obsessed conference hall, whose daily charge by the way can easily catapult a typical Kenyan village out of poverty like forever, is dotted with men in well-cut Brioni suits and ladies in colourful, royal elegance Hillary Clinton power suits twenging stereotypically their NGO jargon of capacity building, milestones, indicators, outcomes, deliverables and sustainable goals.
This privileged lot – represented from the civil society organizations, international community (fancy word for donors), friends of Kenya ( read foreign governments or ambassadors if you like), and a few confused chaps from the national government, who are more eager to get this workshop thingy over with so that they could pocket their allowance.
Well, this lot are here to discuss about how to maintain peace during the general elections. Heheh! peace tena! Si we discuss how to have a free and fair election, I wondered silently. Unknown to me, there will be more silent wonders to follow.
The agenda itself looks like its production costed an arm and a leg. First, that ka-intern at the registration desk whispers that the agenda was shipped into the country a few days ago, coz daah! it was a donation from one of those friends of Kenya snow-invested countries. Si this tender could simply have been given to my cousin Nekesa. I am sure the profit would have been enough to enable her finally dump her abusive husband, I wondered silently.
For a moment, I am left starring at the agenda, and more specifically the quality of the paper. Not that I have never seen a meeting agenda printed on a good quality paper. But its more of, I am holding this piece of paper, and my little knowledge is struggling to make sense of how such an expensive, superior quality paper – expensive enough to buy sanitary pads to all the adolescent girls in my village – would be used to print a freaking agenda for a damn one-day meeting.
Couldn’t they simply not have shared the agenda on WhatsApp? I wondered almost audibly. But then I remembered immediately who butters my daily bread, and like they say, whoever pays the piper calls the tune, right?
Without warning we are slapped with this commanding voice: Ladies and gentlemen, kindly take your seats we are about to start. Heheh! the Kenyan in me wants, sorry, must put the face to the voice. Its the same Kenyan genes that runs towards an accident instead of away from.
So, like a typical Kenyan brought up around and about the maize plantations of the Rift Valley and blessed with a height challenge, shamelessly I struggle to stand on my toes and even use the table for support in an endeavour to see ni nani huyo ameongea hivyo. Well, and that’s when I saw her walking in.
Everything was working for her. Her illegitimate weave perched on her dry skull fell almost perfectly on her shoulders. Her smile was absorbing. Nearly charming. Her sequined dress complimented her workshop shoes but somewhat ridiculed her handbag. She walked with a swag borrowed from Scandals Season 4.
She was what men tucked in a dingy tavern drinking discounted ‘happy hour’ alcohol and self-praising about their side dishes, Japan imported juggernauts and the doctor’s CBA will call hot and sexy. And who could blame them? In any case, in this part of the Sub-Saharan hemisphere, she probably would be the closest they would ever get to the Kardashians.
She had this nice, long flowery legs that will make a man going through middle life crisis to sell his ancestral land and ship her ass and multiple monstrous weaves to the Seychelles for the weekend. Her African skin was smooth like a well-ironed nylon dress. She gave the appearance of a high value, high maintenance, well-read, well-travelled, well-exposed, intelligent daughter of Eve.
In fact, suffice for me to add she looked like one of those I-got-my-own independent women, who probably invented sunscreen or lipstick in some poorly lit laboratory back in her wild campus days. She looked like a pretty thing that devours for breakfast pages of a technical book about empowerment of African women. As you can objectively see, everything was working for her. Well, everything – until the daughter of Adam and Eve opened her mouth to speak.
The richness, quality and diversity in her ignorance slapped everyone in the room like a bad omen. To make it worse, she was the kind who had a beautiful face that came customised with a loud mouth. Not to mention that her mouth came packaged with a blueprint of two volumes – loud and louder. And don’t get me started about her raucous laughter, which would make my ancestors turn in their graves in complete disgust.
Initially, I had entertained the un-married thought of chit-chatting with her after the workshop. Maybe if I am lucky, take a selfie with her as I whisper a few naughty luhya proverbs in her ears . Obviously in the selfie, her hand will be on my shoulders, or why not, my waist. And since she can’t get enough of my warm personality and luhya-ness, she will slap my phone with her number.
I will promise to call her as soon as it takes a village cock to enjoy its conjugal rights. My unbiblical intentions would be clear: meet up at my place to brainstorm about gender equality. Unfortunately, all that un-married thoughts disappeared as soon as she began talking.
Don’t get me wrong though. I had no problem with her constitutional right of freedom of speech. My problem was her audacity to sunbath her ignorance in public, and most annoyingly in the presence of the friends of Kenya.
I left that workshop later in the day disturbed by the fact that most of us don’t take time and effort to invest in knowledge and information. We simply live like zombies, talking, shouting, reasoning and operating on whimps, emotions and hearsay. We don’t take time to research, study and acquire data, facts and figures.
As a result, we walk around smartly dressed but with no substance between our ears. We go for meetings, job interviews, hell ya even on dates, proudly unprepared and happily ignorant. No wonder politicians have mastered the art of playing with our ignorance, emotions and skewed tribal affiliations.
For most of us, the last book we ever read was the last time we were sitting for an exam. Yes, we have been conditioned to only read for exams. We are allergic to books. No wonder we have more bars and brothels than bookshops. I am tired of meeting beautiful ladies who are looking for a well-educated, successful man but they can’t hold a mature conversation for more than three seconds, before they revert back to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Beyonce’s twins and cup cakes.
I am tired of meeting men wearing well-cut suits with polished nails and an expensive attitude stuffed inside their six-packs, but can’t talk anything beyond Manu, Arsenal and their abs.
We speak too much. Listen less. Read nothing, except those bipartisan, tribalistic gutter press designed to rave up our ethnic emotions and political affiliations for their sale and profit. I challenge you today to interrogate your source of information and knowledge. I challenge you to interrogate their intentions and objectives.
Knowledge and information isn’t acquired by osmosis. Great and successful people in life take time to acquire and invest in knowledge. They always talk from a point of knowledge and clear understanding of issues, not emotions and rumours. And like our damsel above, lets not suffer from the course of beauty without brains. Study things. Seek to understand stuff. Be knowledgeable. Get exposed. Travel. Ask questions. Interrogate your leaders. Challenge their decisions and priorities. Seek to know.
Speak from the point of knowledge and understanding. And more importantly, if you have nothing to say or don’t understand an issue well, for the love of John the Baptist – please shut your mouth. Don’t simply speak because you have a mouth. If you can’t improve the quality of the silent, shut up. Even Proverbs 21:23 (NLT) says, watch your tongue and KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, and you will stay out of trouble.
And as Proverbs 4:7 expressingly puts it, wisdom is the principal thing, and in all your getting, get understanding. While without mincing words, Proverbs 15:14 (NLT) says a wise person is hungry for knowledge while the fool feeds on trash. Simply put while the fool feeds on gossips, rumours and ignorance. No wonder Hosea 4:6 says my people perish for lack of knowledge. What are you feeding on?
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