Skip to main content

PUBLIC UNDRESSING, EQUALITY AND THE FREEDOMS THAT LIE IN KENYA



 A few weeks ago, a woman was publicly stripped in Donholm, Nairobi by a mob. The decadent act has been repeated a number of times since then.

I have to be candid and state that the act is repulsive, debasing and inhumane.  

As the storm rages, I wanted to pause and answer a few questions that may ideally go to the root of this problem. And I believe it is a deep-sited problem manifesting itself.

The first question I wanted answered is about freedom? What is freedom and within that context what freedoms can a person be afforded.

Freedom is never absolute; we can never escape the control and influence of forces other than ourselves. Absolute freedom where you can do anything you want to do at any given time, in the context of society is a fallacy, there are always contesting bonds in any given society that demand we act in a certain way.

In the “I have a dream ” speech delivered by Martin Luther King in 1963; the resounding fact was that despite the Emancipation Proclamation , signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. And despite its abolition of slavery and the removal of the injustice of inequality, a hundred years later discrimination against blacks was prevalent.  For him freedom was a black man being equal to a white man with a guarantee of the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Which brings me to the second dimension of freedom; to be free you need to possess knowledge, freedom without knowledge is a fallacy, and to be knowledgeable you have to have access to the truth. Many people walk around not knowing the truth about the world around them. Are you knowledgeable?

Another dimension of freedom also incorporates self-imposed discipline. For any society to exist and function it does so in the confines of rule and order. Rule to define function, order to define interaction. For a person to exist freely in a society conformance is required within the straights of such a society.  

From first account, by Dr. Livingstone  and Sir Henry Stanley , it is very evident that less than 150 years ago Africans roamed naked.

Was it gradualism that shifted our African mindset and beliefs, where we clothed all our naivety and gained knowledge according to western precocity?  Did we shift too quickly in embracing the norms of conquering rulers? And in the process discard cultures that took centuries to develop? Were we too quick in dressing up?


These are but ruminations of a conquered people, who have been treated for the longest time as a dark continent, as we begin to assert ourselves and define freedom based on a borrowed prescript.

All around the world there are varying clothing laws that define public decency and how to dress in public.  The bar scales from accepted nudity in Vanuatu and New Guinea, to the complete covering of women in Burqa in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 I believe when you look at the legal systems in a country and its level of inclusivity towards the plight of women, then you begin to understand, the culture that defines women in that society.

You start to ask if equality and freedom needs to be sounded from every hill, every farm, every slope, every desert, every forlorn village across Kenya, and the rest of Africa.




Kenya is predominantly a Christian country. What this presupposes is an inkling of morality, a sense of moral backbone and a formidable sense of brotherhood and love that can be exhibited to the other 200+ countries that we share this world with. Instead what we find is a contradiction. Kenya has one of the highest levels of corruption in the world , and those yielding power are the most corrupt. We have few true leaders to look up to and no moral authority exists in the pulpits of our cathedrals that can sway a country that is considered a teenager in the global platform.


We have a Matatu Industry that has corrupted and incapacitated the police system. Held enough sway to manipulate government policy and refused to govern itself professionally, thus allowing young ‘unemployable’ men, with misgivings about equality, to run the system as touts and drivers, route managers and security detail.
These same people have dreams like the rest of Kenya, dreams to one day, get a good job, support their families, and lead a good life.

They look at the upward mobility of young ‘Millennials’ as they go to work every day in their suits and nice clothes, when they are forced to conform to a drab dress code that is only affirmed when the police requires a bribe.
They see young beautiful women doing better than them despite the fact that African culture dictates that they are supposed to be the breadwinner at home.
They see the unapproachability of these women, as mentally they feel denigrated and excluded from a society that they are the gatekeepers to.

What happens in the end is but evidence of simmering animosity, misplaced jealousy, unbridled misconception and the cycle continues.

There is nothing that sits in isolation; the undressing of innocent women, the violence meted out in Nairobi and the fringes of ungovernable Somalia, the repertoire of noise from quarters of power. All stem from the very DNA that defines us as a people.

Martin Luther King stated it best.

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force”.

 I believe if more Kenyans overcome a self-effacing quest to lampoon the people in power and instead focus on a personal journey of gaining unquestionable moral strength, then we will have a larger pool of quality leaders to elect from; Men and women of high moral caliber whose quest will be justice and freedom for all. Be it men, women, boy child and girl child.  

It only has to start with me.  Will you join me?


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons From a Funeral

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a church. My bike rider kept going further down a dusty path with nothing more than white chalk to direct us along. The noise of the poorly fueled motorcycle kept me focused on an important topic: death. I believed we were lost and surfaced from my trance. "I think I'm going to that church." "Which one?" "That one," An attempt to have a conversation since there was nothing else for miles around except banana trees and maize fields. "The one with the large cross at the top." I entertained my new friend, my inner eyes-rolling. "Woah, that cross is big, bro," I nodded in agreement. We had become fast friends, him sharing his life in intimate detail in the thirty minutes it took to get there. The cross grew more prominent as we got closer. What structure lay below it? Could it support all that? I had arrived at a funeral. Expensive four-wheel-drive cars clogged the large parki

THE FALLACY THAT IS PUBLIC EDUCATION: ARE YOU THAT EDUCATED?

One of the hardest things to embrace and accept in Kenya is that the public education system that a majority of us have gone through is a failure in its entirety and no matter how many patches we apply, or clutches we give it to stagger on, it still is a failure. Typical Classroom in Kenya Don’t get me wrong it worked fine in another century and a different generation, but its usefulness ended a long time ago and just because factories are producing typewriters it doesn't mean every person has to learn how to use one. Let me clarify that statement, the problem with the public education system is that it is predicated on mechanical mass production where people go through a moving conveyor belt called the education system. They are grouped by age and expected to go through higher and higher levels of indoctrination so that at the end of the production line, they conform to a specific ‘quality’ assurance criteria that renders them ready to join other similarly standa

The Key Heist

We all had those days, weeks, and months when something snapped, and we went a bit crazy. This is one such story I kept in the recess of my mind. I was barely ten years old.   "The phone is really nice and shiny," I said, reaching up. It was placed on a high cupboard, in a corner right outside my parent's room. It was kept there so we could also receive calls since our parents were always away working.   Unlike the one before, a quaint rotary system, this one was white and had buttons. It looked so light caged and padlocked in a metal contraption that held it down, hiding the buttons.   Big Sis was standing on a chair beside me engrossed. Her focus was on the manacles holding the phone buttons out of access. With no social media back then, and with little interest in television, Big Sis was looking at her only source of entertainment. The brightest girl in Laikipia District, based on her last award, was stumped. My eyes moved from her to the phone and wondered wha