We labor under the bleached innocence of ahistoricity.
Persistence is return, so I return to a series of questions:
What made people like me erase their histories of conviviality and rape and torture and kill each other? What turned cosmopolitan districts like Nakuru into ethno-genocidal zones? Is there a structural weakness to Kenyan cosmopolitanism, to the presumed social contracts that anchor and secure it?
To ask these questions is to question the grand historical narratives we are constructing, in which “politicians,” from Kenyatta to Raila and Kibaki, create the national, regional, local, public, and intimate histories, presents, and futures we inhabit.
But these grand historical narratives fail to explain the pull of hailing. What was the existing hook, indent, hole that could be drawn to join in a call to arms? What public, ethnic, intimate, and familial stories and histories made individuals pliable, ready to be hailed into being as particular kinds of warring subjects?
How do we fail when we presume that the noble aims of national reconciliation and healing address our quotidian micro-fractures?
I ask these questions because they trouble me, not because I have answers.
We are already talking about the holidays. KCPE exams are done and my niece closes school on Thursday of this week. We have planned holidays here and there, long, lazy days of visiting and talking and eating and smiling and playing. And, no doubt, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol will play on Kenyan tv as it has for as long as I can remember.
What if we could re-write the script?
Not Dickens, but PEV, a script we authored?
Who would be haunted? Who would haunt? What lessons do the haunters have to teach? Would we listen?
Ghost of PEV Past: In 1992 you promised a solution
Ghost of PEV 2008: You promised a solution
Ghost of PEV 2013: Will you promise a solution?
Reports are trickling in.
As the politicians dance, the people sharpen weapons. As the politicians talk, the young men practice how to swing machetes. As the politicians prevaricate, the people swear never again.
Ghost of PEV Past: Even when I chose not to vote, my votes were multiplied, 1,000 registered voters multiplied by 100. Jesus math.
Ghost of PEV Present: The fiercest warriors begin as hyenas. They eat the bones of the aggrieved and transmogrify to exact revenge.
Ghost of PEV Future: Here, there used to be a town. Here, we used to be a people. Here, we used to play. And in that bar, I borrowed cigarettes from everyone.
A Christmas Carol preaches redemption.
What is the lesson of the PEV Dirge?