PEV: From Event to Era

A curious thing happened on the way to here.

As soon as the agreement was signed between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, the post-election violence changed tense. It moved, decisively, into the past tense. Politicians spoke with feeling about “what had passed” and “the bad things in January.” They reflected, and continue to reflect, about the “dark age” that we had passed through. In soaring rhetoric, they said we had struggled and come out a little wiser, a little better.

We who had not been killed had not died.

In January and February, those who looked ahead, and there were many, worried about the inevitable crises: the country’s grain basket had been robbed and starvation was knocking; many had not yet been re-settled and diseases caused from overcrowding lurked; many had no security and cases of rape mounted. We worried about the lingering ill feelings that could not be mollified by “forgive and forget,” about the temporality of a PEV that seemed past but also seemed so palpable.

In retrospect, it seems we moved from the event of the PEV into the era of the PEV. We begin our public conversations by invoking it. In private, we sharpen our weapons, keep open plane tickets ready, plan to avoid the return of the repressed.

Despite many promises and many speeches, despite political celebrations of our so-called stability, we are on precarious ground, in a period that can best be defined as a crisis. We live in post-election crisis.

What ails us is not idiopathic. This is not an episode of House and we do not need multiple failed tests and genius guesses to diagnose our condition. It is only a willed blindness that forbids us from seeing the national car is still sliding around in the mud, is tilted precariously, and those of us who are not injured cannot avoid trampling on those who are.

We are unstable.

And the old strategies of forgive and forget urged upon us by our leaders can not work. How does one forgive hunger? How does one forget want?

Our cataract-laden leaders continue to invoke 2012, and those with the luxury to do so also speak of 2012, when ineffective leaders will be voted out, when the people’s voice will be heard, when this, all this, will have to change.

2012 is too far away. And the geo-politics of now daily train the hungry and angry about the power of terror, that might is power, and that unkept promises license violence.

Our leaders cannot continue to believe that their paternalistic promises will suffice for the wananchi. And we cannot continue to believe that we have seen the worst we can do to each other.

In this PEV era, the rules change daily, and the choreography of living evades the rules of sociality. The urgencies of now will not wait for those who can to act, and, daily, those who can’t stand ready to explode.

From here, the tropical dusk glows purple and orange, and the blood-red moon draws closer.

One thought on “PEV: From Event to Era

  1. Oh yes, the dusk grows darker and the bloody moon closer. Death and destruction have only temporarily changed form. Where we killed each other with pangas in January, now we are killing each other with unga prices, with disease. I could not agree more Gukira, we are still in crisis and we are sliding deeper into it by the day. Let me ask you though, does shame play any role in our public life? It strikes me that shame has no place in our public life. Unless of course it is the shame of unzipped trousers at a rally or something along those lines. I bring this up in response to your post since it made me again wonder whether we have any limits that we will not tolerate the degradation and suffering of our neighbours. Such limits would be set by the kind of ability to feel shame that would have led to resignations by senior government officials after January. There was not a single one and there has not been one for decades if my recall is right. Public life in Kenya is shameless while the private life is filled with a passionate desire for dignity and integrity – often in church or inspired by the church. We want to be clean individuals in a filthy pig-sty. That is why when the pangas come again, they will find us and we shall again be ‘surprised’ and shocked.

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