We must be honest about origins of current situation
Published on February 16, 2008, 12:00 am
By Barrack Muluka
Some kinds of petitions to God are easily exercises in futility. This is particularly so when the petitioner merits so little from Divinity. Sometimes both the style and substance of our devout pleas can be truly confounding. In point of biblical fact, some prayers, God is simply not interested in. They are not worth placing before Him.
I have read where it is written in the Christian book: “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice. Encourage the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1: 15 – 17).
Such is the inchoate scriptural text that makes its way to my consciousness as we fall over one another in frantic prayer for ‘a return to normalcy’. Would God truly want us to go back to ‘Kenya before December 30, 2007’? Was ours such a paradise?
The substance of our ear splitting petitions to God suggests that ‘normalcy’ is where we were before December 30. Then Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman, Mr Samuel M Kivuitu touched off a deadly button.
If you did not know how we got here, you would imagine that without any provocation whatsoever, some angel of mischief unleashed upon us all the plagues we read of in holy writ. You would think that we were the latter-day Job of the Christian book. For, we read of this man, about whom it has been written: “This man was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1: 1). But we read on that, some day, Job’s faith in God was put to test, courtesy of the angel of mischief. He was sent unspeakable calamities to shake his faith. They did not succeed.
The best way to attract from the Dispenser those things that are necessary, it would seem, is simply to deserve them. We need not plead so hard for them — least of all scream for them. In point of fact, I have read that it is not the tantrums we throw that move God. For it is written: “And when you pray, do not babble like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6: 7–8).
Kenya has woken up to harsh reality. She now recognises that she is not immune to the ravages that have turned other African countries into rag-tag failed states. Prayer is good. And I like to pray, too. But is it probably only an anodyne, in our present situation, if we do not hold honest dialogue with our collective national soul? In prayer, as in the Kofi Annan led dialogue, don’t we need to be brutally honest about the origins of our sorry situation?
It was 18th century philosopher, Thomas Paine, who wrote: “Religious duties comprise in doing justice, loving mercy and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” (Age of Reason). And the poet, Samuel T. Coleridge, wrote: “He prayeth well, who loveth well, both man and bird and beast. He prayeth best, who loveth best, all things both great and small; for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.” (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). The substance of our prayers and that of pronouncements from high places give the lie to our declarations of goodwill for our country and for our fellow citizens.
We pray only that we should go back to the ‘normalcy’ of an ostrich-head-in-sand man-eat-man society. We pray for restoration of a calm dishonest society, where the most pious bishop is a shameless liar. He prays for cash and stokes the fires of ethnicity, just like the village groundling. We ask God to restore us to a situation where the scholar is the chief apologist for a lethal tribal killer machine. It is the ‘normalcy’ of a society where the police describe murder as ‘normal crime’ and ministers make cruel jokes about rape and other public tragedy.
Above all, it is a ‘normalcy’ of wastage of the youth and of an oligarchy of drowsy old men. In such ‘normalcy’ inequity in enjoyment of national resources is the norm. An ever widening gap between the rich and the poor is accepted. A selfish, frivolous and joy-loving mob of ‘legislators’ is all right. A Judiciary that nobody trusts, and an anti-corruption authority that cannot bark — let alone bite — is okay.
A public service that is personal property of the head of state is quite in order. A general culture of impunity is quite fine. Five hundred super-rich fellows hold the whole country hostage.
Citizens of goodwill should never accept this kind of ‘normalcy’. They cannot accept it. They must not accept. The men and women tasked to sit with Dr Kofi Annan must tap at the door to universal normalcy.
To do this, they must hold honest dialogue with their personal souls. Indeed, every Kenyan must seek honest counsel with himself. In the absence of this, we can continue to throw tantrums at God. We can call them prayers, if we want. They will yield nothing. For, “he prayeth best, who loveth best, all things, both great and small; for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.”
The writer is a publishing editor and a media consultant with Mvule Africa Publishers. firstname.lastname@example.org