Shame of elites dip­ping fin­gers into pub­lic cof­fers

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

In what passes as proper com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the pub­lic ser­vices of Kenya, Malawi, Tan­za­nia, Uganda, Zam­bia, Zim­babwe and other for­mer colonies of West­ern Europe, the or­dained way to

is to col­lude in dip­ping long fin­gers into the pub­lic’s safes. It in­cludes the prac­tice of tak­ing bribes in or­der to per­form one or another il­le­gal “ser­vice” to an in­di­vid­ual or group.

To then – through the mouths of East Africa’s users of English, in­clud­ing re­li­gious ones – is the tap­root of the prob­lem. It is to ben­e­fit in­hu­manly, in­clud­ing theft from one’s em­ployer, in what the English lan­guage nor­mally calls cor­rup­tion. In the minds of East Africa’s con­sumers of news­pa­pers and other pub­lic me­dia, some­body had some­thing very sub­stan­tial in the run-up to one set of Kenya’s re­cent par­lia­men­tary and lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

The sub-editors were so sure of it that, in their page-one “splash” head­line on Fri­day, Novem­ber 30, they posed the fol­low­ing tell­tale ques­tion to the lin­guis­ti­cally long-suf­fer­ing read­ers of Kenya’s English-lan­guage news­pa­pers: “Who what? Elec­tion chiefs ex­pose the rot”.

In the East African ver­sion of the lan­guage of the Queen of Eng­land, to is to ben­e­fit crim­i­nally, of­ten co­pi­ously, from an or­gan­i­sa­tion, es­pe­cially the gov­ern­ment. For in­stance, to is to ha­bit­u­ally take a bribe. In gen­eral, to is to ben­e­fit il­le­gally, crim­i­nally and un­justly, of­ten con­cern­ing some com­mu­nal prop­erty.

The crim­i­nal method of the in­di­vid­ual or group ben­e­fit­ting has been the story of Kenya’s pub­lic ser­vice (and even that of pri­vate com­pa­nies), es­pe­cially since

1963, when Kenyans fell into the il­lu­sion that they had ceased to be sub­jects of ex­ploita­tion. West­ern Europe was the coun­try whose elite had taught the bud­ding elites of soon-to-be-in­de­pen­dent African and other Third World coun­tries on how to dip long fin­gers into the pub­lic’s in­creas­ingly shal­low cof­fers.

If, then, the Third World’s ed­u­cated classes, spe­cially Africa’s, are, as a mat­ter of fact, ter­ri­bly cor­rupt, we owe it com­pletely to those who in­tro­duced us to a few things al­leged to be “ed­u­ca­tion” , “moral­ity,” “civil­i­sa­tion” and cor­rect eco­nomic prop­erty or­gan­i­sa­tion. We owe it to Euro­pean ideas which are al­leged to add up to some­thing called “civil­i­sa­tion”. It is like ad­vo­cat­ing the jun­gle life be­tween lions and hares.

If dirty ac­tiv­i­ties are ram­pant through­out East Africa, even the most su­per­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion will re­veal that what our teach­ers, in­clud­ing re­li­gious ones, al­lege to be ed­u­ca­tion, is the source of it. It is that the other per­son – be­cause he or she is armed with the same phi­los­o­phy of civil­i­sa­tion (namely, grab­bing) – is our enemy num­ber one.

What Europe has forced us to as­sume as ed­u­ca­tion is the tap-root of all of our hor­ri­bly in­hu­man in­jus­tices to one another. In East Africa and other for­mer Euro­pean colonies, greed and cor­rup­tion are the province – the badge – of the “ed­u­cated elite”. That, quite clearly, is a ter­ri­ble mis­use of lan­guage. How can a prop­erly ed­u­cated hu­man be­ing be­have like a hyena against another hu­man be­ing and then go on to say he is “civilised”?

Prac­ti­cally all mem­bers of the ed­u­cated classes through­out East Africa are hun­grier for quick prop­erty and more prone to ma­te­rial crimes than are the lar­vae of but­ter­flies. The class­rooms both of Euro­peans and ours teach us di­rectly that a per­son’s “suc­cess” is to be mea­sured by the amount of ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions that the per­son has “stashed away”. To “amass” prop­erty nor­mally en­tails di­rect rob­bery of other hu­man be­ings, es­pe­cially of the pub­lic. It or­di­nar­ily means vi­o­lent rob­bery and theft by our so­cio-eco­nomic peers.

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