Is Corruption Bad?

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After a too long hiatus from blogging, I delve into not so tasteful questions…


Antoine Dodson

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was at the BET hiphop awards!!! If you don’t know who Antoine Dodson is, it’s time for some Wikipedia, some Youtube, some more Youtube (the cover at the end is atrocious if you ask me) and last, a visit to Antoine’s website. For those of you who are in the know, this isn’t news. I personally don’t trust the news; I like things old and archived, when supporters and detractors have had their say and the dust has settled.Then it’s time to write a fat, money-minting, quasi-historical novel.However, not every piece of ancient history is worthy of attention. The Dodson phenomenon is.

Would all Antoine Dodson fans please raise their hands. Great, but why the hell are you laughing? It’s hilarious (says one fan, chuckling and gasping for air.) Pray tell, which is hilarious. A)The interview, B) the Bed Intruder Song? If A) do you think Antoine Dodson was trying to be funny? Not to me. He was being downright serious. As rape victim himself, he was venting his anger and refusing to act as a victim. Did he go overboard? Some of his neighbors seem to think so–see wikipedia. Apparently, “people like him” (let’s discuss people like him below) shouldn’t be on T.V. embarrassing the community. Okay, I’ll cut the crap. I laughed too the first time I watched that interview. His gestures, his word choice, all that was pretty rib-cracking. But let’s get this straight, I didn’t think Antoine is dumb, and I don’t understand people who think that of him. Perhaps that’s because calm, solemn interviews are the exception on Kenyan T.V. People jostle each other to get five seconds in front of the camera. Some for the fame, some to tell their story. As for the Gregory Brothers’ song, if you don’t find it funny, eeem, get some humor. Am I the only one who thinks Antoine is a natural-born lyricist?

People like Antoine Dodson? What do you mean, Mr. Dodson-detractor? Several answers to this one. The first, alluded to above is that Dodson didn’t play his part as prescribed by society. Victims are supposed to be quiet and ashamed. Second answer, also aforementioned, is that snobs think Dodson hasn’t got brains ‘coz he’s talking all street. Third category haters are the racists. The ones who think that Antoine’s helping promote the stereotypes of his race and the ones who think he’s proving a long held belief about his race. Fourth comes the homophobes. Yes, he’s gay, thank you! Moving on, moving on. Fifth place is for sad, sad people who display all the above symptoms (shit!).

Coda: Antoine Dodson is a remarkable guy, I think. Once a laughing stock, now a home-owner who continues to enjoy his fame in flashy, “feminine” outfits. Deal with it!

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Finally!!! my first real entry under Books Conquered.

A first-read reflection on Zadie Smith’s “The Autograph Man”.

Coming-up next on the main page: Antoine Dodson.

Conversations with Nyayo:

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Questions for our benevolent ex-dictator

His ex-Excellency Daniel Toroitich arap Moi a.k.a “M” “O” “1” a.k.a Mtukufu (His exalted one) a.k.a. Baba and Mama of the Nation ruled Kenya from 1972 to 2002. Upon inheriting power from the founding father, Mzee (the old man) Jomo Kenyatta–who’s own motto was the now world famous Harambee–, M.O.1 declared that he would follow in the footsteps (Nyayo) of the first father, thus providing us the first of names we were to evoke during public expressions of undying love:Nyayo. Raising his rungu–the miniature roundhead mace he still carries (seriously people, I recommend Swahili classes)–he said Harambeeee and we bleated Nyayo, shaking the one index finger high above our heads. Ah, the good old days. Just kidding.

But there are some Kenyans who are not. You’d be amazed how many times I’ve come across web posts calling for the return of Moi. Who can blame us? Those were days of order (Mtukufu was always watching you from his perch at the front of the classroom, right next to naked and crucified Christ) and you knew for sure there would be no election disputes and therefore no near civil wars.

But one youtube comment got me thinking. I was looking for videos of the now defunct Redykyulas. Some background. Redykyulas was a weekly T.V. comedy show featuring Walter Mong’are, Tony Njunguna and John Kiarie a.k.a KJ, students at the time, who ridiculed a lot of ridiculous things happening in Kenya, including Mr. Moi. At the height of the 2002 election campaigns, they put together a skit titled End of an Error in which we watch Moi go to his presidential bed for the last time. He has a nightmare. Waving his rungu over a crowd, he asks “What do you want?” And we say “Rainbow” (a.k.a the National Rainbow Coalition that brought Mwai Kibaki to power). The comment below the video went something like “Poor Moi”.

Really? Poor Moi? Seeing our ex-dictator criss-cross the country this summer, campaigning hard against the new constitution, I was in awe of the man. I would like to sit down with him and ask him, “Man, how did you do it? How do you continue to do it?” Live with himself that is.

We would need an hour at least for this conversation (and I certainly would be shaking like a leaf in a thunderstorm–God, remember those primary school compositions). Having evoked his various titles I would ask Mzee,
1) what would you say was your greatest accomplishment for Kenya? And by the way,have you tried the New Thika Road super highway? It’s pretty smooth, right?
2) have you heard about the Goldenberg scandal? Someone called Kamlesh Pattni says he knows you. Like knows knows you.
3) tell us about the Nyayo torture chambers. Your ingenious plan?
4) how come the 8-4-4 education system, specially designed to help us youth help ourselves,  is making us quite retarded?
5) you are the professor of politics? Do you see your genius at work at all in any of the tribal conflicts going around like a flu?
6) is a corruption-free Kenya possible? Are you thinking what I’m thinking about these promises?
7) what did you say to God all those Sundays we watched you in church? Your Kingdom, my kingdom?
8] you remember the Dream Team? How exactly did Richard Leakey fall for that?
9) that public apology, Jamhuri day, 2002, “If there is someone I have wronged, please forgive me” was that it? Nothing, say packets of Maziwa ya Nyayo, orsome cooking oil or bundles of cash to soothe our sour souls?
10) despite all the small grievances we hold against you, how exactly have we ended up giving you a multi-million retirement paradise?

Questions for the Exalted one are plenty, of course, but they all boil down to “How does this guy live with himself?” Anyone got clues, let me know.

In the meantime, I recommended End of an Error by Redykyulass

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Watch out for a trip through Junot Diaz’s short story Fiesta (under books conquered)

African, Black, Colour: the American Alphabet

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“Black” was not a term I associated with myself until I got to America. I had been Meru, Kenyan and (sometimes) African. I was aware of the racial issues in America (thank you Hollywood), but those were American issues. Nothing to do with me. Well, until I found myself a member of the  Black Students’ Union at my new college.  A recent donation had allowed the college to enlarge its doorway for students from further afield. Places with shallow pockets and lots of  disadvantage (as per the American definition). As such, there was no African Students’ Union at my college and someone had decided that I would fit just fine into the BSU. Eeem, no, I’m not Black. I’m African. No, you’re Black because all the peoples of the motherland are black, said one Black Studies major (no African studies major either). No, they are not (trying hard to suppress my irritation). The Africans in that year’s class came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Nine in total. Two and a half joined the BSU, interweaving the burdens of the continent with those of the new World.

The rest of us Africans went through our undergraduate years un-unionized. We never quite got together to discuss our discomfort with “Black”. My own view on the issue was that to call an African Black was to generalize American racial distinctions. Black is firstly an opposite or opposition to White. If there were no white racism, there would be no African-Americans (old sense of the term. Check out Mr. Obama for the new sense of the term). That’s not to say that Black culture is only a reaction to centuries of brutal oppression. It’s a distinct American culture, different even from the African cultures from which it evolved (no, we don’t celebrate Kwaanza in Africa). My point is that it was born out of American circumstances and therefore the term Black could not be used to describe all peoples of African ancestry. If you got to have a name, then I think it should be the first ( i.e. existing before all this racial crap) name:African, said I to the Black Studies major.

Wow, wow, wow, slow down people (this is me four years later in an African lit class). The professor has just asked if J.M. Coetzee is an African writer. Hell, no, said I, the man says he’s not an African writer, but a European one; I am not going to argue with him. This discussion took place after a reading of Coetzee’s Boyhood in which he recounts in  third-person (raise thine eyebrow) his childhood longing for European (i.e. British) ancestry as opposed to Afrikaner ancestry at the beginning of Apartheid. They are lots of white and coloured (mixed-race) people in the book but a single native (read African). Such terms as white-Africans, coloured-Africans and black-Africans floated around the class, and I cringed. I hate those hyphens (heard the line that only white are American and everyone else is hyphenated?). We quickly slipped into a discussion about what it means to be African. Now what kind of a question is that? Like me, of course. You mean someone with your skin type? asked person sitting across the table. (Cheap trap. Ha ha. African is my identity, mine, mine, mine). Well, no, not really, said I, it’s about ancestry, about connection to the… (I tasted my tongue for the right word) the earth, the soil. And 400 years of Afrikaner settlement is not enough? (Please, you kidding me, woman. My people have been there for forever. Cradle of life, hello?)

I left that class horrified by my own jealous possession of “African” identity. I’m still not Black. I’m still uncomfortable about groups of people who don’t wish to be associated with Africans being called Africans. But whatever. Anyone who thinks he is African, let him be AS LONG AS he dares not hyphenate me. Only one term now annoys me. This people of colour. Haiya! Let’s move away from a black-white binary to a white-everyone else binary as though those people of colour are harmoniously sitting around waiting for their good share of white racism and not quite passionately cutting each other down. Where do people find these terms? In a garbage heap?

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