Bridging The Gap

Brenda Wambui
24 April ,2018

Human beings struggle with confirmation bias – we easily accept information that confirms our already existent beliefs while rejecting that which does not. This is why no amount of throwing facts at someone who you think or know is wrong will change their minds. They just tend to reject the information you gave them, give you their opinion, and become even more firmly rooted in their views. Appealing to rationality or logic works very few times, and requires people to be open minded. So we have to find another way. A way that works.

Researchers at Cornell University looked into this, and established some things: First, numbers are important. The more people that reinforce a point of view, the likelier they are to change a person’s mind. A good example is the doctor’s strike in Kenya that ran until early 2017. Initially, many were against it, but after it garnered widespread support and many people began endorsing it on mainstream and social media, it was difficult to come across people who still opposed it, except of course those who were partial to the government.

Timing is also key. The arguments the person encounters first are the likeliest to stick for your position, so arguments should be fine-tuned as they are taken as a blanket representation of a position. It is also important to use calm language. Which is hard, especially when arguing for things one is passionate about, but it is important to observe this. Being able to explain one’s position from different points of view also helps, as opposed to hammering the same point over and over again.

Daryl Davis, a musician who has actually convinced KKK leaders to change their minds and leave the Klan, echoes these findings. His efforts have been fruitful, as the KKK has been unable to re-establish a presence in his home state of Maryland, USA. He urges us to give our opponents a platform to express their views honestly without fear of attack, even when we do not respect what they are saying.

Then, we must counter their stance with knowledge. One should be able to argue the opponent’s position and why they think that way as well as the opponent can, or even better. Know their position as well as you know yours. This prepares you for what they will say, and probably how they will act. This helps with the calm language and attitude suggested by the researchers at Cornell University.

Second, he says you need to focus on having a conversation, not a debate. What’s the difference? A conversation is more focused on listening. A debate is something to win. There is a winner and a loser, and nobody wants to lose. In a conversation, the fact that one is open to hearing the other side means that they will probably reciprocate and be open to hearing one’s side. As he says, “when you are actively learning about someone else, you are passively teaching them about yourself.”

He recommends that we look for similarities. As we focus more and more on what we have in common, what we don’t have in common matters less and less. He also reinforces the importance of dialogue. When two opposing sides are talking, they are not fighting – they are talking. It is when the talking stops that violence has a chance to take root, so it’s important to keep talking. The more we keep conversation going, the more we find common ground.

All this requires patience. Patience to sit or stand there and hear things you don’t believe in and know aren’t true. To have the conversation without being condescending. Patience to keep going through this process because people’s minds rarely change instantly upon hearing a good argument.

Davis says that we must not explain people’s movements for them – we must let them explain, and then address the points in their explanation. Take note of them as they explain – let them finish, and then address these points. This only works if you have done the work, so do the work. He emphasizes something important. Most times, people are just afraid of the other. Of what’s different. Or who’s different. Which is why we must practice empathy. According to The School of Life, the key to empathizing with the other person is to understand that they’re actually the ones in pain. The only reason they are hurting us is because somewhere deep inside they are hurting themselves. They are not well.

How do we practice empathy? First, be curious. Actually want to know the other person’s point of view, their struggles. Be curious about why they think that way. Be curious about your own point of view. This curiosity is what will inspire you to seek knowledge on both sides. Second, listen, not with the intention to reply, but with the intention to genuinely understand. Ask follow up questions where you need more information. Practice stepping in their shoes and taking their view point. Then, go further and see how you would be talked out of that viewpoint.

Hopefully, if enough of us in our respective societies do this, we may be able to see a change, and live in a society where love, inclusion and acceptance thrive, as opposed to hatred, division and intolerance.

Writing Sunsets

Michael Onsando
17 April ,2018

Suppose I wanted to write about a sunset. How would I do that? Would I begin by describing the colours? The smell? The sounds? I ask because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to start this essay and the most apparent way was to write about a sunset. But how would one go about writing about a sunset without making it seem like they were writing about another banal thing. Even if it were the most fantastic sunset that they had seen – it would still be another banal thing to write about, because we know, as a thing, that the sun will set – fantastically beautifully at times too.

“They are here.”

Little has to be said after that. We will remember Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

A fragment of something I’ve been failing at writing:

I miss my grandfather. In many ways I imagine this is when our relationship would have been strongest. United by a common misunderstanding of the world. Except he’d lean towards hope – and I to despair, or the other way round. Maybe this is a romanticisation – it is the only thing you can do to someone who only lives through fragments of memory.

This is not a tribute.

“She will forever be revered and remembered as a social worker, a consummate leader of our Struggle, a mother not only to her daughters but to us all and, most important, our firebrand shero.”

Maybe only a little.

Another in a series of notable deaths:

“As folks mourn Matiba, it must not be forgotten that he was one of that class of Kenyans who used public office to enrich themselves; and while he did take a brave stand for multipartyism, it was he who wrecked the original FORD, condemning us to an extra decade of Nyayo.”

As the sun sets on the independence generation and we see icons fall to nature (rather than to the other brutal ways in which we have seen icons fall) we are pressed every day to see the world through their lenses. Increasingly we are forced to ask ourselves – is this the world for which was fought and bled?

And, in holding ourselves to this light we find ourselves returning to the vision of freedom.

“You need to talk to Kenyans, explaining why you did this [deal] and what is the objective of it all. And this must not be about power-sharing”

To remember that freedom is a negotiation. And that the question on freedom must be asked to all. And that the answer, in truth, will always be complicated. And, because we know it is complicated, we know we must ask – for to ask is to interrogate further towards the truth. Because we know that those that lead us can, and will, let us down.

We look at ourselves – the ones who were supposed to be free. And we find ourselves still unfree despite it all. Despite an entire generation having gone past.

“But what do you know of the freedom that you seek?”

Now one can ask – but what is freedom? Well, freedom is a multi-faceted concept. Just like oppression, freedom is custom made. So to that question one responds “fees must fall” and another responds “repeal 162” and so forth and so forth. But freedom is not something that is given to you. And so the paradox – of being told you are the free and yet feeling unfree.

It is this space between where we are and what is free that their vision allows us to see. In holding ourselves to a nation that could only be dreamed, we see the places where our reality just fails to live up.

Still, even as we hold ourselves to these visions (and pursue accurate representations through research, debate and google) we must remember that these dreams were also just dreams for a time. And that we need to also actively shape what we have for a future that might not look like where we are coming from (despite moi era alarmists. The alarm might be necessary, but the moi distracts).

We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us.”

Which is why I ask about a sunset. Like death, we know there will be a sunset tomorrow. And so to write about it would be to say, “This thing. This thing that we knew was going to happen. It has happened, as things happen. Except this time; it was fucking beautiful.’

In Pursuit of Power

Michael Onsando
3 April ,2018

What is power?

I ask because we need to look closely at this thing that we spend a lot of time assuming we all understand. We say that people have power of others and what do we mean? One could say power is the ability to allocate resources (financial, emotional, opportunities). Perhaps it is the ability to influence the way people make decisions using a variety of tactics. Still, these definitions seem to be a result of power rather than the thing power itself.

Without becoming overly philosophical – I ask this because there are assumptions we make in conversations that might be hindrances to the truth. We assume, for example, that the priviledged person will have power of the less privileged one – but is that true?

And if so, what is power?

“In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me – who lives and who dies?”

It becomes evident that power lies in will. In this case, who the sellsword wills to kill. Will is, of course, the initial driver of ability – we will ourselves to do things. It is the collective will of the people that moves societies. This will comes from authority. We will ourselves to do what we want but we bend our will when faced by an authority(real or perceived). The thing about authority is, there are few places where we must bow to authority. In the office, for example, we must follow what the people in charge want. In society, we must follow the law – but there are few others. All other ways in which we succumb to the will of others are voluntary. Or beyond voluntary, transactional. For example, you still bend your will sometimes for your parents because you would like to continue to receive their good graces.

And, of course there are people who bend their will to suit what you want – tis the nature of life.

Hence creation of authority creates an illusion of power. And, because power itself is an illusion then it might as well be the real thing.

The reason this is important is perhaps in realizing this we can begin to see how we have assigned authority based on our definitions of power and how that has affected our interactions with people. For example – how does your assumption that all women are emotional affect how you interact with women? Do you thus perform actions that provoke an emotional reaction and confirm your theory? Or your idea that all men are cold and emotionless – do you go around being pre-emptively microaggressive and thus making sure people keep their distance from you and confirm your theory? What authorities have we given people (how have we organized the worlds in our heads) and how does this authority shape who we think people are (and who we think we should be)?

Perhaps now it becomes clearer that when we speak of “reclaiming our power” we are not necessarily talking about moving in opposition to something, rather than moving towards actualization of our own will. And in order to know what our own will is we must start by trying to see the world we are trying to create – what it looks like, who can live there and how to get there. It might seem like the same thing, but is very different from simply identifying the things we do not want in the world.

Because many times the very thing we don’t like is a reflection of ourselves, and positions based on negatives often lead to debates about exceptions. For example “we would like to eliminate murder from the world” leads to questions like “what about self defense? Or manslaughter?” Whereas building from a place of “we would like a world where people are not pushed to violence” allows us to have the conversation from a place of laying the groundwork and creating the environment for the non-existence of murder.

The second statement starts from a place of before the murder has happened and begins to address the root cause, rather than begin from “okay, a murder has happened – the person who murdered is bad, how do we punish them?” Rather than destroy what has already been willed it begins with the bottom – what moved the will in the first place? And this conversation leaves room for solutions that could be more sympathetic rather than punitive towards the murderer and hence leaving room to break long term cycles. This is because the first position assigns that murderer the authority of evil. All evil begins and ends with the act of murder. Whereas the second position distributes the violence – allows for the murder to be part of a larger picture.

Just to clarify that I’m not saying that this should be how we write laws. Rather it is how we should approach conversations. Rather than assign privilege the authority of evil in a conversation, how would it change if we walked into conversations and stripped people of the authorities they are supposed to have – and ourselves of the ones we assumed ourselves to have – and tried to reach/understand? Where would conversations go? What kind of solutions would show themselves?

“…get firsthand information. Know for yourself what it feels like. And then you too can become a superhuman empathetic person. You can care about people you never met, and worry about problems you don’t even have.”

So this week, maybe a question. Who have you given authority? Who have you given your power? Where do you bend your will? And how can you stand up straight?

Why Kenyans Should Worry Even More About Facebook

Brenda Wambui
27 March ,2018

Facebook has recently found itself in hot water after a whistle-blower came out to talk about how Cambridge Analytica, a firm associated with both Uhuru Kenyatta’s and Donald Trump’s elections, mined the data of about 50 million users of the platform and used it to target them with often divisive political messaging. This is far greater than the initial estimate made in 2017 of 30 million accounts. This cannot be considered a breach of data, as they did it using the tools that Facebook gives third party developers access to, but a breach of users’ trust on Facebook’s part. They did not even bother to tell their users about this breach until March 2018 when the whistle-blower came out.

Hot on the heels of this information, it was recently revealed that Facebook, now known for being irresponsible with user data, has been storing extremely detailed logs of the date, time, duration and recipient of Android users’ calls when they have Messenger or Facebook Lite installed on their devices. It is worth noting that most Kenyans with smartphones are on Android. However, our concerns about Facebook should be even greater.

I recall clearly when Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, came on an “Africa tour” in 2016 and stopped by Nairobi to “learn about mobile money.” Before that, he had been to Lagos to meet with local businesses and developers to understand how Facebook “better support tech development and entrepreneurship across Africa. While he tried to portray his visit as altruistic, it was anything but.

Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has invested in Andela to the tune of USD 24 million, and, Facebook’s Free Basics Initiative (under their Internet.org arm) is active in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, among others. Free Basics is a platform provided by Facebook in association with various telecom operators in different countries (in Kenya it’s Airtel), where certain basic websites are available free of cost. They hope that “by introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these websites, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.”

According to their website, it provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less affordable. The websites are available for free without data charges, and include content on things like news, employment, health, education and local information. They go on to say: “the internet is essential to growing the knowledge we have and sharing it with each other. And for many of us, it’s a huge part of our everyday lives. But most of the world does not have access to the internet. Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative with the goal of bringing internet access and the benefits of connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that doesn‘t have them.”

Free Basics, however, is not all roses. It only allows users to access a very small section of the internet, and that portion is under the control of a corporation that chooses what services will be accessible for free. Since when can corporations be trusted with so much power? It offers unequal and biased access to the internet. The people at Facebook have to think your website is a “useful” basic, using standards that are unknown to the rest of us, and then allow free access to it on certain carriers. The selectiveness of the whole thing is amazing. Facebook partners with select Internet service providers to provide selective access to select websites. And then, they call it Free Basics, yet the very implication of the word basics is access to all.

This goes against the principle of net neutrality, which is the belief that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. Through this service, Facebook becomes a gatekeeper: all web traffic generated on Internet.org goes through their servers, which spells trouble because it creates room for surveillance and privacy violations, since so much data is being concentrated in such few services.

Spying governments and hackers are now able to target very specific websites to get your data. This is made even worse by the fact that Facebook does not allow encryption on Internet.org (because the websites need to be light and load fast), yet this is one good way to protect users from online attacks. This is every hacker’s dream. To make matters worse, people worldwide confuse Facebook with the internet, while many others do not know that Facebook itself is on the internet. Isn’t it problematic if they become the main gatekeeper for the majority?

Free Basics also lacks transparency. What are the policies regarding user data? What happens when governments request for data access? What are the partnership terms with the telcos they are partnering with? How are core services for the service selected? What about the ones that are rejected? Why are they rejected? Who exactly covers the costs incurred by the telcos for providing this service? Are they being paid more or less than what they usually get paid by consumers for data? And most importantly, why is Facebook creating a walled garden? What about companies that are unable to, for some reason, meet whatever vague requirements Facebook has for being on the platform? Are they dead on arrival?

Perhaps the plan is for Facebook to increase its dominance in the market, get customers hooked on this free stuff, price others out of the market, and do whatever it damn well pleases after that. But how well is this plan working? Not too well. Buzzfeed did a piece on who is actually using Free Basics, and as you can imagine, the results will shock you. Most of the mobile operators in question that responded to their questions, and not Facebook, were actually the ones subsidizing the data because they believe it is a good customer acquisition and retention strategy. However, most of the people using Free Basics were not first time internet users. Many of them already have data plans and just use Free Basics to reduce their costs.

If Facebook really cared about providing access to the underserved, why not use its massive influence to urge telcos to offer data plans with low data caps to marginalized communities? Or, why not pay for this themselves? Then, everyone can have equal access to the internet? This fight has now been brought to Africa’s doorstep. Facebook lost this fight in India, and we must not let them win here. If a country with over 1.2 billion people can resist this giant corporation with a unified voice, so can African countries.

In India, they had a rallying cry against Free Basics: that it was poor internet for poor people. This is essentially what it is. They marched on the streets, protested online, and they targeted companies that had agreed to partner with Facebook, rating them poorly, until one by one, they dropped out of the programme. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India put out a letter to Facebook that ended with important questions, and the way Facebook handled this was terrible, and resulted in Internet.org being banned in India. They went on with a ham fisted approach, taking out billboards, newspaper ads, and sending millions of SMSs. They even asked people to call their telcos, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Zuckerberg learned from this very public humiliation, and this no doubt was behind his charm offensive in Africa. We have to be smart about this; we too must say no. We are at an important crossroads. The next billion can go online like we do now, and enjoy unfettered, nondiscriminatory access to the internet, with all the knowledge hosted there and the tools available for them to express freely. Or, they can get a second class experience. Poor internet for poor people, with limited access to the web as dictated by big blue.

It’s up to us to choose.

Why We Should #Repeal162

Guest Writer
20 March ,2018

by Elizabeth Kabari

You may have seen the hashtag #Repeal162 on your social media feeds recently. Some of you are sure that it concerns you; others are sure that it doesn’t. However, it should concern everyone because it is a human rights issue, and the denial of rights for one is a denial of rights for all.

The #Repeal162 movement is a part of the struggle for the recognition and protection of the rights of the LGBTQIAPK community in Kenya. It consists of 2 ongoing court cases: Eric Gitari v Attorney General & another (Petition no. 150 of 2016) and John Mathenge and 7 others v Attorney General (Petition no. 234 of 2016).

The main purpose of these petitions is to ask the court to declare Section 162 (a) and (c) and section 165 of the Penal Code (Cap 63) as unconstitutional and therefore inapplicable in Kenya.

Section 162 of the Penal Code makes it a felony, punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment, for any person to:

  1. have carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
  2. have carnal knowledge of an animal; or
  3. permit a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature.

Additionally, where the above acts are performed without the consent of the other person or where consent was obtained through force, coercion, lies etc, the prison sentence goes up to 21 years.

Section 165 is similar and states that:

Any male person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or private, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years.

Both sections fall under the chapter 15 of the Penal Code which provides for “offences against morality.” The Penal Code we have is basically copied and pasted from 19th Century Colonial English criminal law. This chapter in particular exists to ensure that Christian principles, which were very important in England at that time, could be more thoroughly enforced. This is illustrated by the language used in the chapter.

For example, Section 151 criminalises the “detention of females for immoral purposes” while Section 153 criminalises persistently soliciting or importuning for “immoral purposes”. The phrase “immoral purposes” as used in these sections means a sexual purpose. This conflation of morality and sex is a very Judeo- Christian idea. Furthermore, Section 165 criminalises “gross indecency” between men. The term “gross indecency” is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a term formerly used to denote certain criminal offences, in particular sexual activity between men (before this was decriminalized) and sexual offences against children”. The Judeo-Christian influence shines through here too.

The purpose of the law should not be to enforce morality, Christian or otherwise. Law should be a means by which people’s behaviour is regulated to ensure they do not harm each other and can co-exist peacefully.

What’s the difference? Morality is a fluid and subjective code. Every culture, religion, group has its own moral code, and this code is constantly changing and evolving to suit the needs and context of the people. Therefore, the law cannot be a tool for enforcing morality in non-homogenous societies such as Kenya which consists of at least 44 tribes, at least 6 religions (if you cluster all the various Christian denominations into one religion and traditional religions into another), 3 main economic classes…the list goes on.

With all this diversity, it is impossible that we will all subscribe to the same moral codes, and even more impossible that we will all agree on Christian morality as the way to go. Thus, the law should be neutral.

This concept is acknowledged in our Constitution. We note that one of the reasons we adopted our Constitution is because we are “…proud of our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, and determined to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation.” We recognize that to live in peace together, we need to come up with a common set of supreme rules which bind and protect everyone. We accept that we cannot depend on our individual moral codes if we are to co-exist because if we do so, we exclude Kenyans who do not subscribe to the same code from protection and recognition by the law.

In the case of Section 162 and Section 165, we have not only excluded the LGBTQI community from protection by the law, but also justified their persecution.

Furthermore, there is no definition in Cap 63 of the phrase “against the order of nature” which is used in Section 162(a) and (c). If we were to interpret is as lay people, there would also be no way to determine what the “order of nature” is. Nature is as nature does and thus varies from species to species and from time to time.

However, the Kenyan courts have accepted that whatever this phrase means, it includes sodomy, more specifically, anal penetration of one man by another. This interpretation is one that was inherited from England, just like our Penal Code. I used the phrase “includes sodomy” because, from my understanding of the Kambi case referenced above, sex that is “against the order of nature” does not seem to only be limited to sodomy. Hence, case law only gives us a partial definition.

If we are to assume based on this partial definition and our understanding of the origins of the Penal Code, and purpose of Chapter 15 in particular, that the natural order of sex is sex for procreation, then any sex that cannot result in reproduction is outlawed by Section 162(a) and (c). This includes: oral sex, hand-play, anal sex etc. It is irrelevant whether the sex is between heterosexual participants or homosexual participants.

Section 162(c) makes it clear that consent is not a defence as it expressly outlaws consensual sex merely on the grounds that it is “against the order of nature”, that is, against the Christian idea of what sex should look like. Meanwhile, Section 165 criminalises all sexual activities between men regardless of whether there is consent or not, because that is not how Christianity envisions sex. The criminal element in these sections is derived purely from the kind of sex being had, not because there is anything inherently wrong with said sex, but because the Bible decreed it to be wrong.

While there is nothing wrong with subscribing to Christian ideals when it comes to sex or anything else, this is a personal and private decision in which the state should not interfere. Similarly, where people choose not to subscribe to Christian ideals, the law should not interfere. The law only comes in when, in upholding their beliefs, a person goes against the supreme rules that we have all agreed on – the Constitution. For example, in the case of sexual relationships, the law should only come in where a constitutional right is violated, such as nonconsensual sex, which violates the right to human dignity (Article 28) and the right to freedom and security of the person (Article 29).

By forcing Christian ideals on all Kenyans, Section 162 (a) and (c) and Section 165 violate the right to freedom from discrimination (Article 27), the right to privacy (Article 31), and freedom of conscience and belief and opinion (Article 32).

Finally, there’s the issue of enforcing these sections. When addressed promptly and efficiently, it is easy to prove sodomy (in this instance, I use sodomy to mean the nonconsensual anal penetration of one male by another) and bestiality. However, in the case of the consensual sex criminalised by Section 162(a) and (c) and Section 165, how can you prove anything happened?

In the first place, you have no victim(s), thus no complaint to the police and no P3 form. This means no material evidence.  And, unless this sex was had in public, you have no witnesses and consequently, no oral evidence. How can you prosecute such a case? You can’t; at least not successfully.

Because of the difficulty in actually proving these cases, the police seldom bother to follow through with arrests made under Section 162 and 165, unless the offence complained of is sodomy or bestiality. However, this does not stop police from raiding gay bars and other gay-friendly spaces to harass patrons, threaten them with charges of prostitution and sodomy, and in some cases, arrest and extort them for money. This is a blatant violation of human rights.

Chapter 15 also leads government officials to believe they have the power to outlaw events that they think promote homosexuality. While such declarations have no standing in law because they are procedurally defective, they are still effective and interfere with the lives of Kenyans generally, be they part of the LGBTQI community or not.

Whichever way you look at it, be it from a validity standpoint or from an enforcement point of view, Section 162 (a) and (c) and Section 165 of the Penal Code have no place in Kenya. They call for the State to insert itself where it does not belong and interfere with Kenyans’ enjoyment of their rights. They also enable the harassment and extortion of Kenyans by police. 

Most importantly, they threaten the diversity we cite as a point of national pride in our Constitution. which is why we all need to support the #Repeal162 movement.

Elizabeth is an advocate with a passion for human rights and a love for research and reading.

Under the Same Light

Michael Onsando
27 February ,2018

And, as the winds of change continue sweeping across the continent, we continue to push ourselves to find more spaces within which we can look at ourselves critically. The more we go into the act of realizing our own freedoms, the more important the question of creating space for each other becomes. And, as this happens, the more the questions on sharing space press upon us (and of course included in this question are questions on identity, perception, representation and so forth and so forth). On twitter Zoe Samudzi writes:

“Inclusivity is the recognition of a diverse set of narratives, experiences and identities. And while intersectionality can and often does mean that, it often doesn’t. It has specific political origins that are erased when it is made synonymous with inclusivity.”

I’d like to talk about deconstruction – and how we hold the things we find, and how this in itself, is a way things become what they are. Or, as it has been put before, “can’t change the world until we change ourselves.  In this way I would like to talk about vulnerability, how we handle vulnerability – and what that means for who we allow to be vulnerable.

It has been said that the work of building men must be done by men. And, of course, in creating that space, we must begin with a simple preposition. That we exist and that the realities created and rooted in our experiences are valid. This is important in a world where you rarely hear the word masculinity without the word toxic before it. If the problem lies within masculinity and must be resolved within it – then we must allow for an examination of masculinity itself.

I’d like to argue that there’s little space for this expression within feminism (and, of course, why should there be? The space, as designed, is safe for women and, in doing that must first of all begin with the perceptions of women (or, to see through feminist frames is to see through women’s eyes). Again, which is important because the unlistening of women has been happening (and continues to happen) globally.

Somehow though, the discussions seem to come up in opposition of each other. It is impossible to have a conversation about feminism without someone coming along to talk about the boy child. And it becomes increasingly more difficult to look at masculinity without it being dismissed as “masculinity so fragile” or just “men are trash” (Yes, I know men are trash is a structural critique, but if used to silence vulnerability in a conversation that was opened up deliberately to speak about one thing it gets in the way of vocalization).

At this point it would be important to emphasize that this is not to argue for the creation of a space within feminism. Perhaps it is an echo of an earlier essay where I wrote about the importance of creating a space for men outside the space of feminism (which goes back to what Zoe said about intersectionality vs inclusivity). Even as we see intersectionality as a tool towards greater freedoms, how do we begin to understand and create inclusive spaces?

I’ve always been big on breaking perceptions. Part of the problem, as always, is the ways in which we see people and the ways in which we treat them based on who we have decided they are before we kno who they are.  And how these decisions affect the ways in which we refuse to see (and hear) them. Because with continued unlistening and unseeing comes silencing. And with silencing comes the destruction of empathy (or, why must I see you as human in this same way that you have refused to see me?).

And, with the destruction of empathy, comes the cyclical collapse of everything else.

Can you live

in the radical world

you imagine?

From a practical perspective it would be as simple as saying “well, we’re all stuck here – where do we go from here?” Are the radical utopias we imagine actually habitable when we place humans within them? Or are they a collection of political positions that lack the human at the centre? Can we deconstruct your radical utopia backwards through time towards the present? Did you start with a sense of where we are? Or did you simply present where you would like us to be?

Towards this, perhaps it would be helpful to stop seeing the issues at play as opposing each other (no one wins the oppression olympics). Perhaps, when engaging with conversations. It would help to first contextualize. And, when presenting our arguments, it would be best to speak towards a clear forward rather than against whatever it is that is presented.

Speaking on listening, Jordan Peterson argues that one of the best ways to listen is to begin by trying best to articulate the other person’s point from a place of understanding, rather than from standing ready to defend your ground. The argument being, if both parties in a debate work towards this, they are more likely to find consensus that those that begin with the perception that the other side must be destroyed. Especially when we find ourselves handling each other’s vulnerability as we would handle a debate. Especially if one person in the debate is more skilled at debating (or, sometimes people just submit rather than agree).

Perhaps, before we question whether we have been heard, we must first ask ourselves – are we listening?

And, if we can’t hear each other – then how do we create inclusive spaces?

Or, where do we go from here?

The Elephant in Kenya’s Room

Brenda Wambui
20 February ,2018

We, the people of Kenya, claim to recognize the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law. We also claim to promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, equity and freedom; and state categorically that our state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth. We lie.

In February 2018, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) launched the Women and Men in Kenya booklet, contrasting the status of women and men in Kenya when it comes to population, health, education, employment, governance, domestic violence, decision-making, and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). As at 2016, Kenya had an estimated 22,498,000 women and 21,870,000 men (making the total population 44,368,000). According to this estimate, women form 50.71% of Kenya’s population.

However, according to the booklet, women provide 80% of Kenya’s farm labor and manage 40% of the country’s smallholder farms, yet they own only roughly 1% of agricultural land and receive just 10% of available credit. Despite bearing the burden of pregnancy and child rearing, fewer women than men across all age groups have access to family planning messages through radio, television and newspapers regardless of their level of education. Despite this, women bear the burden of contraceptive use, with uptake of the male condom at a measly 0% in North Eastern region, 2% in the Coast, Eastern, Central and Rift Valley regions and 3% in Nairobi, Western and Nyanza regions, while that of injectables (mainly Depo Provera which has been proven to have several health risks for women, such as increasing the chance that they will contract HIV by 49%) for example being 19% at the Coast, 2% in North Eastern, 38% in Eastern, 22% in Central, 27% in Rift Valley, 28% in Western, 29% in Nyanza, and 24% in Nairobi.

362 out of every 100,000 women who give birth die as a result of complications of pregnancy and child bearing. An overwhelming 37% of childbirths are at home, coming second only to deliveries in public hospitals at 46%. The conditions at public hospitals are dismal, and childbirth at home is dangerous. Women who give birth at home rarely have access to a skilled healthcare worker. The reason Rwanda was able to reduce maternal mortality by 77% between 2000 and 2013 is because of the increase in skilled providers (especially midwives) during childbirth. In 2010, 69% of the child deliveries in Rwanda were by a skilled healthcare provider.

It bears repeating that we have yet to pass the Reproductive Health Bill since it was tabled in 2014, yet it aims to provide for the recognition of reproductive rights, set the standards of reproductive health, and provide for the right to make decisions regarding reproduction free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The Bill aims to promote women’s health and safe motherhood, rapidly and substantially reduce maternal and child mortality rates in Kenya, as well as ensure access to quality and comprehensive provision of health care services to women and children. So much for our commitment to SDG 3, which aims for the achievement of good health and well-being (one of the ways is through reducing maternal mortality) and SDG 5, which aims for the achievement of gender equality.

When it comes to diseases, more women than men have been diagnosed with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Women across all age groups and levels of education also have lower comprehensive knowledge about HIV/AIDS (which is a communicable disease) than men.

Men have higher levels of enrollment in all levels of education overall than women. This gap begins in secondary school, where it is slightly under 5%, and grows significantly in university where it is around 20% in public universities. The booklet does not state the cause, but possible reasons include early marriage and teen pregnancy.

Fewer women than men (up to 10% fewer) also apply for and receive loans for education in public universities. There is a 20% gap between men and women when it comes to enrollment in technical institutions, and a 10% gap when it comes to enrollment in TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) Institutions.

The situation is even starker in employment: Men are employed at almost double the rate of women in modern sector employment, where workers are 66% male and 34% female. In wage sector employment, men are employed at over double the rate of women in agriculture (the workforce is 67% male and 33% female), manufacturing (the workforce is 84% male and 16% female), and wholesaling (the workforce is 77% male and 23% female). In public administration wage employment, the workforce is 64% male and 36% female. The only wage employment sectors where there is almost parity are the education sector (the workforce is 53% male and 47% female) and service activities (the workforce is 48% male and 52% female).

Despite the existence of the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act (2015), women continue to experience high rates of abuse, mostly at the hands of current partners (57% of women who have been abused were abused by their current partners) and former partners (24% of women who have been abused). Almost 40% of women aged 15 – 49 have experienced physical violence (for men, it is under 10%), almost 15% of them have experienced sexual violence (for men, it is under 5%), and almost 35% of them have experienced emotional violence (for men, it is just over 20%).

Our Constitution states that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. It also states that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. This has yet to happen, and legislation enforcing this constitutional requirement has yet to be passed despite the Jubilee party having a parliamentary majority and constantly claiming it is committed to the empowerment of women. Across most public and elective posts (such as MCA, governor, deputy governor, senator, member of national assembly, cabinet secretaries, diplomatic corps, Supreme Court judges, and Court of Appeal judges) women are fewer than 33.33%.

The situation is even worse in the private sector. Over 80% of the members of boards of private sector companies, chairpersons of these boards; directors in the registered companies listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange and the chairpersons of the boards of these listed companies are men.

Women experience high levels of crimes against morality at the hands of men. Men commit up to 80% of the reported crimes against morality (women commit slightly over 20%), and are the key perpetrators of rape (over 80% of all reported rapes, including that of children, are committed by men). Men also commit 80% of all homicides, robberies, theft, offences related to drugs and other criminal offences. Because of this, men account for slightly over 80% of the prison population.

So much for the boy-child being left behind.

These figures paint a stark picture. They explain why Kenya’s Gender Equality Index is 38%. We still have light-years to go before we can live up to the ideals embodied in our Constitution. We have to close the gender gap across all areas: in employment, in healthcare, in education, and in payment for their work (women in Kenya earn 38% less than men on average). We have to strive to end violence against women, and we have to guarantee the representation of women in public and private institutions. Until then, when we claim to promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, equity and freedom in our Constitution, we lie.

The Makings of a Fascist State

Brenda Wambui
6 February ,2018

Kenya is now in the unique position of having two “presidents” – Uhuru Kenyatta, the current head of state, and Raila Odinga, the self-declared people’s president. Raila Odinga was sworn in at Uhuru Park on 30th January 2018 in the presence of massive crowds. It was an an oddly peaceful event because the police were not present. In the days following the event, I have observed with much concern the open movement towards fascism by Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, and the state in general.

If it feels like we’re on the verge of the breakdown of democracy as we know it, it’s because we are. World over, the rug has been pulled from underneath our feet. But for Kenyans, this is nothing new. It’s just more pronounced now. There is no simple, straightforward way to describe fascism. It has its roots in Benito Mussolini’s Italy. In 1919, there was a movement called the Blackshirts in Italy, named after the black shirts they used to wear.

It was built on the disenfranchisement of the every-man by industrialization. Mussolini harnessed this disenfranchisement and diverted it into political action. When he founded the fascist party, he said that fascism “is the wedding of state and corporate power.”  His followers were nationalist and totalitarian, and used violence to consolidate political power in him. The more his power grew, the worse they became. This ideology is fundamentally violent, and praises war and conflict.

Mussolini believed that war was the highest expression of human ability and society, and that life was a continuing conflict between people for limited resources. This same thought was shared by his German counterpart at the time, Adolf Hitler, which is why he wrote a book called Mein Kampf – which translates directly to My Struggle. To fascists, war and conflict are good things. They let nations or “races” decide who the strongest is, and who deserves the already “limited” resources. Yet not all modern day fascism can have direct lines drawn between it and Mussolini’s fascism. Or Hitler’s. It cuts across multiple forms of government, and multiple ideologies. Yet, its traits are always the same.

Fascists are nationalistic. I’ve talked about nationalism and why it’s dangerous here before, as well as the differences between nationalism and patriotism. Fascists believe in the exceptionalism and greatness of their nation for no reason other than they were born there. Everything they do is said to be for the good of the nation. They speak in terms of greatness in past days. For example, Uhuru Kenyatta’s focus on Kenya being a powerhouse regionally and in the continent even when his government does everything possible to undermine this in reality.

In the aftermath of Raila Odinga’s swearing-in, Uhuru Kenyatta and his government have broken multiple laws in the name of national security, and gone against the spirit of our constitution – they allegedly summoned media stakeholders to State House the day before the swearing in for a lecture on why they must not cover the events. When the chairperson of the Kenya Editors Guild brought to light these events and said they would not be intimidated, they waited until the next day and switched off Citizen TV, Inooro TV NTV and KTN – a gross violation of press freedom. After seven days, NTV and KTN were back on air on the 5th of February 2018. However, Inooro TV and Citizen TV, owned by Royal Media Services, remain switched off.

They have outlawed the National Resistance Movement, which amounts to outlawing the opposition, listing it as an organized crime group. Other groups on this list include terrorist/vigilante/militia groups like Al Shabaab, Mungiki, Chinkororo, Forty Two Brothers and the Baghdad Boys. Yet, NRM agitates for electoral reform and the boycott of companies they perceive to be “wedded to the state” (as Mussolini may have described it), while the other groups routinely commit murder.

Arrests were also made of parties involved in the swearing in, such as Tom Kajwang, George Aladwa, and Miguna Miguna. The charge is treason, which attracts the death penalty. Miguna, in particular, was arrested on the 2nd of February 2018 for administering Raila Odinga’s oath and being a member of an outlawed group. The High Court ordered his release on a bond of KES 50,000. He was not released. The court then ordered the police to produce him in court at 2pm on the 5th of February 2018 or risk the Inspector-General of Police and Director of Criminal Investigations being held in contempt of court. He was not produced.

The executive arm of the state seems to gleefully undermine the judiciary, as if to say they do not care about the law – they are a law unto themselves. Fascism cannot operate without divisions. A fascist leader has to create an in group and one that’s the enemy. The in group tends to be a majority that this leader controls and feels he belongs to. The enemy? That tends to be minorities. Which is why under fascist regimes, women suffer. Queer people suffer. Ethnic minorities suffer. Foreigners suffer. Religious intolerance thrives. Sexism thrives. Racism thrives. Xenophobia thrives. Tribalism thrives. Homophobia thrives. Anyone that does not belong to the in group suffers.

This is why, despite harping on and on about it, the Jubilee regime has not made a dent in youth unemployment. Why they have not passed the two-thirds gender bill despite having a parliamentary majority. Why they run around the country screaming “I have been unable to perform because of Raila.” Fascists are able to get away with this behaviour partly because of their charisma – they know how to sell the dream. I remember when Kenyans were convinced we were going to achieve great things when Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto wore matching red ties early in their first term. Adding onto their charisma is their love of controlling and gagging the media. Uhuru Kenyatta famously said newspapers were only good for wrapping meat. Recently, he shut down TV stations and drunkenly kicked the media out of an event they were covering. His regime has been in a covert tussle with the media since he invited them for tea and snacks at the beginning of his first term.

A charismatic fascist will sell you a ticket to hell for twice the price and you will go gladly, thinking you got a deal. How else do you explain Uthamaki, which is a nonsensical concept engendered by older generation Kikuyus (and some very misguided young ones)? How else do you explain the Nairobi Business Community? They believe that leadership is rightfully theirs. That uthamaki belongs to muthamaki (the fisherman). This fisherman being a fisher of men, currently Uhuru Kenyatta. Who is stoking this fascist sentiment? This is why we are forever caught up in tribal politics and clashes. Because every “tribe” ends up wanting Uthamaki.

Fascist leaders, and their states, easily trample on human rights. If you don’t belong to their in group, you may as well not exist. Fascists are terrible for the working classes. Under them, ethnic cleansing is routine, detainment for arbitrary reasons is the norm, and slums and ghettos thrive because they do not care about inequality. We only need to look at the state of our public schools and hospitals, and the high rates of unemployment to see proof. Our public schools are in shambles, with a majority of the children who sat KCSE last year not making the cutoff for university. Look at our public universities, where lecturers are perpetually on strike because of poor pay, yet that is where most can afford to take their children to school. Under fascism, the common man comes last.

Fascists are excellent at corporatism. Everything must be privatized. This is why our president sees no problem with a company he is associated with (Brookside Dairies) basically owning and controlling Kenya’s entire dairy sector. This is also why instead of fixing our public healthcare system, he prefers to entice private investors to offer more expensive healthcare. They love public-private partnerships and corporate takeovers of industries and sectors that have no business being privatized. When a fascist is done, there are little to no public goods and services. Instead, all you have is rampant corruption, fraud, cronyism and corporate greed.

Fascism is contradictory, as it is packaged to appeal to the every-man, yet the every-man is most harmed by it. It is irrational – it does not make sense because it is not supposed to make sense. It merely capitalizes on emotions and societal tensions and directs them towards political actions that the fascist in charge fancies. Under a fascist regime, a drought can be stopped by a president’s prayers for rain. Defying all logic and good sense, people will believe that the president’s prayers made it rain. They will believe that if he continues to pray, a drought, which is man made and curable by policy and not prayer, will end.

Fascist leaders are masters at shifting goalposts. For those who feel secure within the in group but are not in power, or those who do not belong to the fascist’s group of cronies – security is not guaranteed. One minute you are in, the next, you are an enemy of progress. Only the fascist knows where the goalposts are, and he can shift them at will.

This is why fascists are so disdainful of intellectuals and artists. Naturally, these people will call them out on their actions, and they don’t want that. So they berate them publicly, as you may have witnessed Uhuru Kenyatta do many times, and work hard to stifle the creative sector as Ezekiel Mutua and others in the government are doing. They also defund arts programmes, as William Ruto and Fred Matiang’i hope to do. Make no mistake, this is intentional. They have to do this to quash dissent now, and in the future.

How do we counteract this? The first step is recognizing and accepting that we live in a fascist state. Fascists and their followers live in an alternate reality where “alternative facts” exist – we do not have that luxury. Fascism, unfortunately, cannot be fought purely through facts and logic. It is a heightened emotional state. We have to appeal to the people’s emotions, just like the fascist. Why are they afraid? What are they afraid of? Because many times, fascism stems from a fear of the “other.” What is this that is so bad, it makes them hateful and intolerant towards their fellow citizens and human beings?

How do we make them trust us? How do we bring them into our shared reality? It all boils down to trust. The rest of us cannot trust our fascist governments, and the supporters of fascist governments cannot trust us.

Devolution and The Shisha Ban

Guest Writer
30 January ,2018

by Elizabeth Kabari

On 28th December 2017, the Public Health (Control of Shisha Smoking) Rules were gazetted and came into force. These rules effectively banned the manufacture, importation, sale, and use of shisha by criminalising these acts. Anyone found doing any of the above shall, upon conviction, be liable to pay a fine of not more than KES 50,000 or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 6 months, or be made to pay the fine and serve the sentence. If you continue to repeat any of the above offences, you also get fined KES 1,000 for every additional day you continue to break the law.

The rules were made by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu. The CS explained that the rules were made to protect public health – he claims that, in addition to being harmful in itself, shisha is a gateway to other drugs such as heroin. He therefore made the rules pursuant to his power under the Public Health Act, specifically Section 36(m).  

These rules have caused a lot of uproar both online and offline, with former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga tweeting that the ban “smirks of hypocrisy and dictatorship” and shisha traders moving to court to get the ban lifted. However, what I find most striking about this ban is that it shows that the government still doesn’t fully understand how devolution works. Here’s why:

Eight years ago, Kenyans adopted a new constitution. It was hoped that this constitution would usher us into a new era of citizen-centred governance which focused on human rights, true democracy and equitable distribution of resources. To this end, a key element of the new constitution was devolution; that is, the separation of the government into two levels: the county level and the national level. Powers and functions were then divided between these levels so that we can improve the delivery of public services to wananchi and enable Kenyans to effectively govern themselves.  

One of the functions that was devolved was health. The Fourth Schedule of the Constitution devolved health as follows: the national government was tasked with creating health policies and managing national health referral facilities (that is, Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital). The county government was tasked with managing county health services which includes all other hospitals and pharmacies, ambulances, primary healthcare etc. The counties were also tasked with controlling drugs and pornography.

The transfer of the function of health from the national government to the county governments was completed in August 2013. However, to date, many of the laws which existed before 2013, have not been amended to reflect the changes brought on by devolution.

The Public Health Act is one of these laws – it still has provisions that are not in line with the Constitution and therefore have no force in law because the Constitution supersedes all laws. Unfortunately, Section 36 of the Public Health Act is one of these sections. It empowers the CS to make rules where “any part of Kenya is threatened by a formidable epidemic, endemic or infectious disease.”  

The function of preventing epidemics is a part of primary healthcare which makes it a county government function. This means that the powers given to the CS under Section 36 are, in this new constitutional dispensation, not actually his to exercise. The only power the CS has is the power to create policy (not law) to guide counties on how they should deal with such diseases.

Even if the above was not the case, and prevention of epidemics was a national function, the rules would still have been based on shaky legal ground. This is because Section 36 of the Public Health Act applies to formidable epidemic, endemic or infectious diseases. To clarify which diseases these are, the Act provides a list. They include smallpox, plague, Asiatic cholera, yellow fever and sleeping sickness or human trypanosomiasis (basically, serious diseases that are be passed by air, contact, being bitten/stung etc).

The diseases caused by shisha include cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems. None of these are diseases that the Public Health Act considers formidable epidemic, endemic or infectious diseases. Therefore, they are not covered by the powers given to the CS in Section 36.

The purpose of the rules, as their title succinctly puts it, is the “control of shisha smoking.” The rules then proceed to define shisha as “…tobacco products that may be flavoured or unflavoured…”. As we all know, tobacco is a drug. In a nutshell, the purpose of the rules is to control a drug. Control of drugs, as we’ve already seen, is a county function. The Cabinet Secretary cannot perform it. The most he can do is issue a policy to guide the counties on how the they should tackle the issue.

Despite all these legal barriers, the rules were made and gazetted into law. Consequently, we now have a law that has been passed by an organ of government that had no power to pass it, which regulates a matter that the organ has no power to regulate. This puts us, as a country, in a very confusing place: do these rules have the force of law? Are we bound by them? Assuming someone is arrested for manufacturing, selling or smoking shisha, can they be tried?

Hopefully, the courts shall answer these questions and give us a precedent for how we should proceed when such circumstances arise (because they surely will). Until then, it seems we’re confined to a life without shisha.

 

Elizabeth is an advocate with a passion for human rights and a love for research and reading.

Something is Happening

Michael Onsando
9 January ,2018

The thing about saying something is happening is that change comes to everyone in its own time. And so to say that something is happening is to forget the millions that it is yet to happen to. It is to forget those who will die before that thing happens. And if the thing that was supposed to happen doesn’t happen in time for you – then did it happen?

Maybe this is why hope is fragile. Especially when it comes to hope for the intangible things. Things like freedom and peace.

The thing is, hope opens up a space of possibility. When we hope for something we make decisions toward its actualization. You hope that someone comes to see you – so you linger around the house waiting for them to get there. The longer you wait, the more you lose hope. Usually, by the time you leave you have not only lost hope altogether – you’ve probably also convinced yourself that the whole idea of hoping was silly in the first place. And, if this happens enough times, you learn to navigate this person differently to preserve your time. Every action though, has an equal and opposite reaction. You stop waiting for them, they get angry, and you have a confrontation.

To hope towards freedom in colonial days was to ask your neighbor “are you willing to sacrifice your life for this?” To even think of creating possibilities for freedom was to accept the sacrifice that came with it. Now, most people can agree, that freedom was something we needed. And to get it someone had to aspire to it, and sacrifice was made. However, given the level of sacrifice needed, one can begin to understand the people who decided not to sacrifice. Who looked at the question and said “Yes, freedom would be fantastic, but I have lost too much/I am too afraid/I cannot help” or whatever other variation.

Perhaps this is why we will (and must) always be wary of anyone who speaks of change. Not to frustrate the inevitability of change (another exercise in futility) but rather to ask ourselves – is this the world we want? And how can we move from where we are to where we need to be? And what does where we need to be look like?

Can we not acknowledge that there are deep disagreements among us with our very lives and destinies at stake?

With (literally) our whole world at stake, we become very particular. We begin to take a closer look at things like identity, we study patterns in ideologies. And, once convinced we are on the right path, we are willing to do almost anything to get there (it is, after all, for the greater good). This, like everything else has some good and some bad in it as well. It is because of this drive that change is inevitable. Because we will always work towards it.

But sharing spaces will always be about compromise. And if there is no room for compromise in this drive then we end up with different sides to the same argument talking at each other, over each other and against each other without any real consensus building toward a shareable future. Discussions that often end in reproducing the same oppressive institutions that they set out to change.

Africanization, then, is an exercise in offering context. In learning our history. In changing our lenses. Much of the history of our continent is written by white men from Europe and North America, and this no doubt affects how the world sees us, but more importantly, how we see ourselves. For our children, it has meant a very narrow view of our continent. In many school books, the history of our continent is written in three broad categories: pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial. In doing so, we single out colonization as the single most important thing that has happened to Africa, and centre it.

 

‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.’

  • Audre Lorde

 

“And, if truth itself has a history – what happens when such histories collide? When the subject, rooted in their own truth and own history, meets another subject rooted in the same? How do we handle these situations? Does the way we do this further aggravate or does it create space for these histories to co-exist?”

Maybe this is why the work of change is slow. The constant negotiation and renegotiation until something finally manages to lodge itself into the place of “common knowledge.” So to say something is happening is to say “this is common knowledge in my circles/this change has reached the people around me” Maybe it might even be to say “I have removed myself from the spaces where the thing is yet to happen.” Rarely, “I am working to happen this thing”

Something is happening is often used to direct attention to the thing. To ask that the listener pause to observe and, perhaps even participate towards whatever is happening. And with attention comes the questions “why this thing?” “Why now?” What does this thing mean for me?” And it is these questions that we must be willing and ready to answer when we say something is happening. Because all conquest has been on the back of ideology (or nazi soldiers were willing to die for their beliefs as well). Because sacrifice will often fall on the shoulders of the most vulnerable. A president may start a war, but a soldier will die. A lawyer may open a case, but a witness will be shot. And, if we insist that this something, that is happening, must happen then we must accept that there will be sacrifice involved.

And, as with all sacrifices, we must be willing to ask “why?”