Do you know how to milk a cow?

Michael Onsando
18 April ,2017

In essence, the working assumption with decolonization is the idea of reviving and analyzing lost (or fallen from view) forms of knowledge. In bringing these ideas to the forefront we begin to imagine different worlds, and see different possibilities and ways of being. The threat of course, then lies to those ideas that have already, from the beginning, been centered. Then, following Achebe’s construct, things fall apart.

But what knowledge is valid? What knowledge is necessary? And who determines necessity? To think of knowledge is often to think of a verb. Which is to say, we know to do. And so to know is to be demanded of to do. To think of new forms of knowledge, almost immediately means to act in different ways. To know how to milk a cow is to begin to think of the cow as an approachable being (or whatever glove fits this foot).

In an insulated city life, it is not necessary to know the cow. It is only important that newspapers continue to wrap the meat that you buy. The knowledge could be that milk comes from cows. But knowing how to milk a cow is to know to feed it as you milk it. And to think of the quid pro quo. The necessity of the cow’s welfare to your own. And to have that as working knowledge.

Perhaps I’m milking this metaphor too hard.

The question here is how and when bodies of working knowledge become common sense. If it is known that a certain neighbourhood is unsafe then it becomes common sense to avoid it as much as possible. Towards this idea of common sense lies a negotiation of uncommon senses.

Somewhere in this mess lies the intersection of the personal and the politic.

And in the negotiation the personal becomes political.

It’s been argued that the centre itself is a problem. That for a centre to exist, there must be a fringe. This somehow doesn’t sit well with me. To not see that a centre exists feels too much like working around the problem rather than through it. Which is to say at this point it is more a discussion on method than on principle. For, if the end goal is the eradication of the centre, then different approaches work towards the same effect – and not everyone agrees with everyone else.

Trust the work. Trust the workers.

  • anonymous

Which makes trust more difficult. For trust must be grounded. Trust is held by something mutual – kinship, a sin, a moment. The basis of trust is common ground. Trust isn’t total. We do not wholly trust anyone. Rather, we know who can be trusted with what and spread ourselves around in ways that we are comfortable with.

And so we trust the work, and we see the work. And everyone finds the information that is of use towards their own form of liberation. In this sense, the work becomes an effort in interpretation. To ask, is this grounded in the work? is to ask – what is the work? How has the work been defined for you? It is to open up the game of histories. To renegotiate.

With the constitution and a violent history as the only fall back there comes the need to create a commonality that is not based on distrust. A constitution cannot be based on trust – it is a legal document. It is designed to ensure that even in the absence of trust there is clarity. And it is necessary because trust is complicated and trust breaks. To use a violent history as the basis from which we draw trust is to ground that trust in factors outside our control – in the opposition of another.

Enter the khanga hoodie, matatu gifs and other public hat tips to this sameness. This common ground, that needs to be created, to be made firmer for us to thrive – to move beyond us (one) versus them (many).

And this common ground is necessary. The political winds of the West are calling them to consolidation of their political power – towards nationalism. From a purely timing perspective, this would not be the time to destroy the marriage that is Kenya. To do that would be to break the power (that we have only just began to understand we have) as a country and leave smaller vulnerable ethnonation. To allow ourselves to be led by and towards our differences it to play right into the idea of divide and conquer.

So instead we find ourselves with decolonization. Slowly analyzing and comparing pasts, asking for permission – negotiating for ways to keep our identities alive. Does this one work for you? How about you? What if we keep this one, and let that other one go?

And, even as we negotiate, we mourn the things we let go because they too are a part of us.

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