About 5 year ago, I encountered a turtle by the banks of the river Yala in Gem district whilst doing farm work. We were five men busy digging, preparing a patch of land by the river to plant arrow roots, when one of the men nearly struck a solid shell that moved. He had discovered a turtle. In all my years since childhood, I had never seen a turtle in these waters and I was pleasantly surprised. The turtle, true to its nature, retreated into its shell as we gathered around to contemplate the best course of action. Two of the men debated on whether it was edible. Perhaps it could be sold for a tidy sum to a group of Chinese road construction workers reputed to pay premier rates for exotic dishes. Another suggested instant death launching into overdrive with his bad omen theories.
The Occupy parliament street protest was reduced to a saga about pigs. Lawsuits were flying and the pigs had official entities and concerned citizens empathizing with their plight. Pigs have friends in high places. The Occupy parliament protest has ended up generating an equal measure of protest from the animal rights and religious liberties corner. There is a task force in offing to review the policy on animal welfare and cruelty charges were threatened. Many people were bluntly disgusted by the sight of swine swishing in bloody filth in front of parliament buildings. Pigs are haraam in Islam, therefore presence of swine as the courier of the message was bound offend many Kenyans. These are clearly some of challenges of trying to stage a politically correct protest and airing your grievances within the rules of decency using Orwellian symbolism when you are genuinely angry. The organizers understood the power of shock advertising and you cannot dispute ability of messy pigs to bring attention to a public issue. The point was made. MPs are greedy, blind to the plight of the suffering masses and that is disgusting. That said, the pigs placed in the context of the classic novel, Animal Farm by George Orwell were rich in deeper meaning.
50 years after independence, the imbalanced sociopolitical landscape of Kenya is in resonance with the George Orwell’s allegorical story of a worker’s revolution gone wrong. George Orwell was noted to have said the characters in the Animal Farm were inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The pigs (the Communists) led an animal revolution consisting of other farm animals against the oppressive human owners (capitalists and royalty) and as soon as the animals assumed control of the farm, a minority (the pigs) usurped it all and carved out a privileged position through a reign of terror in the new structure. The pigs like the humans before them, become the lords of all the animals. The same story could aptly describe Kenya’s disturbing wealth disparity between the classes, 50 years since liberation from colonialism.
Behind the facade of a functioning democracy, Kenya has slipped into a society that worships at the feet of a cult of personalities. The ruling class reality is so far removed from the plodding masses, they are akin to characters on an engaging TV drama. Personal interests are elevated to national interests. The entire TV programming and headline feed revolves around the political soap opera and the ruling class has gotten into the habit of acting like they breathe rarefied air. Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi’s reaction to the protest captured the height of the entitlement. When asked for his comments, he began by how he loves his pork. Nevertheless the MPs are simply a visible pocket of a wider leadership malady. The religious, union, business, corporate leadership display the same exploitative way of life. Leadership is a euphemism for lording. There may be new faces in authority but the old greed lingers on. To paraphrase George Orwell, “what happened to the different faces of the factions of parliament? You look from Cord to Jubilee, and Jubilee to Cord; but it already impossible to say which is which when the question of their greed is raised”. All animals were equal but some pigs became more equal than others.