Opposition to all things government is a luxury that we simply can’t afford

Sunday January 10 2016

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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As the American poet Robert Frost reminds us, “... anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak...”

Because I belong neither to the ruling party nor to the opposition, I struggle to see them objectively. For you merely weaken your case every time you exaggerate it.

But most Kenya’s politicians have never even heard of Frost.

Thus every time they open their cavernous mouths, they pour forth a veritable Niagara of filth and in a language which tells you that none of them has ever read any of the creations that the great English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called “... one work that wakes ...”

That is why no Kenyan politician can pay any attention to the American poet’s dictum.

Our politics consists in the government promising Kenyans the man in the moon and the opposition tearing the promise to pieces by saying that it is but the man in the moon.

In Kenya, the opposition appears to have returned to its old habit of automatically and thoughtlessly rejecting aloud all government actions and utterances.

It is as if the oppositionists are saying: We are paid to oppose the government and so we oppose every government action no matter how potentially beneficial it might look.

A newly arrived Martian observer would be astounded to learn that, on earth, an opposition’s job is to oppose tout court even where a government activity looks like it will greatly benefit Kenyans all round.

In a word, the opposition merely opposes: it never disposes. Indeed, the opposition makes special efforts to stand in the way of every government initiative or action.

Given that, indeed, many government activities are socially wrongheaded, the opposition needs to be alert.

But, given that the government also often moves in a positive direction, it wouldn’t hurt any Kenyan if the opposition praised the government and even lent it a hand to add vigour to such efforts.

But our opposition habitually denies everything that the government claims to be doing.

Yes, the officialism of our Aden Duales always affirms that the government is doing everything even when nobody else seems able to see it.

EXTREME SCEPTICISM

Similarly, the opposition appears dedicated only to the extreme scepticism that we might call “denialism”.

Whenever a government affirmation negates reality, the opposition’s counter-affirmation is but the “negation of the negation” — as the German Hegelians might have called it.

But what do you call it when a government “spokesman” simply announces out of the blue that a Kenyan astronaut has landed on Phoebe?

Though denialism is most phenomenal among the politicians, it is no more phenomenal at Nairobi’s State House than at London’s 10 Downing Street.

Dishonesty is a characteristic of humanity’s entire class of nouveaux riche. But even when lying, the African politician has the good fortune that he will not be caught easily because he is too black to show it on the skin.

Only people with very light skins can redden (or blush) from shame or embarrassment.

In his evolution along the equator, the Negro dropped that phenomenon in favour of a black chemical called melanin that natural selection supplied to protect his skin from the equatorial sun’s lethal rays.

The same chemical reaction that causes blushing on Caucasian skins takes place also beneath the Negro’s skin.

But it is invisible there because his blood contains much more melanin than the Caucasian’s. That is why he is a Negro.

It is the evolutionary advantage that African politicians exploit by telling profuse lies without reddening.

The fault lies in our opposition’s own misunderstanding of the word “opposition”.

Those with their country at heart know that it is sometimes more beneficial all round for the opposition to actively support certain government initiatives and for the government to listen actively to the opposition.

But opposition for opposition’s sake is a luxury that no developing country can afford.

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