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Where a dog’s life is a luxury most can never dream of

Wednesday September 02 2009
By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

THE FORMER HUMAN RIGH-ts chief who stepped on many toes with his penchant for speaking truth to power, Mr Maina Kiai, seems to have found his true calling – as a documentary maker on the big issues of our times.

I had the good fortune to review his latest offering, a documentary on Kenya’s search for justice (which should air on NTV in the days to come).

The documentary has some stomach-churning elements, one of them being its description of rape as a tool of terror during the post-election violence.

You would think we men are dangerous enough when we are wielding machetes, bows and arrows, and guns. But no, what you don’t see when we are running madly around, can kill you.

Maina also makes the point, which others too have, that the post-election violence in Kenya was also about inequality, and anger at the divide between the poor and rich.

One senses that on this issue, it is not just the disparity in wealth that angers the poor. It is mostly how the rich flaunt their fortunes. And it is the same everywhere in the world where a large moneyed class emerges.

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India, and China, are the latest case. A report in The Independent has it that “India’s economic miracle has bred a booming canine industry that will do anything for your pet”.

That “anything” includes finding a boyfriend or girlfriend for your pet, some of it through popular websites that advertise dogs that are looking for love.

All this as India’s 800 million poor people continue to live in squalor! Perhaps the more remarkable thing about The Independent report, is that the preference by many Indian families for boys (female foetuses are aborted in record numbers) is carried into the doggy world, which explains the thriving dog dating sites. Females are in short supply, because buyers tend to prefer male dogs.

The one man who would consider excessive pampering of pets to be the height of bourgeois over-indulgence (as the radicals of years gone would call it) is Brian Hawn.

If you are interested in protest movements and literature, then you know the venerable Mr Hawn. If not, then as of yesterday, 60-year-old Hawn will have spent 3,015 days – all of eight years – outside the British Houses of Parliament.

He arrived outside the Houses of Parliament on June 2, 2001, to begin his one-man protest, at that point, against the UK government for its support of UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (following his attack on Kuwait). He pitched his tent opposite, and is still far from parking it in.

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT’S POL-icies and actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and other follies have provided Hawn with a steady flow of new things to protest about. In 2007, Channel 4 voted him the “Most Inspiring Political Figure”.

The moral of this tale is that it not always true that the future of a country is the hands of its young people. Sometimes, it can be in the hands of its grandfathers.

Across the Atlantic in the USA, Mr Mark Muller, an enterprising car retailer in Missouri, proved that we might inhabit the same world, but we have totally different dreams.

Muller, as The Times put it, offered the ultimate discount voucher – a free AK47 assault rifle with every purchase. As with all legal gun purchases, customers had to go through routine background checks and wait for three days before getting their weapon.

Muller’s company sold 200 vehicles in just 10 days; 100 more than normal. He was so overwhelmed, he shut down the offer prematurely.

But news of his success has had a domino effect, with other car, motorcycle, boat, and even tractor, dealers all over the country also cashing in with similar vehicles-for-guns deals. If Kenyan law allowed it, I suspect Muller would sell even more cars in crime-plagued Nairobi with such an offer.

Talking about cars, last month was the 50th anniversary of the modern seat (safety) belt , which was introduced by Volvo. However, Volvo did not invent the seat-belt. That credit, we learn, belongs to an Englishman, Sir George Cayle, who developed a crude belt for his pioneering glider in the early 1800s.

So right there is the reason why modern Africans are not so inventive. We have a strong urge to see our innovations come to fruition and enrich us in our lifetimes, and not leave it all to our great grandchildren. It is one reason people laugh at the government’s Vision 2030 plan.

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