The application of human imagination is one of the hardest things to regulate in human history. It is like culture — the moment government tries to regulate it, it simply moves from its visible form and becomes manifested in the underworld. Nothing is achieved, nothing is gained.
Why is Kenya trying to regulate the creatives? More importantly, can creativity be regulated?
The business of creativity belongs in the mind of the creator. Many great artists admit that they do not even know what the physical end of their creativity will be. What they are very sure of, however, is the emotion they want to provoke with their end product.
But the Kenya Film Classification Board holds a different opinion from the rest of the world. According to media reports, the CEO is interested in the question of morals. Whose morals? Those of producers, developers of advertisements or the morals of society?
If it is the morals of society, that is a long shot, as this is an academic question not a legal one. Moral standards vary and are determined by culture, religion, social class and status, etc.
The debate on universal values is not new to, for example, the academic field of anthropology. Many anthropologists oppose such a concept as it is closely tied to cultural imperialism, which is an extremely oppressive notion.
It is on the basis of such thought that slavery was once thought to be right and acceptable, and even divine, since it served the values of the cultures that were thought to be dominant at the time.
Even in instances where a universal value can be found, it has to be so vague or abstract that its application becomes meaningless, outside specific cultural and or religious traditions.
For example, the value of modesty is a universal one. But the application of modesty is often religiously and culturally defined and therefore meaningless in the absence of these contexts.
The beautiful sari mode of dressing among Indians leaves a generous part of their middle exposed, showing their stomach. In Islamic traditions, a woman showing her stomach in public is probably an abomination.
Another value that is universally accepted, but is meaningless in application, is respect. In some cultures, such as among the Buganda, it is considered respectful to kneel when greeting or serving men as a sign of respect.
Yet in Christian traditions it is blasphemous to kneel before anyone except God. In Islamic traditions it is not considered respectful or moral for ladies to shake hands with men to whom there is no consanguinity. Hugs and kisses in Western tradition are considered normal ways of greeting and showing affection.
Even though these rules are broken and flouted with abandon, especially in urban environments, it is considered morally wrong in most African traditions to hug or kiss your mother-in-law or father-in-law or any elder of the opposite sex for that matter.
What anthropologists seem to agree on is that there are values that can and are considered universal as they affected the betterment and survival of humankind. The United Nations agrees with anthropologists and has postulated universal values to be those “shared principals that help us manage our differences without resulting to violence”.
They include peace, freedom, human dignity, equal rights and social progress. These are adequately addressed under chapter four of the Kenyan Constitution, the “bill of rights”. Ironically, the freedom of the media falls among these rights as well.
Any other moral regulation remains the responsibility of parents, religion, culture, schools and other either defined or undefined forms of social control.
Given that Kenya is not a religious or military state, any forms of moral coercion using police are not only unrealistic, but are bound to fail.
Part of the failure can and will be the increase in the price and or number of “bribable” offences that police can find and or institute against the entertainment industry, if the KFCB’s proposals are adopted.
The Communications Authority currently claims that 31.9 million Kenyans have access to the internet. How do the KFCB proposals anticipate to morally police these numbers, who can access such content on the internet?
If this is the population being protected by the proposed amendments to the Film and Stage Plays Act, how will stifling the creative population help?
There is no doubt that there has been a proliferation of pornographic and other inappropriate videos, especially on social media, but trying to regulate creativity in Kenya will not change the personal choices of the seekers of such content.
Whatever happened to self-respect, self-discipline, acceptance of personal responsibility and the instilling of these principals in the general populace? Surely we cannot imagine this is the work of the police?