The Donald in Context

The Donald in Context

Nowadays, Donalds give Dennises a run for their money when it comes to dominating the public consciousness and being objects of general obsession. I should know this well enough.
This is how I have known Donald over the years. Frighteningly generous. I would say, even profligate. If you are his friend, he will not hesitate to apply his resources on you. And he has scores of friends. It’s obscene; but it his very consistent philosophy of life.

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Celebrate success and friendship. Celebrate life. All the time.
Every time at his famous lunches (see his Facebook timeline), he gives a brief, crisp speech. We are here to celebrate friendship, success and life. I think its life, friendship and success. Every single time. He says that he believes in working hard, sharing, friendship and happiness. He names all his friends and plays up their stature. He has a core crew of long-serving diehards, and they have amazing stories of exotic adventures. And tales of Donald’s generosity, loyalty and kindness.
He brings people together. Ambassadors and ministers and celebrities and hustlers and students and everybody else in between. And lavishes them. And doesn’t judge them. And posts his celebrations on his time line. He buys people thoughtful gifts and personalizes them. Okay, he also frequently distributes KTK- branded hampers containing umbrellas, power banks and pens. Or bags and whisky glasses and other trinkets.IMG_4640

KTK is his law firm. It used to be Kipkorir Titoo and Kiara. I once saw a letter where he told a client to keep over 10 million they owed him because they slighted him. He felt he did not have the energy and time to engage in back-and-forth with his clients. A corporate client. That was before KTK. When he re-branded, he took out full-page advertisements in the weekend Press and sent out gifts and cards, and had a launch where Caroline Mutoko was the host. And he gave another crisp, speech celebrating success. At Kempinski.
Mr. Kipkorir’s devotion to happiness is a colossal extravagance pursued with uninhibited publicity and childish guilelessness. I have asked him what the aim is. I have pondered what the end-game is. I have privately rolled my eyes and wondered if he is just another publicity-hungry socialite. I used to argue with him, trying to understand what-the-hell….Celebrating life, friendship and success.

Winning

Winning

And he can cite scripture and Catholic theology and philosophy. He loves publicity as long as it does not involve actually travelling to studios and interviewing journalists. Except bikozulu and Jeff Koinange.Both of which he declared to be his first and last.
He once told me that King Solomon used the social media of his day to share his ideas, display his royal heritage and woo Sheba, the toothsome queen who commanded singular global adulation. And 999 other women. Social media has always been there. The contemporary iteration is just electronic, facilitated by the ICT revolution. But people have always found a means of connecting and communicating and interacting.
King Solomon is a curious role model at first. And then, on second thought, he isn’t. For he is the Preacher or Teacher, Ecclesiastes, who wrote around 300 BC. At 8:15 he opined,
“Then I commended mirth because man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” Please note the superlative description of merriment: nothing under the sun is better.
Solomon aforesaid succeeded his father as king in Jerusalem. His father was David – a man after God’s own heart. David, as we all know, knew how to publicly celebrate success and life. “Thou hast laid a table before me in the presence of my foes; thou anointest my head with oil, and my cup overflows. Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in my father’s house forevermore.”IMG_4641
Curiously, 300 BC is the era around which a character known as Epicurus is reputed to have developed his school. Now you know where I am heading. He was around between 341BC and 270 BC. I hope you know how the BC-AD situation plays out. In any event, Epicurus believed that the wise man’s sole purpose is to attain a joyful, satisfied life anchored on peace and freedom and enjoyed with many friends. Epicurus did not hail from Cheptongei, North Rift, Kenya or Africa. Still.

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This gave rise to a situation known as Epicureanism, which dictionaries of antiquity defined as a profligate life of mindless debauchery. Of course this was a product of the austere moral traditions of Victorian England, where stoicism enjoyed much dominance.
However, Epicureanism is categorized as a school, within the general rubric of Hedonism. Aristippus of Cyrene, who was a student of Socrates, is the founding father of hedonism. The origin hedonism is the recognition of pleasure as the ultimate and intrinsic good. A hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure, net of pain). Ethical hedonism therefore recognizes doing everything possible to maximize pleasure as a matter of right. Apart from the Cyrene, hedonism boasts variants in Old Babylon (Fill thy stomach), Ancient Egypt (which advocates the lavishing of heads with myrrh, much akin to the Psalmist’s anointment…) and in classical antiquity.
It is interesting to observe how hedonists and Epicureans weave their extravagances with divine appeals. Very Donalish.

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Anyhow, the hedonists and Epicureans are the sole inspiration of the modern intellectual movement known as utilitarianism. You know – the greatest good for the largest number, and so forth.The most illustrious intellectuals of this order must be Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills. Bentham, while rubbishing the American Declaration of Independence invented the expression since dearly beloved of lawyers: ”nonsense on stilts”, claiming that no such thing as fundamental rights exist. This is because he saw through rights and recognized merely a principle that seeks maximum happiness. And when you come to think of it…… never mind. Bentham also invented a hedonic calculus which you really must look up. IMG_4639

Suffice it to say that it was a metric for evaluating utility in terms of net happiness.
Mills was a latter utilitarian, who came up with the distinctions of rule utilitarianism vis a viz act utilitarianism, his main point being that an act should be part of a long tradition of net-happiness-generating deeds. He also separated pleasure into ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures, so that the truly noble deed is one that expanded net higher pleasure for a greater number.
Utilitarians of the present times as well as welfare economists are the intellectual leaders who pioneered the use of happiness as a measure of progress in place of earnings. Thus, the Happiness Index came to rival GDP as the true measure of whether a society is moving forward. Human Development focuses on things like justice and access by individuals to much more than incomes. They want to know whether you have access to medical services, quality education, democratic participation and a real input into decisions that matter to you. Some of the people who work this fecund field celebrate Aristotle, who declared happiness to be man’s ‘final cause’, and that justice is useful as a means towards happiness.
Happiness, therefore, is serious business. The good life, justice, wisdom; all these cannot have purpose if they do not yield happiness.
There is a whole philosophical movement devoted to the pursuit of happiness, dating to ancient times. The American Declaration of Independence, ironically asserts “the pursuit of Happiness” as an inalienable right, alongside Life and Liberty. Especially if you are white Anglo-Saxon. We all wonder about happiness. We seek it. Now or in the Hereafter. Heaven is an Epicurean orgy of cosmic proportions.

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Celebration is obviously tightly related to joy, happiness, contentment and so on. Celebration can be said to be the public display of happiness. To celebrate is to let the world know that you are happy, and perhaps to also announce the reason for your happiness. Birthdays, engagement, weddings, graduations and sundry occasions are understood to provide ideal opportunity for celebration. People spare no resource to put together a ball. They display unwonted extravagance: fancy getups, hired music, lavish meals, expensive décor, ostentatious transport, etc.

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For many, they are once-in-a-lifetime events. But society generally approves the occasional splurging and even contribute towards it (hence the wedding committees and the resource pooling in communities). Festivity. Customs even have injunctions and taboos governing behavior during festivities. Among the Kalenjin, violence and acrimony are banned during celebrations because it defiles the sacred bond of communion. Serious penalties are inflicted on offenders, who are generally assumed to be cursed and requiring absolution or excommunication. Celebration and public displays of happiness aren’t new.

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Wedding. Ruracio. Koito. Teroburu. Initiation. Graduation. End-month. Friday. Sevens Rugby. Blankets and Wine. Birthday. Anniversary. My cup overfloweth. Fill your belly. Pour myrrh on your head. Eat, drink and be merry. Life. Happiness. Success. Blessings. We are all guilty as charged.
So, the celebration of life, friendship and success is nothing new. Perhaps in the case of Donald, the idea that he celebrates frequently and for no particular reason may be jarring. Perhaps. We do not have the time or finances to indulge in daily festivity. So we think that Donald is a frivolous and profligate show-off. But he says he is celebrating. And all of us celebrate. He feels a need to celebrate every other day, and has the resources to keep doing so as long as he wants. And this pisses of people quite thoroughly.

Overflowing

Overflowing

The antipathy towards the successful is the psychic twin of schadenfreude: joy at others’ suffering. It is the sole reason why the Nyanza elite long eschewed investing back home. The evil eye. Witchcraft. The malevolent envy of those resentful of success. Now that has changed. Nyanza is a-booming. It’s okay to work hard and try to live in a good house, drive a nice car and display bright-eyed, bushy-tailed little ones. Beautiful houses everywhere you see, compared with the pre-NARC destitution before. Goodwill is the principle.
Noticing another’s success is inevitable. In traffic, along the road, emblems of success will catch our attention. The property of strangers and acquaintances and people we know. In a way, they are celebrations of success. Unmistakable emblems. I have arrived. See me. Driving through Karen, Muthaiga, Runda, Nyari, Kihingo and so on is like scrolling through Donald’s Facebook. Intense, jealousy-inducing exhibition of mind-boggling success. Do people perhaps gnash their teeth in agony and outrage as they endure their passage through these grand estates? Do they pull their hair and rend their garments in abject lamentation? Should we curse at every sighting of a mansion, a Bentley, or chopper, whatever?

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We choose to notice. We choose our reactions. Our resentment and negativity is a choice. Our choices reflect our wisdom.

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I don’t know. All I know is that the Donald’s cup overfloweth. Unlike Solomon of yore, he has Facebook. And that is okay. More photos of Donald Kipkorir

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WILLIE KIMANI: THE LION WHO ALWAYS SHOWED UP

By Eric Ng’eno

I did not know Willie Kimani. In fact, I did not know anyone called Willie Kimani. I envy those who did, because I am sure they knew a truly unique, brave and committed humanitarian.

Now, we all know who Kimani was. We know that he swore to uphold the rule of law and administration of justice without fear or favour. We know that he took the courageous stand of fighting for the vulnerable, despised and downtrodden in the face of much danger to himself. We know that as a lawyer, Willie was never once short of options to make a good living for himself without sacrificing comforts many of us have learnt to take for granted. He could have joined a thriving conveyancing, Mergers and Acquisitions, Energy, Oil and Gas or International Law practice and done well for himself.

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Trio charged with advocate, client and driver’s murders.

Kimani’s courage is shown by the things he chose to do with his life and career, and the way he went about it. He chose to serve people at the lower ends of our society, people who encounter adversity, oppression and injustice almost daily. People without anyone to turn to. People who pay the highest price for our collective political, economic, institutional and ethical failures.

As a young lawyer, I briefly worked with the human rights movement. I quickly learned that human rights defenders embrace a thankless calling: it is hard, often dangerous work which brings little in the way of material reward. Often, I had to share my meagre allowances with clients who had nothing to subsist on. You put in everything for the reward of a deep personal knowledge and satisfaction that you have done your part in making this world a better place. Your prize is moral and intellectual, buried deep within your personal constitution. You are the change you want to see.

Kimani took his chosen path seriously. In his last days, he was in pursuit of a case of brutal abuse of police power which had wrought a living hell in the life of someone of the kind we like to call an ‘ordinary mwananchi’. As Kimani progressed, threats to his client’s life escalated. Within no time, his own life was under serious threat. Kimani did not quit. He did not flinch. He did not hesitate. He did not run. He showed up and pushed on, because he would never have been able to forgive himself had he abandoned Josephat Mwenda. Such was this man’s conviction. Such was his courage. Such was his integrity.

Our society has its share of rabbits and donkeys and snakes and vultures. Willie Kimani was a lion of the first order. A lion who showed up. A valiant warrior who represented.

He stood up against people who had become accustomed to the idea that others live only at their discretion. People who think it is in order to take someone else’s life. Felons walking free and mocking justice. Kimani looked these characters in the eye and told them that the constitution, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms simply have to mean something, otherwise we are all doomed. Quite sadly, he lost his life to these criminals.

We will not see Kimani in person again. He is gone. And that is terrible and sad and very hard to accept.It is hard to accept and believe that this happened to him, here, now. It is terrible to now that people can be abducted, tortured and killed. By police officers. In Kenya. In 2016.

But his work, his conviction, his courage, his commitment; those exemplary values live with us , in us. Today we must feel, more than ever, the urgency of the call to take up our oath as advocates and live up to it without fear or favour. Today, we have an opportunity to ensure that custodians of law and order never again turn on their charges. It is possible to restore Kenyan’s trust in law enforcement institutions and officers by doing all we can to reject, protest, resist and eliminate all forms of corruption, injustice, oppression and abuse.

Inside that bleak container in Mavoko, Kimani fought pain and terror and found the clarity of mind to seek help. He found a piece of tissue paper and wrote his last words: find a way for me, for us, for Kenya; just find a way!. He banged at the walls of his dismal dungeon. He called out for help. He found a way. We who are alive and free have capability to strike a big blow for freedom. We must do it.

We are inspired by what we know of the life and work of Willie Kimani, and we must commit ourselves to take up his challenge in a manner consistent with his way. Even now in death, Willie Kimani does his duty: he shows up. Without fail. Without fear. Without Favour.favicon

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