I watched the whole Timberlake-Arunga saga with detached amusement, and drew conclusions that many did not. For one thing, I couldn’t decide whether the girl was ill, confused, or a very good actor. Months later, I still can’t tell. But I feel the whole saga says a lot about Kenyans.
The story started around the time Kibaki and Raila were having a fight about … I forget what it was, but they were contradicting each other in public. I think Raila wanted someone fired, and actually did sack him before The Baks declared him unfired. Watching the quarrel on TV, I was worried. I figured backlash would be swift, stoking latent tensions and all that. Images of violence, blood and pangas jumped to mind. So I was relieved, and glad, when nothing happened.
A few days later, Arunga happened. People reacted with strong words and insults that were far from normal. The strength of the reaction was, well, violent. I know people that wanted to shake the girl or slap her silly. Granted, it was a daffy thing to do; quitting your job, dumping your boyfriend, joining a cult and suing your parents is strictly Hollywood, and very … un-African. The girl deserves a good spanking.
[And note that I say spanking, not lynching, or thrashing, or even mild abusing. I’m talking good old-fashioned rear-tapping, the kind a parent gives to a naughty child. Kindly retrieve head from gutter please.]
That said, it wasn’t a big deal. It was just a girl gone loopy. Watching her interviews on TV, seeing how composed and confident she was, I couldn’t tell whether she was demented, brainwashed, or just plain blonde. She certainly believed what she was saying, and she said it with disturbing eloquence, but it wasn’t worth our overreaction.
Here’s what I think. Kenyans are frustrated. We are ambitious, driven, and very, very smart. Mostly. We have conquered the world and are now being barred from Dubai [new degrees-only policy], the UK [restrictive work requirements], the US [DNA testing before importing alleged relatives] and Bongoland. We are resilient despite rising unemployment, El Nino, La Nina, Safaricom, last-minute voter-registration queues, and KPLC.
We are tense and badly in need of release, and that’s what fueled election violence. It was one large scale session of venting. The war was blamed on land and ethnicity, but it was also a chance to avenge insults and age-old feuds. That’s why many people walked into their neighbours’ houses to steal, kill, and rape. My theory is that the anger and bile is still inside us, but the chaos taught us a lesson. I have heard people say they can’t wait for 2012 to do it again, but I think many others will think twice before they grab a panga.
So, what did we do with the angst? Simple. We turned passive aggressive. We attacked Arunga. And Hellon, and Justin and Runda and the whole crew. That, for me, explains the energy involved in the saga.
People who had never seen or heard of the girl were talking like irate parents. We were all cursing her for suing her folks while the two parents themselves said nothing. I don’t even know what they look like. The reason we bayed for blood from the Finger of God is that we had all this ire and we needed somewhere to push it.
If you ask me, Arungamania is proof positive that Kenyans learned from post-election violence. We ignored a major Raila-Baks tiff and attacked Tiimberlake-Hellon days apart. It gives me hope that those hellish months won’t happen again. To which I say: AMEN.
Now, my personal delayed contribution to the vitriol: How the Eff does anyone join a church called Finger of God? Not Hand of God, not TOUCH of God. But FINGER of God.
I mean, seriously?!?!