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Makau Mutua: Why do we lie about the dead?
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|Makau Mutua: Why do we lie about the dead? by Kenyans247(1): Mon 26, October, 2020 12:57pm|
They say that thou shalt not speak ill of the dead. That’s because there may be a place in hell reserved for those who dare opine truthfully on the departed.
Au contraire, the reverse is true – you are encouraged to generously lie about the dead. Simply translated, although the dead have ears, but cannot hear, you are forbidden from telling the truth.
Lie like a trooper at funerals if you want the gathered to look kindly on you. Tell the naked truth and opprobrium will be your lot. In Kenya, lying at funerals has been elevated to an art form, especially by politicians. Which begs the question – why are we so eager to bury the dead with their ugly public records?
I’ve heard it said that telling falsehoods is ingrained in African culture. I don’t buy such gobbledygook. It assumes African cultures are allergic to the truth about those who’ve exited this world.
Methinks there’s another, more plausible, explanation. There’s a moral corruption of the body politic and the ethical fibre of the society. Lying is a national pastime. We lie even when it’s not necessary.
That’s because lying has infested our bone marrow. We lie because we like shortcuts, and detest the rigour that the truth imposes on us. Although lying isn’t an invention of the African being, it’s a necessary outgrowth of the corruption of the soul of the post-colonial state. Our politicians are programmed to lie.
Gift of the gab
Let me dig deeper. I think we should be polite to the dead, especially at funerals. But a polite society needn’t be a fibbing one. In Africa, the gift of the gab is a valued commodity. Villagers and the elite alike love to weave a yarn.
That’s why it boggles my mind why we are so reluctant to use our exceptional oratorical skills to tell the truth about the departed without offending their kith and kin.
You can imagine the use of comedic delivery to rib the dead and get laughs, all in good cheer. I suggest that at the next funeral, we invite Mwalimu Churchill aka Ndambuki to demonstrate how one can needle the dead with the truth through humour.
There’s a larger point to the lies we tell at funerals. For the hoi polloi, when truth is spoken at a funeral, you can hear murmurs washing over the assemblage.
But for the departure of the high and mighty, bloviation has become the norm. Usually, the calumny is directed at political rivals.
The flavour of the season today pits DP William Ruto’s “hustlers” against the Kenyatta-Odinga axis. These are the two wings of the Jubilee/ODM alliance. Mr Ruto is still inside the tent, but pissing in. The groups throw bombs at each other without letup. The pro-Ruto group usually attacks Mr Kenyatta by lobbing grenades at ODM’s Raila Odinga. It’s all about who will succeed Mr Kenyatta in 2022.
There’s an even more sinister purpose to lying about the dead, or those whom we think might soon meet their maker. Kenyans launder more than dirty money.
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