It is roughly five months and some change to the general elections and in true Kenyan political fashion, the prevailing rhetoric is heavily laden with highlighting the distinctions between the various camps, “sisi na hao”, emphatically drawing the lines. Fortunately, or unfortunately, politicians set the agenda for the national conversation and to the untrained eye this may be passed off as good old campaign talk. But, this “othering” has been informing political strategies dating back to Aristotle in ancient Greece. “Othering” can be loosely defined as identifying people by characteristics that
differ from a perceived normal; this could be differences related to:- age, disability, ethnicity, political affiliation, tribe, occupation, socioeconomic status, religion etc.
“Othering” is a broadly inclusive conceptual framework that captures expressions of prejudice and behaviors such as atavism and tribalism, but it is also a term that points toward deeper processes at work, only some of which are captured by those terms. Othering” has a way of negating another person's individual humanity and, hence, those that have been “othered” are deemed to be less deserving of dignity and respect.
Human beings are inherently hardwired to make categorical distinctions, ergo, are predisposed to some implicit biases that have us involuntarily applying stereotypes to people in our daily interactions. Some of these prejudices may have been passed on to us from our families of origin through a process of cultural osmosis of sorts. After all, the essence of man is an amalgam of nature and nurture. By this mere fact, anyone of us can be bigoted. With the air currently being polluted with insidious “us vs. them” political rhetoric, it is possible that certain dormant prejudices are being activated and where they were completely missing, they are being subtly planted.
Ethnic meanings can be read into many things and we must all remember that diversity is not only positive but also essential to the survival and thriving of each one of us.
There is nothing to be gained by maligning each other based on our disparateness. In our respective differences we all bring diverse values, strengths, talents, networks and solutions that are all integral to the running of the country Kenya.
The call to action is for politicians to be more responsible and measured in their speech as they go around the country campaigning so as not to magnify the differences between citizens for their own political gains. But many a politician cannot be trusted to keep their word, so it is then the sacred responsibility of each and every Kenyan citizen to respect and think highly not only of themselves and their kin but of everyone else they encounter comes in to play. We should all make deliberate efforts to override and ‘short’ our respective internal circuits so that we transcend our various bigoted identities and strive to live at peace with everyone in our localities.