I’ve been trying to write this post for days now. Probably choked for words, and not being sure where to begin but today I am there, Writes Kathomi Gatwiri (Pictured below).
This is going to be a long one. Last week, a few friends came down to my apartment to celebrate my 29th birth day.
After a few wines, tongues got loose and we started to share about our individual traumas of growing up in Kenya.
Before long, everyone on the table had shared an experience or two on the institutional violence they had to endure to become “Kenyan”.
After a while, we sat in a bit of silence after realising that we were embodying the collective trauma of growing up in a predominantly violent space.
Kenyans love asking themselves; “Why are we so corrupt, so self-loathing, so lacking in compassion, so accepting of mediocrity etc?”
I think the answer is we are all nicely packaged products of violent institutions that have taught us to truly hate and dehumanise ourselves.
And No! We did not bloody turn out, okay. Most Kenyans are harbouring incredible trauma and it’s only a matter of time, we can all feel the tipping point drawing close before the steaming lid blows off.
But I am not sure, as a country we are ready for what will happen next when this unresolved trauma explodes on such an expansive national scale.
In no significant order, I present to you the most violent institutions that ruined us for good.
1. Our homes:- Most people experience their first bouts of violence from and at home. Growing up, many of our homes were such violent spaces, that we had to learn the art of gaslighting, lying and manipulation to avoid getting into trouble.
We watched as our fathers beat and broke our mothers, and we endured humiliating physical violence in the name of “instilling discipline”.
I don’t know about you, but still have scars on my body from the harsh beatings I received as a kid.
On top of the physical violence, most have endured shocking bouts of emotional and verbal abuse from their parents and guardians.
Raise your hand if you were ever told by your parents/guardians that you were “a good for nothing cow, and heri wangezaa maharagwe watu wakule supper!”
And if you were not told that you were a “burden” or “that you were stupid like your mother”, you should consider yourself an embodiment of privilege.
That stuff does wonders to your self esteem and yourself worth. And please don’t say that we turned out okay despite the abuse.
That is just absolute nonsense. Look around you, how did we turn out okay? We learned to hate ourselves right from our homes.
The violence we endured at the hands of people who were supposed to love and protect us, broke us, totally and completely.
There was something about our humanity that was permanently damaged during this time.
2. Our schools:- I don’t think there are any more violent spaces in Kenya than in schools. I believe this is where most of our remaining dignity was stripped off from us.
This is where we were turned our lives around. We turned into robotic humans who see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, and say nothing” when it comes to social injustice.
Raise your hand if you were bullied as part of the “initiation”. Indeed, pain, humiliation and suffering were meant to introduce you to the boarding school experience.
Raise your second hand if you were also humiliated and dehumanised by teachers. Blink twice if teachers tried to have sex with you or touched or made inappropriate comments to you and then threatened to fail you in your finals if you didn’t sleep with them.
In college, our work as girls was to shrink and minimise ourselves in the class so as not to catch the attention of the male lecturers.
In primary school, my introduction to school was that it was a place where teachers had total and complete power over you.
You had no say as a human being in that space, you didn’t matter unless you mattered…
I remember a teacher who used to summon us, like this every single goddamn time: “Mbogoro Ino, Kuja hapa” (you ugly warthogs come here).
There was no room for this teacher to see us as human- or equal.
Kathomi (Pictured above) is a lecturer, researcher, Social Scientist and Feminist.
NB: Opinions Published On This Column Do Not Reflect Ours at KNU.