Updated: Sep 4, 2020
What does Cancel Culture look like in Kenya Today?
Well, few countries have the level of free speech that Americans enjoy. China stands on the opposite end of the spectrum and Kenya lies somewhere in the middle. In countries with limited freedom of speech, either through overt measures by the state or through cultural value systems, Cancel Culture is not only a legitimate form of political activism but also a logical extension of public participation.
In fact, I look forward to the day when the words “None of the Above” will appear as a valid choice in a ballot paper. Only such a choice would pre-empt the likelihood of state capture through pseudo-political parties, whose primary intention is to seize power for selfish gain.
Kenya’s political class has perfected the science of using political parties to capture the state. Elections in Kenya are some of the most expensive in the world and yet the least likely to receive the “free and fair” qualification by the very voters.
Non-violence principles championed by MLK and Gandhi-ji are in fact a form of cancel culture. Just as the state holds a monopoly of violence, it also holds a monopoly over public opinion. Therefore, cancel culture is the equivalent of non-violence in modern politics.
Where the political class has been effectively captured by the Executive, democratic representation is as much a mirage as “Canaan,” the Promised Land by which Raila Odinga declared himself the “People’s President.” There is no democracy in Kenya.
With the Legislature under complete and total capture by the Executive, citizens have little to no representation in government. Their hope may lie with the Judiciary, but even that can barely withstand pressure from an omnipotent Executive.
PORK’s promise to “revisit” the judiciary must be seen for what it is - a threat to cancel the course of Justice in retaliation against judicial independence. As politicians become self-serving wheeler-dealers out to secure their own interests, ordinary citizens are left with public opinion as their only viable tool in the universal pursuit of freedom and justice.
Oppressive states prefer to and do actually provoke violence in order to justify the heavy-handed response to peaceful protests. A good example is DjT’s deploying the National Guard to the streets of Washington DC against unarmed peaceful protestors.
China’s recently enacted National Security Law (NSL) is another example of state’s leveraging their monopoly of violence to quash public opinion (lifetime in jail for displaying a placard).
NSL raises the issue of Cancel Culture to the international stage. Many governments around the world, particularly those that are beholden to the Chinese masters, are likely to borrow from the NSL into their own political playbook.
But in the same way, many movements against state overreach are likely to borrow from the cancel culture tactics currently being used by the HKers against the Chinese government. Holding up blank white placards is not only a highly effective protest against political silencing but it is also the only viable response to the draconian rules imposed by the NSL. #VivaHK!! It is even more disconcerting to think that the Chinese government can accuse me of violating the NSL by writing this from Nairobi.
It therefore, goes without saying that the success of non-violence movements lies in their unmatched ability to shift the balance of power, by pre-empting violence as a means of political negotiation.
Cancel culture works in exactly the same way by pre-empting hate speech and other forms of inflammatory behavior that always play to the advantage of the most powerful voice in the arena of public opinion.
Cancel Culture is nothing new. If those in power use their positions to cancel the voices of the weak, the later have every right to turn this potent weapon against their oppressors.
You can’t fight a gun with a knife. You can’t silence noise with more noise. It’s time to take out your noise-canceling headphones to the next political rally! #CancelPolitics can only be fought with #CancelCulture.
Last but not least, Cancel culture is a natural remedy for mental health. You cannot think about tomorrow because #Fatfingers can’t stop tweeting. Youth cannot plan their family life as long as #Smallfingers keeps tiktoking. I am not saying that any of this is either good or bad. I am just stating the reality. If nothing else, I hope this point of view convinces you that Cancel Culture is a natural remedy for mental health. I will recommend it to my own daughter knowing very well that she will one day use it against me. Why?
You must be willing to accept the remedy that you prescribe to your own. #TitforTat.
The original goal behind the #CancelMovement was to make people in positions of power feel the consequences of their actions. Choices have consequences and getting canceled is just one of them!