Before he struck a deal with the devil, Tom Walker had begun to think he was cursed. Everything in his life was going south.
His wife ‘was a fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband; and his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words.’
Rocks sprouted on his farms even as his neighbour’s crops flourished. His horse was so emaciated that you could count bones on its limbs; his house “stood alone and had an air of starvation”.
Then Tom cut a deal with the devil and everything started looking up. But as payday drew closer, and the devil demanded that Tom keeps his end of the bargain, and Tom wanted to get out of the deal. If you want to know how Tom wiggled out of the deal, you might want to read Washington Irving’s The Devil and Tom Walker.
But maybe you don’t have to-in the wake of Shakahola cult deaths, it would seem that every Kenyan wants out of a deal with the devil. For indeed, many Kenyans, either directly or indirectly, in public or in private, consciously or unconsciously, have cut a deal with the devil.
Shakahola aside, many Kenyans have a personal, private cult tucked away somewhere in their lives; a cult that worships something or someone; a cult that wants more of something or someone; a cult that will blindly follow something or someone to the grave.
If you believe that you cannot get a job without someone’s help, you are into cultism; if you believe that you need to amass wealth by any means, you are into cults; if you believe that getting a job in government is an opportunity to make riches, you are into cultism.
If the suffering of the poor does not move you, you are into cultism. If you love someone so much that you will kill for them (or kill them for not reciprocating your love), you are into cultism. If you love your God more than you love your neighbour, you are into cultism.
If you will fight or maim or kill in the name of a politician or a political party or leader, you are more steeped in cultism than the fellows getting exhumed in Shakahola.
For the truth is that we are all into some form of cultism. We are always worshipping something or someone, or living in perpetual fear of something or someone.
There is some hidden space inside our lives, that, if exhumed, would reveal a vast graveyard of human sacrifices we have made in the name of whatever it is or whoever it is that we idolise in private.
Truth be told-we all have our own Shakahola forests tucked way deep down inside. But we will not admit it. We are in denial. So much so that the uproar stirred by the Shakahola deaths; the finger pointing and blame games, is becoming a cult unto itself.
Suddenly, a growing number of pastors who preach water and take lots of wine are trying to outdo each other on who condemns Shakahola deaths the loudest. Suddenly, religious scholars are competing to define cults in definitions that include everyone but themselves.
Yet, as the finger pointing and blame game unfolds, more Shakaholas are forming out there, be it in private or in public. It is not a matter of if they will happen again, but when they will happen again.
Because being infamously religious, ours is the folly of moths that keep flinging themselves at the lantern’s blue flames.
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This explains why, the release of key suspects in the Shakahola deaths investigation is now being used by their followers as a Paul and Silas prison break moment.
Given our penchant for cultism, this shall not be the last Shakahola Kenyans will be waking up to.
Mr Karanja is a journalist