In an interview with a journalist in 1962, France’s iconic leader Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970) famously remarked, “For those who had to choose between their material possessions and the soul of France, their material possessions chose for them.”
Biographer Julian Jackson records in the volume titled A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle, “Those with possessions are possessed by what they own.”
Is Kenya’s political Opposition today cast at the crossroads of the country’s soul and the good life?
General de Gaulle was reflecting on the tough choices France had faced in the period 1940–1944. France had smarted under Nazi occupation. On June 17, 1940, France had surrendered to Hitler’s invading anarchists. De Gaulle had fled to Great Britain. The next day, he launched the French comeback on BBC Radio with the famous words, “Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.”
It was a tough choice. It was far easier to surrender to the Nazis and fate. But it was also the right choice. The right choices are not always the easy choices, as British Prime Minister Theresa May has reminded the world this week. Facing stiff opposition at home on her proposed Brexit deal with Europe, Mrs May has been resolute. She believes she has chosen the soul of Britain and the choices have not been easy.
- 1 Venezuela votes for parliament as opposition denounces fraud
- 2 NASA agreement reveals parties were to get equal share of cash
- 3 Tundu Lissu flees Tanzania over threats to his life
- 4 We have a duty to protect Tanzanian asylum seekers
When Kenyan Opposition leaders take up State jobs, should we be convinced that they have done so for Kenya? Choosing between the soul of your country and a lucrative State appointment presents tough choices. It would seem, indeed, to present a struggle for your very soul.
Winston Smith of George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four is confronted with such a tough choice. We read on the last page of this disturbing narrative, “Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache (of the big man’s portrait on the wall – aka the beast).
“O cruel misunderstanding! O self willed exile from the loving beast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”
Here in Kenya and Africa, we have often had our Damascus moments. We discover that we love Big Brother. We lament just how so much time we have wasted in struggles against ourselves. Like former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, we caution the world never again to ever push a wedge between us and Big Brother. The philosopher Plato has told us about the struggle for our soul. He compares the human soul to a chariot being drawn in opposite directions by two horses. In this context, one horse drags us towards our country’s soul.
The other horse drags our cart towards a pleasurable destination. This is the easier choice. Prophet Isaiah has told us about such choices, “When the Lord had called for weeping and mourning over the impending invasion, the people said flippantly, ‘Let us eat and drink... for tomorrow we die.’” (Isaiah 22: 12 – 13).
Does the struggle for our country’s soul succumb to the thought that we will die tomorrow? Why struggle, anyway?
The philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry” is wrapped up in hopelessness. Yet it remains very enticing. Most students of religion are familiar with the words, “And he took him to a very high mountain where he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their splendour. “I will give you all this,” he said, “if you will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4: 8-9).
Last week, Kalonzo asked President Kenyatta to make him one of his errand boys. You recall where it is written, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to eat and spare, and I perish of hunger! I will arise and go to my father and say unto him, Father, I have sinned before heaven and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Luke 15: 17 – 19).
The former Vice President and Foreign Affairs minister has been given a plinth in the Foreign Service on the peace issues in South Sudan. He has told us not to ask him any questions. Accordingly, I ask none. Nor will I drive a wedge between him and the President.
Congratulations are in order, both for Kalonzo and Raila Odinga, upon their recent diplomatic postings. Yet, Kenya must ponder the significance of Orwell’s little poem in Nineteen-Eighty Four, “I sold you under the chestnut tree. You sold me under the chestnut. Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me. There lie they. And here lie we. Under the spreading chestnut.”
Whatever happens, the flame of Kenya’s Opposition must never be extinguished.
-The writer is a strategic public communications adviser. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke