Conversating with The Wolf.

You know how I sometimes get a bug up my ass about serikali, ranting endlessly, foaming at the mouth and ef'thing?  And you know how you then ignore me?  Right.  So what I did was go out and rope in a fellow ranter, figuring, safety in numbers.  Woi...  This bugger takes it to a whole other level, and he does it with a bit of Latin thrown in, just because.  The Wolf needs no introduction around here, he's the lurking presence in my comments section, always ready to pounce on the unsuspecting half wit who has the gall to say something foolish in his presence.  He only ever snarls at me, for the record, and yes, I know what that says about my wits, but there you have it.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Howling Wolf, author of the brilliant blog, The Reluctant Kenyan.  With a name like that, it should come as no surprise that the content is somewhat unflinching, but don't let that scare you off, the man has poetry, and kickass music.  Assuming jazz and classic rock can be considered kickass.  Don't look at me like that, I'm not uncultured, I just don't think of kicking ass whilst listening to a trombone solo.  Do you?  Didn't think so.  In keeping with his love of random music, his pick for the soundtrack today, Fela Kuti's 'Shuffering and Shmiling' [see soundtrack], 22 minutes (almost as long as this post) of afro jazz funk soul.  You shall see the reason for this particular track in due course...

ALEX: So I was at your blog earlier, trawling through your archive, and my first question has to be, what the hell, man?

HOWLING WOLF: Is that a question or an exclamation?

Why have you stopped blogging?

Now the question! Why have I stopped blogging? Well technically, I haven't stopped, just taken a sabbatical. Indefinite.


Writer's block, among other things, if I may elevate myself to that status. And a number of other reasons mostly to do with the nature of blogging...

Did you not enjoy it?

No, I thoroughly enjoy blogging. Except it is a bit like one having fun with oneself, if you catch my drift. Especially where nobody but one or two fanatical followers are the only ones interested in what you're saying. It gets to that point you're never sure whether even those ardent followers are not just continuing out of a sense of obligation. Does that sound pitiful?

Not pitiful, but then again I may be the wrong person to ask, no? Hahahaha...

Insert wry smile.

Did it bother you that the followers weren't flocking to your blog? It sounds like you were disappointed with the reception you got, or lack thereof.

To be honest I don't know what I expected. I suppose I'd been pacing my mental room with all these issues/ideas/perspectives, which I needed to share with someone/anyone who would care to listen/read and engage me in an interesting way (or not at all). Then I started writing and I am not sure whether it is my style or the content or the timing or what, but I just didn't seem to resonate with many people, so my mojo kinda flagged. I'd always kidded myself that fame means two-bob, but fame and followership is kinda nice in a cheap sort of way. We all want cheap and nice, don't we?

Cheap and nice does sound quite appealing, but we know it's never that easy. So you were looking to engage, and you think you failed to resonate. I'm wondering, did you have an ideal in your head? A site, or blog, that you looked at and thought, 'That's my kinda shit, I wanna do that...' I suspect that offends every hair in your wolf fur, the idea of copying, but it's not meant in that sense.

No, no, no! I'm not offended in the least. I fancy myself as being open minded so I don't mind learning a thing or two from my betters and my peers. Here are two examples of brilliant blogs in my estimation, Deconstructing Myths and Naked Chiefs. Oh and how could I forget Gathara's World, the man is pure genius!

What is it about these that you like? The writing, content? Or the communities they have...

These guys ain't just mouthing smut. They think, then they write and then the writing is deceptively simple yet complex. Does that even begin to make sense?

It does. I follow two of those sites. Incidentally, I always notice the lack of visible interaction in the comments section, which is not to say they don't have traffic.

How sure are you about that? You have their stats?

No stats, it's an assumption I make based on how often their sites are quoted...

Ah. You see, one of them happens to be Charles Onyango Obbo, one of the most quotable writers on Planet Africa, and beyond. And he has a massive following from his regular journalism work. The other is Gathara. I think he has been doing this thing and doing it well for quite a while now. And he has maintained a sober and objective stance on issues regardless of prevailing fads. Perhaps one can still get the attention/traffic eventually. Even me. :)

You've just made my point for me. Ha! Both of them have profiles as writers, yours will take time to build.

That is the point exactly: I have no time. I am of the Microwave generation. Instant everything!

Are you willing to give us, raia, some time to find you? Well, them raia, I was one of the two fanatics you referred to earlier. :-D Hang on...so you packed it in because you couldn't be bothered to wait? Hahahaha...

Well maybe, I am stranger than fiction sometimes. Why you laugh Gawd only knows!

What's your take on our security situation?

There are many kinds of security: physical, social, economic, macro, micro...which one?

Pick one...

Physical! Mostly I'm scared shitless that some idiot is about to plant a bomb in my shopping basket in the name of an extremely intolerant God. Or shoot my little boy in the head... Or abduct my little girl and take her to some strange place in Cameroon where no satellite picture can pierce the canopy of the tropical forest... But worse, I fear that some cop, in the guise of smoking out a terrorist, will smoke me instead and claim that I have links with you-know-whom... Especially when I can't pay enough to leave me and mine well alone. Enough?


Now let me tell you something about Social Security. It is in the hands of NSSF, right. That is just money I will never access. Money to build someone else's mansion with. So should I invest in my children so that they will wipe my arse when I'm ninety? Now that is expecting too much already, no? So should I buy plots of land which I will develop for income when I am old? Well, that's how to get killed by your own children sooner. Or Mungiki. Social security my foot and my five toes!

So no social security whatsoever then? And no physical security, and no economic security...


I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're not feeling too optimistic. But you have kids, my friend, a wife, family, all that good stuff, what happens to them?

When there is no security, you hanker down and let the bloody storm blow over. If it takes an eternity, so be it! See, I am not the one who wrought this madness called life and sat back to admire my handiwork. My role is just to live it. I try.

Can we talk about your family?

Thin ice that one, but okay. When I snarl, you back off, deal?

Deal, nothing too personal.

Everything is too personal with me. That's always part of the problem....

Everything? Woi... I shall tread most lightly. Let's start with your mother then, the post you did regarding Al Shabaab (Al-Shabaab – My mother was right). It takes skill to link your tough-as-nails mother with those idiots, but I guess yours was a comment on how badly the government handled things?

About the skill, thank you. Coming from the formidable Alex, that is high praise.

Hahahaha. Shut up...

Surprisingly, I have never blamed the government for bungling the handling of the terror attacks. Truth is, I don't know enough to judge and I come from the standpoint that the business of government is tough shit. We sometimes expect too much from government, when in reality the resources to be all that is non-existent. So I think I was ranting about Al-Shabaab mostly. And my mother. But I'll have to re-read to post to remember everything I said.

That's a surprisingly tempered view of government and its (perceived) inadequacies, do you think we've been too hard on them?


No, not al s., on government. They've gotten a lot of stick on this one issue, not least from me.

This particular government has been bedevilled by so many issues/ills I can't even begin to recount. But this particular government has brought a lot of this shit on itself. It is not governing. It is playing at governing as if this is some kinda video game. The buggers think that they are in power to spin yarn, which they also do badly. Honestly, a more savvy government with oodles of statecraft could not have mismanaged every living thing and day like this one.

Now that sounds more like the Wolf I know. Thing is, you just said you don't blame them for bungling stuff, but you think they brought it on themselves, or is this too complex a problem to blame on one entity?

Yeah, I know that I sound like I'm talking from both corners of my mouth but I have a point. The thing is that, on a good day, governing is tough so if you want to govern a country, don't make it about proving silly little points about how macho you are. Firstly, these guys took the country hostage, knowing all too well what the ramifications were going to be. I will not even begin to discuss the legitimacy of their ascent to power. Then they start sticking their grubby middle fingers at everyone else both internally and externally. That is how you end up with pie on your face when a real crisis hits. You have effectively isolated yourself in your cesspool. So nobody supports you even when they'd want to or when it would ordinarily make sense. And even I can't support you because you're basically shit.

Nicely put sir. What was your mother like? You called her a hard woman...

Hard. And soft. Conflicted mostly. Which manifested itself as almost cruel. Give me consistency any day. Hard or soft. Not both.

But where's the fun in that? Are you much like her, cruel almost? You have (had...ahem) a blog that was not easy reading, unflinching I should say. Your description of her was almost a self portrait.

I don't know. Unhinged definitely. Cruel? My daughter is the one to say. But I don't crunch little insects underfoot just for the fun of it so I guess I'm not too bad.

But you can be quite scathing when you put your mind to it, I've been the recipient right here in my own house, because I had the audacity to celebrate (ha!). I guess I'm asking if you see some of her in yourself.

Scathing? Yes. My middle name is Scythe. So it follows. I see myself in my Mother. She loved nice clothes and flowers. And she had a wonderful sense of humour. Satirical, mostly. I think she was extremely intelligent as well.

Do you like nice clothes and flowers? I believe you once described your fancy suits...

Clothes, I like understated elegance. Flowers, I want to live in a garden. That is the dream. A lovely cottage in a colourful garden far far away from the madding crowd.

Did you grow up in the city?

Nope. I am a farm boy. Wolves don't belong in cities.

Where did you grow up? And might I point out the wolves of Wall Street...

Oh those, those are mutants. I grew up on a farm in a place called Londiani, which is in Kericho or Kipekllion County (not too certain which).

And the plan is go back there one day?

Highly unlikely. This is a tribalised nation now. Someone might be tempted to lobe off my head just for not being kosher. So I'd love to, but I'm wary. I happen to be the wrong tribe.

How long have you been a resident of this great city?

Donkey years really. Too long it seems to me sometimes. Most of my grown up years. And I am NOT a young man!

How old are you?

Let's just say I am about to start my second adolescence.

I have no idea what that means. Hahaha... This is the problem with you poet types, never speak plainly.

In a couple of years, I may find myself driving around in a red BMW convertible with the wind blowing my non-existent hair, as I ogle girls my daughter's age. Is that plain enough or must I write a number?

I'm contemplating the mental image of you in a red car. Hahaha... Ghastly. There's something you just said about not being able to go back. You don't think you could live in Kericho county, as a Luo?

I can live there. On the edge.

Why on the edge?

Because that is the only space available for anomalies like us.

Now that you need to explain further.

It's quite plain really. We live in a tribal nation. If you must live on a farm, best it be where all your neighbours speak your language or else you'll be blamed for crop failure and who knows what else, and who wants to know what they'll do to you with their machetes and poisoned arrows.

Is this something that happened to you, growing up?

No. It happened mostly when I'd already grown. When I was growing up, what you encountered was good natured ribbing which mostly went towards greasing camaraderie. Now things are more poisonous. What you hear/see/feel is hate. Which can quickly turn to your death.

You don't think things will ever go back to how things were, two, three decades ago?

Frankly, no. There is no incentive.

Isn't there? We're too widely dispersed to return to our 'proper' areas, we have to learn to get along again, not because it's a nice sounding kumbaya moment, by the way, but because there's limited space and even more limited resources.

In rural Kenya, I suspect it will only get worse with pressures on resources occasioned by too many hungry, illiterate people. Perhaps in urban areas. But they too are getting zoned along tribal lines, especially among the lower classes. So no, return to innocence, if ever there was any.

That's a bleak prognosis...

Cancer is cancer, right?

Lakini...your cancer is painful, man.

Tell me which isn't.

I don't agree, by the way. I choose to believe that in a generation or two things will be better, less vicious at any rate. The divisions will probably remain till the end of days...

On the basis of what? Your say so?

On the basis of everything I've learnt to date.

Educate me.

You need to understand, to a point I'm a city girl, brought up right outside Nairobi, for all intents inside Nairobi. I live with all manner of people, work with another all manner of people, but more importantly, I'm of what I'm told is a tribal majority. My perspective is very skewed on this, is all I'm saying...

Do you know where hope comes from?

...I've seen my shags go from 99.99% Kikuyu to...maybe 70% Kikuyu, and dropping. This is in my life time. Like I said, mine is a very urban experience.

That is NOT integration. That is commerce!

What is integration? Living together, working together, fucking each other...praying together?

So you think a guy who lives all his life next to an Asian family will be allowed to marry the girl in the Asian home?

Hold that thought one minute, and thank you for going there. Read this (Not Yet Kenyan). So integration is about intermarriage, mixing of bloodlines?

No, it is about mindset. Forget the fucking hardware, man. You can fuck a woman who is a cow for all you care. But until you begin to think of her as a unique and special human being who deserves everything you deserve then there is a problem. You're still pushing your angle and you're still hang up on your selfish superiority complex shit!

Equality, then...

Equality? Equality? That is too vague a word. What does it even mean? Even Marxists, who fought over it and killed themselves and other people over it, ended up just more confused by the concept. I am talking more about human dignity and respect. More woolly concepts perhaps but if I had a day I could explain myself quite clearly.

Equality in the most simplest sense, being able to see another as a person, like you said, and not a lesser being. We'll ignore all the rest for now.

Yeah, I see. I agree.

Can we get there, in a few generations, or is it a hopeless dream? You asked me what is hope, what is it?

I asked where does hope comes from?

A stubborn refusal to accept reality. Hahahaha...


And the grand delusion that we can change the future.

Well I think it is a combination of the two, no doubt, together with experiences that illustrate that what is hoped for is achievable. For me, mostly, I have not had those experiences. So I have stopped hoping.

Fair enough, but what about your kids? You family types are always telling us how it's all about their future, so what happens when you stop hoping?

What about my kids? Indeed, what about them? I'll strive to feed them, protect them, house them, give them my two cents worth about this and that and hope to God they fare better than me, but I will not go as far as imagining that just because they will be adults at a future date they're guaranteed a better life. There is nothing in the works today to even remotely suggest that.

You are intent on killing all my hope, but it's okay, that's why it's delusional. :-D Now tell me, have you read the 'Not Yet Kenyan' post?

Oh yeah, I read the beautiful post. Very touching in a jarring sort of way. Makes you understand the Asian Kenyan psyche a little better. And other things as well. Like how we'll never really integrate.

The reason I brought it up is, in many ways it reminded me of your blog, your first post, Being Luo. That 'not yet Kenyan' theme runs through your writing as well. Have I read you wrong?

You have read me right. Not yet Uhuru! Not yet Kenyan! NOT BLOODY YET! Maybe NOT EVER!

Thing is, and this is why I have been pestering you to have this convo with me, to the rest of us (read Kikuyu's), we have no clue how that feels, not really. The idea that some people in this country feel less than is as alien to us as...anti corruption.

Well, there is a way a suburban white man views racism. It is the stuff that pops up in his head when he sees an old black lady being molested by neo-nazis on TV. Then he asks himself a few academic questions and even manages a passing comment to his children about treating fellow humans right. Then he goes back to his insular smug life and forgets that there is a black hell called the inner city, where everything you do including how long you live is predicated upon the colour of your skin. This white man's perception of reality is the privilege of privilege. You need to live in the black inner city to care enough about racism, because it touches you and yours viscerally. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to this being Luo thing. You need to be Luo to begin to understand what the fear of GSU is like.

Mutatis mutandis?

With the necessary changes.

Aha. Stop getting legal on my ass.

I'll try to be kind to you, my dear unschooled one.

Thank you, sir. Being Luo, describe it to me, if you would. "Somehow, I got the impression that to be Luo was considered intelligent and stupid at the same time." That's off your post.

Can I describe what it means to be Luo? Mostly you want to apologise for being who you are. Then you realise that the people you want to apologise to are not even worthy of the dirt you walk on. But still they think the world would be a better place without you. And they make it so hard for you to be anything useful just so they can prove to themselves that their hypotheses were right. In other words, you feel fucked most of the time...

Is this how it feels right now, in this day and age of enlightenment? I'm being a bit sarcastic, of course, but we'll come to that in a bit.

I was about to ask you what enlightenment? We are all barbarians driving second-hand Prados in silk suit's….

What I should have asked is, do you feel this way today or was this something you felt growing up?

In a nutshell, now more than ever before!

So even as you live in our allegedly cosmopolitan capital, still fucked?

Let me tell you what would happen if I was to try and run for the Chairmanship of our Estate's Association, I'd lose. You know why? Because it will turn on which tribe I belong to. Oh which reminds me. I had a worker in my employ who was at one time overheard cussing at Luos and suggesting that they all go back to Kisumu to fish. Do you catch the irony?

Your employee was cussing you and yours out? Hahaha! Clearly not a genius, that one.

But still didn't stop him from thinking himself superior to me, no?

I must play devil's advocate. Could it be that an inferiority complex colours your interactions?

So a girl is raped and then we ask: Could it be the size of your bottom got you raped?

I'm not blaming the victim here... Well, I am, but I'm trying to prod you a little. Same way you have a bunch of idiots walking around with a misguided sense of superiority, could it be that we have another bunch with misguided inferiority?

It is easy to misguide yourself into a sense of superiority, but what is there to be gained from beating yourself into an inferiority complex? Just pain! Barring sadomasochists, pain is not something a rational human being seeks. This is something that someone else has to do to you.

We see these arguments being floated all the time, in relation to racism, why can't these blacks stop being so...black? What you're saying is Kikuyus, and the rest of the majority (is there anyone else?) are just as ignorant in their privilege?

They have starved everyone else of everything and then they accuse everyone else of not having enough of anything.

Is it purely about tribe, or does class have anything to do with it?

Is it not? The class argument in our country at this point in time is sophistry. Let us deal with the tribe monster first. It is the elephant in the room. We don't need to look at the mouse hiding behind it...

But the tribe argument puts you and me on opposite sides by default, and I'm not sure I want to be put on the side of the great oppressor, not when I'm feeling quite oppressed myself.

Yes, we are on opposite sides. You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you. That is the nature of war. You have to define the enemy in simple terms. Oh, that was partly Leon Trotsky.

That's a relief, talk of war right now will have the internet police on our asses shortly. :-)

Hehehehe! I suspect you are right. Do you know why in military parlance they say things like, "The target has been eliminated?"

Leaving the human element out of the conversation?
Precisely. If you want to hurt anyone or dehumanise them, first depersonalize them. So call someone a kehe and he is fair game...

Kihii. Look at me correcting you like I'm an expert, I barely speak the language. Ha! So you reduce me, (not) Alex, to a member of the evil tribe and that makes it easier to write me off? Same applies to me, reducing Wolf to just another Jaluo...

Welcome to Kenya.

This brings me back to hope. Is there any?

No. There never was. And now there never will be especially after Mpeketoni. We have crossed the Rubicon...

Have we?

Is that a question?

It is. That's a hell of a thing to say, 'crossed the rubicon'. Meaning we can't go back, the end is nigh...

Or not. Things just won't be the same. Whatever tenuous web held us together in the form of a nation is broken. We're now officially a bunch of tribes trapped in a fish bowl. The bigger fish just eat the small ones as the cat watches from the outside bidding it's time. Enough said?

Not really. Hahaha. What do you think of this terrorism saga? The attacks, the responses from serikali...

Which one? There was NO terrorism and I repeat NO terrorism. It was just local politics...

Woi. I need to cut that part of the speech into a GIF, play it every time they scream terror from now on. So, not a fan of the government line then?

So there is an attack today. It lasts all of several hours. Tens are killed in a wanton orgy of violence. You show up late - like back-up cops in B movies - well after the hero (read villain in our case) has done the job. Then you tell us you know who did it and why but you are also still investigating. Rather confusing, no? Then you order a couple of guys suspended for dereliction of duty whereas you are the chief of security. Then you send in the army with body bags and the Nation Newspaper with banner headlines. Like I said what the fuck? Oh, and now Luos are being asked to leave Rift Valley...

I read something about that, is that the media being silly as usual or is this really happening? It bothers me that I second guess the papers these days. Sorry, that was a detour.

The leaflets are real enough. How come we have not sent a contingent of the army to guard Luo interests in the Rift?

Luo interests? Surely you jest... :-)

See, even you can't believe we have interests. :)

Hahaha... Just toeing the party line, sir.


Government doesn’t seem to care about protecting Luo interests, but I haven’t seen Luo politicians shouting about it, have they?

About what? Should they have to say something for the rights of the Luos to be protected or do we deserve our rights as a matter of course?

Assuming that the government feels nothing, and it looks like it does in fact feel nothing, do you think Luo politicians should be pushing a Luo agenda? In this case demanding the rights not being given to you?

Luo politicians may not even get the point I am making... I don't entirely trust politicians, whatever their tribe. That is why I've always craved for something higher to believe in, like a Constitution that is respected.

But Mr Wolf, the government is run by politicians, politicians who suffer the same complexes as the rest of us. Do you think the government as we know it respects the constitution?

Now you get why I have officially given up, don't you?

That's it? Really?

Really as in, you don't get? Like I'm chicken or something?

You make a particularly inflammatory comment earlier, 'we've crossed the rubicon...' and then you've given up?

Inflammatory? Who you working for?

I'm trying to get you to retract it. Hahaha. I might get shut down, my friend. Seriously though, you've put me, and people like me, to task for our privilege. Fair enough. But what about you and yours?

I'll say this. I have always longed for a just society where more than anything, the content of my character would be what seals my fate. That is verily what I desire for my two little children. But I have lived most of my life with the mirage of this utopia beckoning from a distance like a shameless temptress, only to have the unattainability of it grind my hope to ashes. Now I've come to terms with the fact that within this one lifetime, many things will not be possible, including that very society. So do I curl up and die? No. I wait for my rightful time to die, whenever and however that will be. Meanwhile, I do my best in the circumstances without working myself into dementia with false hope purveyed by all and sundry at every turn. And I hope my children don't make the same mistake of hoping as I did. I hope they just learn to live with this shit and smile through their suffering.

I'm not sure there's anything I can, or should, say to that.

Last bit. I'm looking for a clip I want your comment on, one I suspect you know well, it's the speech from 'Network'.  In the words of whatever his name is, about 2 minutes in, “I'm not gonna leave you alone, I want you to get mad!

I'm mad as hell, I'm not gonna take this anymore! Question is, nitado?

That's what we need to figure out. What are we gonna do? 'Nothing' hasn't worked too well for us, has it?

You are an incorrigible romantic aren't you? You refuse to believe that it is all lost yet it is. Because in the grand scheme of things, you and I are really nothing. Really. The best you can do is avoid as much pain as possible, but do not expect joy or edification or any of that nonsense. The system wins.

I am incorrigible, romantic is yet to be seen. :-) I can't accept that all is lost, sir, if I do then it means there's no point to any of this.

So your credo:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Is all I'm saying. :-)