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Thursday, February 10, 2011

too much justice

This should start with a simple explanation of the fact that mob can mean a lot in Kiswahili. Not a lot of different things just many, excess.

I was talking to a friend of mine about this video that shows these two Kenyans fighting for five minutes. He remarked about how drawn we all are to misery and pain and how strange it is that all those people would gather around and watch a mob scene happening and record without helping.

This got me thinking about this incident that happened a few years ago, me and a couple of friends had gone down to Kakamega to watch some bull fighting. We got up early and headed towards the bull arena which is actually a field in the middle of nowhere sufficiently far enough from the police so that the bulls can be force fed some marijuana because it makes bulls red with anger. While on our way there we met a victim of too much justice.

By the time we had got to the scene the scuffle (as it would be called if I was trying for a prize in understatement) was over. But from the effects I can imagine that the purveyors of violence got that look on their faces, that distortion of features that signifies anger and hate and inhumanity. I can almost see the people shouting with fury and mirth. Balling up fists and slamming them into this helpless man, lobbing stones at him until his skull broke like a dam and the blood started leaking out from it. I can imagine the ruthless kicks delivered to all the soft parts of the body, the stomach, the groin, the neck. And surely there was someone there who had fire ready, gasoline or maybe a tyre and all the ogres participated in the orgy of violence.

We didn’t see all that. all we saw before us was this man, lying down in defeat and submission. Hitler once said “even the greatest of sprits can be broken if its bearer is beaten to death with a rubber truncheon.” On that day I understood what he meant. The body is this clay vessel and what’s important is the soul, the thing on the inside that drives all that occurs on the outside but without the vessel the water all spills away and cannot be saved.

And his body was broken, before us lay this man who had been beaten in every way that a crowd can imagine. He had been kicked and clawed at, pulled and punched, hit and heaved. There was blood all around him. I remember his clothes were torn and that the blood was mottled. His physical appearance was of someone who was at death’s door. I never saw a man dying because of violence inflicted on him before. And he just lay gasping. After talking to my pal as I walked home there was this stretch of road that was as a silent as sin. No cars were passing by and not a soul breathed, while I walked there I thought about how beautiful silence can be when it is complete. When for once in a week your ears rest as if you found a shade on a particularly sunny day. But as i walked there I also remembered the silence of the mob scene. It was a different kind of silence, not peace but the end of a war. The air was thick with breaths of tension. I could hear every rattling breath this guy took. It cut through the air and reached to everyone who was there. A solemn manner had befallen the whole place; it was as if we were at a funeral, which was almost true.

This man had been beaten for some crime committed. And for this crime he was paying the ultimate price. He lay dying, he wasn’t dying alone which is supposed to be one of the worst things to happen, but he might as well have been. There was a vigil of people watching him die, some with disdain and a sense of justice and justification and some even with amusement but beneath this veneer of emotions I like to hope there was some repentance, some horror at what had happened and a feeling of sympathy. There was nothing I could to help him I keep telling myself. The same mob that beat him now kept watch over him till the angel of death arrived and carried him away. He was beyond help, not because of the severity of his injuries but because among the crowd there was a policeman and I was sure that if he wasn’t doing anything neither could i.

We walked away before he died. However the sound that he made as we watched. That choking, grasping attempt at breath, His death rattle is one of the worst sounds I have ever heard. And there he lay, a victim of too much justice.