Friday, September 23, 2011

This Excitable Mind of Mine

Library. A casual observer would think I was studying, but in libraries, casual observers are few and far between. I was reviewing and writing in my journal.

All the mucky, true, uncomfortable, weird, personal, embarrassing and emotional stuff I’m scared to think too much about; all of it makes it into my journals. Keeping a journal is hard work. And only rarely rewarding. Because, more often, when one reviews what one wrote in the past, one feels like a doubly dense dude. But I always say one thing: “no one still is what they used to be when they were young and foolish - unless they still are.”

In actual fact, I don’t always say that thing.

Some of my close friends and at least two exes have complained that I read too much into things. It seems my own journals contain the evidence to back their claims. This is exactly what I do not need to hear: that they have been right all along.

Here is an excerpt of something I discovered in a particularly dog-eared journal. I wrote this after watching news one lonely night a few years ago.

“Now the gentle-hearted General Service Unit has drained its last reserves of patience and forbearance with riotous university students! If TV reports (that was Citizen TV, was it?) are to be believed, then the force has embarked on something very much akin to full paramilitary training. On TV screens tonight were to be seen rows of camouflage-donning GSU combatants; crouched surreptitiously in lush jungle terrain, only rising to their feet to execute sudden fatal martial arts attacks at imaginary students - moves copied straight from the Textbook of Advanced Shaolin Tai Chi, and they were only training! Close by, a brand new machine- gun look-alike (complete with tripod and shining belts of bullets) stood amidst an assortment of other deadly-looking weapons of a related class, all on display for the camera. Nobody, not even the visibly shaken journalist, commented on whether the machine gun was compatible with rubber bullets. Nor was mention made how much tai chi/kung fu the average university student can withstand (or reasonably deflect) before dying ignominiously from flying through the air off the end of a well-swung jagged-edged military-issue boot. Comrades! Think twice before you strike.”
Artist's impression of the author's impression of the last UoN strike victim's fate

What was with all the paranoia? And who said that the GSU had been exclusively commissioned to control University of Nairobi strikes anyway? Some GSU personnel were probably just happy to show off a little, bust a move for the cameras, and here I was, overreacting. Unfortunately, the nearby pharmacist wasn’t dispensing chill pills.

No sooner had I finished lamenting the apparent coming fate of my academic equals than I also remembered to mourn the global financial crisis that began in 2008, and which does not seem to have officially ended yet. (Just don’t ask CNN.)

“Everyone had a mortgage and six credit cards. As soon as someone credible raised their voice to say ‘Wait; how long can this go on?’ the whole party crashed to an end. Suddenly the government had to bail out the panicked publishers of credit cards (who simultaneously happened to be remortgaging people’s houses). Very soon, if things go well and the bailout works, then everyone can go back to real estate development and accumulation of credit cards. Recovery.”

Too critical; I myself did not even own a single credit card at the time. But I am not new to internal contradictions in moments of high panic.

I ought to pay hefty fines for misusing the library. Luckily, all my journals look like dull old notebooks full of dull notes; full from cover to cover in a uniformly urgent handwriting. Perhaps the numerous inside-joke cartoon sketches in the margins might betray the truth. One sketch shows a broken down Volkswagen Beetle (the 1940s model) parked behind State House.

There are earthshaking scandals in my old journals, trial-worthy confessions, heartbreaks reenacted, events reconstructed, victories rejoiced over, irrelevant drawings galore; and so I ought to destroy those potentially damaging books forever. But every journal writer/blogger/columnist develops an unhealthy love for their own wrongheaded writings and narrowly conceptualized opinions. That is why Journal Extracts Part II might be published here sooner or later. Or not.


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