” I consider my opinion as one that furthers the true concept of free will. Why would I dare say that? Free will and responsibility are not inconsistent concepts. And my view excludes nonchalance from choice, it emphasizes that choice need be considerate when being exercised. It acknowledges that our individual prejudices cannot find a place of unrestrained expression in a society, and that as civil people, we necessarily have to acknowledge our obligation to collective existence.”
It’s barely 20 minutes past six when I reach the 8th floor of this massive centre seated in the Prime Upper Hill area of Nairobi. I prefer being in office as early, in part to dodge a traffic snarl-up on Nairobi roads, but as well in conformity with an established tradition of starting my days early, started in High school.
I always take a minute to gaze at a city beneath me once in office, Nairobi sprawls before my eyes with an ambitious gait, in part showing the resilient spirit that makes Kenya, in part motivating my own struggles.
Today as I gaze out, I am unable to see Nairobi. It is quite foggy, but my sight is just as clouded by a sight of a small lunch court that is barely 100 meters from where I am, Sheeben, as by the fog. Sheeben has housed me for lunch quite often, not that I have come to like it as my mum’s kitchen, but it reminds me of a nagging conversation that there began a week ago.
We were discussing politics, no, the concept of choice and its politics.
Choice is a concept central to human existence. It gives people a chance to self express themselves, to exercise inalienable power of determining their lives. Choice, is what gives human life its taste, it’s the provenance of laughter and tears. When we triumph, we exalt ourselves knowing we chose rightly. When we fail, we pinch ourselves.
I would even equate choice to freewill. That sacred aspect of being that is incomprehensible, where man, though subject to restraint by nature or God, still errs with impunity, undeterred by that nature or that God.
In the talk, was Mungai Munene, my readers will know him, he has been subject of many of my of late writings, Jackson , an advocate and Ivy, an advocate to be and my senior in college.
It was Ivy’s opinion that the hallmark of civility is ability to respect choice without question, that a construction to the contrary breeds intolerance. In her opinion, a civil man, and tolerance is an attribute of civility, should respect the choice of others as he would like their own to be respected. That necessarily that respect extends to the fact of not questioning.
At that time, I did not know whether I disagreed with her, but she disagreed with my opinion. My opinion was that, choice, its sanctity notwithstanding, should always be true to the fact of collective existence. I meant that we have to tamper our choices with the reality of our being together or rather, that we need to conform our choices, just as to our responsibility to that collective existence as to our individual beliefs.
I must say relieving this discussion has revealed inherent inconsistencies within my own thinking. I published an essay, Letter to life, whose gist was a wish that life could allow me to chip my own space in the solid of existence. I silently condemned, life’s agents for expecting me to follow streams of tradition, but still, within the essay, I acknowledged my responsibility to collective existence.
Our two views are justifiable. Ivy believes in purity of choice, I doubt whether any of my beliefs suggest a contrary, but we certainly differ when it comes on just what should guide our choices.
What made me think deeply about this whole thing is the fact that I believed in what she said, yet we could not agree. It is characteristic of lawyers to, but an issue so fundamental could not be so incoherent. I almost thought I did not know myself.
The word Choose, is adopted from the French word *choix, or the older *choiswhich traces its roots from a German word *keus.
Keus has a relationship with the modern word English word gusto which is a latin derivative; I gave up any further tracing of the word, linguistics shows extreme interdependence of human civilizations.
To the extent of my etymological escapades, I could reasonable deduce that choice exits with preference and enjoyment or appreciation. It was almost as though there can never be such a thing a painful choice. That whenever freewill is negated, the concept of choice becomes nonexistent and coercion sets in.
Well, our discussion was about choice, or rather the politics of choice. The extension of my view would mean that if we have to tamper our choices with the reality of our collective existence, then that is an acknowledgement of our obligation to others and we consequently empower others to question our choices.
In my two colleagues’ views, that is what intolerance is.
Let me shift the discussion from its abstractness to the practical premises of our discussion. Jackson opined that in a democracy expressed by a vote, it is his right to choose however he wants, and if that choice is influenced by tribal preference, then let it be. He said, and I paraphrase: you should learn to live with your choices and let others live with theirs.
On the other hand, since I believed that our choices need conform with the reality of our collective existence, even though I am obliged to respect ones choice, I have a right to question it and they should either justify it, or consider reconsideration.
And where it involves choice of government, where my will need be as worth as another’s will, I have an inherent right to question the basis of alternative choices. In my view, this is not intrusion; rather it is an acceptance that we need not hold onto ideologies that disadvantage our collective existence in the guise of personal choice.
Civility therefore, lies not in another person’s ability to live with your idiosyncrasies, prejudices and what have you, but in your ability to account to collective existence. That is your actions resonate with what is necessarily good and right for collective existence.
This, in my view does not negate freewill. It would be a negation of free will, if my opinion required ones choices to conform to conventionalities. That we should go with what is generally accepted as good.
I consider my opinion as one that furthers the true concept of free will. Why would I dare say that? Free will and responsibility are not inconsistent concepts. And my view excludes nonchalance from choice, it emphasizes that choice need be considerate when being exercised. It acknowledges that our individual prejudices cannot find a place of unrestrained expression in a society, and that as civil people, we necessarily have to acknowledge our obligation to collective existence.
Well, I am sure Ivy will counter my opinion, perhaps clarify her stance. But if I have to recoil to elections and choice, I will ask a question: Does the electorate really ‘choose’ their leader?