It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
October 23, 2013 § 4 Comments
Spurred by what Keguro has noted is the Kenyan ability to form committees at the drop of a hat, I have been thinking about our temporalities. Over the years I have been struck by the overlap of our commissions of inquiry. They relay into each other endlessly. If I understood Physics—I don’t—I would compare the commission of inquiry to the event horizon, that bounded timespace whose effects never escape its own borders.
In producing “time” as inquiry, the government employs rituals of truth to structure and re-organize memory. [I would venture “re-memory” if I understood it better, but I don’t]. For the election related violence, see the Akiwumi Report. For the civil war of 2007-8, see the Waki Report, etc. The report realism of “inquiry time” aside, what happens when time, indeed memory, becomes citational, reported and presumably factual, with footnotes from a structure of feeling endorsed by government? And the question I should have posed earlier: what is it to always exist within the boundaries of “inquiry time”?
And yet we have more exciting temporalities, including the “hurry up and wait” [as when a tout rushes you to get into a matatu and then you have to wait till all the seats are filled]. A more fruitful thinking might go after “boredom” as a quintessentially Kenyan time. Perhaps I will attempt that when my brain resumes its functions—alas, another promissory.
There is presidential campaign time, or what we call “everyday”; there is “kwa hayo machache tu,” the time device that brings long boring speeches to their end, signaling stasis, producing the “moment” of speech as durative, intransigent; and we are all familiar with the “any time from now” precisely because it marks our relation to government as endless waiting. As citizens, we are called to waiting. The present continuous tense is instructive.
But perhaps no other time is more “us” than suddenness. The phrase “all of a sudden” is ubiquitous among us, expressing everything from the shocking quickness with which smooth flowing traffic becomes accidental to our refusal, understandably, to accept the loss of a loved one who has had a terminal illness long enough [I have heard “all of a sudden” used to describe deaths that had been imminent for long periods]. I am intrigued by the way suddenness both slows down and fast-tracks our time.
And then there is the curious way in which Sheng renders time, particularly the “minute” [as when people say “sijamuona for a minute,” implying a long duration, perhaps even years]. The elasticity of the inchoate minute is our longue durée, a dilated, yo-yo-ing period. [Binyavanga speaks of bubblegum and “kimay”].
Without a doubt, the most fraught temporality we have is “accept and move on.” I am intrigued by its temporal injunction, by the way it seems contingent on string theory, dividing the spatio-temporal into coterminous dualities: one in which we know and another in which we know not that we know. [I am obsessed with the metaphoricity of ventriloquism, but I have to avoid it here, and think instead of repression]. What happens when we experience time as the cathexis of repression? Or—because Kenyans insist on biblical references—what happens when the left hand unveils the horror of what the right has been up to?