In the US for a couple of weeks… very interesting to hear the campaign rhetoric here and compare it with our own from a few months ago. And am struck by an amazing fact… Americans are just as tribalistic as we are! One of the people I’ve really enjoyed getting to know here said in a conversation that Barrack Obama is the closest thing there is to the anti-Christ. Another person, a good friend of his who goes to the same church and that I also greatly enjoyed getting acquainted to, confided that the last president America needs right now is another rich white guy or another Clinton. Sounds so familiar! I was struck by how much alike we all are … day-to-day decent, ordinary people, yet deep down driven by suspicion & ethnocentricity to self-protective stereotyping; ‘us verses them’.
Reminded me of back in the day when I made another startling discovery. Although California highways are extremely clean & orderly compared to ours, I stumbled upon a hidden, out of the way section where it seemed people littered at will. Shock on me! Also, many had radar-detectors in their cars, which detect police radar guns so that you can slow down before they catch you! And then later, Enron and Arthur Andersen as well as Watergate and Irangate before that helped me understand that American’s are not closer to the God-side of the corruption scale than us; with our Goldenburg, Anglo Leasing and Francis Thuo (stock brokerage firm that recently went under after underhand dealings with investor funds)
If Americans are just as tribalistic, dirty and corrupt as we are, then why aren’t they grabbing ‘machetes’ and killing their neighbors, drowning in dirt and being labeled as corrupt? I think the answer is simple. The law here works. In Cali, you could be charged up to 1000$ for littering on the highway. Ouch! Even though not perfect, the system here ensures that evil-doers are brought to the book – mostly. And like the much-beloved-and-mourned-for Michuki Rules taught us, even matatu drivers comply when there’s a consistent and firm message against bad driving.
Romans 13:4 defines the primary role of government as God’s agents for our (citizens) good, to execute wrath on those who practice evil. A good sign that government is working, is that evil doers (even though still present) are restrained by their fear of the consequences from doing evil!
That’s why I think one of the priorities of our coalition government needs to be setting up independent institutions that work. Let’s begin with the judiciary and police-force. Let’s overhaul our constitution so that the presidency, parliament and judiciary have clearly defined roles that regulate each other. Let’s also figure out the roles that the media and civil society should play. Entrenching tribal equations in our government and civil service is not a real solution. It’s dealing with the short-term symptoms and ignoring the genuine long-term issues.