Monday, July 17, 2017

Elitism's resilience

In my opinion, this is a fundamental flaw in the one-man-one-vote electoral democracy. I think we should change it so that on those registered as taxpayers should be allowed to vote – barring, of course, companies, societies and other corporate entities...We should even go a step further and give additional votes based on the amount of tax one has paid during the preceding parliamentary term; say, one additional vote for every Sh10,000 paid in the five years before an election...This would make the national election similar to a company or Sacco. In companies, for example, shareholders are assigned votes equal to the number of shares they own. WORLD OF FIGURES: Why only registered taxpayers should vote in elections
Elitism in Kenya is not a unique phenomenon. Its paternalistic fingerprints can be traced to the moment a European settler and colonist declared that Black peoples were to be civilised and given the right history. Civilising missions almost always followed the same pattern: religious proselytising about a Christian God; training and instruction in the formalism of European education with its focus on standardisation and certification; further religious proselytising about capitalism in all its iterations; and, most importantly, the centralisation, organisation and necessity of constitutional government and the exercise of its mandate, especially the imposition and collection of taxes.

We ended up with the civilised government that the settler-colonist intended for us and the tax system is proof of the settler-colonist's success, especially the arrogance that is engendered in the man or woman who pays taxes while his poor fellowman relies on the handouts of well-wishers or, worse, the tax-evader plays hide-and-seek with the taxman, skulking in the corporate underworld like the smelly skunk he is, an uncivilised being to be shunned by all right-thinking tax-paying citizens. This arrogance decrees that only those who pay income tax should be afforded political rights and, by extension, political power. (The small matter of any Bill of Rights that guarantees political freedoms to all citizens is a minor detail that statute law can address.)

If a country was the same as a SACCO or a company, and each citizen owned shares in the country, then there could, in theory, be a case to be made for votes to be based on shareholding and, therefore, political rights and political power. That is not the case with Kenya, is it? In a population of 45 million, or thereabouts, there are only 2.1 million registered taxpayers. Are these 2.1 million Kenyans -- we presume that they are all Kenyans -- shareholders in the national entity known as Kenya? If they are, should those who pay the highest amount in income tax have the greatest say about who should and shouldn't form the government and, as a consequence, determine what laws are needed?

The US Revolutionary War was indeed fought over the question of taxation without representation. But that is not the whole story, is it? The Thirteen Colonies may have had principle on their side when they took on the British Crown, but they didn't extend the same privilege to the Black men and women held as chattel property, who were included in the revolutionaries' financial statements when paying taxes. Black humans were not humans to the taxpaying white man in the American Colonies. Even if we skirt around whether or not citizens who don't pay income taxes are citizens to begin with, what other privileges will the government of the taxpayer grant the taxpayer at the expense of the non-taxpayer? In other words, what discriminatory policies should the government implement to reflect the non-rights of the non-taxpayers?

When Johnson Sakaja was mulling a bid for the Governor's office, he suggested that Nairobians should be encouraged to buy SUVs in order to bring the traffic chaos under control. Those residents of this city who commute by public means or, as many do, walk to work, were not high up in his vision for the city. They might as well have been invisible. When Kenyans were being bombed and shot at by terrorists, the president and his securocracy suggested, behind their phalanxes of armed bodyguards, that, in effect, Kenyans should sort out their own personal safety and security on their own and leave government alone. Security, the said, begins with you.

Elitism has not traveled that far between the Portuguese visitors to the East African Coast and their forts and the columnists on our national newspapers. The poor and unlettered will always make the wrong choices when it comes to "leaders" and, for their own benefit, some of their privileges must be curtailed. There are many things wrong with Kenya's democracy. Undemocratic screeds are not the solution.

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