Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Kenne Mwikya
It is hard for any queer person, anyone who reads about queer life, or just anyone who is interested in preserving the lives of queer people to read lawyer Charles Kanjama’s writings on sexual orientation without the slightest bit of condescension and amusement. He sounds very much like a law freshman after the first heady Social Foundations of Law classes; passionately invested in the debate between legal positivism and naturalism. You can almost see him roam the campus halls picking fights, proselytizing and pandering, and constantly seeking the affirmation from others that he indeed knows what he knows. The tragedy is, as with people who fail to quit this habit evendecades after finishing law school, he is wrong.
We live in a country where homophobia is quite present and violent too. It has become increasingly normalized.With this in mind, there is always the risk that people will take the words of commentators like Charles Kanjama seriously. That’s when we queers stop having sex all the time and destroying families and decide to sit pretty, read and respond.
I had started thinking about this article as a response to a recent one in which Mr. Kanjama argues that decriminalizing homosexuality will lead to mass suicide. Of course, as a good Catholic lawyer, who happens to be both “professional” and “ethical”, he must state overall that he does not hate homosexuals (a group he conflates with transgender people) but only proposes their suppression (or genocide?) for the sake of the almighty family.
Kanjama has been rattling the cages and frothing in the mouth for so long that he deserves having his whole homophobic tableau discussed(I suspect he prefers to imagine himself as engaging in serious brow-furrowing thinking). This has meant digging deep into an archive of his writing here. He is surprisingly prolific, for a person who doesn’t say much, and his articles cover a range of issues.
Going through Kanjama’s writing means having to indulge the airs apparent in his name dropping; paragraph after paragraph after paragraph.. This is something that the discerning reader must bear, from faux ruminations about the various legal schools of thought to a veering into memorable quotes by your favorite right wing critic. But all this fails, especially when one does not have the facts to back shit up.
Consider an article in which Mr. Kanjama claimed that if Socrates were alive today, he would probably and successfully argue against LGBT rights. What courage, in the face of classical Greek texts that have Socrates professing otherwise! Much of Mr. Kanjama’s thinking proceeds in this way, from a position of assumed knowledge (hinted at by the dropping of a name) with the calculated introduction of wild conclusions. For the zealous believer in that which aroused his primordial interest, nothing but the overturning of proof is enough to accommodate his belief.
The recent Standard op/ed is another example of this intellectually fraudulent behavior. He proceeds from an obtuse analysis of utopian and dystopian texts by mentioning them and giving them the standard treatment by the right wing. He asserts that dystopian texts support the status quo, no need for mass-suicide-inducing reform or revolution. This foregrounds the assertion that LGBT rights and tolerance itself is a utopian illusion paving way for the shocking dystopian reality.
It would seem that the mentioning of dystopian texts is enough to hold up the assertion. The mentioning of right wing commentators is an added plus. I suspect Mr. Kanjama acquired this style of thinking and presenting arguments from reading legal philosopher John Finnis’ controversial paper titled Law, Morality and Sexual Orientation. The paper is another of those conservative rendering of human rights couched in ‘objective’ musings based on natural law. John Finnis, much more learned but nevertheless as dependent on memorable quotes by philosophers who preceded him (Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, the stoics, Kant), proceeds from this supposed bedrock to fabricate and don a new theory to explain the unnaturalness of homosexuality i.e. that homosexuals are not only naturally incompatible but also innately so and thus there is no way any kind of emotional or psychological sustenance can arise from such a relationship.
Somehow, that argument gets us to a place much like Mr. Kanjama’s conclusion at the Standard: suppression of homosexuality for the sake of preserving the family. Frankly, it’s difficult to determine which thinker is more absurd than the other. Is it the polished legal philosopher pedaling astonishing concepts or the philosopher’s follower dismantling them into bite sized phrases and sentences to be released periodically to an ambivalent or uncritical crowd.
There is nothing exceptional or even interesting about Mr. Kanjama’s version of homophobia. It is oppressively current among Kenya’s professional middle class. It’s never seriously questioned and thus is not sustained by any thinking outside its own justification. Kanjama’s botched Socratic line of thinking, as I have described it above, is testament to this major flaw among self appointed “social conservatives”.
What is infuriating (or amusing, depending on how confident one is about one’s intelligence), is the way in which Charles Kanjama has managed, like a true poseur, to ensconce himself with the media as the voice of sophisticated or erudite legal thinking. In truth, he is better categorized with obscure trolls who think everybody refuses to listen to them because everybody can’t handle the truth. Charles Kanjama has remained where he might have been decades ago while still struggling to remain current, the true mark of the conservative.
Kenne Mwikya blogs at http://kennemwikya.wordpress.com