I read with interest an article yesterday in the East African Standard Online titled, Bravado and Pride, the Key Tenets of the Luo which essentially says or purported to make the case that Luos have a “flamboyant nature and sense of style founded on three tenets, pakruok (self praise), nyadhi (bravado) and sunga (pride).
For the convenience of those pressed with time, the following are excerpts from the article:
“It is not uncommon to find a [Luo soccer] fan putting on a jersey inscribed with the writings reading owad gi agwambo (Agwambo’s brother), Wuod Gem (I hail from Gem) denoting that the wearer is proud of his birth place while wuoyi mosomo (highly educated) indicating the wearer’s high level of education.”
“This is in addition to their polished and eloquence in command of the English language, otherwise known as The Queen’s English.”
“The Luo tribe also brags of many professionals dominant in nearly every area of Kenya’s economic sectors and policy making.”
A man from former Central Province interviewed for the article, said, “”These brothers of ours are the most versatile of our tribes. They pride themselves in being the hardest working and most learned in Kenya. They can be found in large numbers in all social groupings, from the manual labourers in the quarries to university halls the world over, they are found everywhere.”
All this bravado and expression of pride is done in good faith, said another person interviewed for the article, professor Ouma Onyango, a history lecturer at Maseno University.
Another contributor, a psychologist, sees nothing wrong with bravado and expression of pride, if not done in excess.
“There is nothing wrong in praising yourself if you have done something really good. It is praising yourself in front of other people that is wrong, because people might think you are bragging about your achievements and qualities, sort of blowing your own trumpet in front of others, which I guess no one likes,” said the psychologist, Paul Maranga.
Curious after reading this article, I posted it in its entirety a forum with a fair balance of Luos and other tribes and ethnicities, wishing to know what their take on it would be.
First, I was surprised at the dearth of responses; I certainly anticipated this would generate an interesting discussion about tribalism and ethnicity, outside of the usual political prism, even though there is no separating politics from the issue.
Second, the couple of responses I saw were hardly surprising as they were from individuals I assume are Luos, affirming the same concept.
The one non-Luo who contributed in the thread, essentially found fault in my posting the article for discussion, which I could not and still can’t see what that could possibly be.
I have since reflected on the article and have several observations.
To begin with, there is no doubt this is a sensitive subject in as much as it goes to the core of who we are as individuals and in many ways, it forces us to look at both ourselves inwardly but more importantly, it exposes our vulnerabilities both from a practical point of view, and culturally to the point any expression of views on it to others becomes circumscribed for fear of the unknown.
In other words, we cannot express ourselves fully on an issue like this without fear of being branded arrogant tribalists, in the case of a Luo who does so express oneself agrees with the article or a brooding tribalist and hater, in the case of one who so expresses oneself in disagreement.
But this need not be the case.
As the psychologist said in the article, there is nothing wrong to express pride for oneself of one’s community; the problem is if one does it excessively.
What is excessive?
That’s the question but it’s not one which renders itself to a simple answer.
As in such questions, the answer depends on any number of factors and circumstances presented for evaluation.
The soccer fan at Nyayo Stadium with a jersey announcing he is from such and such village, is probably out-of-place.
It’s not villages that are in competition, but groups of villages, as represented by these teams therefore the promotion of one village over the others is in by itself the definition of anti-teamwork, which is necessarily counterintuitive and counterproductive, if displaying such messages intended to express oneness with the team, or support for it.
Ditto for a blogger in a forum, who announces he or she is from such and such village; which village where one comes from, is not relevant in a discussion of national issues but is very relevant in the discussion of regional issues, thus, in a forum, say, dealing with Lake region issues, such pronouncements are appropriate.
Let them try and out-do each other as to who is from which village and why that’s important or something to be emulated, if that’s the purpose for such declarations.
I suppose the reason people find it offensive or unacceptable to make such declarations in either regional or national fora, is it is assumed such declarations are intended to make those from other villages feel less Luo or worthy of mention, if in a regional Luo forum, or less Kenyans and humans for that matter, if in a national forum.
I personally never think so and actually find such declarations almost comical.
Now, on the larger question of bravado and pride, I find it a fascinating subject because it’s both a good thing but equally undesirable.
I come from a family of 10, with one mother, who is still around and we are thankful to God for that.
Our Mzee passed on a few years ago but if there is one thing he left in all of his children starting from our oldest now over 70 and retired to yours truly, who is the youngest, it’s never to chest-thumb or otherwise brag and none of us ever has and doubt ever will, as anyone who knows us will tell you.
There is greatness in being humble, but don’t be average either.
That was the lesson all of us learned from our Mzee who, having retired early as the head of the African Tribunal Court, went on to become a highly respected member of the community, besides becoming a staunch Adventist and elder of our SDA Church to the day he passed on.
I am glad I and my siblings learned this lesson and applied it in our lives as we grew up and hopefully have passed it on to our children (to say we have, is not to be humble so I can’t say we have or have not, or is it?).
But is being the opposite necessarily a bad thing?
In other words, isn’t there some utility in bravado and one proudly expressing oneself?
I think so, but only to some extent.
This, namely bravado and proudly expressing oneself and its appropriateness, in fact, becomes one of degree, but the question, as I posed above becomes, when is such expression excessive?
There are two extremes of this, as in many things, ranging from the most arrogant to the most humble.
Neither end is a desirable position to be, albeit for different reasons I address below.
Here in the US, there is a Radio Talk Show host by the name Rush Limbaugh, who someone once published a book he aptly titled, “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.”
That book sold like hot cakes and its author, Al Franken, is now a United States Senator.
This Big Fat Idiot, Rush Limbaugh must win hands-down, the title, the World’s Most Arrogant Person, and all you have to do, is to listen to the various ways he introduces himself to know he takes the title hands down:
“Talent on Loan from God,” “Maha-Rushi” (from Maharishi, a great sage); “Serving humanity just by being here, and it doesn’t matter where here is,” “exuding knowledge and information with half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair” (this from a High School-drop-out), “Doctor of Democracy” and so on.
We all know Idi Amini and the titles he bestowed on himself in his foolish believe that would make him the super military general he was not but for his effort, he must be mentioned alongside this Big Fat Idiot Rush Limbaugh for he must be his runner-up.
These two are representative of the one extreme of self-expression but say what anyone can about the Big Fat Idiot Rush Limbaugh, he has a cult-like following among Republicans and even non-Republican listeners that have for decades made him the #1 Talk Show Host and a position he has maintained unchallenged all those years because he knows how to grab and keep his audience with endless rants and raves about Democrats and hubris.
So much such that when he brags about himself, these mindless listeners believe him and often acknowledge and remind him as much.
On the other end of the scale, there is extreme humbleness, which is a form of weakness and here, the perfect example is Jimmy Carter.
You cannot find in any country’s history, a president more humble than Jimmy Carter, yet, he was deemed a failure, even though he redeemed himself after leaving office to become the most popular president out of office in American history, right up there with the likes of Dwight Eisenhower, FDR and JFK Kennedy, men who in their own time, were humble in their own ways albeit to a much lesser extent than Jimmy Carter.
In between, these two extremes, there is a variety of self-expression and manifestation of assuredness and humility or lack thereof that ranges in degree from the acceptable to the unacceptable.
Where are the Luos in all of that? Is it as the article implied on the Limbaugh end or the Carter end, or neither?
In my view, this is necessarily a mischievous rap on Luos.
Luos have no more bravado and neither are they more openly expressive of their pride than any other tribe in Kenya.
This may be true among the younger generation of Luos but in time, as people move away from their enclaves and interact with others, some of the learned habits are unlearned and a blending of attitudes and mannerisms occur such that it makes no difference where one tribally or ethnically comes from but that does not mean there are not those left with their old habits and manners they are unable to shake.
I therefore reject this notion that bravado and expression of self-pride is the stable of Luos but would readily agree, if it’s a matter of propensity we are talking about, then there is amble anecdotal evidence to suggest its more likely than not a Luo would manifest bravado and more readily and comfortably show his or her pride than similarly situation folk from other tribes but only up-to a certain age.
Talking about pride and arrogance, many a politician or wannabes politicans have again and again been jettisoned from politics because of enlarged egos brought about by too much bravado and arrogance.
To be sure, pride in oneself, self-assuredness and confidence are key and required elements of a successful political career.
However, those same traits must always be put in check, especially as against other politicians.
PLO is being shown the door, not for incompetence in running KACC, in my view, but because he was perceived by the politicians as being arrogant and essentially telegraphing that he believed he had them all in his hand to threaten and abuse at will, which is the height of arrogance but less than the Big Fat Idiot Rush Limbaugh’s because the latter can express it and get away with it but not the former.
To be continued.
Peace, Love and Unity