SOCIAL NORMS

What Murkomen, Mutula Jr can learn from middle urinal rule

The men’s toilet etiquette is not in any written law. But all decent, right-thinking and culturally appropriate men follow it to a tee.

In Summary

• During his arraignment, Governor Mike Sonko was represented by a dozen lawyers, some of who double up as lawmakers, and others as county oversight authorities in the Senate.

• This has brought into question their impartiality as senators and the likelihood of conflict of interest should the same governor appear in the Senate  in future.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's team of lawyers who include senators Kipchumba Murkomen (second right) and Mutula Kilonzo Jr (right)
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's team of lawyers who include senators Kipchumba Murkomen (second right) and Mutula Kilonzo Jr (right)
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A:

Don’t ask me how I know but there are universally accepted unwritten rules when using a public men’s toilet.

One, if you are the first guy in the toilet, always pick the urinal on one end; two, if you are the second guy in, pick the urinal on the other far end; three, make no eye contact or small talk; and four, which is the golden cardinal rule, if you are the third guy in, always leave at least one empty urinal, if not multiple, between the first and second guy.

This week, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was arrested, detained and arraigned to face corruption charges, failure to comply with procurement laws, unlawful acquisition of public property and laundering crime proceeds.

 

His arrest was not without drama and scuffles. His unprintable epithets, wailing like a street cat in a dark alley, and his unflattering side view mug shot have made for all manner of comic relief, notwithstanding the seriousness of the counts he faces.

Closely following his arrest came the pontificating from a coterie of politicians and his supporters, all castigating the manner in which he was arrested. They claimed it was undignified, humiliating and disgraceful for a governor to be handled like a common criminal.

MURKOMEN, MITULA JR  REPRESENTING SONKO

During his arraignment, he was represented by a dozen lawyers, some of who double up as lawmakers, and others as county oversight authorities in the Senate.

This has brought into question their impartiality as senators and the likelihood of conflict of interest should the same governor appear in the Senate  in future, where the senators will be required to cast their votes.

The Judiciary has pronounced itself on this issue in a prior ruling that the onus is on those alleging a conflict of interest to provide evidence that the person said to be acting in conflict of interest, is acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the other party.

On their part, the senator/lawyers have defended themselves saying there is no written law that prohibits them from representing any client. And they are quite right. But they are also terribly wrong because the cardinal rule of the middle urinal must also apply here.

 

Begs the question, aren’t these pontificators cherry-picking to deodorize the noxious stance they have taken on this matter? True, there is no such written law. But which is the written law that states how a governor should be arrested, or which day of the week the arrest should be effected? Can the political class choose when to govern by the sword and when not to?

The men’s toilet etiquette is not in any written law. But all decent, right-thinking and culturally appropriate men follow it to a tee.

SOCIAL NORMS

In philosophy-speak, unwritten laws are called social norms. They are the accepted behaviours that form the social contract that governs societies. To prevent anarchy, most human beings play by the unwritten rules, even when they could get away with breaking them. The social contract is enforced through praise, blame or censure. However, what senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Mutula Kilonzo Jr are telling us is that as long as it is not written, then we all have carte blanche to do as we wish. Could this be the epidemic that has afflicted us as a nation?

The simple reason why we have unwritten rules is that we cannot have a rule that has a corollary that tells you how to observe the rule; and another that tells you how to observe the corollary that tells you how to observe the rule. In simple terms, unwritten rules are unwritten because the behaviours they seek to modify are unthinkable.

There is a pervasive disposition of despair and hopelessness among the majority of Kenyans people who just want to live, work and play in a country where they get value for the leadership they elect, for the services they are taxed for, and for an environment within which they can freely apply their talents, skills and ideas in pursuit of their life, liberty and happiness.

I submit that we can and should extricate ourselves from this victimhood mentality, and turn the tide in our favour. And we can do this through the Mississippi effect. Let me tell you how.

The Mississippi River meanders through its last several hundred miles before spilling into the Gulf of Mexico in a general course that cannot be altered by any event of less than cataclysmic proportions.

Let us suppose you are taken to the bank of the Mississippi River, handed a shovel, and instructed to change the flow of this river using only that shovel. You would probably think it impossible what one human being can do against something that powerful and majestic. However, with the same shovel, at the right place, you can begin to dig a cut, a small cut that would get bigger and bigger until the whole river would course through that new channel, and an entire curve of the river would be obliterated.

That, my fellow Kenyans, is the Mississippi effect. It is also called the minority rule. Think of the percentage of lactating mothers in any given workplace at any given time. Yet, due to a few people’s persistent insistence on the rights of lactating mothers, and their unwavering commitment to effect change, we now have a Bill that will require employers and commercial building owners to provide a lactation room, failure to which they face a fine of up to Sh1 million.

Likewise, it will only take a few intolerant, persistent, committed, virtuous and brave but not reckless Kenyans to change the course of our politics, by relentlessly standing up and demanding that unwritten rules be equally salient and must be observed by all without exception.

This Mississippi effect will ensure intolerance to individuals suspected of murder, embezzlement of public funds, and use of public funds for cosmetic surgery, holding public office. Neither will we have those in legislative positions double up as their lawyers.

Finally, my unsolicited advice to Murkomen and Mutula Jr is; simply because there is no written rule that says don’t pee in the chapel, it doesn’t make it right for you to do so.

Likewise, simply because there is no rule that prohibits you from representing any client, doesn’t make it right as senator/lawyers to represent governors suspected of corruption. Because the rule of the middle urinal is cardinal.

No written law has ever been more binding than an unwritten custom supported by popular opinion – Carrie Chapman Cat