There was a video recently doing rounds on Twitter of a man hacking another man to death. Somewhere in Western Kenya, a man allegedly stole another man’s chicken and the repercussions of that decision were documented in what is the most disturbing clip I have watched on the internet. The alleged thief was near-dead, one foot in the grave the other on a banana peel. I could see it from his (non) reaction as the Hacker descended the panga against his bare skin. He could barely feel a thing. He was numb from the pain. Sometimes, when the blade would cut against him, he twitched. A small twitch that showed he there was still some life in him, albeit just a grain of it. I later learnt that he died.
As agonizing as it was for me to watch that clip, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mostly the terror that made me freeze that I couldn’t bring my finger to close it. It was terror, shock, rage, and sadness all wrapped up in a devilish emotion cocktail. I remember after the clip ended, I tossed my phone to the side and stared into nothingness, trying to breathe slower and calm my nerves. I thought about the deceased man. What a painful way it was for him to go. And for what, a mere chicken? He didn’t deserve it. No one deserves it. I thought about the chicken owner, the Hacker, and a bitter taste formed in my mouth. What went on in his mind as he did such a cruel thing to a human being? How heartless and evil can you be to chop up a man like you would a Christmas animal? I found it hard not to hate him.
But what ticked me off most was the people recording it. How in this lovely age of internet and smartphones, we worry more about capturing moments than doing something. How we’ve traded our souls and humanity for numbers and stats that don’t mean anything. The chick recording kept saying ‘Gai, si atamuua.’ Yes, atamuaa. Alimuua. The crowd just looked on aghast, with their mouth open, watching like it’s the greatest flick. My heart wept for us.
The worst part is, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a thing happen. You’ve probably been there yourself. You saw someone get robbed and just passed on by. I know I’ve been there, only for me, I was on the pointy end of the knife.
It happened a few years ago as I walked down Kencom. A man came beside me, asking for money. First, he asked. Then after I didn’t barge, he demanded with a threat – that if I didn’t give him the cash he would stab me and rob me clean. I laughed it off because there is no way I’m being robbed at the 3 pm in one of the busiest streets in Nairobi. But then, he came closer and from nowhere, flashed what seemed like a blade and it is then that I realized he was not playing around. Immediately he did this, another man, a scaringly tall one who if born in America would be an NBA star, came from behind and walked beside me. I was now sandwiched between two men and my chances of getting out of this safe were rapidly dwindling. I was scared shitless and my heart wanted to beat out of my chest. But it was daytime, and there was a chance they wouldn’t do much damage.
Now when you’re in such a situation, you weigh your options. You could be the hero and die or you could give in to the demands. I dug into my pocket and took out one of the two notes I had, a hundred bob, and handed it to Mr. Dagger. I expected them to leave after this, but my was I wrong. I realized it was a big mistake because soon after they wanted my phone too, something I wasn’t ready to let go easily. So I looked at oncoming strangers, hoping one of them would see the cry for help in my eyes and come to my rescue. Most stared and I could instantly tell they were aware of my situation, but all they did was give me a sympathetic look as if to say, Hii ni Nairobi, hizi vitu hufanyika.
What none of these people, even the thugs, didn’t know is that I wasn’t ready to surrender my phone. It was only two months old, dammit. So I summoned all the courage and strength of my ancestors and the ones before them and shot out from between them like a bullet. I dived into a Bata shop nearby knocking over a bunch of shoes. I looked back and the thugs were nowhere to be seen.
As I stood up, one of the attendants said, “Umekuwa mjanja ukatoroka, hao wangekuibia kila kitu. Pole sana lakini.” Soon the whole shop’s attention was on me, most of the admitting that they knew I was being robbed but couldn’t do anything. They just watched. And who knows, maybe someone recorded the whole thing but since nothing ‘exciting’ happened, they didn’t upload it…Which brings me back to the hacking clip.
How many people have been and will be harmed as we watch and do nothing? Or worse, record and post it? Our little colourful apps have taken away the little humanity we had left. We’re numb creatures now. Numb to love. Numb to pain. Numb to human suffering. And for what, just a few seconds in the limelight?
Someone needs to take our phones away.