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25 Rules That Make a Man

Consider these 25 commandments, break those you have to, and live better with all the rest

Being a man is a hell of an opportunity.

And it breaks our hearts to see it squandered.

So in honor of our 25th birthday, we’re celebrating the million different roads to a full-blooded guy life. Clearly, any gender that includes both Netanyahu and Nathan Lane isn’t fussy about how you get there.

We’re of two minds about rules. Mind #1 says, We don’t need no stinking rules. But mind #2 is a controlling type, as in, Hey, without rules it’s bedlam out there! So we’ve walked that ridgeline and limited ourselves to 25 trail markers. If you observe these rules along your way, you’ll dazzle men, delight women, inspire children, and optimize the octane of your testosterone. Ignore them and, hell, you might still succeed. But that’s the thing about rules: Knowing them also implies knowing when to break them.

And that’s damn manly, which is the only rule that really counts: Be a man about it.

Eat every apple you see

Forgive Eve, already! The apple is the greatest underleveraged food asset out there. It has calcium, vitamin A, iron, and a jolt of vitamin C, and the fiber helps you feel full. Chomping makes you seem vigorous and wholesome. Paring one with Grampy’s buck knife can make even an editor appear intimidating.

Conflict is a forge.

Some men will do any self-effacing tap dance to avoid interpersonal fender benders. Studies should show that being Mr. Accommodating drops your testosterone off the graph. Flourishing men don’t seek conflict, and they don’t shrink from it either. One of the pleasures of being a man is standing up for your people or principles when the situation requires it.

Always wear shower shoes in locker rooms.

Please, don’t make us describe those tile-borne pathogens! We’re trying to enjoy our birthday

Never tell someone their setback is for the best.

A good man never tries to gentle another guy’s loss. He simply bears witness to his wound and gives the man some privacy to swallow what’s bitter in the cup. If you can’t respect the other guy’s grief, why don’t you just find another bar stool, farther down the line?

This isn’t the dress rehearsal.

This is your life. Yeah, this. Right now. There’s no time for napping.

Women and children first.

We may be heaving traditional gender roles over the gunnels, but this chivalric directive still stands and will stand, as long as we’re stronger than the girls. (Please, tell us you are!) One exception: If you’re about to have your professional throat cut by a colleague in a wrap dress and kitten heels, show no quarter. Otherwise, you were designed to shelter the curvy and protect the small.

You don’t have to like it to eat it.

Somehow we’ve become decadent about food. We think every bite has to be a porterhouse pleasure, and we refuse to eat foods we don’t enjoy. Come on! You need high-quality fuel! Go ahead! Eat broccoli and spinach and tomatoes and squash just because they’re good for you. You don’t have to like them, and anyway, that’s why God made hot sauce.

With enough garlic, everything is freaking delicious!

A boot heel would taste good sauteed in olive oil and slathered with garlic. Unless you’re from Sicily, increase your garlic intake.

Never enter a hotel room with a woman.

…unless you’re hoping it happens. Hotel rooms are what the Sisters of the Divine Compassion used to call “occasions of sin.” Don’t go in there with her—no, not even just to “grab the sales kits.”

Never use the word “frankly.”

You’re always candid, aren’t you?

“It’s a good day to die.”

Crazy Horse, a chief of the Lakota Sioux, is said to have used this exhortation to fire up his guys before they took the battlefield. Hey, it’s just death! If a man lives boldly, untroubled by the prospect of failure, he can achieve things a fretful man could never dream of. This declaration is also useful before tip-off, a tough ask, a keynote, or any event that might unsettle a timid man.

Life is an ocean. Love is a boat.

Love softens a women. It hardens a man. His resolve, his fortitude, his courage. With luck, there’s a partner. More luck, some kids. He loves his sister, his pals, and even, in a way, his Uncle Phil. A proper man loves things, too—his yard and the Bard. He loves his wheels and well-imagined deals. Caring is the key. A man is averse to indifference; his passions buoy him up.

Honor is the gift a man gives himself.

True nobility is exempt from fear. Anyway, so claimed William Shakespeare 400 years ago. It still sounds true.

“Pick up a weapon and stand a post.”

Colonel Jessep’s message is important enough to overlook his lack of manners. A man isn’t on the sidelines; he’s in the game. A weapon need not be lethal. A trowel can be a weapon. So too can a violin, a weed whacker, a whisk, and even a way with kind words or a strong silence.

If you’re not scared, you’re not going fast enough.

Though this is car-racing wisdom, we’re not talking about driving here; only teenagers and idiots drive too fast. But a man needs to push himself to be sure he’s not aiming too low. Explore some limits. There’s no need to be less than you were born to be.

Be like Homer. (Simpson, not the poet guy.)

His only role-model virtue is his ability to see the doughnuts, not the holes. Any fool can find the shortcomings in. . .well, just about everything. But a soulful man finds the energies, the symmetries, the elations in. . .well, anything. It takes brains to note beauty.

Setbacks are just part of the trip.

They’re curves, and they slow you down. Okay. Where’s the next straightaway?

Finished beats perfect.

Who doesn’t have a thousand ideas that will make us rich, enhance the world, or just be fun? Fail as quickly as you can so you can get opinions that help. A rough prototype is better than the one you’ll get around to any decade now.

Never look at a menu for longer than 90 seconds.

Check the steak, the fish, and the pasta, and just pick one, pal. You’ve been to a restaurant before, haven’t you? You’re picking dinner, not a business partner. Order, and then on with it. And spare us the fulminations about the apricot glaze!

If you can’t enjoy the contradictions, you’ll miss out on all the fun.

Don’t insist that everything make sense. If you attempt to understand human beings, if you expect them to always behave rationally, then you’ll end up going through life crabby and vexed. But if instead you can savor their odd, confounding humanness, then you might just enjoy the spectacle that we are.

Be like water.

If water runs into an obstacle, it finds its fluid way around or under or whatever it takes—it’s clever. And if a man adapts, adjusts, and calls audibles, he too can carve the Snake River Canyon.

Be like stone.

Yes, this is the exact opposite advice. (See #21.) But from time to glorious time, a man is unyielding.

Be wary of toughness.

The real-men-are-made-of-steel propaganda is bad enough for us. But it’s even more toxic when our disdain for weakness translates into callousness. If you feel yourself being stony about others’ woes, challenge that sentiment and deliberately invite soft-heartedness forward. “Be kind,” advised a writer you never heard of named Ian McLaren back before everything went digital, “because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” The truest men are tenderhearted, even if they don’t talk that way.

Aspire to will and to grace.

You need willfulness to carve your life. A man lives intentionally; a man’s got plans. What do you want to accomplish? Your goals don’t have to be high-minded or expensive; they just have to be yours. A family? A skill? An offshore secret? A single-digit handicap? A man has to chase. And the grace? Well, you’ll need that when you’re thwarted by your limitations or by the great cantankerousness of the world. Grace allows a man to be humble when he ought to be, and to remember how it felt to be small.

Thou Shalt Be Grateful.

Yes, it’s a commandment, hard and fast. We put it in biblical format to scare you into listening. In fact, you can’t be a topnotch man unless you’re deeply grateful. For what? Glad you asked. For the gift of your gender. For those muscles in your back. For those neurons in your brain. For your mirth. Your lust. Your courage. For your possibilities. A man in full appreciates the twist of fate that made him so strong, so cunning, so stalwart, so alert, so sexually skilled, so fully equipped, so good to go. Live the appreciation, by using it all.

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DEUS EX MACHINA, KENYA EX MACHINA? PART II

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In the prequel to this article, I already explained what Deus ex machina means.

We pray to a God we don’t really believe in.

As a country, we have no soul, no heart; we are bereft of conscience and our moral compass is defunct.

Despite the tragedy and sadness, the Westgate massacre has brought the reality of Kenya to many in the upper middle class and the rich. The hens have come home to roost. The fruits of our apathy are here with us now. This is what corruption and tribalism does to a country. This and many more, are and will be recompense for the ills that you have simply seen as slights.

Who cares anyway? After all, all you need to become Cabinet Secretary in Charge of Defense is for your brother to have gone to school with the president and a consistent ability to wear sunglasses.

To our non-caring elite, and those who aspire to be like them: you are like Loki, the Nordic god of evil; it seems there is no pain that would prise your need for greed and power from you. But trust me, a lot of people think that until the pain starts.

We court chaos, and yet when chaos responds to our song and dance and comes upon us, we are surprised. Do we not realise that we lie in the bed we have made for ourselves?

We lie and kill, in the service of liars and killers.

When a child is shot down in church and in Westgate and angels weep, and that child’s death is directly linked to your tribalism and corruption, not only are you on the wrong side of history, but you are on the wrong side of me and others like me.

Just because we disagree does not mean we must insult and tear each other down. Let someone teach this lesson to Aden Duale, Justin Muturi, and Jakoyo Midiwo. Teach it to the Americans as well.

And if we must insult, can we at least put some effort and thought into our insults? From issuing witty barbs, we have descended to witless barbarism.

One of the reasons I support Uhuru Kenyatta, though I did not vote for him, is this; first, he is our President. Second, Uhuru has the opportunity and ability to fix this country. He can fix tribalism, corruption, and poverty. And if he fixes the first two the third will solve itself. In my opinion, he has done great so far. Many criticise him, but the truth of the matter is that it is easier to criticise and tear down than to build. But Mr. President, please de-tribalise your government and the civil service. Despite what many of your supporters may say in terms of ‘so and so is well qualified to hold the job’- justice must be done and be seen to be done.

I might sound like a broken record, but it is because the truth is simple. I believe the principle of Occam’s razor says something to the effect that the best solution is the simplest one. The problem with security in our country, as with everything else, is tribalism and corruption. We are dancing in the glory of monsters, and you only need to visit the Congo to see what tribalism and corruption can do to a country. De-link the NIS from politics. Give them the power to arrest and detain. And terminate where necessary. But keep them answerable to the law. I spoke with a contemporary of mine in the NIS and he asked me: If you were President, would not like to know what your political allies and rivals are up to? And my answer was; yes I would, but not at the expense of the taxpayer.

 Pay the police better. Give them better equipment, training, and housing. Let go of knee jerk reactions and shoot to kill orders from hoteliers. And by the way, when that particular hotelier who now happens to be Cabinet Secretary of the Interior said that there was an insignificant number of hostages left, unlike many Kenyans I was not offended. The problem is English. He thought that insignificant means the same as a few. But that’s what happens when you are used to counting plates and saucers, and your mind is limited.

De-tribalise the military. On the other hand, I don’t see why Kenyans are raising such a hue and cry, or in more pedestrian terms, raising such a beef over the looting that KDF seems to have done at Westgate. Most of us would have done the same. That is who we are as a country and to deny it is to be a hypocrite and full of shit. We glorify wealth, no matter how ill gotten it is. Everyone wants theirs. We believe that the end justifies the means.

As you idly fret and facilitate our destruction, realise there is blood on your hands. There is red in your ledger. And you need to wipe it out.

And if you destroy or continue to destroy our country in the fashion that you and your ilk have done, you can be damn sure that there are some among us who will avenge it, and hold you to account for your sins. This is not a threat; it is a promise.

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DEUS EX MACHINA, KENYA EX MACHINA?

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Let me tell you a story. In the Lord of the Rings, when Frodo and his companion are almost done in, they are miraculously saved by giant birds. In the Avengers, when Earth is about to be conquered and colonised, our team of superheroes led by my nigga Thor, Hulk and the irritating Iron Man come together and save the day. In the Dark Knight Rises our masked hero finds his strength and saves Gotham from catastrophe at the last minute. In Star Wars, before Luke Skywalker is dispatched to the afterlife by his father Darth Vader (not Gladys Boss Shollei, hehe) he triumphs. It is almost always a common feature in literature, theatre and film. When everything seems impossible, and the hero or heroes are at their wit’s end with no hope in sight, something or someone miraculously swoops in and saves the day. Perhaps it is based on truth and experience; perhaps it is normally included to satisfy that very human need for a happy ending. This stylistic device is normally known as Deus ex machina; which is Latin for God in the machine.

Kenya finds herself in a similar state. The trials at The Hague, terrorist attacks on our very own territory, a pending renewal of war,  tremendous corruption, a struggling economy, overt and covert tribalism, domestic and international pressure etc etc.  We are, it seems, in our very own movie, our very own story which will be recorded in the annals of history. Now this is the question: If things go badly for us, is our story going to be a tragedy or a misfortune? Allow me to explain the difference. In a misfortune, bad things happen to the protagonist through forces beyond his or her control. On the other hand, in a tragedy the seeds of destruction lie within the protagonist himself and he brings about his own downfall. Think Achilles, Samson, King David, Alexander the Great, Luanda Magere, et al and many others that are not so glamorous or well known.

In this article, I will focus on the issue of Kenya and the International Criminal Court, or depending on your vantage point, Uhuru, Ruto and the ICC. Allow me to firstly state that the ICC grossly underestimated Kenya. They underestimated the capacity of our body politic. They underestimated our capacity for bribery, intimidation, propaganda and concerted slipperiness. We even actualised the term ‘shuttle diplomacy’ for heaven’s sake. The thing is, after this particular episode one of the two parties will be irreparably changed. Perhaps there is not enough room on the planet for both Kenya and the ICC. Both have their flaws; the ICC has dragged its feet – it would have been easier to expedite the trials and try our ‘Big Two’ before they ascended to the leadership of this country. The ICC could also have handled the issue of witnesses better. Kenya on the other hand, or rather our political leaders, lie, shape shift and avoid responsibility with unmatched zeal. It has taken me a while to admit it, but the issue of the court being seen as anti-African and neo-colonialist is real. On the other hand, it will do us well to remember that more often than not it is dictators and despots who trump the sovereignty card. Idi Amin claimed sovereignty while massacring and literally eating his people. Apartheid South Africa did the same while oppressing a whole race. Bashir did the same while committing and/or abetting genocide in Darfur.

We spit in the face of Europe and America, yet the truth is as foreign partners they have helped us more than any other nations have. Did you see any Chinese Special Forces or forensic teams at Westgate during or after the terrorist attack? The aid we have gotten in terms of food, medicine and military expertise is from the west, our so called enemies. But allow me to make this clear, I do not believe the west has the moral locus standi, the moral ground to lecture us on issues of human rights and justice. Not after the atrocities they committed through colonialism, slavery, unjustified war and economic exploitation. But another simple truth is that no court in Kenya, will try, let alone convict, Uhuru Kenyatta.

On the other hand, Mr. President, methinks that currently you are surrounded by sycophants and yes men. Everyone in your government, parliament and senate seems only too eager to bow down, kow-tow and kiss your feet. Recipe for disaster, this is. It surprises and pains me to see intellectuals like Senator Kithure Kindiki, who was an admired teacher of mine in law school, and Kipchumba Murkomen, who I believe also lectured at some point (though his impact was neither here nor there, in my humble opinion), changing their ideals to suit the political climate. Let me make it clear that it does not augur well for me for my President to be tried in court, especially a foreign court. To be honest, I don’t want this to happen. But what about the 1,300 dead post election violence victims? There was murder, persecution, horrible assault, rape and destruction. Shall we pretend it never happened? And please save me all the bullshit about moving on, and accepting results as our impotent and spectacularly mindless media tirelessly begs us to. The bible, if you believe in it, says that peace will reign in the land when there is justice. As my priest asked me just a few days back, should we sacrifice the rule of law at the altar of power? As a country we have hardly prosecuted anyone in connection with that dark period in our history. The Department of Public Prosecution is too busy trying to convince us that Kethi Kilonzo stole a voter acknowledgment slip to be bothered with such trivial matters. Our judiciary is too busy battling Darth Vader and giving the ‘Shah’ Ahmednasir Abdullahi airtime, as they jostle and push to figure out who will replace the venerable chief justice Willy Mutunga, who I think has done an admirable job by the way.

The ICC has already made Kenya better. They have done what we would never have done on our own. There is a clear message to all who think they are above the law. As the erudite Charles Kanjama wrote in a recent article, and I paraphrase, is there anyone who is above the law? Is the law not meant to be our last and most solid refuge? Shall it apply to some and not to others? But on the other hand, should we allow our democratically elected President to be tried in a foreign court? Let us ignore the knee-jerk utterances of our foreign secretary Amina Mohammed and the meaningless barking of our legislators led by Aden Duale, and overseen by the boorish Justin Muturi (Do we know that he is third in line to the presidency? God forbid, if anything happens to our prez and his deputy we are stuck with this clownish bully for at least 90 days, God help us). These are the questions we need to ask ourselves, the issues we need to weigh, and they are indeed weighty. If an arrest warrant is issued for our Commander in Chief, sanctions are sure to follow. And it is you and I, the common man, who will suffer. Not the prince raised in state house (No disrespect intended) and not the ‘Hustler’.

I honestly do not know the answer to these questions, and I won’t pretend to. In my pedestrian mind, I would advise the President and his deputy to attend the hearings, but not show up on the day that judgement is issued. Yeah I said it.

We cannot rely on Deus ex machina. It might be a true miracle, or it might just be nonsense. But either way we have to rely on Kenya ex machina, Kenya in the machine. We must craft our own destiny, we must be the God that saves us; we must be our own salvation.

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