One of the greatest demerits of journalism is that it forces us all to become positivists. Positivism, for those of you who are schooled in the “newer” sciences – or none at all, which is not a crime – is a “low” formula of knowing which relies on sensory, experiential, physical evidence.
To step that down a little, a positivist says if I can prove that it exists – because I can touch it, smell it, see it, feel it, hear it or otherwise physically infer its existence – then it bloody well exists.
The formula is “low” because it denies the existence of another world, which exists generally in the region between your ears (the mind) where fantastic things that have an equal claim to “reality” take place.
What I was saying is that if it only exists in your fertile imagination, as the politicians call it, then to the journalist it does not exist at all.
Which makes it difficult for a good journalist to know what to make of matters of faith, such as miracles.
I like to flatter myself that, to misquote the comic writer PG Wodehouse, I am old enough never to mistake the improbable for the impossible. Therefore, if a group of allegations purporting to be facts and whose frequency of occurrence I recognise to be extremely low, trot into my office, I will sit back and say: “Hi Mr Improbable, and what can you do for me today?”
On the other hand, if a group of fat allegations, whose existence is expressly precluded by the good laws of positivism, waddle in claiming to be facts, I will fix them with a beery editorial glare and bark: “Mr Bullshit, get the hell out of my office!”
Have you sensed my fury? I am circumlocuting to delay the moment at which I should delve into the completely bogus world of “miracle” babies, the world of 22 children who in all probability were wrenched from the love and care of their mothers to become part of a religious joke.
I grieve for these children, I grieve for what they have been robbed of, I grieve for their families and the pain they endure. Most of all I grieve because none of this was necessary. But the fury I reserve for the ring of con artists, and their half-baked religious hocus-pocus, who are telling me: Rejoice, it is a miracle?
When I first read the story of Mrs Eddah Odera, 56, so outraged was I that it took the ministrations of an efficient waiter to stop me from jumping into the ocean.
First was the whole question of her pregnancy. Improbable, but possible through modern medical intervention. Second, 13 healthy, full term pregnancies since the age of 51? That is taking leave of the positivistic world and diving into that other zone of which we shall not speak.
But it is her next three allegations that affront me personally as a man of reason and common sense. That she gives birth after every four months, that modern medicine cannot detect her alleged pregnancies and that she conceives without the intervention of her husband, or any other man. This is capital bull.
I am upset that Kenyans have spent quite a bit of time marveling at these so-called miracles. They are not miracles; they are con games. What we should be exercising our collective minds on is identifying the rightful parents of these children, others who have since become “miracle” babies possibly in the UK and other parts of the world, reuniting them with their families, unravelling the infrastructure of kidnapping and the sale of babies, which I suspect is at the heart of these wild religious theories and preparing to put away the architects of that infrastructure for a very, very long time.
The East African Standard has in the past reported the blatant and callous theft of babies in hospitals, clinics and homes the length and breadth of Kenya. It has all along been feared that some of these children were put up for adoption or in some way sold. But the kind of diabolically efficient system that could absorb so many babies has eluded explanation.
Now the government, investigative journalists who have worked in this area and felt the pain of parents as well as child right agencies have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to crack open this evil in our society, expose and exterminate it.
It shall be taken. There, positivism has its uses too.
Aug. 22, 2004 Editorial