Diplomacy and etiquette may be two words with different words in Mama Charuthi’s (Mama Charles alias the Queen AKA Megan’s in-law) language. However, when it comes to implementing and living them in practice, these two words have so much in common than the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries would have us believe. In other words, vitu kwa ground ni different (things on the ground are different). While you would contest that I am no diplomat and will even ask me for proof of diplomatic status like a maroon I know I am a diplomat and always have been – I draw such self-proclamation audacity from terms such as “inner beauty” and the “Awwwwws” directed to every human sperm-ovum product regardless of clear indicators of a pathway on the opposite side of beauty and handsomeness. This, then, qualifies me to write about diplomacy – if only inner diplomacy.
About etiquette and my etiquette qualifications, it is enough for me to say that I am the biological product of two primary school “Looku-Heres” (teachers) and the alpha male, Mr. Munene is mutu ya mazematic (a mathematics’ person) while Mrs. Munene (or Wa-Eemu as Ms. Fidelis has been fondly referring to her for as long as I can recall) is your no-nonsense African mother, teacher and disciplinarian with an unmatched memory of events and dates. I was also brought up surrounded by the likes of Cûcû wa Thimba, Wa-Gaciri, Wa-Gaiti, Mwalimu Manyeki, the Late Mr. Collio or Ithe wa Mbooi, Wa-Carol et al., all who have this naturally inbuilt etiquettometer, hypersensitive microscopic detectors of tabia mbaya (bad manners) and lightening-instilled hands to, not beat me up when I misbehaved, but to beat up the misbehavior and expunge all evildoing through my tiny, flesh-deprived bottoms.
In this one, I shall draw three subjective correlations between diplomacy and etiquette BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE (as a self-proclaimed diplomat on the inside…) First, both practices involve locking in true, authentic personalities and smiling and waving when you really feel like LOLing your sitting allowance (bottoms) off or even exercising one of the devolved functions of your digestive system by injecting a mixture of non-oxygen greenhouse gases to the environment for relief. I have seen diplomats want so very much to explode and curse off, but then they remember that their paychecks are pegged on some standards of etiquette. Recently, I watched the Daily Show with Trevor – those ears though, like mine, they never fail to show… daily – and when President Trump was busy bragging about the advanced security features of his favorite wall, he called on a General to elaborate about the said feature, the General responded, “There may be some merit in not discussing that, sir.” His body language was uttering some very premium LNVS type of curses. Now, this is what diplomacy does. It makes you pretend that you are adjusting your wife-snatcher’s collar while in real sense your mind is strangling them and you are cremating life out of them bit-by-bit with a charcoal-heated iron box.
Second, both diplomacy and etiquette are about hard-to-keep-at elegance. They maintain that Khasundi from Kholera in Kakameka Coundy (Kakamega County) should insult Jehova Wanyonyi and other befallen ancestors by munching on his ugali using a fork and knife simply because he is at his cousin-wa-Nairobi’s white wedding. It is the same etiquette that makes you give up some of your principles. For example, you may have given up single-use plastics such as straws and plastic-bottled water as your own contribution for environmental conservation. This means that you ALWAYS REFUSE those. Then one day you are served with one of those fancy glasses of cranberry Pinocchio mojito with a splash of lemonade and mint on ice cubes (watu wa Kwa Mathî na Klabuu! Nyuma ya tent baadaye… Wink wink…) Of course, etiquette would require you to use that fancy-looking, trendy, single-use plastic straw instead of placing your enamel zippers (read lips) on the glass as you sip on. However, your values and principles are being threatened here! You either forfeit the single-use plastic straw and remain true to your noble cause or show etiquette the finger that is not of God and risk being labeled neanderthal.
Third, both etiquette and diplomacy are about impressions. Not once have I seen the so-called diplomats behaving as if nothing was wrong in the presence of their hosts when the VIP lavatories had newspaper cuttings in place of toilet paper. Well, I know some of them were madder at the lack of the soft African traditional maigoya (leaves used to clean the sewer spewer in the days preceding colonization, a crime against humanity that has since been re-branded, “civilization” and at times “development”). The point is, they were extremely exasperated at the lack of hospitality and you could hear them complain in vernacular. However, when it came reading their public statements, they would all open with something like, “we wish to congratulate and thank Country XXXX for such great organization and hospitality…” All because diplomacy and etiquette demanded it – it demanded lies and cover-ups. When a female robber slaps you or digs them claws into your skin (their favorite regardless of mood and provided the requisite enabling factors are satisfied e.g. the nail polish is dry and the natural talons are not coated with the fancy, artificial, Moi Avenue ones), etiquette demands that you be the gentleman (i.e. let etiquette win) and don’t you dare block the slap or run or tell the world about it, else you will understand why Wetangula never speaks about feminine whooping anymore.
While it may sound like I am anti-diplomacy and anti-etiquette hitherto, I am convinced that – being the self-proclaimed inner diplomat that I am – this post has made its shot at stirring some intriguing and provoking critical thinking about diplomacy and etiquette. What other traits of diplomacy and etiquette match?