A radical author goes on a mission of “evangelization”


A radical author goes on a mission of “evangelization”

Jacob Aliet, author of ‘Unplugged’. PICTURES | BOWL

On a cool night in early 2018, a man stood in front of a bonfire. The only light came from the pit, illuminating his sad face, one would imagine him with tears in his eyes. The kindling for the fire wasn’t wood though, it was books. About 180 of them. And he threw them away one by one until there was nothing left, only a feeling of ‘I should have done better.’

As he talks about this and other experiences, Jacob Aliet sits in his office atop a tower in downtown Nairobi, overlooking Haile Selassie Avenue. He works there as an IT project manager. He’s been in IT for most of his professional career, but when he’s not solving code, if that’s any aspect of it, he’s writing and selling books, his greatest passion, he says. .

Mr Aliet is the author of Unplugged.

Before all the hype, controversy and vitriol that followed Unplugged since its release in March 2022, long before that, Mr Aliet was a young boy with an always curious mind. He was born into a polygamous home, the seventh of 11 children.

The Aliets make their home at Eastleigh Section III, right next to the air force base. His childhood was as beautiful as it was tragic. He remembers: “My father was a violent man, an abusive man towards everything around him!

“The blows became like rain. You knew they were coming, but you couldn’t do much about it.

The old man died when young Aliet was just 12 years old, leaving his mother with no choice but to take her offspring back to their rural home. There, the children faced an even harsher life and rebelled against their mother’s authority.

She was the polar opposite of their strict father. Mr. Aliet says, unfortunately, that they did not listen to her. They remedied that years later in a children’s baraza.

“She’s our mother, we need to show her some respect,” was the consensus. And they did. Hard times have seen the Aliet boys steal people’s shambas to fill their stomachs. He surprisingly describes those years, in retrospect, as some of the most “beautiful” of his life.

He didn’t like school very much, but in his last year he tried, he says, “so that no one would tell me to repeat a year”.

In the third form, he started keeping a diary because he had read somewhere that all writers do. Mundane entries about what he ate for breakfast or the severity of his punishment would follow — and on a daily basis.

Later, the Internet opened his eyes to a treasure trove of information. He even joined a group on Yahoo Messenger aptly called infidels.org – still following a different path.

Infidels, he discovered, were independent thinkers and would respond to conversations with a level of information he could only dream of obtaining. He dove into books to educate himself. He went through everything from existentialism to Islam and all forms of religion, to philosophy, to quantum physics.

“I tried to build a belief system from scratch with my thoughts on Christianity, Objectivism, Liberalism and all kinds of dogma,” he says.

The advent of Facebook saw Mr Aliet begin to amass a following with his musings on all he learned on his quest. He even touched on, Why do men have nipples but they don’t breastfeed! as one of his subjects. He has written for magazines as far away as Turkey and blogged about his half marathon training schedule.

He is still passionate about fitness and will change into his work clothes and walk from his office in town to his home after a day’s work.

His confidence grew so much that he even believed himself capable of writing a response to Professor Ali Mazrui, the great scholar’s article on intellectualism in post-colonial Africa.

First love

His radical thoughts led his supporters to assure him of his quality as a writer. “They said they would buy anything I wrote and told me to hurry, in their words, ‘before someone steals and protects your work.'” With that kind of validation, a fire was lit under him but, “What was I going to write about?

In his quest for knowledge, he had abandoned his first love of writing, fiction. He went back there and was happily brought back into the realm of fiction and in no time he created Strange Encounters, a collection of fictional short stories. His fans were already harassing him and some had even paid for their copies.

Ever a businessman and seeker of knowledge, Mr Aliet turned to Google and armed with nothing but ‘childlike excitement’ he sought out a woman on Kirinyaga Road who was his printer for other Questions. He designed the cover himself.

A book, however, is an entirely different animal than receipt books. When the copies came out, they were “awful”. “The book was really small and the work was shoddy at best. I was ashamed to charge someone 1,000 shillings for such work.

He ended up delivering 120 copies of Strange Encounters to those who insisted before his shame caught up with him.

That’s how he found himself in front of a nighttime fire outside his house, warming himself with a barbecue of books – all 180 copies left.

“I read that the best way to sell a book was to write another,” Aliet recalls. He jumped in a second time but his inexperience cost him again. He hired two editors, an Indian friend who was a novice editor at the time and an acquaintance now a magistrate who thinks the world of his writing. Big mistake.

He didn’t know it at the time and then hosted a book launch at a hotel in town where his family baptized him – You’re a writer now, our son! He sold three hundred copies of Shoreline, his second book.

Evelyne Ongogo, a renowned poet, was one of the 300. She took some notes in her copy and in a conversation with Mr. Aliet told him about it.

He requested that the copy be sent to him, and while perusing Ongogo’s notes, he again stood before the fire, this time beating his previous record of setting fire to nearly two hundred books. A woman who saw it begged him to donate it to a children’s home and, at his wife’s request, a few copies were kept.

Sitting at his desk now, Aliet is quick to admit, “I’m not the best writer, but I work every day to become better. He quotes Stephen King, “Good writing comes from a lot of bad writing.” Every day without fail, he gets up at 3am to try again.

When asked whether he writes music or not, he vehemently replies, “No music!” He likes calm when not a soul is agitated. A pastor who is a fan of his said something he loved about his ungodly hours: “Whoever rules darkness will always succeed in light.

For his resilience, Mr. Aliet now has seven books to his name. It also claims four e-books available online.

His latest book is all the rage. In Unplugged, he writes about men reclaiming their masculinity, which he believes has been lost to a modern, femicentric society. He writes: “Why are women told to ‘behave like a woman and think like a man’ if masculinity is harmful?”

Admittedly, this is a controversial subject in today’s ‘woke’ society and even Mr. Aliet himself thought it would be a non-starter.

Scathing reviews from one end of the spectrum coupled with equally aggressive defense from his corner saw Unplugged surprise many, including himself.

He can’t produce copies fast enough and is in the process of marketing, creating a website and opening Tik-Tok, YouTube and Facebook accounts. All other writing projects are on hold. He will also start calling himself… you guessed it.

“It’s bigger than I thought,” and he would like to “evangelize” the concepts held as gospel truth in the pages of Unplugged.

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Lola R. McClure