As you sow so shall you reap

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With Aicha

The origin of this phrase is from the Bible, and it means that your deeds, good or bad, will repay you in kind. For those of you who have followed the broadcasts of the TRRC hearings, this phrase might be ringing in your ears.

No stone shall be unturned in seeking for the truth of the atrocities done to the Gambian people. “The truth shall set you free” is another phrase we all know. Some might believe that as long as you don’t tell the truth you will have your freedom, but is that so? Hiding from justice, keeping secrets and fearing they will spill out somewhere is exhausting. A person who has nothing to hide is free. That person can step out in the world without fearing meeting anyone she or he may have hurt somehow.

A person who is hiding from the truth, or should I say, justice, is forced to stay inside high walls and locked doors. That person needs bodyguards and security systems so no one can come close. The more severe the atrocities are, the tougher the security system must be. The one who needs to flee justice will never be able to come home again. Maybe that person had fled with a lot of money, and feels very satisfied with his or her deeds, but is that true freedom?

What about the mental walls we hide behind? Some have built these walls around themselves to appear tough. Behind this toughness is a weak soul that fears being discovered. As long as you appear tough, people are afraid of you and don’t come near enough to see who you really are. When you meet that kind of person, or have heard about it, do you ever wonder what has created this ”beast”? Do you try to look at this person, to see inside him or her, and look for the child within? Do you think she or he was born a ”beast”? No one is born with a damaged mind, it is the environment in which the child grows up that creates the mental damages.

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This is the reason why psychologists try to go all the way back to the patient’s childhood during psychoanalysis. Of course a child can be born with some kind of brain damage that can cause mental problems later in the years, but if the child gets good and professional care from the beginning that doesn’t have to be the root of the problem.

It is easy to judge and say that a person behaves in a strange way because of some kind of curse or that it is a hopeless case no one can understand. It is not easy to understand the human psyche; that is why it takes many years of education before someone is graduated as a psychologist.

Those of you who have some insight in how advanced the systems of the human body are, also know that the human brain is amazing and the scientists are still exploring it. It is in the brain where our soul is, not in the heart or elsewhere, it’s all about the brain. The heart is nothing more than a muscle that pumps around blood, no offence my dear heart, you are advanced too but it is still the brain that is the king. The muscles and other organs are sending signals to the brain, but it is the brain that decides the reaction. The smallest and oldest part of our brain takes care of our instincts as fight or flee, but also our breathing which is something we do day and night without thinking of it.

The brain is a vulnerable thing that can easily be damaged. The skull feels hard when you knock on it, but it cracks like an egg if you fall hard and hit your head. If you are lucky enough to survive that fall, you will find yourself with concussion and severe headache. When the headache leaves you, you might believe that all is well, but it’s not. For every time you get a concussion your brain will be damaged and with time this can lead to fatal consequences. I had a colleague before who got several concussions when he was a young boy. I don’t remember the reason, I only remember the outcome of it as he is now a man of about 60 years. Some years ago people who knew him well began to complain about his behavior, they especially said that is was so irritating that he seemed to forget everything. This became so serious that he finally decided to visit a doctor to find out if it was a serious problem or only a part of his character. The doctor took his issues seriously so my former colleague got his brain x-rayed.

The doctors found out that because of the several concussions when he was a youth, his brain has been damaged and that is why he has changed. He was slowly developing dementia and if he didn’t stop being stressed, the condition would progress faster. Working as a teacher can be stressful, and it requires a fast brain and structure, so he was forced to resign.

As I said before, the brain is a vulnerable thing and we need to handle it with care.

An infant has a very large head, not in proportion with the rest of the body. The head doesn’t grow much so small newborn human beings are equipped with the size of head and brain they will have for the rest of their lives. The size and the heaviness of the head is the reason why a newborn baby can’t hold up its head without support from the parent. It didn’t have a lot of space in the womb for work out and muscle training, so that is why the baby has to practice after it has been born. The baby’s brain has its correct size from the beginning, but it develops rather slowly and it does not fully develop until the person is 20 years old. We don’t consider a 20-year-old person as a child anymore, but Mother Nature doesn’t care about our legal details.

Have you heard about something called the Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Consider a baby that yells for hours and hours until you feel that you are becoming mad. Most of us can resist the impulse to take out our stress and frustration on the baby, but some people don’t have that barrier. An adult who punishes the baby by shaking it hard for a while causes this baby’s brain severe damages. The baby can even die from this hard shaking, and awfully enough it is more common than we wish to believe. This is why this syndrome even has its own name, Shaken Baby Syndrome. I remember the deep frustration I could feel when my children were small babies and yelled for hours, but I never crossed the line and hurt my kids. People who act like that suffer from low impulse control and shouldn’t be allowed to be alone with small kids. It is possible to observe the signals in time, always trust your gut feeling.

One day two of my Somali students, two sweet girls in 9th grade, asked what happens with the fetus if the pregnant mother uses alcohol or drugs while pregnant. I told them a little about the consequences, that the fetus is drugged through the blood, that it doesn’t grow as it should and that the brain gets damaged. It is like forcing your baby to drink poison! I have told you before about my daughter who works as a nurse at a large hospital here in Sweden. The section where she works cares for the small premature babies. She has told me a little about the small ”drug babies”.

A drug addict who can’t get hold of the drugs or alcohol she needs daily ”climbs the walls” in her suffering. A newborn baby has the same symptoms and suffers a lot. It is dangerous both for adults as well as newborn babies to stop using drugs instantly as the side effects are huge. Instead the drug abuse must decrease little by little. There has been a rush in the brain of the drug addict and the brain demands more of the so-called fix. Stopping the use of drugs gives the patient hard and severe symptoms. It begins to shake uncontrollably, gets pain in the body and suffers from a lot of other symptoms. The adult who tries to stop the drug abuse at least has some basic understanding for why she is suffering but the newborn child has no clue at all. All it can feel is pain and an urge for something it doesn’t understand.

This baby gets a small dose of morphine for the pain, but also as a small ”fix” and it is slowly gets used to having less drugs. The baby would scream day and night. As long as the mother stays at the hospital together with her baby, they are given help by the nurses. Imagine how it will be the day mother and baby leaves the hospital – what kind of life will the baby have? Will it be well looked after, fed and clothed? Has it got a brain damage while it was in the womb? Will the baby get the help it needs if it has got a brain damage? All these questions are spinning in the heads of the nurses work at the section for the premature babies. If the nurses and doctors feel that the worries are larger than normal, they are obliged to contact the social services.

People who suffer from a drug addiction, or who live in an environment where this is present every day – often in combination with violence – hide behind walls of shame. They know that they don’t live by the norm; they see how people look at them and they hear in their minds what others say. Imagine trying to raise children in challenged environments, trying to protect them from poverty, drugs and abuse. You have to grow a thick skin to be able to endure this and your attitude against ”the world” becomes aggressive. Behind this aggression is a scared person who tries to survive and the only way it can protect itself is by aggression.

When you have been abandoned by the society, and you feel that no one truly cares about you, you build up this wall of shame around you. You keep others out because you don’t want them to see your misery.

Have you ever considered that you have given others bricks so they can build your wall higher? Your whispers, looks and every way you have neglected a brother or sister in need is another brick in the wall of shame.

We are equally responsible for how we want our society to be. We don’t solve any problems by neglecting them or speaking ill about the troublemakers. With awareness we can prevent a lot of problems; drugs, alcohol, violence, even poverty. Ignoring problems never solves them because as we sow, we shall reap.

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