When Amran Gaye penned his essay ‘A nation of Waiters’, I remember Bankie Grey-Johnson’s excitement. It could be likened to a poet’s discovery of love. For a moment, I assumed my aku brother (who speaks awful aku/krio by the way) had banked a million dollars. My essays have never brought out such excitement from him. I assume this is because my wolof brother (I have numerous roots and numerous brothers also) has a better Banjulian ‘street cred’. I never knew the importance of Banjulian ‘street cred’ until I sat in the presence of Bankole and Mr. Salieu Taal. I stayed quiet for a whole 20 minutes as I watched them go back and forth on their historical exploits in the nation’s capital. It was a night spent in the company of some brilliant minds, of which I would be a lucky addition. It was uplifting and inspiring and a renewal of my faith in the impossible being possible. You’ll discover if you haven’t been back in The Gambia for long that inspiration is a rare thing to find down here.
Now, where I agree with Mr. Amran Gaye on The Gambia being a nation of waiters, I would further emphasize that we are also a nation of ‘bare minimums’. Everything we do; everything we are taught is a reflection of the bare minimum. Then again, we are not encouraged to achieve greater than the bare minimum are we? There has to be a reason to want to do more. We are not a nation of paid overtime. We are not even a nation of ‘fairly compensated’ time. Ah dafa yomba torrop nak. Even in charity, we are a bare minimum society.
Our wealthy few are more consumed with the ‘bare minimum’ requirements for entrance into paradise than actually doing good. Why would I own a million dollars and invest in a foundation? Why would I start a ‘free academy’ for orphans? Why would I support a charity when I can simply build a mosque? Ah dafa yomba torop nak! For all those ‘religious nut-jobs’ thinking of asking for my head, I call you nut-jobs for that very reason. Breathe! We make charity so easy because we do not really care how the little we give out helps a person or develops the nation. For a lot of us it is a conscience thing. We believe our chances of entering paradise are greatly improved with a little handout for the poor or our contribution to the church’s tithe collection but charity is greater than all of that.
I once argued on my facebook page about a gentleman who explained that his reason for building a mosque was so that he would be prayed for after he died. Call me crazy, but that’s one selfish offering in my books. I always thought charity and generosity had to be for the simple fact that we are SUPPOSED to be generous with our gifts. Wala bok? A friend of mine explained that it is the religious requirement. He explained that the understanding is that a person who builds a house of prayer is forever rewarded by the prayers made in the mosque whether or not the prayers are made for him or not. However, I understood from a religious debate I watched a while ago that one of the basis for a reward on the building on a house of prayer was ‘Taqwa’ – God Consciousness. It made total sense to me that the bare minimum could not be having the ability to build a stone-house regardless of what it was built for. However, religion (well all Abrahamic religions) focus on the importance of intention as much as the deed (if not more) being done for the rewards to be meted out. So, could it be that our ‘bare mimimums’ are actually less than required? Kuye def flu baakh defaa deff ngirr Ya’Allah wala mu baye
Is it not the bare minimum that brought us here with our Football Federation fiascos? We have encouraged mediocrity in everything we do simply because we know that our people will applaud the bare minimum; “hai gai try nenj nak”. Try-yunj dara nak!
It is what we have been encouraged to do since childhood.
Question: How were your exams?
Answer: It was fair. Pass naa
What does it mean to pass? Now those children are engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, writers, journalists etc and all they want is to ‘pass’. All they need to do is to achieve the ‘bare minimum’. So we have roads that keep receiving face-lifts every other month instead of being built right, patients who barely survive from highly treatable ailments and nurses who attack pregnant woman in delivery for being there!
Our businessmen bring in the lowest quality goods from Guangzhou, China. That’s the bare minimum is it not? I have not seen a society that lacks quality as much as ours! Daww na yaram torop! Everybody wants to know how much but no one wants to know how long it will last! Have you seen a cheaper society before? Our CEOs, Managing Directors, Founders, etc want the best for themselves but the ‘bare minimum’ for their families and their staff. As long as one can sit on it, we’ll call it a chair. Walai togu dunj behna! Jenda lehn lu baakh!
Companies buy the cheapest goods in the market without a care for longevity and it has become such a norm that the same message is used at home. Hey teye mangi jenda tele bu nice boor ham ne! Teh yomba la def nak! It’s not even about imported good anymore. Have you bought a Gambian bottled beverage lately? You might call it carelessness; I call it plain, pure evil! How filthy are we as a people. The new bare minimum for being a beverage company in The Gambia is putting some tasty water in a bottle and pasting a global brand on it. There’s no care for public health as the bottle come out filthy, rusty; inconceivably selfish!! Clean the da*n bottles!! Bilai yena sohorr is badorla! I can’t remember the last time I bought a ‘Bottled in The Gambia’ drink without having to furiously clean the top with tissue paper (and you don’t want to know the color that the tissue turns into). What’s the use of a public health unit if this filthy business has been ongoing for the longest? When I pay my hard-earned money for a drink, I do not intend to have to clean the bottle before drinking! In fact, I feel like starting a campaign to put up pictures of this atrocity whenever we come across it. It has to stop! This is below our normal bare minimum!
A lot of our banks believe that the bare minimum is to take our monies and to give it back when we need it. There’s a big difference between a ‘kondaneh’ and a bank. I want to feel like A KING when I walk into a bank. You’re not doing me a bloody favour! I’m doing you a favour! The bare minimum is a smile, a hello, a thank you!! You need not go over the top and offer me coffee but come on! I’ve been to banks outside The Gambia so I know what the bare minimum is. Yehn lu xeww??
The bare minimum for a journalist used to be well written and/or spoken English depending on the medium but no…that bare minimum has been thrown out of the window! Now the argument is, “if you can understand what I’m trying to say, you shouldn’t complain”. Hell I guess everyone can become a journalist now! All you need is a high school diploma and a story to share! Why does anyone need to pay thousands of dollars going to university for a journalism degree anymore? Bilai jollof daal, moye lolu. I guess since that’s the route we’re taking, we do not even need to go to medical school to be doctors. I mean, as long as the patient understands that we ‘think’ we know what we’re doing, we should be cool! Hello I guess my mother, Mrs Ndela Carr is a nurse simply because she owns a medicine basket!
Restaurants do not believe in service anymore! Service is no longer the bare minimum. Sit and eat your da*n food and stop complaining about the waitress that threw your plate of food at you whilst grunting about the Gambian heat. You should actually feel lucky that someone’s serving you! Ungrateful wretch!
We have pioneers and visionaries looking over their businesses and ideas for decades simply because they know that a single minute away will turn their business into ‘bare minimum business’. Nobody wants to do the little extra. Nobody sees a need to do the little extra. It’s everyone’s fault. From business owners that do not make their staff feel right, to staff that do not want to work but are just ‘killing time’, to teachers that let us believe a pass is all we need, to parents that do not give more than the bare minimum at home, to religious leaders that tell us what we need to do to go to heaven but do not teach us how to be better human beings here on earth regardless of where the road of life and death takes us. Religion, Culture, Tradition, History and all those things we identify with have allowed us to believe that the bare minimum is all we need.
We have more people surviving than actually living. A few months ago, I asked myself why some of us work so hard to give so much to a country where the bare minimum is all that’s expected; a country where the bare minimum is even lower than the average bare minimum. For a few weeks or months, I decided I would give up on anything over the bare minimum but I guess I’m stuck in the reality that the bare minimum is not enough.
From our national visions, to our company goals, to our individual desires, making them achievable require an abandoning of our bare minimums. We have to stop ‘just passing’. If our institutions decide that giving the people ‘bare minimums’ is the way to go, shouldn’t there be ‘check and balances’ institution ensuring that it doesn’t happen? However, who will guard the guards? It takes more than fancy policy and resolutions. It takes an understanding of selflessness. The biggest businessmen of our world are also philanthropists. Why should The Gambia be any different!? If you make it a habit to suck the life out of the poor majority, shouldn’t your conscience force you to give more than the bare minimum back? Nit defaa am xell waye!
I know I can do little to inspire change but I hope I can do a little to inspire the generation for whom change is an inevitable responsibility. I’m growing older by the day and it has become fact that my projected goals a decade ago are yet to be achieved partly because I live in a society of bare minimums. Moye dega! Waaw dema merr!! How do we make these kids believe that their dreams are achievable when we can’t even provide the bare minimum of giving them role models to aspire to! Deka bii moor barri nit yu anjaan! Our people can’t even put hands together in appreciation of wonderful accomplishments! Whether it’s a government project, private endeavour, personal achievement etc, we act as if nothing happened. However, aren’t we quick to point out failure? Deka du mel nii waye!
So where does that leave us? We’re stuck between a rock and a very hard place. The rock is our mediocrity and ‘bare minimums and the very hard place is our ‘hatred’ for success!
I do not believe that ‘Gambia du demm’ but there are a few habits that definitely need to go…and if those habits don’t go, may the Almighty move the evil, selfish, retrogressive, ‘bad min’ people to other lands. I am sure those countries would be better equipped to ‘suck them in’. Wa Salam…Eid Mubarak…Yal nenj kor fekeh ay att yu baray barri!..jaamaa xeewal!