With Aicha Looking at this from a physical angle your voice is a complicated process where many parts have to interact. Let’s begin with your mouth, it’s from this you hear your words and so forth, but the mouth is the last part of the process. Your tongue shapes the air that comes through your vocal cords, from your lungs. As a fun exercise, let your tongue lay like a dead fish in your mouth and then try to say something. For those of you who have been treated by a dentist and have got anesthetics in your chin and gum you know what I’m talking about. You try to speak but the tongue doesn’t follow the orders from your brain. You sound funny and you even begin to drool a little as long as your tongue is numb. You have empty spaces in your head, and not just because someone tells you that your head is empty, but because we are created that way for a purpose. You have an empty space in a kora or a djembé, also for a purpose. These spaces are filled with air and when you make a sound the air begins to vibrate and makes the sound stronger. If we continue down the throat we will come to a, should we say, a crossroads. That is the place where you get problems if you don’t follow your mother’s orders; to chew properly and swallow before you speak. If you do as mum tells you to, the food will go down through the oesophagus down to the stomach. If you are too eager to say what’s on your mind the food might want to go the other way; down the trachea, or the windpipe. This is when you begin to cough because your body is protecting you. If your food comes the wrong way it will cause a severe infection in your lungs so that is why you cough to push the food back up again and down at the right place. Amazing, isn’t it? Let us continue down the windpipe and look at the vocal cords. They look almost like to parallel rubber bands, are about 1.5 centimetres long at an adult woman and about 2 centimetres for an adult man. The length of the vocal cords decides how deep your voice becomes. When you are quiet your vocal cords are relaxed and has a slight distance between them. When you begin to speak or sing your vocal cords get tightened, just like muscles. They get a little closer to each other and the air from your lungs is pressed through this narrow opening. Have you ever taken a straw of grass, stretched that between your thumbs, put your mouth close to the small opening that is between the thumbs and blow rather hard to make a sharp sound? This is how it works with the vocal cords. Finally, we go down to your lungs, they are like two sacks that you fill with air. That is a function that works without you having to think about it, if you should forget to breath for some reason your body will warn you so the breathing kicks in again. There is something called sleep apnea that a lot of us suffer from, and that is when you snore so heavily so you actually stop breathing for some seconds. This stresses the body and keeps the blood pressure on a high level because it gives the brain the signal that this person is dying. All alert! shouts the brain, the heart begins to pump harder and all systems go on their toes to save this poor person. The digestive system slows down as that is a function that has low priority when it comes to save a life. This is why a person with sleeping apnea doesn’t feel relaxed after a night’s sleep and why the person gains weight even when on a diet. Enough of the physical part. Let’s follow the other lane for a while. “Be a voice, not an echo” is the topic for this article. An echo only bounces back what someone says, no reflection, only an imitation of a sound or a speech. That doesn’t matter in nature, but it is different when people interact with each other. For a person who has low self-esteem combined with high thoughts of him-/herself, an echo is great. This person doesn’t want anyone to question what s/he says, only a confirmation that others have heard. It is easy in a way to be an echo, you don’t have to trouble your mind with any deeper thoughts, no reflection, no bad conscience, you just agree with what the other says. If you should begin to reflect this might force you to follow your thoughts through and make you question both yourself and the other. If you have a lazy mind you would stop as soon as you have realised how much effort it takes from you. If you are prepared to go deeper, and to be the person who has opinions and stands by them, your mind always works with ”digesting” all given inputs. You would find it hard to be around someone who looks for admiration and/or obedience. Obedience shall never be blind because that is a greater sin than being disobedient. If you follow your leader, together with others, like a flock of sheep you will easily become like a flock of wolves instead. You have heard of the expression: “A wolf dressed in sheep’s clothes”, I suppose? You look nice and kind on the outside, but there is something hidden on the inside. Wolves hunt in packs, following their leader’s signal, ready to attack their prey. A pack of human wolves, disguised as sheep, follow their leader and can cause just as much commotion as real wolves. Look at our former leader of The Gambia; speaking about a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothes. How many surrounded him, baaing like sheep as an echo of his words? As long as they didn’t reflect on his words, or became the prey themselves, it was okay to remain an echo. They didn’t take any responsibility for what the leader did, instead they tried by all means to cover up or defend his actions. Even now, when the leader is out of the country, a lot of his former pack continues to defend and praise him. As I said before, it is easy to be an echo, being a sheep in a flock with others pretending like nothing has happened. It is okay to be wrong, to have committed sins and asked for forgiveness – that takes guts, but pretending like nothing happened or even put the blame on others – that is shameful. Have you considered how often you give voice to your own opinions? Is your day so fully occupied with everything you MUST do so you don’t have time to think about what you WANT to do? This is how it is for most of us, but if there is a will there is a way. It can be hard to find time to be alone with your thoughts but try to begin somewhere. Find an area you know needs to be improved, think it through properly and try to do something about it. It can be something small, and it doesn’t have to cost anything, but when you have found something you want to improve then make up your mind and don’t stop until you have reached your goal. It can be something as easy as forcing your kids to place their sandals properly outside the door instead of just throwing them off before they enter the house. A lot of kids make a lot of sandals and it is easy to trip on them. For a housewife who does her cooking outdoors, she has to carry heavy or sharp stuff in and out, and it can be dangerous to trip there. If the man of the house is a bit practical he can make a shelf for the sandals and shoes and one problem is out of the way. This was a practical example but there are more and when you begin to make your own list of things you want to change or improve you will see that one thing leads to another. The important thing in this write-up is not a lot of examples, what is important is that you find your voice and express your concerns. Don’t wait until someone else tells you what troubles you. That person doesn’t know your thoughts or issues properly. Even if your spokesman (or woman) knows you and your situation, it is better that you speak for yourself. When you hear yourself expressing your concerns, you are at the same time considering the solutions. Your situation is individual, but nothing stops you from thinking for the collective too. What is good for you is often good for others too. If there are some hazardous areas for the kids around the compounds, then you can find solutions together. Whatever you decide to do is better than doing nothing just because you don’t believe others will listen to you. Listen to yourself and find the courage to follow your own mind. Some will maybe question you at the beginning, but you will see that others will follow you in time. I grew up in a poor family in Finland. We lived in the worst kind of apartments you can think of. The houses were run down, there were rats and bed bugs that bit us during the nights. I know how it feels to live somewhere in a place you don’t own and the landlord doesn’t care about the maintenance. This is why I so often speak about these things. I know how it feels to be poor and to live in a lousy house but I also know that things can be changed. As long as we don’t give up there is hope for a change. Hope is the last thing that we lose and hope is maybe the only gift we can afford to give our children – but it’s free! Find your own voice, listen to yourself and respect yourself. If you respect yourself others will respect you too. Each one of us is as important as the others no one’s voice is better than the others. ”The forest should be quiet if only the best birds sang.” That is true! Every voice counts. You knew that at the election a little more than two years ago. After that success you must never doubt your voice again. We are not all made for being politicians or some kind of leaders, but we all have areas we can improve, no matter how small or big they are. It is not the size of it that counts, all of us are created with qualities we must make the best of. Speak to each other about important matters, skip the gossip – it is only a waste of time. Speak to your children about things that matter, listen to their opinions and get amazed by their wisdom. Speak to the elders and let them advise you. Consider what they have said before you make up your mind. Don’t follow others like a sheep, follow your own path and find your own voice. The Holy Qur’an tells us to listen to advice and then make our minds. Isn’t that the best advice we can get, so dear reader, be a voice – not an echo!]]>
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