Criticizing the government

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There are a few prevailing thoughts within Gambia’s civil and public service officials, and especially among those in high positions and their minions, that those of us who criticize them are one, jealous of them or two, that the critics have nothing to offer besides criticizing or three, that the critics don’t understand how things work in government.

I take the argument that critics are jealous of government workers to be infantile thoughts maintained by extremely insecure persons with a twisted notion of entitlement and a pitiful understanding of who they really are. There’s a reason government workers have “servant” in their nomenclature but apparently, many who make this “jealous” claim are clueless on the meaning of the word “service” and what it means.

For those who simply settle for the “the critics are jealous” defense when citizens criticize them, you can’t help but feel sorry for them. If a civil or public servant doesn’t have a twisted sense of civil or public service, why would people they are supposedly working for be jealous of them? Jealousy purports that you have something that others are envious of. In this case, that would be the privileges that civil and public servants give themselves and make the people pay for. If you think people are jealous of privileges that you took from those that you claim to be serving, doesn’t that indicate a serious misunderstanding of what constitutes service to the people. Must our notion of service to the people revolve around how we stand to benefit as individuals! Do civil and public servants (from the president on down), realize that it is those they call jealous that actually feed, clothe and house them? Now I’m not saying some of those who criticize you aren’t simply waiting to take your places but you cannot use that brush to silence all of us. I for one, have no interest, whatsoever, to work in this government at any level whatsoever! So you have nothing I should be jealous of!

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Now let’s take a look at the ones that regurgitate this claptrap that if you criticize the government, you must also offer them solutions! You often hear this from public and civil servants that pretend to accommodate criticism. The problem is, they try to establish parameters around what constitutes criticism and what doesn’t. In reality, they hate criticism but try to hide behind the “don’t only criticize, offer solutions” claim knowing very well they are not remotely interested in your solutions. They don’t say it in public but many of them actually see you as an enemy the moment you criticize the government! That I can attest to!

Here is the thing: Citizens don’t owe any civil or public servant a solution because they criticized them. The thought that because someone identifies a problem, they must have a solution is very simpleminded. Anyone can tell you that the first step to solving a problem begins with identifying the problem! As a citizen, if I identify the problem for you, for instance that corruption is rife in the government, it’s your job as a civil or public servant to seek solutions! I’m not the one getting paid to better people’s lives! That’s you. I am not the servant (public or civil), you are the servant! You find the solutions for the people. I did my part by identifying a problem. Anything else from me will be a “bunya” I don’t owe you.

Lastly, another line that some of our servants employ when citizens who pay them complain is to claim, “you don’t know how things work.” Personally, I thank the ancestors for not knowing how things “work” because when I look around, I don’t see ANYTHING that’s actually working in The Gambia as it should! You hear this “you don’t know how things work” excuse from the most condescending public servants who think they are the devil’s  gift to Gambia. The rest of us are just too stupid to understand anything about the intricacies or technicalities of how anything work. They don’t understand that we don’t need any technical knowledge to know that ordering untested medication into the country is a terrible idea. We don’t need any technical knowledge to know that we have terrible roads. We don’t need any specialized knowledge to know that our hospitals are in terrible shape. If you as a civil or public servant think that us the citizens are too stupid to understand how things do not work, is that the people’s fault or those of you assigned to make things work?

Here is the reality. If you’re a civil or public servant (including the president and his ministers), it means you work for the people; and your role is to better the lives of those you work for (that is the people). The people are paying you to live a better life than them, be respectful enough to stomach their criticism. You don’t have to like what they say about you. If you don’t like being criticized by the people, then stop claiming to work for the people! But if you continue working for the people, they have all rights to criticize you all day because at the end of the day, they pay, clothe, feed and pay for your health. You should be grateful!