Digging a grave for oneself

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With Aisha Jallow

Some of the old-time expressions can sound a bit rough, and the topic for my essay this week is certainly one of them. Don’t take this grave part literally, it is only an expression for deliberately putting yourself in harms way. It means that you have a choice, but you refuse to see any options and therefore you dig your own grave, you are the reason for your own misfortune. Let me give you one example to clarify what I mean; lets assume that you live next to a field that no one is using. Nothing but weeds have been growing there for years, but the soil is fertile. The owner of the field is not interested in growing anything on it, and has once said that you could use one part of it to grow vegetables for your family. A kind and generous offer indeed, but you are not a farmer so you declined.

The thought that you could learn a new trade never struck you, the only thing you know is that you are not a farmer, your father was not a farmer and if you look back on your family you can’t recall that anyone was a farmer. Old tradition has lead us to believe that the trade was inherited in the family. Farming, carpentering, banking, whatever trade you can think of has been inherited from father to son and so forth. Does this mean that this system has to remain forever, that nothing can make us change it? Don’t we have freedom of thought and dreams?

Being restricted in one’s mind is understandable, but it is also a cheap excuse for being lazy. Perhaps I should make it sound a bit milder by saying that some people are lacking initiative. Instead of awaiting opportunities, we can create them. We are not baby birds, waiting in the nest with our beaks open to be fed. We should expect from everyone to do whatever they can to provide for themselves and their family. If not – they are digging their own graves, if not physically then mentally.

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You can be mentally dead, your mind can be numb in a way that you are unable to find any solutions for how to improve your life. You are expecting someone else to give you the solutions, to feed your mind, to feed your body. You expect the one who has some kind of opportunities in life to share these with you. You blame whoever you can for corruption, but if one of your relatives or family members has got a high position you immediately expect that person to do the best of that and to share it with you. If your family member is married to a white person, you begin to ask why that white spouse doesn’t give him/her a car, a house, money and other benefits and of course – share this with you.

Living your life through other people is easy, but where is the dignity in that? Why not find your own solutions? Why not create new traditions? Why not do what you can to improve your life and inspire others to do the same? You might think it is easy for me to say because I’m a toubab, but I never had anyone who encouraged me or helped me through life. I am the only one in my family who has studied at the university. It was hard, but I managed somehow.

My struggles and my determination to create something with my life has made me stronger. I can’t say that I am successfull, but I’m content with what I have achieved so far.

My achievements are that I have a proper education, several actually. I have raised three wonderful children who are now kind and intelligent young adults. I am a teacher and try to make a good impact on young people’s lives. I am a writer and try to spread some knowledge and insights through my writing. I am a servant to humanity and perhaps I will never become rich when it comes to worldly goods, but my heart is rich. I am not using anyone for my own purposes and I am trying to protect myself from being used. This is the problem with being generous; people tend to use it. Plenty are the pity stories about sick family members, accidents, misfortunes of all kinds that kind people are supposed to contribute to. People of wealth can hardly go in or out of their compounds as there are crowds of beggars waiting for a hand-out.

Why are we encouraging this system when it clearly is harming us all? There is no easy answer to that, and perhaps there are as many answers as there are individuals. Some wealthy people love to feel the power they have over those who are humbling themselves in their attempts to get some money or a favour, but most people find this disturbing. How did your ancestors manage, when they lived in small villages and were completely depending on what Mother Nature could provide them with? Did they sit outside their huts, waiting for someone to feed them? Did they not grow their land because no one had told them to? Didn’t they go out on a hunt to feed their family , just because someone else in a nearby village had been hunting and you expected them to share their hunting booty with you?

I read that the groundnut farmers are asking for a better pay for their harvest than what they so far have been offered. They tell that it is the high cost of fertilizer that is the reason, and I understand that. I also understand that the farmers were expecting the Government to subsidise the cost of the fertilizer as they did last year. What I don’t understand is that last year there were some greedy people who took the opportunity to buy a lot of the low prized fertilizer and then sold it for a higher price in Senegal. This is not an action by a small farmer, because they can’t afford to buy more than they need for their land. No, this is once again a matter of corruption, of taking the opportunity to make a lot of money on someone elses expence. These people are digging the graves for other people, for those who are already poor and hungry.

Our government is corrupt, we all know that, but when they put their foot down in an attempt to stop corruption it went wrong anyway. Their so called solution didn’t solve the problem, it only created more problems for those who are already struggling. Maybe the reason in this case about the fertilizer is that it was some of their own who bought the cheap fertilizer and sold it elsewhere? Who else has this kind of money and the information? The grave diggers?