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Friday, October 7, 2022

Gambians and ‘free words’. Hate, grudge-words do indeed matter. And, The Gambia as an intellectually disabled nation

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Dr. Kebba S. Bojang

Hate and grudge were two words thrown at me during a discussion some time back. And so, it had me thinking since, wondering where that came from. Were they used as a projection? Or, just as sucker punch? Or, may be the typical Gambian way of restoring to calling one names, when no counter argument can be brought up against facts laid bare in front of them? To go strawman on me would have even been better. 

Gambians, generally, cannot handle criticism, constructive or not.  A nation of thin-skinned people they are: light in the tongue and quick in action to criticize, but thinned in skin and narrow in mind to criticism—differing opinion. Dissension. Agreeing to disagree is not their forte. Tell them the truth, and you will have them swear at you. Once they begin to perceive something as criticism, instead of listening rhetorically, they just wait for you to finish, and then pam! hit you back with your shortcomings.  They are a people who, generally, listen to response, for the sake of it; and not to understand to response accordingly, or to make adjustments for the better.

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Anyway, personally, I cannot remember throwing these words at someone during a such kinds of discussions; no matter how heated they become. Too strong a word, each of them for me, to be used frivolously.  But I understand I am not cut from the same cloth like everyone in terms of perception of words; and therefore, what should inform their usage; because as stated in the poem “Words are my Toys”:

Words are my toys,

playing with them my hobby,

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appreciating them my passion,

knowing more my daily mission—

… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

understanding them my preoccupation;

hence, I am quite au fait with their diction. (1-4, 14-15)

So, what I am trying to do here is make sense of the situation, as relates to our reactions to issues in the context of our society; our social environment.

Our reactions or our takes on issues are greatly a reflection of our life’s journey—the sum of the experiences which make us whole as individuals. This journey is travelled through the prism of our cultural, traditional, religious, educational, occupational, social, political, and economic lived realities. And thus, as individuals, we become a reflection of our society. And, our society, the reflection of our realities.

Therefore, inasmuch as our society shapes us; we in turn also define our society. our social environment, is but a reflection of our lived realities. A sort of societal vicious cycle. Think of the contrast between an educated society and that of a less educated one; a rich society and that of a poor society (community); a conservative society and that of a liberal one. Thus, our society having a profound effect on us during our formative years. And we in turn, having great influence on the society in our productive years. These are the years when we define how our society should be like. The society that would be shaping those coming after us. Therefore, in terms of words we use, we should free ourselves, or rise above all the unhealthy rhetoric, and even challenge them. Words are but the gel in the threads of fabrics of societies; thus, essential in the making of any society. But, at the same time, could be the destruction or retrogression of any: #Retroactive, #Secular—two politically and religious radioactive words respectively as relates to the Draft Constitution 2020.

Words, therefore, do indeed matter; for words are powerful.  Their effects can be overwhelming and everlasting. So, we should be responsible or reflective of the ones we use, or how we use them. Unfortunately, in our society, people are used to “free words” so much so that they careless, or have no appreciation for the meaning of the words they use. If disagreement over an issue or being critical of someone, and providing tangible evidence to that effect, could be seen as being hateful and or holding grudges even by the educated-cum-intellectuals, then as a society, we need to do some serious soul searching.

When we discuss issues, when we make our points, when we give our takes on issues, it behooves us to be cerebral rather than emotional or mechanical in our deliberations. True, we are emotional beings, but keeping that part of us to the bare minimum, and stating one’s points as matter-of-factly as much as possible if not in entirety, will be a sign that we are moving away from the ‘small brainedness’ we are far too long being held hostage to as a society. Unfortunately, Gambia is a society where being cerebral and reflective in dealing with issues are seen as boring. Being mechanical and lousy are what are exhilarating and worth paying attention to.  

The Gambia as an intellectually disabled nation

The Gambia, sadly, is an intellectually disabled nation; where non-intellect intellectuals tend to set and lead the narrative; where intelligent people tend to be viewed as stupid people, and stupid people as the smart ones; and, that it is those with master’s and doctorate degrees that are the problems of the nation. How ironic! A society with such mindset toward education and the educated is but a sick society, which is described by NormaDBudhha on the NewBuddhist as “a society where sick people with sick intellectual capacity make the rules”. A nation where people tend to believe the leader or the president doesn’t need to be educated, as presidency is a responsibility and not a profession.  What a joke! My response to such idiotic comments is, show me a nation that has developed with an uneducated leader.

Although, there are a number of stupid intelligent people, and ignorant educated folks, expediently; who along the way would master the art of rationalization, to spin much more than spindle fibers.  Notwithstanding, there is no substitute for good education as a foundation for knowledge and skills upon which a nation will depend to progress. It is not hard to discern the correlation between education and developmental strides of a nation. Nations where education is prioritized and invested in tend to be the most developed. They tend to have the best educational institutions in the world. A number of these nations, in essence, have little or no natural resources to begin with—#Israel, #Japan, #Taiwan, #Singapore—as well elucidated by Thomas L. Friedman in an op-ed, “Pass the Books. Hold the Oil”, in The New York Times; in comparing Taiwan to some of the nations with oil.

The main difference in the trajectories of progress and development between Singapore and The Gambia from 1965 onward was the prioritization, investment in, and value attached to education.

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