The saying liar, liar pants on fire is part of a longer children’s rhyme that’s been around since 1840 or so. There are several different versions of what comes after the line liar, liar, pants on fire, such as “Hanging by a telephone wire / While you’re there, cut your hair / And stick it down your underwear.”
The first part of this children’s rhyme is used to tease someone you suspect is lying about something. This can be used as a more polite way of telling someone that you don’t really believe what they are telling you.
I have learned that in The Gambia it is considered as very disrespectful to tell someone that you don’t believe what they telling you. This is case if the other part is older than yourself, to a child there are no problems. We have different social codes depending on our culture. Where I come from we don’t have any problems telling someone that s/he is lying, using exactly those words. It doesn’t matter if the person in question is older or younger than I am, a lie is a lie. You might find this rude, but as I said before; we don’t have the same social codes.
I understand where it comes from, that it is considered more or less taboo to tell someone older that they are lying. Going back in history, when people lived in smaller groups and were depending on each other in a different way than today, you needed to have strict codes of conduct. You had no place outside the group, the tribe, so to not risk becoming an outcast, you needed to follow these strict rules to survive. Without the tribe you were no one and had nothing. The group depended on younger learning survival skills from the older, and those skills were not only about where to hunt or when to search for eatable plants.
Showing respect for one another is a good thing, but lying is bad, no matter who commits it. As we are not supposed to be frank and tell someone that we believe they are lying, we have other ways of showing it. That method works when it is a matter of a family member or someone else we know well, but it becomes more problematic when the liar is someone else – like a person with influence. In December there will be a presidential election in The Gambia and the candidates have begun to market themselves and their political agenda. There will be a lot of promises and amazing intentions, but how much of this is just for the show?
The respect we feel for people of influence can sometimes feel like a rope around our necks. We fear that if we speak out, the rope will be tightened and we will be unable to speak. To be able to make our politicians and other people of influence accountable for their actions, we must learn to cut the mental rope around our necks and feel free. As long as we allow others to restrain our freedom, we will remain mental captives. Those who have influence know how to use it, and also how to misuse it. They know that it is very hard for people to confront them, they grew up in the same system and learned the tricks from early childhood.
Just think back on your own childhood and you will remember someone who always wanted to be right, no matter what. This person would never admit any wrong doing, even if the person was caught red-handed. The personality traits we have as children will follow us into adulthood.
Perhaps we learn with time that some of our personality traits are less acceptable. We also learn how to hide our traits, but if we get triggered somehow these will show their ugly faces again.
As children we learn that we shouldn’t curse and tell each other bad names. It is amazing though to watch a political debate and see some of the so-called professionals act like kids on the playground. We teach our kids to speak the truth and to admit if they have done something wrong. How come these life lessons rub off so easily when you suddenly have got some kind of influence? The same actions you would spank your children for are accepted as adults. We teach our children that it is not okay to lie, unless you are an adult because then other rules apply.
Back to the coming election: there are a lot of political parties in The Gambia. Some of them are old and well known, others are new and aspiring. Some of the new parties have already established leaders and let us focus on that for a while. It is easier for us to detect a lie from that leader, as we have already seen him in action. It doesn’t matter how many fancy words he is serving us, we can go back in recent history and point out the mishaps one after another. At this moment we are obliged to cut loose the mental ropes around our necks and cry out when we detect a lie.
Our leaders are not above other human beings, they are paid by the citizens of this country and therefore they must hold high standards. As long as we give them the other end of the rope around our necks, they will for sure pull it if they get the opportunity. ”The opportunity makes the thief” goes the saying, and as long as we keep silent our tax money, our time and our trust will be stolen. Some of the old taboos need to be questioned and replaced. If we want our society to evolve, we need to wipe out the oldtime respect and demand a mutual respect.
You have a privilege, a huge responsibility and also a duty to vote. It is also your duty to listen to the candidates and learn about their political agenda before you make your decision. Don’t just vote for someone because he is from the same tribe as you, or because he has a nice smile, or because he is a distant relative of yours. Don’t give someone your vote because that party gave you the nicest T-shirt, that T-shirt will soon be worn out but the leading party will bite your neck for 5 years if you allow them.
The recent 5 years have been a downhill, where your situation hasn’t evolved a lot.
If you want to change that you need to detect the lies and call them out. The rope around your neck is only imaginary, The Gambia is a democracy and we have freedom of speech. Some are still not used to this, and they are trying to use the old methods to either silence you or to follow the path they have pointed out for you. Be mindful before you follow any leader, make sure you know where they want you to go. If you don’t detect eventual lies, your path might lead you into more misery than before.