Minding your own business, or not?

Minding your own business, or not?

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One thing I love about The Gambia is the sense of community, that we belong together. That is until I began to scrape on the surface, and found that beneath the smiles there is a deep and profound resentment for others that are not of one’s kind. Why is that? Have you asked yourself that question, or are you just so used to it so you don’t care? Perhaps you care, but you don’t know what to do about it, and it is easier to let people keep on as they have always done?

There are two sides of the coin, when we look at the matter of community. On one side, we know that we never have to be alone, that there is always someone to talk to, that you can reach out for help and know that someone will be there for you.

On the other side, we know that we are always surrounded by chatter, there is always someone who is interfering in one’s business, and perhaps you can get help but it comes with a cost. One of the disadvantages with living in Sweden is the loneliness many suffer from. Sweden is, if you look at the map, a long country and we have plenty of space. Most families are small, and thanks to our financial advantages it is perfectly possible to manage on your own – either as a single parent or just single.

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No one questions other people’s way of living, no one has to defend if he or she is single or a single parent. It is up to every individual to choose one’s life path. You might think that this sounds very strange, and it is strange when you are used to living as you do in The Gambia, but people are different. For Africans who flee the poverty and struggle, Sweden is regarded as a paradise where people have a lot of money all the time, and the society has endless resources of which we can pick freely.

Yes, Sweden is considered a rich country, but nothing comes for free in life. Through solidarity and control systems, we have been able to build up our wealth from scratch. Looking back 100 years, Sweden was poor and people suffered. A lot of Swedes migrated to the US in hope of making a better life there. Those who went there before them, didn’t tell the truth about their struggle in the US. The US was regarded as a paradise, where people had a lot of money all the time, and the society had endless resources from which people could pick freely.

Can you see the parallells? Desperate people use desperate means in an attempt to improve their lives. They sell what they have to get money for dangerous journey. Too few reach their destination, too many lose their money and also their lives. Those who flee through the back way suffer in such ways you can never imagine. Driving through the desert in a rickety jeep is no joyride. The vehicle is packed to the brim, and if you fall off no one will stop to pick you up. You will be left there to die in the heat, your body will be eaten by vultures and no one will cry by your grave side. Those who manage to get to Libya will be put in camps that are like prison. The interned will have no medical attention or enough food and women will be raped and beaten. Men will many a time, face the same fate.

Those who don’t end up in the prison camps of Libya, try their luck by in  crossing the Mediterranean Sea in boats not worthy of the name. There are not enough safety jackets for the passengers, and the safety jackets – which you have to pay for – are fake. They will not save your life, and if you fall in the water in the middle of the sea, you will not be able to make it to the shore unless there is another boat close by to pick you up. You might think to yourself that I am exaggerating, but unfortunately it is the truth I am telling you and the truth is this ugly.

The few who manage to get to Europe and are allowed to stay here, will face a world that is so completely different from what they are used to. From living in a warm country, sharing every aspect of your life with others, you end up alone in an unforgiving climate. Some days ago, the temperature was -20 degrees cold here, that is much colder than in a freezer. The loneliness I spoke about at the beginning of this article, comes as a shock for many Africans. We are more or less used to it, many of us choose to be alone, but the solitude can be devastating for someone who has never experienced that before. If you found the constant interference in everybody’s lives annoying before, you would suddenly find yourself praying for someone to knock on your door.

As I told you, those who fled the poverty and oppression in Sweden around 100 years ago never told the truth about their suffering. Many are the letters sent home to relatives in Sweden, in these you can read about the endless lands and the opportunities in the US. Poor Swedes who had fled to the US were amazed of how gigantic this country is and that it was possible to mark out a piece of land and claim it yours. No one told them in advance that the free pieces of land were far away from the shore and they had to walk there. They had to carry the little they had managed to bring with them from Sweden, and their small children on their backs, through a rough country with a lot of danger. Many suffered and too many died, those who managed to get somewhere had a daily struggle to survive.

If you are new to a country that is not your own, you must start your life all over again. You have no relatives there to help you, no one knows you and your capacity. If you come without a high education, the chances to get a job is minimal. Imagine that you have been bragging about what you are going to do when you reach Europe, how much money you will earn, and how much money you can send home. Imagine this and then imagine a life where you have been unemployed for a long time, you have lived in a basement, and the little money you earn is by cleaning toilets at the railway station. You have stopped taking calls from friends and relatives, because you feel ashamed and you are embarrassed because your reality is far from the picture you had in your mind and the one you told your friends about.

There is nothing wrong in cleaning toilets or washing dishes at a restaurant, but these are the kind of jobs that uneducated migrants will get – if any. If you are prepared to face this reality, then you are good, but I feel sad for those who lose their roots and get lost in a harsh reality. Instead of imagining some kind of fairytale life in a world you know nothing of, do your best to change the world you already live in. Use these interfering skills every Gambian masters, and point out to our politicians every problem they must deal with. Barrow won the election, now it is up to him to prove that he deserved the win. Don’t give up on your country, instead claim your rights and interfere in the politicians’ business until they improve the lives of every Gambian.