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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Resurrecting the spirit of community life

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By Celestine Mendy

It is now more certain than any time in history, that the universe we live in is a global village. We are sure to not be faulty in such an assertion when we take into mind the closeness brought about by the technological revolution. What is more obvious is the ease with which contacts are established by merely clicking a button. Some of these clicks would go a long way in proving lifelong acquaintances. But this ‘global village’ has always existed since the advent of civilization pioneered by the African. We clustered ourselves into communities, marked by commonness as found in cultures, rituals, laws etc. Interestingly, it is much less effort that one is able to send out information, and the same gets received on the other side in no time. I guess that is one aspect of human development that informed the coining of this now popularized ‘global village’ axion. More than ever is the need for the continuous nurturing of camaraderie formed through different platforms. To this day, opinions vary as to whether communities are more close-knit regarding technology or not. There are those who are of the persuasion that the internet has served somewhat a bad recipe for human disconnectedness. They would argue; thus, well, cyberspace is only real to the same extent that mirage is. They would liken this reality to what is known as optical illusion in arts. Of course, there are instances in which people get carried away by seemingly realistic tendencies of factually unrealistic phenomena. But this is quite the contrary to online communities. Unlike before, long-distance relations have much more possibilities of survival today. Thus, we should not hasten to credit the revolution of the internet for the bailout.

Invariably, it is commonplace for societies to be identified by some distinguishable particularities. This is what accounts for the uniqueness that makes each society and its people not so like its nearest neighbor. As a case in point, The Gambian society is one that is diverse in many ways. It has people whose cultures, traditions, belief systems, etc different from the next-door neighbor. Yet, such diversity has always proven a source of national pride. To some Gambians, who are mostly people of faith, such diversity is always an insignia of respect for all, regardless, and to a larger extent, a reason for faith. It informs that the GOD we serve is that of diversity. It is a source of national pride for which most sojourners would relish about this country. Individualistic culture as we have it in America, as well as in Europe, births the competitive nature of those who domicile there. They are wired in a way that all that mostly matters is the wellbeing of individuals, and not wholesome societal entities. There is absence of homogeneity regarding commitment to a group. As such, social behaviors are dictated by attitudes and preferences of individuals. Evidenced in these societies is their insatiable appetite for profit making. And so, the length to which one travels just so that his whims are satisfied is incalculable. Yet, there are virtues so beautiful and ingrained in these societies. For example, countries such America, Australia, Canada, UK etc, have always demonstrated a high sense of personal responsibility which translates to individuals’ commitment to success. They are self-driven to believe personal achievement is the end rather than the means. However, for the simple fact that self is patronized, cherished, promoted over the good of the entire group puts a dent on the foregoing. Evidently, human ecosystems, which has as one of its four constituents, interaction, and transaction between and within the components, is such that social constructs are more of inclusivity than contractual. This is an irrefutable fact taking into account the nature of societies as found in the earliest civilized human communities, for which Africa stands aloof. Economics, sociopolitical organizations, to name but a few, were always centered around the “Ubantu” concept. This concept translates to connote “I am because we are”. The onus was always on the ancient man to not unsettle the human ecological balance. American historian and theorist of the evolution of civilization, Carroll Quiqley, lending his support to what he believed to be intrinsically, and inextricable basis for community existence opined thus “A community is made up of intimate relationships among diversified types of individuals – a kinship group, a local group, a neighborhood, a village, a large family.” What is glaring as it is obvious is the pull force of affection that transcends individualistic appeals for self, to include the wellbeing of diverse individuals present in respective locations. But we also are cognizant of the fact that community and the life surrounding it goes beyond geographical constraints. It becomes alive and tangible when our connectedness is tested through taking responsibility for what happens to and everybody within the sphere of our interaction. By that, “we are our brother’s keeper” as encouraged through the writings of the prophets.

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 Along those lines, cultures, traditions, norms, and values, as well as laws provide a framework which incorporates individuals into a seamless unit. Laws are formulated to cater for social fabrics such as culture, traditions, etc. Laws are therefore unifying elements of societies. It is that which seeks to bring all under the same authority and provides equalizing standards for all and sundry in a particular jurisdiction. Subsequently, we come to know that laws are not certain. This stands undisputable since different jurisdictions with distinct social fabrics would require certain laws suitable to them only. And their evolutive nature goes to show to what extent they are not certain. Such evolution is contingent on human development. As societies evolve to be on the same wavelength with different forms of revolutions, as well as the information age which ultimately sponsors various forms of apprehensions, encapsulated by continuous shunning and uptake of lifestyles, ideologies, commitments laws are formulated to be in tandem with such trends. It therefore does not matter if you are a naturalist, positivist, or realist. Somehow, the law is what it ought to be as the naturalist would assert. But how about it being what the judge says it is – the interpretation given by the judge in any particular case, which the American realists would defend with every sweat of their blood. Yet, there is still room for that same law to be what is written in white and black. The point is laws are enacted to depict what the society wants. For that, we have provision for amendments in constitutions. One cardinal exercise for any amendment is a referendum, to sound peoples’ opinion on such matters as relates to the amendment. Unequivocally, all this is aimed at providing a basis for representation where the community’s good is seen as cardinal and sacrosanct. To some extent, the ethical and religious advocating for the inviolability of human life would be fostered within the remit of the law. Human beings are generally seen as rational and would object to any proposition which they deem detrimental to their existence. There and then, provisions of law that would form constitutions or any other document from where law emanates should be seen as representing the true will and aspirations of the people in that particular jurisdiction. But laws are not perfect to the same extent to which those who draft and pass them are fallible. Judgements would be made at the backdrop of evidence provided through witnesses and or documents. Again, witnesses and documents are not exhaustively unquestionable. Documents are liable to forgery, the same way that witnesses are not immune to some form of impairment emanating from old age, as evidenced in memory loss. The uncertainty of the law may be one of the reasons for facts gathering, which would be tendered as evidence in the form of exhibits. This exercise would go a long way in providing a balance to the community such that all those in it have their rights free from breach. In case of breach, the Latin maxim “Ubi jus, ibi remedium” would become alive and active.

Consistently, balanced societies are founded under the umbrella of diversity, equity, and inclusion, DEI. Respect for diversities as obtained in race, religion, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status etc, can serve as a yardstick to measure societies’ progression. Members of our societies that are underrepresented by dint of smaller population size are not lesser than anyone member of that society. The principle of equity knows no partiality. The one thing that would be needed for one to seek equity is to ‘come with clean hands.’ The total sum of diversity and equity is inclusion. Inclusive societies are those that would maintain the core fabric of its existence yet would form a cocoon for all. That does not give leeway for the perpetration of deviant behaviors that the community would shun.

In conclusion, for the many reasons for which this country has enjoyed stable tranquility, the culture of respect and acceptance has played a major role. Gambia is such a country that could best be described as a “nuclear family.” So, it is the responsibility of the Gambian society to look out for itself. We simply need to outgrow political gimmicks geared towards severing our longstanding relationships. Not only do we need to outgrow such, but equally and unequivocally shame and name any person that would seek to build their political fortune by sentimentally hypnotizing the unsuspecting majority through the use of our diversities. It is in fact relevant that laws are legislated to criminalize the use of words that would have a damaging impact on the social cohesion of our society. We must “RESURRECT THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY LIFE” for the good of the common person through respect and acceptance of diversity, promotion of equity, and championing of inclusion, via policy formulation, legal instruments, and community authorities. 

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