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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Societal pressures (Part 1) 

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Dear editor,

One phenomenon that stood out for me when I visited Gambia back in 2018 was the sheer number of people that lined up to see senior government officials, particularly our very honorable ministers! The demands that society places on people deemed “successful” can wilt anyone without a strong moral compass. And in a society where emphasis on religiosity does not correspond to the emphasis on morality, many otherwise religious people wilt under these societal demands and settle for debauchery.

Family members, friends, opportunists, project scavengers, hustlers, childhood friends, unknown relatives, WhatsApp group mates, vultures, crooks, former classmates, in-laws, you name it. They all have the successful person’s number because for some reason, Gambians just give out numbers without bothering to ask for permission. Every one lined up at the ministers office wants to see the minister. Every single one of them also feels entitled. Every single one of them also feels that their needs are the most urgent. And because ministers are expected to politic for the president, they have to be mindful of the number of times they can utilize the “he’s in a meeting,” or “he’s out of the country,” ekchoose. So oftentimes, the minister simply obliges and tries to accommodate all his visitors! Politics requires fake love and fake tolerance. And according one minister I had the pleasure of talking to, many of the people visiting also expect to leave with some money. But there’s only so much money the minister has and since he’s an honorable minister, he has to live up to the moniker. But that is where a strong moral foundation comes into play. If you are not moored to values and principles, you will easily succumb to these societal pressures.

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Let me add that these societal pressures, or as a friend called it the begging culture, does not only affect ministers. From teachers to journalists, clerks to drivers, if Gambians think you have it, they will beg or ask to borrow. Those of us that live outside face the same demands, if not more, from our extended family and friends. That is how they came up with the term Black tax. But if you live outside, you have a bit of control in that people can only reach you through the phone or when you visit or through other people. If you live in The Gambia and they know where you live or work, they will come. My heart goes out to all Gambians who are struggling to survive and yet have so much pressure on them. My respect goes out to those who resist corruption because of these societal pressures for they are the true heroes. Values, ethics, religious dictates are what stops them from selling their soul to gain the world and maintain the prestige that comes with being “successful.” There aren’t many of them even though many will claim to be of them.

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

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