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City of Banjul
Thursday, October 1, 2020

The failed generation

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“The Waiting Generation” he labels our generation “a generation of waiters” and fairly so. It puts in as beautiful a piece as can be humanly possible, the plight of our generation in coloured light. We are truly “a generation of waiters” and even the art of waiting seems lost to us sometimes. I agree with him entirely so it is not only for his beautiful literature that I fell in love with that essay of his but on the veracity of his words.

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However, in this cycle of blame game I must be quick to point out that there is a culprit in this state of affairs. In pre-Socratic philosophy, it was the iron-clad logic of Parmenides that stated that “nothing can come from nothing”. Now as confusing as the words appear, it took Socrates to truly decipher and further advance the philosophy into, “…as true as it is that nothing can come from nothing, that does not necessarily mean that being cannot become being”. It is a simple philosophy on the “science of transformation” even better put through by Aristotle and the “Marble Statue”. If philosophy is a passion for you, do read a little more on these and I can assure you, the philosophies though bordering on atheism (if you’re a closed-minded fool) are truly uplifting.

So my point with all of this you might wonder. Well, the waiting generation had to be sculpted from something. There must have been a block of marble so terrible that whatever was sculpted out of it could not be beautiful enough to be appreciated by the eye. You see, the artist cannot be at fault. That would be blasphemous! The block…yes the block must be flawed. I like to call the block, “the failed generation”. 

Now the Wolofs like to say, “dega kaani la…” and no truer statement could be said. The truth hurts and it is in accepting the truth that a man can go through the transformation necessary to be better. You see, a man has to first and foremost accept that he is a womanizing animal; that he barks at a moving skirt and never lets a fine looking woman walk past without a “psssss!” before he can truly be better at resisting temptation. Our nation in its entirety must accept its flaws to be able to make that progress which it truly needs to at least be inspiring.

So there is a denouement to this seemingly boring thesis if you’ll only be patient enough to wait! Aren’t you called the waiting generation for a reason? Or do you fall in the category of the failed generation? I strongly believe that we are a generation that has been robbed of possibilities. Compared to our peers in other lands, even in places that used to be war zones, we are sadly equipped with a history flocked with weak-ambitioned people with either no creativity or no reason to use it. This is not an attempt to hurl insults at my elders but an extension of my own truth realisation on why the progress of all things good in The Gambia is usually halted by our desire to destroy instead of build.

Our history teaches us of heroes of our development as a nation. However, apart from “fighting” for independence and resisting, if only evanescently, the control of foreign powers, what has our history given us to celebrate? This is not even about the politics pre-independence or during the first republic. This is simply about the lack of inventiveness in our social elites and our well-to-do Gambians since the white man stepped foot in our lands some donkey years ago.

I remember growing up so proud of the joy that was home and thinking there was nothing better in this world until in 1994 I was privileged to use the aeroplane for the first time on my first trip outside The Gambia to the “Lion Mountains” of the coast. It was indeed a humbling experience for me even as a short nine-year old. All of The Gambia looked like a village in comparison. We can blame the government all we want but where were our social-elites and our wealthy merchants? We talk of many people during those days who held the economy of our tiny nation together, accumulating property and doing great for themselves but aren’t they as forgotten as the slaves that left our shores?

I had a lovely discussion with some older brothers of mine a few weeks ago and the lawyer amongst them called his generation a failure to ours. I didn’t say a word when he said it but his words struck a chord. If I had spoken I would have said he was wrong. They were carved off a faulty block of marble.

Instead of attacking the legacies of the Carrols, the Momodou Musa Njies and the Madis (which I am sure might trigger a public outcry and a petition to break my neck) I will go closer to home for it is easier to attack family. When my grandmother Mrs Alice Carr passed away, I was so torn by the loss that I penned a woebegone piece attacking my country’s lack of appreciation for her contribution to its development. Anyone who lived in Banjul back then knew my grandmother. She was an exemplary businesswoman in a time when gender equity was not even on the table for discussion. It is debatable that there has been no such successful Gambian woman since then. However, with all her ingenious business interventions and her national order award; with her substantial share of the “cola-nut” imports and “tile manufacturing” I am forced to ask myself what legacy she left behind. 

Do not get me wrong, she was an amazing woman. My grandmother put many a Banjulian through school and fed hundreds of people weekly. She was a kind woman who started from the proverbial nothing and did things which we still find impossible to replicate in industry. However, there is a strong contrast between doing good things and leaving great legacies. I will forever love my grandmother and she will always be an important role-model for me both in business and in life but I believe her memory will stay only with the hundreds she has helped in some way and the family she has built around her. It is a sad truth that her memory in our archives as a nation will not be eternal.

The same can be said for many other great people we have seen in business in the smiling coast over the decades. Soon, children will need to come from certain families to learn of the greatness of these people because truth is, they were smart and enterprising but they were not great. It is not greatness if one does not leave a legacy that lasts forever. Michael Jackson, Maya Angelou, George Weah, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Youssou N’Dour… those are names etched in the history books to last forever. It is not enough to be part of an Independence struggle. We have to be a nation of legacy builders. 

My praise will always go to someone like Mrs Harriet Ndow for I believe she is one person who has built and will continue to build legacies. We have to create things that are everlasting and whilst doing so, ensure that knowledge is transferred for such legacies to continue. However, the generation before ours was handed a country where there was no transfer of knowledge and a simple transfer of wealth. Old Wealth has been degenerating over the years and all what remains is but a basket of names that seem to strike a memory which never ever seems to form anything. Therefore what exactly can they give us?

How many of our “legends” above 60 have built a school? How many of them have invested in mentorship programmes to ensure that our business communities continue to thrive? How many of them have shown future generations the route to international organisation memberships and control? How many of them have built orphanages from their businesses? How many of them have found inventive ways to grow our economy? They have created a “zero taste for industry” nation that looks more like a marketplace than a country. Industries must be driven by a hunger in private sector and collectiveness in making things work. We are an unimpressed and uninspired generation seeking to change a mentality that has gone terribly wrong. 

We were not born lazy, or languor-like. We were raised in an environment that forced us to be this way. We have created such an environment where instead of having an older generation that seeks to inspire the young, we have an older generation that seeks to compete with and bring down the young. We do not support the creative; we do not even UNDERSTAND what they are trying to do. We hate taking risks so we have allowed foreign businessmen to take those risks on our behalf yet we complain about it. I am tired of the complaints.

I had a conversation once with a very influential man of age months ago on the importation of certain products into the country and he advised that I stay clear of certain products. I understood him clearly for that is the way certain markets are built but I do not believe in impossibilities. I wasn’t programmed to think that way. 

From music, to art, to science and technology, to theatre, to business, to industry we are as handicapped as they come. We are a generation forced to start from zero with no mentorship, no guidance, no assistance, no framework, dara! tuss! feng! natin! So we’re raising a nation of bankers, doctors, teachers, etc which is not such a bad thing but for a nation that keeps getting younger and as it gets even more impossible to create jobs for our youth, shouldn’t we be encouraging self-employment, innovation, entrepreneurship (especially social-entrepreneurship), creative industry employment and the risks of manufacturing?

I do not believe that if this generation is inspired enough to take the risks associated with the sectors listed above, government would hesitate to create such legislation that will encourage their growth. They are the necessary facets of any true development. 

We lost the plot a long time ago when generations before us chose to centre their ideas on themselves and decided that getting wealthy was more important than making a difference. We all want to be wealthy but even with all our wealth have we wondered why we still fail to join the list of wealthy moguls around the world? No business truly grows with one head in place…it will grow but it will stop growing sooner rather than later. Selfish business does not stop at the financial but our moral obligations to transfer knowledge and to share the little we know. The generation before ours inherited a system of “suma buss la” and had nowhere to start from and thought the best possible way was to focus on wearing suits and ties whilst they waited for the next generation to take things forward…bobu dina meiti deh…and still as we start from zero, it stops with at us not receiving the necessary support to grow but a competitiveness which borders on petty.

I am tired of talking about or hearing of political comparisons when this country is not waiting for anyone! I buy the imported rice! I pay the 8 dalasis fare for the taxi which buys the imported fuel! I overhear much older people try to bring down young people trying to make a difference! I inherited this lazy environment! While we’re trying to build all of that, innovate on industry, push creativity, assist in the creation and promotion of the “Gambian Brand”, we still have to build schools in the memory of generations past and name roads after them just because they were too busy amassing wealth, building mosques and churches, and giving out fish instead of teaching our people to fish. Don’t blame us for looking flawed…it’s neither the artist, nor the art…you should be looking at the block of marble!

PS. To the few making a difference, yen borkulehn *smiles and winks*]

TGBA

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