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City of Banjul
Monday, July 15, 2024

Three little pigs

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With Aisha Jallow

This is an old children’s story that was published in a book in 1849.

Just like myths, many of the old children’s stories came with life lessons disguised in an amusing story. Many of these stories ended with something called moral lesson – a conclusion of the story, telling us what we are supposed to learn from it.

I don’t know how many of you heard the story of the three little pigs, but it includes the pigs (of course) and a wolf called the Big Bad Wolf.

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The pigs are brothers and they live together. In the story the characters act like humans, and if you watch the cartoon you will also see that they are dressed like humans – more or less. A story like that, when we apply human-like characters on animals is called a fable. The oldest pig is the wisest, the middle pig and the youngest are lazy brats who love to fool around and act as they fear nothing, and especially not the Big Bad Wolf.

The Big Bad Wolf always tried to catch at least one of the pigs, to eat it up, but somehow they always managed to get away. In the story, the three pigs decided to build a house each. The oldest pig built a house of bricks; a nice and sturdy house that can resist bad weather and also the Big Bad Wolf. The second pig built his house of sticks and the third pig built his house of straw. The Big Bad Wolf was keeping an eye on the pigs and their efforts. His mouth was watering and he was expecting a juicy pig for lunch.

Why am I writing about three pigs and what do they have to do with you or The Gambia? Well, as I wrote in the beginning of this essay, these old fables end with a moral lesson and we can also learn a lot from them during the story. Here are some useful lessons:

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1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The two bratty pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig worked hard on the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. You are not haunted by hungry wolves in The Gambia, but look at it as a metaphor instead.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The bratty pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the Big Bad Wolf . They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

The rainy season comes once a year, with heavy storms and winds that lift off the roofs of too many houses in The Gambia. This causes a lot of damage; people lose their homes and belongings, sometimes even their lives.

The storms threaten your lives, just as the Big Bad Wolf in the fable.

With the help of the government even poor people could be able to build sturdy houses. It is not that someone is singing and dancing instead of building sturdy homes. It is instead the ignorance of those who could lift the citizens’ living conditions to a higher level that are singing a tune in their heads so they can avoid hearing the cries for help from their people.

3.      Plan strategically – All the three pigs made plans for the future, but the ones who made their houses of sticks or straw did not care about any eventual future disasters. They wanted to finish quickly so they could have some fun instead. Quick fixes have never been sustainable; you patch over the cracks with some plaster or corrugated metal and hope for the best. Acting as the oldest pig in the fable, investing in time, effort and sustainable materials will last longer. Is the government prepared to invest in the country and the welfare of the citizens? Stupid question, as the answer is already given.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – We could adjust this saying to the Gambian conditions: don’t plan for the worst, but pray for the best. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. A fatalistic view on life makes us believe that we don’t have a free will, that a higher power decides what will happen with us and we can’t do anything to change our fate. God is not our puppeteer and He doesn’t have any invisible strings attached to every human being. He gave us a free will to do good or bad and told us to use our common sense. God is not expecting us to stand like passive sheep when the rainstorm comes. Instead, He expects us to use our brains to take shelter and make sure that the roofs over our heads don’t leak.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. Greed got the better of the Wolf and he continued his pursuit to catch a pig which didn’t lead to anything good in the end. Greed causes corruption; the efforts to get more and more seem to be larger than the efforts to make sure that your fellow human being is okay. Selfishness never leads to anything good in the end. So when is it enough? The old Egyptian kings were buried with their fortunes because they believed they could use those in the afterlife. Is that what you believe too; you who become wealthy while others are suffering?

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The two pigs who built their homes with sticks and straw were more interested in fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. Our government officials seem to be more interested in travelling here and there to represent the country instead of staying in the country and representing what they actually want to do for us. Boring maybe, but more fruitful in the end.

8.      Be philanthropic – The pig who built a sturdy house also helped his brothers, even if they were a bit lazy and impatient. Those of us who have the means; either financially or by knowledge, must help others so they can improve their lives. Some people believe that the poor deserve to stay that way as they are stupid and lazy. What they need to know instead is that the poor lack opportunities to improve their lives. Can we help or do we also lack something; like empathy and understanding?

9.      Be patient – The fable is really about leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in our case, democracy, takes time. These lessons are prudent and practical. They are useful in your own life as well as in ruling a country. The choice is yours. Have you learned your lesson or do you hope someone else will do it for you?

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