By Aisha Jallow
Do you care about anyone else’s opinion? What a rude question, you might think, but I am curious and I really want to know. Let me add this to my question: for what reason do you care about anyone else’s opinions? Do you care as much that you are prepared to change your own opinion, or are you prepared to fight for your opinion? Are you prepared to fight for the right of others to have their opinions – even if you don’t share them?
What a strange subject I have chosen this time, you might think, but you see – these Corona times are in a way not a problem for an introvert person like me. I only get more time to think.
Social distancing? I haven’t noticed any change from my normal behaviour! Stay home? Oh, yes, please! Don’t go to shopping malls? Online shopping is both a blessing and a curse in the Western world. With a simple click on the keyboard some packages will turn up with the mail two or three days later. This is very easy, too easy and too tempting.
For an introvert person as I am, I am not bothered with what other people wear, or use, or how they live and so on. My largest temptations are books, and I can hardly resist buying new books. It’s winter here in Sweden and it has been snowing for some days. The ground is completely covered in a white layer of snow and I force myself to go out for a walk once a day. I am definitely not a winter person, I could easily stay indoors for months reading book after book.
I have learned so much through all the books I have read during the years. My upbringing was very tough, but my books taught me that I am not alone being miserable and that life can become better. I learned how to live, what to think, how to celebrate holidays, how to raise children and how to treat children so they will become steady people one day.
I also learned that it is okay to have different opinions and that we can learn from each other, even if we don’t share the same point of view. There is a great saying: ”Reading can seriously damage your ignorance.” This is so true and can never be repeated enough. It should be written on the walls of all schools and be given a book should be the highest reward at any school competition.
Why I have become a fighter for the free world is because I was suppressed as a child but I always fought back. I was always in trouble at home, because I refused to bend down. I was never a puppet someone could force to do this or that, I wanted a reason first. ”Because I say so!” is not reason enough. It is very easy for anyone to say that to someone who is asking for a reason, but is it respectful? Why should you care about that, you might ask yourself. You really don’t have any reason to show someone else respect, especially if that person is younger than yourself or has a lower rank.
So are we not all human beings? Some of us are more equipped than others. Some are highly educated and intelligent, others are highly educated and still stupid. Some can barely read or write, but they have managed to start a business of their own. It is about the thrive to accomplish something larger than what you have experienced before. What that is, is up to you. Some get in to politics, others start a car mechanic. One has clean hands and the other has dirty, but who does most good for his/her fellow human being? Is there an easy answer for that? No, of course not, because we are all individuals. This is what is making philosophy so interesting, because when you begin to investigate some area you will find layer after layer of new thoughts and information. Philosophy is not only for old men with long beards, it is a matter of the mind and how open you are to learning about others and by that, yourself.
When I have been at home in The Gambia, or when I have followed the situation online, I have noticed that people get so aggravated as soon as there is a discussion about something. Voices are raised, curses jump out like grasshoppers and people interfere without hesitation. For what reason? Why is it so hard to agree that we disagree? Doesn’t we all have the same human rights, the right to have our opinion? Why curse someone, and even worse, involve someone’s parents in the discussion? What do the parents have to do with anything? There must be a limit for what is okay to say and not. You are only degrading yourself when you use foul language. I think it is even worse when those we believe should be rolemodels in the society are unable to act like that. They behave like small kids on the playground, give them a toy and they will hit each other in the head with it.
Remember what the former First Lady of the United States used to say:
”When they go low, we go high”. It is always a matter of one’s mindset. Remember what the Holy Prophet said (saw): ”If you have nothing good to say; remain silent”. Can we call ourselves Muslims without following the words of God? Where are our minds? Are we more focused on what others think of us, than what God will think of our actions? Are we focused on gossipping, back-biting, envying others and trying to get higher at someone else’s expense? I asked in the beginning of this article if you care about someone else’s opinion. What kind of opinions matter? Is it when someone praises you for your home, your clothes, your nice car and so on? These are material things that can easily get lost somehow.
What if people should praise you for always being the one who is reaching out your hand in helping your fellow human being? What if people should acknowledge you for being kind and just, that you never speak ill about people and that you try to see matters from different angles instead of being stubborn? The one who has the need of being praised is doing good deeds for the show. S/he likes to be photographed, shaking hands with some dignitaries, smiling from ear to ear, looking satisfied and self confident.
What about the poor man or woman who doesn’t know any dignitaries, and is never on a photo shaking hands? The good deeds made by him or her – don’t they have the same value? A gift from someone with dirty hands and some holes in their clothes- shouldn’t we value that gift more? This person has made a sacrifice to put a smile on your face.
To go back to where I started, I just wanted to plant some thoughts in your head. I want you to begin to reflect on what is important in life, and what doesn’t matter. If someone else’s opinions about you are so important, you need to begin to reflect on the reason for it. Don’t you know yourself? Don’t you know your inner worth? Try to change your mindset a little and be grateful for what you can learn from others. You don’t have to share their opinions, but you can learn something from them. Look at people with interest instead of with suspicion, and you will find new aspects of life.