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City of Banjul
Sunday, January 24, 2021

Why bother about politics?

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With Aisha Jallow

When I was young I asked that question, just as many others. Why bother? Politics is boring and I can’t influence anyone anyway! Young people tend to categorise things to make life easier to understand.

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A little like this list:
Adults don’t understand anything
Teachers hate their pupils
When I grow up I get to decide everything for myself
When I grow up I can decide when to go to bed and I can sleep half-a-day if I want to
Studying or reading books is boring
Internet gaming is fun
Soap operas show the real life of the Western world
If I manage to get to Europe, I will get rich and I can impress my friends
And – of course – politics is boring and I don’t need to bother

Let us see what the dictionary tells us before we continue:

1. The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.
2. Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organisation.

What kind of activities does the first point refer to? The list will be very long if I am to mention each and every part that involves politics. The thing is that either we wish it or not, everything involves politics. It is the politicians who decide over the finances of the state. This ”treasure chest” should be big enough to cover all expenses of our society. Infrastructure, watersupply, electricity, schools, hospitals, libraries, pensions – everything!
Let us go back to the list of childish points and analyse it, point by point.

Adults don’t understand anything : that is a statement said out of frustration. This is said, or thought, when a child is unable to make his or her point because the adults don’t listen to them. Showing respect to those who are older than you is a good thing, but children also deserve respect. They need to learn how to express their opinions in a respectful way. This is not done by forcing them to keep quiet and let the adults talk. There is a time and a place for everything, children need to learn when it is appropriate for them to express their opinions and the opposite. This can only be done by allowing them to be human, by allowing children to make mistakes.

We learn by our mistakes, but we also learn how to disrespect children when we look at the adults and their interaction with children. According to the human rights children have the right to express their opinions and should not be suppressed. For those of you who fear that children become disrespectful if we don’t correct them constantly, I will tell you that this is wrong. If we keep on correcting our children all the time, we give them low self-confidence. We teach them that they don’t matter and their opinions definitely don’t matter. If the children are not allowed to express their opinions and emotions they will become mentally handicapped. It sound harsh, but if we wish to develop our society by educating our young members of it, we need to give them the hope that one day they can become strong and powerful citizens.

If we keep on suppressing the young minds, they will misuse the power the day they get it. They are not capable of using the power correctly, instead their life’s mission will be a revenge even if it might be unintentionally. It is also a normal psychological process that kids disagree with their parents and other adults. This is a part of becoming independent, because kids will get separated from their parents one day and they need to manage on their own.

Teachers hate their pupils. That might be true in some cases, but most teachers like their pupils. When you are a child you don’t understand the difference between liking someone and not always liking what someone does. That is what we learn when we grow up, but the process would be so much easier if adults actually would tell that to the children when there is a need to correct them. Adults are not right all the time, we must be able to express what we feel but also ask for forgiveness if we have failed. Children learn from what we do, not what we say so we need to be rolemodels.

When I grow up I get to decide everything for myself. Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Or maybe not! That would mean that we wouldn’t have a common set of rules that everyone had to follow. That would lead to anarchy and cause more problems than benefits. Being an adult means that we have some power, but we still must follow the rules of our society. Young people long for the day when they “are in charge” but will soon realise that it is not all sunshine and roses to be an adult. Let us allow them to dream, as we have done ourselves, but let us also be a backup when they fall. Let us allow our young ones to try their wings. If we force them to stay they will flee, if we allow them to go they will come back. It can be hard for a young one to show gratitude, but it is there somewhere under that thick skin.

When I grow up I can decide when to go to bed, and I can sleep half-a-day if I want to. There is only one answer on that statement and that is: NOPE!
Studying or reading books is boring. Not all agree, many love it even if they wouldn’t admit it and risk being called bookworms. As a young person, you try to fit in and be as all the others. As an adult you sooner or later realise that there is no such thing as ”all the others”. We are just a group of people who try to cope with life, some of us are only more successful in hiding our fears. The problem with reading books is actually when you don’t have access to a library or can’t afford to buy books. That is what really sucks and if the only books you have got are the school books then I can understand that it can be a bit boring.

It is not easy to find joy in something you are forced to read. The joy comes when you find a book, begin to read it and realise hours after that you have forgotten to eat, do your chores and even your homework. Some people are not mature enough to focus on their studies when they still are very young. This is why it is so important to give our young adults the opportunity to study at vocational schools and evening schools. It is never too late to study, it is never too late to learn how to read and write. There is no shame in being illiterate, it is the society that should bear the shame for not giving enough people the opportunity to learn.

Internet gaming is fun. Oh dear, there is a reason for why the Holy Qur’an has forbidden this! Gaming is highly addictive, it becomes like a poison in your blood and you do anything to get more of it. Gaming will not only consume all your money, but also your time and your soul. Your only focus will be on the gaming, you think of it constantly, dream of it, forget to eat and ignore your friends and family. Gaming is expensive and where should you get the money? You borrow and steal money to cover your debts, because you will be in debt. The gaming companies know exactly how to manipulate the gamers to make them satisfied for a little while, let them win a little and after that rob them on everything but the clothes they are wearing. No, trust the wisdom in the Holy Qur’an, gaming is dangerous and must be avoided.

Soap operas show the real life of the Western world. The answer to that is a plain: NO. It is fiction and has very little to do with real life. We have the same kind of conflicts in our relationships as you have in The Gambia. Not all people are beautiful and slim; we have all kinds of people just as you have. Some people are fun, others are boring. Some people are smart, others are stupid. The list can go on forever, but a soap opera has a very limited time to show the story, so every detail must be exaggerated. The amount of drama is nothing we see in normal life. The values they show in these programmes are also exaggerated. If you don’t have any experience of the Western world you might think that this is a picture of the reality here.

If I manage to get to Europe I will become rich and can impress my friends. This is the sad part of this article, because we all know that too many have not made it to Europe. Too many have died in the Sahara Desert or drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Those who have managed to get a residence permit in some European country will not become rich just like that. There are not enough unqualified jobs here so people can support themselves and even send money home. Just think of how many of those who have left The Gambia for a dream of a better future. How many of them have become rich enough to impress anyone? Not many! Those who call home are not telling the truth about their lives because they don’t want to upset people at home.

People are too embarrassed to admit that they are scrubbing toilets, cleaning restaurant floors in the middle of the night and other dirty jobs with a very low salary. They don’t want to speak about the loneliness and admit that they are homesick. Some share a room with a lot of unknown people, others sleep on the streets. Living conditions are not easy in Europe, everything is expensive and the little money a refugee can earn goes to food and some kind of roof over your head. At home you have friends and family around you, and even if you are poor you will never be lonely. Some of them who have managed to get to Europe stop calling home because they are always asked if they can send some money home. They know how much their families have sacrificed to be able to send a son or a daughter away to hunt a dream. How could they tell the parents that there is no money to send? This is so sad!
I wish to wrap this up with one of the explanations from the dictionary:
“Politics mean activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organisation”.

Very interesting, don’t you think? The dictionary doesn’t actually tell whose status or power that will increase. It seems like there is a focus on the wrong things in The Gambia, as well as in so many other countries. When corruption shows its ugly face, the emphasis will be on the ego, and not on the community. Sugar sweet words are made to lure people to vote for that particular person. Always remember that when things sound too good to be true, they often are. Young people, politics is hard work but interesting. It is better to get involved instead of being passive. You hold the future in your hands, use your power well.

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