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Our polarized nation

In the aftermath of the 2021 election, there is no doubt in the minds of any sincere Gambian that we have never been more divided as a country than we are now. Or at the very least, the divisions have never been more pronounced than they currently are. And that should be concerning to all of us. Our social relations have been largely cordial, but our politics of recent has been very polarizing. Such polarization has seeped into our social fabric and is gradually ripping it to shreds. Ignoring the problem and pretending it is exaggerated, non-existent, or waiting until next round of politicking to talk about it would be far too late.

If you believe we are divided, then ask yourself if you are concerned about what such division could lead to. If you are concerned, then the next step is to put our heads together and figure out a way to reverse the trend.

To do that, we must agree on at least a couple of things:

The first of which, invariably, is to agree that we are polarized. What follows is recognition that leadership matters in helping us navigate away from such polarization. And by that, I mean responsible leadership. One that does on thrive on division and fomenting animosity between segments of society. Such responsible leadership is unfortunately lacking at the national level and has been since 1994. Are we going to demand responsible leadership, or we will see more of the same; justifying wrong depending on who is at the receiving end of that wrong? That leads me to my next point.

Taking individual personal responsibility. We all have a role to play, especially if we volunteer to comment on national or social issues. The least of those responsibilities is to accept that we need to be well informed on the subject matter that we are offering an opinion on. For too long, we as a society have never been short on “it’s my opinion and I am entitled to it” excuse. Yes, we are all entitled to opinions, but the underlying caveat is that such opinions be informed by facts and not by mere sentiments.

With the proliferation of social media and ease of information dissemination, we have each had more than our fair dose of ill-informed “opinions”. It’s a dangerous thing to offer opinions on things that one is not well informed on. People act on information, and the information we share could influence thought that could eventually lead to action. So, opinions aren’t just mere opinions, you do not know who your opinions could impact and in what ways. So, regardless of how we feel about a person, groups of persons, or any given situation, let us consider the facts in our assessment of that person, those groups of persons or situation. If we are wrong, even unintentionally, it is noble to acknowledge that wrong and course correct.

I am not seeking to be agreed with. Neither am I claiming superior knowledge, morals, or superior ideas in any way. But the chasm is widening and if we do not make concerted efforts, we will all fall into the abyss as a country. So where do we start?

Our first task and the one staring us all in the face is the issue of “tribalism”.

How did we get here? When did it start? What generalized negative stereotypes about the other group do we speak of in the comfort of our homes and around people who share in our sentiments?

Some hard truths need to be told. There is a lot of insincerity in our dealings. We find out people lie with ease and feel insulted when called liars. Judging by a lot of our interactions online and utterances in the political space, not too much reasoning goes into our discourse. Ego rules over sense of reasoning for many and there is a lot of utterly selfish folks in our midst.

It’s a new year, let’s start afresh and seek better relationships. That’s the underlying word here; BETTER RELATIONSHIPS. I am not asking that we agree on political views, or agree on cultural norms or religious standards, I just want us to have better relationships as human beings who are condemned to live together as neighbors and citizens of this little enclave called Gambia.

Our perspectives are different, so share yours, listen to the other side without prejudice. If we do that, we may not be convinced of the other side’s views, but we will have a little more understanding of their views and maybe even respect their views no matter how flawed.

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