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A society in descent

There was a time when people used to swear on the nobility of their character and lineage and show pride in who they are and what they are proud of.

Affirming ourselves and our values does not require a lecture, a simple statement like “Foro fulla ding’o/dormi gorr” are not just mere statements of pride or denoting arrogance, they are supposed to be statements affirming who we are and what values we are raised on.

With that common saying, we affirm that we were raised by people of noble character who stood firm on time tested values of honesty, sincerity, and hard work.

Which ties into the Mandinka adage “foroya mu kang’o letti” same as the Wolof saying “gorr chi baatam” (nobility of character is affirmed by one not betraying their word). Betraying one’s word could either be done by going back on a promise or, looked at from another angle, when your actions do not match your words.

Our history and everyday sayings are littered with such values as we are expected to uphold in honor of our forebears and ancestors. The Jali have been singing praises of the ancestor of the Fulani people (Fullol Bemba) who was given the option to choose death or shame and he chose death and stated that an elder cannot live with shame, which means they avoid anything that is even remotely likely to bring them shame. If you want to know why we are never supposed to tell an elder that they lied, or why calling someone a liar is considered an insult in our culture, here is why. An elder should have no cause to lie, and since there is always the potential of a lie being found out, the shame that ensues should be too much to bear.

But these were the days when people were not so invested in materialism and cared more about people and the values and character of their communities. Very few of such elders remain and you will find even much fewer of them in the corridors of power today, or big commerce for that matter.

That spirit of togetherness, affirmed by the African saying that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together, died when competition for material gains superseded human kindness. Even in the context of countries, fast growing economies leave a lot of underprivileged people in their wake because exploitation and greed become common place. But we are a fan of fast access to wealth.

In the Gambia, we have a penchant for excessiveness in nearly everything and this fact has been on display for all to see for a few decades and it is getting worse. Pity a society in which shamelessness is so ubiquitous. Not just any society, but one that supposedly has so many people so closely related in terms of both values and lineage, shunning such relationships for want of self-serving goals will prove disastrous for such society, and most likely irreversibly so.  

Look around you and around the wider Gambian community and see how dysfunctional everything is. Every sphere of life is corrupted and immorality in the form of lying, betrayals, extortions, stealing etc. has taken hold even among men of the scriptures.

Look within your family, how strong are your bonds? Who is holding what grudge against whom within your family? Look at your friends. Who betrayed your trust or fell short of your expectations? Who among your relatives have proven to be a consistent source of support when you call on them?

But look at yourself too. Are you overly reliant on those around you and do not pull your own weight or are too much of a burden on them but refuse to acknowledge that? How much do you rely on yourself emotionally, physically, and financially?

We cannot continue like this and expect to have a functioning country. So, ask yourself, what are you willing to do to fix your relationships? What do you need to do to better yourself in terms of conduct, knowledge, and interpersonal relations? How are you raising your children? What values are you inculcating in them?

Such levels of introspection are needed if we hope to get better. The longer we wait, the more animosity grows, and the more mutual trust erodes. No relationship can succeed if trust is lacking. And no society can prevail where people have no faith in each other.

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