What is Left When Honor Is Lost?
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Mamudu: One of the tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds! We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of patriotism, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of treasonable acts. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man’s earthly pilgrimage.
Mamudu: President Barrow and his political operatives in government and alike have managed to break down the people’s individuality. An individual can’t think for himself or herself. The only thing that is possible is “group think”. If our leader says run, you run. If he takes cover, we take cover. If he says about turn, we turn. We can’t say the word “dictator”. We are afraid. ‘You need to be ignorant to accept lies the State offers.
Mamudu: In one of my class lectures to my students, entitled “Our dignity is priceless,” I told those young undergraduate students this: your innocence, integrity, dreams, potential and dignity are things that what older political folks admire, because the older people lost them a long time ago. When our older people (politicians) buy your vote, or do worse to you, it’s because they realize you have character, which the power and money they the older politicians’ ones cannot buy. Mamudu: Our National Assembly members have stolen this precious commodity – reputation, and the possibility of legacy – from political prostitution. Our National Assembly members accepted gift of cash and cars from corrupt political operatives. Now their reputation has taken a hit by accepting a gift. But in politics, sincerity isn’t enough. In politics, the road to hell is even more paved with good intentions.
And this is a life and death issue. It is truly tragic when young Gambian men who make a mark by being selfless, serving justice, and working hard against the odds, go on to receive handouts from, corrupt political hacks of the political class. And these older politicians are nothing compared to the young men; the older men have been selfish, they have wallowed in impunity, and stolen public resources, rather than sweated and toiled like real men. And when these great young men hang around these old dogs, they surely get fleas. Their innocence is selfishly absorbed by the old guard, and their potential to be even greater men than they already are is stunted before it completely matures. It is truly, truly sad. It is a great tragedy.
Mamudu: We want a Gambia of upright men in all ways, as Thomas Sankara wanted for his country when he renamed his country, Burkina Faso. We want a different breed of Gambian men, but every time they start to rise, they get burdened with the sins of the elders. For now, until our hearts get broken again by the next young Gambian man who gives away so much of what he accomplished for so hopelessly little, I will remember the words of Ossie Davis about the great Malcolm X: “Malcolm X, even when he was wrong, was the rarest thing in the world among us Negroes: a true man.” The Gambia needs true men in leadership, and this goal is proving harder to reach than we thought.