Rethinking the Effects of Ethnic Chauvinism & Identity Politics!!!
Tribal Supremacy in a Multi-ethnic Society like the Gambia:
Tribalism is a Mental Health! And where are the Gambia’s Psychiatrists and Psychologists?
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Today, a tidal wave of nationalism is sweeping across the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, Europe even in the North America as well as countries on the Persian Gulf washing ashore debris of hatred and bloodlust against immigrants. Nationalism is mere cover for the virulent strain of hatred or feeling of superiority over other races. A euphemism for racism. Racism is evil. So too is tribalism evil.
Fatoumatta: In a multicultural country like The Gambia, an inclusive national identity makes development and solidarity possible. An exclusive, nostalgic national identity acts like a cancer in the body politic, eating away at the bonds of affinity and cooperation that hold our common interests together as “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”: What would be a good national slogan that Gambian could identify with and rally behind, an explicit national identity.
Tribalism and racism are the antithesis of humaneness. A danger to humanity. They negate the Christian and Islamic ethics and teachings to love your neighbor as yourself. Driven by greed, they stoke hate and destruction. Hitler’s Holocaust, Rwanda’s genocide are few examples in history. They produce? Millions and thousands of humans get massacred in rivers of blood.
Fatoumatta: This tribalism in the Gambia and in the diaspora community story makes me realize that surely, we Gambians are a broken people. And the paradox is that, this ‘tribal racism’ doesn’t make the tribalists any beautiful but turns their minds darker and hearts ugly with hatred!
Fatoumatta: Racial segregation in America destroyed the black American self-esteem. It will take generations to heal, if at all. Apartheid system destroyed the black South African self-esteem. It will take generations to heal, if at all.
Politics of ethnic chauvinism, the Gambia before and after independence rule destroyed the self-esteem of minority tribes. It will take generations to heal, if at all. There was a time when identifying yourself belonging to certain minority ethnic group automatically disqualified you from economic and social opportunities. Even introducing yourself as one of those ethnic in some circles only raised eyebrows and lots of spite. It was, and still is, not easy to be a minority ethnic in the Gambia. To survive this onslaught, we developed multiple self defense mechanisms. If you are keen, you will notice them.
Fatoumatta: The impact of President Yahya Jammeh and short-lived Tactical Alliance rule on the psyche of the minority tribe man in particular has largely been ignored. No one wants to talk about it. It is impolitic to do so. But until it is acknowledged, and healing sought, it will continue to hurt generations for years to come.
But here is the heart of the matter. Hurt people, hurt people. People who have been treated with contempt often treat others with contempt. Those who have been treated as third class citizens sometimes try to prove that they are, in fact, as good as anyone. The only problem is that they sometimes overdo it. Unless of course they obtain complete healing. When you see a man treating women from his own community with contempt, that man needs healing. Gambian men of minority ethnic groupings need healing.
Fatoumatta: As Gambians, we need to know this: there is no glory in blaming ourselves for the ignorance of the evil of ethnic chauvinism. We are not being humble, at all, to say that tribalism starts with us. No. Blaming, we the citizens who propagate for tribalism that eventually makes us self-mutilating, not humble. And it is not Christian or Islamic.
Fatoumatta: When I say tribalism is a mental illness, it is not to demonize mental illness. I have a lot of sympathy for patients of mental illness (Mariam and Neneh Isatou can bear me witness). I’m saying that even with tribalism, we must treat every Gambians as broken and sick, not only as bigots, but narcissist, especially the protagonist of tribalism. It’s the political system inherited that is evil and is hurting and destroying the Gambian soul and psyche. We are not taught about our history. We are exploited and then insulted for daring to say that we’re hurting. We were killed and traumatized by politicians and dictatorship, but we got no justice. Instead, we watched suspects walk away singing and praying. We talk so much about the psychic impact of such violence and impunity at home, but we don’t talk about the effect of the same violence on our socio-political consciousness. We need revolution to change our political system, but Gambians need therapy and treatment to heal our collective psyche.
Fatoumatta: In fact, I’m very disappointed with the psychiatrists and psychologists in the Gambia who have not come up with a national mental healing agenda. We have not heard them talk nationally about the political intolerance, bigotry and narcissism. About urban overcrowding. About stress levels increasing with poor management and an absurd education system. About the trauma of discrimination, marginalization, tribalism and extra-judicial killings. A country that produces mental health workers who have never read Frantz Fanon’s work, on the impact of oppression on individual and social mental health, is a joke.
Fatoumatta: If you trace it back, it becomes clear that tolerance, empathy and compassion, along with basic human rights, are put forth only as a conduit of political gain for politicians. Sadly, idiots today only listen to the propaganda that is spewed, rather than looking at the facts of history. That’s what is the teaching of our real history.