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Middle class hypocrisy and the poverty line in the Gambia


By Alagi Yorro Jallow

Mamudu: It’s intriguing how smart and passionate the ordinary Gambians gets when it comes to debating the Constitution, arguing for the rule of law and beyond the polemic against fraudulent electoral laws yet surrenders the same smarts and excitement when it comes to the things that oppress them the most. I’m talking about the hoi-polloi ordinary Gambians, not the so-called middle class or the intellectual pundit who eats three meals a day.

Poverty is the foremost biting injustice suffered by thousands of same ordinary Gambians, many rising and retiring daily in unspeakable squalor, thousands with that constant fear of where to get the next meal or how to pay rent or what if that sick child won’t survive the night or what will happen if people find out that my church-going wife or my ‘veiled or hijab’ wife is the same night-time sex worker at Jankeh Wally in Tallinding,or around at Senegambia area in Kololi who feeds our families through prostitution. And a lot of same said ordinary Gambians in squalor are graduates too.
Mamudu: This level of poverty is a crime, is a crime, is a crime.

There’s a class of people in charge of the instruments of political and economic power who have cultivated it, enabled it for their own benefit, and they know it. There’s a greed virus in their minds that tells them there isn’t enough for everyone, and a stupidity virus that makes them sit contentedly on the fat fruit-filled branch of the tree while the people at the bottom angrily saw off the trunk of the same tree, so they can get to the fruit.

The greed and stupidity viruses make this class of leaders do bizarre things like steal thousands and millions not in local currency (the Gambian Dalasi) but in foreign exchange (the US dollar, euro and the pound- sterling) from public coffers, meanwhile the people with ethnocentric virus still vote them back in. This class of political leaders’ signs bad contracts through corporate gluttony and the people celebrate them for bringing development which they could never afford to enjoy.

This class of leaders swats off smart thinkers who are trying to empower ordinary folk because these thinkers are like flies buzzing around their meat.

Deep inside you know there’s something very wrong with the whole setup. So, what do you do? You decide you’re too powerless to do anything about it and you choose to claim spiritual superiority. You dish out Quranic verses everyday just to convince yourself that your situation is somehow willed by Allah and Allah will reward you with a mansion in heaven.

Your shallow self-serving man of the cloth tells you not to question those Allah has put in power, however oppressive they are. You conveniently choose to believe this manipulative lie because it supports your pathetic prejudices.

Mamudu: Allow yourself to be smart for your own good for once; not for someone else’s gain.

If you’re languishing in poverty, having worked hard to no avail, sent hundreds of resumes as a graduate and never found a job, lost everything you had, fell off the cliff of experimental capitalism and split your head because there was no welfare cushioning to catch you, wake up to the realization that you’re both the victim and willing participant in the ongoing game of profits at any cost that results in the kind of sick society you live in.

Mamudu: If you’re religious like most Gambians, for show or for real, then start looking for those Quranic verses that talk about truth and justice and ridding the land of wicked leadership. You don’t need to worship those in power when they are not giving you the opportunity to thrive; heck you don’t need to worship them at all. Stop preaching Hadiths, and verses of the Quran about not uncovering your inebriate father’s nakedness when said father sits on immoral wealth while thousands languish in abject poverty.
Instead, embrace those who open your eyes. Practice the religion that empowers you.

Say aloud, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” / “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan”.

These are inconveniencing truths that prick the comforts of your anemic tribal nationalism, but they are medicine.

Mamudu: You say- but the groans of the people are being caused by that political leader who wants power at any cost! You’re getting mixed up over who the wicked leader is in “when the wicked rule, the people groan”.

The ruler is the person who has control of state machinery – military, legislative and economic instruments of power. The “Dictator” who is zealously followed by many only has people power, which comes with the opportunity to shape history, but this person is not the ruler; he/she can be crucified in a minute.

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