Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Fatoumatta: I can bet with my life that the most intelligent or brightest person you have ever met in life did not have a masters’ degree or Ph.D. doctoral degree. Furthermore, I can bet that you have sat with people who had impeccable credentials with doctoral degrees but were so lacking in critical thinking and so poor in their reasoning that the only justification for their foolishness confirmed your worst fears that a crucial slice of their brain is missing.
How can a lawyer, let alone a senior advocate of the Gambia, be so poor in logic, sound reasoning, and comparative argumentation? The cornerstone of Law as a discipline is logic. However, the illogicalities of some of our Gambian lawyer’s puerile arguments can make someone have a headache. So how did they become men of the wig?
Fatoumatta: Academic excellence is overrated! Being top of your class does not necessarily guarantee that you will be at the top of life. You could graduate as the best student in Finance, but it does not mean you will make more money than everybody else. The best graduating law student does not necessarily become the best lawyer. The fact is, life requires more than the ability to understand a concept, memorize it and reproduce it in an exam. School rewards and life experiences reward people for their imagination, school rewards caution, life rewards daring. School hails those who live by the rules. Life exalts those who break the rules and set new ones. So do I mean people should not study hard in school? Oh, no, you should, but do not limit yourself to regurgitation of concepts and memorization of theories. Do something practical. Take a leadership position. Start small in business and politics. Do something you believe in. Think less of becoming the brightest, most intelligent, intelligent, and excellent person. Make the world your classroom. Step forward, try leadership, try a business, try an extra thing, and God will reward you.
Now. I have observed four types of college-educated folks out here —those who went to college and learned precisely nothing. Back in the day, a friend used to tell me, ” Ajarn Alagi, some folks go through university, but the university does not necessarily go through them.” These are folks who cannot make a sound argument or know just about nothing in the discipline they pursued in college. Some revert to business or get administrative work where neither creativity nor any cognitive energy is needed—just pushing paper or bean-counting. It is remarkable because most of them keep to themselves, or the nature of their jobs protects us from their ideas if they have any.
Fatoumatta: The other category is those who went to college or prestigious universities to get employment papers. This lot may know a few things here and there but hate the energy that reasonable and rational thinking demands. However, unfortunately, they are common in the Gambia, mainly in the private sector, in government offices, so sometimes we hear or see some ideas from the government or specific institutions. However, you wonder, who precisely thought about that? They mostly went for that MBA or some master’s to get a promotion. They probably did not even do the assignments for themselves. They probably did not care about that MBA or Ph.D. as long as it earned them the promotion. So there is always a junior and bright kid to pick after them. The lot is the worst when they are charming or insist on wearing their impressive credentials and qualifications on their sleeves. They are the type you see on social media and televisions and listen to them for three minutes regurgitating concepts for media propaganda with false theories they lashed out at Gambians. You feel like taking a walk with Foni Kalagi and never coming back.
Fatoumatta: There is another category of college-educated folks who went to college and took everything they learned there in the most literal sense. They crammed and memorized concepts of great philosophers and civil rights activists without understanding leading to frustration and panic. These are the worst of the lot. They can never think of anything for themselves. Instead, they rely on other people’s ideas and opinions. They are never original in their thoughts and are sometimes guilty of plagiarism. You see them in their black and white arguments. You see them in their well-worded arguments and opinions with no context or history.
Moreover, they hate anyone who even tries to disagree with them. They like having cheerleaders who act as analysts, echo chambers, economics, social and political commentators, pundits and are always happy in their put-downs and clap backs. Whether on the left or the right, they stick with what their intellectual hero said in 1970 as if the world is static. They only want knowledge and information that validates their position. Any contrary thinking or information is met with hostility and curt dismissals. They are very lazy to offer a counterargument. Instead, they prefer insults, snide remarks, virtue-signaling, recreational outrage, call-out, and cancel culture. To them, human beings are supposed to be perfect, angel-like, and your statements should be consistent from teenagehood to the grave. There is no room for growth. No room to change positions over time as one gets enlightened.
It is the most dangerous group worth of pseudo-intellectuals watching and standing up to. Nobody would ever imagine that the supposedly or presumed brightest, most competent, and intelligent class of people would be the most autocratic. The worst thing about this lot is that they have no solution to anything other than their intellectual smugness and arrogance.
Fatoumatta: Then we have those who went to university to learn how to think. For example, students of Dr.Samuel Irani have told me that he used to say to them that the role of college is to teach one how to be a critical thinker. Learn scientific methods of “how to think” that teach the methodology of inquiry- how to sift through information and use the salient and exclude the extraneous. He said college education fosters lifelong habits of careful observation, critical thinking, more reflection, and articulate expression. College education provides people with essential skills of thought and creative experience to navigate a complex global environment. You have met guys who, beyond books, can think about new stuff. Can contextualize each problem, simplify it and get solutions. They are pragmatic. They are patriotic. They understand processes, systems, and how the works or is the way it is.
Fatoumatta: I like this lot. A lot. They always throw spanners into works, and I like encountering them in comments where some intellectual poseur wrote some stinging criticism of people, institutions, and government. However, you have everyone underneath them agreeing until this lot offers a counterargument, creating a whole different thread that silences those who initially agreed with the original author.
Now. If you are an adult, after the age of 25, you must know a few things:
There are specific laws of nature we will never change.
Sometimes, you do not get what you think you deserve.
People will constantly be varying opinions.
Just because you vehemently disagree with someone on an idea does not mean that you cannot have a point of convergence in the future. You are not unique. Often, nobody gives a shit about your opinion. So be humble even when they pass. Life is far too complex; no single theory can address all our problems. So we are constantly experimenting, learning, trying. Just because an idea worked somewhere into the West or East does not mean it may work here. Sometimes or most of the time, we do not control our fate. It is set. Read—all manner of books. However, always make your judgments. Books are written by human beings who are flawed, just like you. Your environment, where you live, where you grew up will define your life more than your degree. No matter all the knowledge and information we have, some people will still vote for pseudo-intellectuals in power.
Fatoumatta: There is nothing some of our pseudo-intellectuals can do beyond a Facebook post. No amount of books will solve our romantic or country’s problems. The many truths of life are inescapable even as we try to circumvent them. They hit back individually, and they leave us so devastated. It is what it is.
Alagi Yorro Jallow.