Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Mediocrity has an audience. How else do you explain the big following enjoyed by people who cannot hide or disguise their slovenliness in art and law, literature, journalism, music and comedy, politics, and public policy?
Human beings should find fulfillment in these pursuits if they have outstanding talents and real passions. Hence the many contradictions of our blighted existence in the Gambia, the reading brain in the digital age sometimes becomes less enjoyable or even unpleasant. Libraries have decreased in recent years, reflecting a trend for fewer library visitors.
Fatoumatta: There is nothing new about the “new normal” in The Gambia. Here is why constant boastful of anti-intellectualism amongst the youth folks and even to some older adults on social media – “I do not read long articles, I do not read essays that are too long! Facebook is for social interaction; please do not post long articles. I cannot tolerate lengthy pieces of postings, and I am not too fond of long-winded essays. I am not interested in academic papers or dissertations shared on Facebook. Do showcase your brilliance on Facebook “. Amid great lamentations, the non-readers and lazy readers every day gave a low moan of despair to comments and remarks publicly and privately shared by bibliophobe. It appears some people are always obsessed with “common sense” and with intelligent kinds of stuff.
Fatoumatta: We are screaming “aluta continua” daily and at the same time beautifying Ignorance on social media. People who live for hate and hate based on ethnicity and faith also go about screaming ‘aluta continua’ and romanticizing Ignorance over public intellectualism. The anti-intellectualism strain in the Gambia has transmuted into an arrogant contempt for intellectual authority due to significant shifts in education, journalism, and the media and political environments. The Gambia has shifted from a healthy skepticism of accepted knowledge to a proud, self-satisfied ignorance and active hostility to the very idea of expertise. Across the Gambian society and in the Gambia Diaspora community, intellectual authority is resented, resisted, and disregarded, with every opinion ostensibly holding weight. Social media platforms have accelerated the level of viewpoints, which have lowered the barriers to participation, opening the floodgates to those without the requisite educational background and professional credentials.
Fatoumatta: Education, real education, remains the greatest weapon against hate.” Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:19. Teach children about books while they are still young, so they will appreciate the value of books and reading when they grow up. This is the heritage I bequeath these two incredible souls. You are raising a thinking generation.
Furthermore, our generation still has not come to terms with its failures in the Gambian national project. We are the ones raising the younger generations who are so totally defined by hate for hate’s sake. We watch all the purulence on social media, gnash our teeth, and shake our heads without understanding that we are responsible to a great extent for this state of affairs.
Fatoumatta: The cult of romanticizing of Ignorance and Anti-intellectualism and the ‘dumbing down of the Gambia. Why anything marked with the jelly of intellectualism is taboo for some Gambian mind and embrace Ignorance and silly stuff on Facebook! You know social media is the one thing that has come to expose the hitherto concealed deficiencies in our educational system badly. The scandalous lack of critical thinking, the abysmally low quality of reasoning, the lack of focus in addressing any issue, total lack of persuasive, or even communication, skills, the illogicality of our thought process, absolute lack of integrity in the pursuit of any cause or course yet everybody brandishes a degree or two, and thousands more of these half-chewed “graduates” are vomited into society, every fall, to take exalted seats in critical government and private institutions. So, what do you expect? Can’t you see the effect all around us today? This country is in dire need of an urgent overhaul, I daresay!
Suppose in our generation, and our children currently undergraduates in their early 20s or late teens. In that case, we fail to understand that the Gambian education system in its current condition cannot educate them and enrich their minds. I have written again and again that the rot and destruction in our education system are deliberate. The politicians will never fund educational institutions and make it possible to produce an educated and informed citizenry.
Fatoumatta: We do not need to repeat the well-known fact that the rulers of the Gambia are selfish political animals. They are the worst humanoids in the world. The education of our children is not in their best interest.
Suppose we intend to run the Gambia the way generations of moribund and selfish leaders have run her. In that case, the first thing we do is mass produce an under-educated citizenry easily polarized by ethnicity and religion. If our children were educated and enlightened, where would these leaders find the armies of hate and division they need for their self-perpetuation? They will continue to underfund and destroy education for this reason.
However, when you think that your work stops once you find enough money to pay your millennial’s school fees in the slaughter slabs of the mind, we call university in the Gambia. This explains why we have no personal library at home. How can we be raising kids who are not surrounded by books at home?
Fatoumatta: I am not talking of the nonsensical motivational books that Gambians invest in. I am speaking of a library – that home space where we make your millennial invest in erudition and personal development; that home space where we gradually begin to shape his attitude to knowledge and erudition and let him know that you will not tolerate anti-intellectualism.
Whenever a millennial condemns or grumbles about a long read; whenever they boast about not reading; whenever they go to social media to brag about their anti-intellectualism while writing as if they are texting, I do not see our collapsed university. I see an absent home library. I know the failure of our generation to get engaged personally in their education. I see reading habits not groomed by their parents at home.
Fatoumatta: A nation that cannot produce a critical mass whose attention span can grasp more than a tweet is doomed. A country that cannot create an elemental abundance reading more than a paragraph without grumbling is doomed. We need to invest in education to free us from tribalism, religious bigotry, Ignorance, and illiteracy.