Why I Label Your Article Cynical

Natta Mass

By Natta Mass

I am not sure how much space the editors will accord me on this topic but here’s one last take on the issue. I may not be as widely read as you Mr. Sutay Kuta Sanneh, I may not be as intellectually adept as you nor even as sophisticated in thinking but I can spot sarcasm when I see one as put forth in your response to my rejoinder, may even go as far as claiming patronization and condescension, I guess it comes with the territory, so I will take in good faith.

First off, if not to set the stage for an ad hominem attack akin to “putting me in my place”, what necessitated ‘background check’? Or was it to sort me into one of the categories you identified? By the way, I do not fit into any of those categories so how about we settle for ‘a Gambian interested in how the political narrative is shaped’? I mentioned that not because I object to you attempting to figure me out, but because my rejoinder was purely motivated by your article not your person, for I will only be insinuating in that regard. May I add that your research falls far too short of knowing who I am, not that that is or should ever be relevant when we speak to issues. That holier than thou stance is what my entire rejoinder was about.

Secondly, you keep referring to me as “My Mandinka brother.” I’m not too sure why and unlike you I will not insinuate. But just for the record, to me personally I interpret it as subliminal messaging; highlight my Mandinka-ness every so often, (which is an assumption on your part) and then make it relevant to my position on the debate. Why not just “my brother” or “my Gambian brother”; again I ask: was it an attempt to place me in the category of those who see tribe as opposed to seeing the nation and signal the reader to think along those same lines?

Curious that out of a 1:17:30 video only 20 seconds of it was reference devoid of context. Fact is, in that video the same cynicism is what I decried. To the curious reader I say extend the duration of the video beyond the 5:40 marker, to, say…6:40 and get some more of the context. Cynicism doesn’t stand but on negative insinuations. You quoted the scriptures admonishing reflection and learning from history, but the same scripture is full of hope and positive thinking. In a Hadith, Anas Ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting [seedling] in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour strikes, you should plant it.” That speaks to hope and optimism, not the pending doom.

That is what I speak to. Of course, it is silly to just hope and do nothing; one only hopes for good fortune in those things outside of his/her control and works to influence the outcome of those he/she can control; in the same vein, because Kumo fonyaa yeh kumo tinya leh, implies that kumo fore nyaa yeh kumo deh daa leh, my bad for not stating so explicitly. I referenced Halifa’s System Change V Regime change and the two different ways the same statement was made by highlighting the word “yet” which made all the difference. I went further to say if the statement he made at his press conference had been the original statement the uproar it caused would have been totally averted or minimized; fore nyaa yet again.
Just for clarity my rejoinder took into account a previous article you wrote and referenced.

Yes I labelled your article as cynical because your title suggested thus; “It’s Our Time To Eat. The New Gambia. Telling this story from the point of view of when the oppressed becomes the oppressor. You don’t see anything reminiscent of cynicism in that? Fine apologies for seeing it from that angle, but before the article in this medium, there was a December 29, 2013 article http://kibaaro.com/how-the-struggle-against-jammeh-could-end-up-producing-low-caliber-leaders/ published in another medium and referenced by you, which to my mind was referenced for self-vindication; a sort of my “prophecy” has come true moment. My rejoinder to your recent article was done with the premise established in that older article in mind. You referenced it as “your prophecy”; in other words, current events are a vindication of what you wrote about back then. Very good observations, great points made in that article, but against the grain of your opening statement that “…my observations in this article is to evoke rational understanding more strongly than emotional feelings.” The further down one reads the more agitated and angry your tone seems to be, granted it is justifiable for decent folks like yourself to decry ills in society, but with all the salient points you raised, emotion was injected into it which goes without saying is counterproductive. Again, as is manifested many a time amongst us (myself included) we let our emotions dictate our tone and the whole message gets lost in the emotional back and forth that ensues. THAT is my whole point. Let’s visit that article to give more context to your recent article’s title and content. Here are some direct excerpts;
“However, if you examine Gambia’s politics closely but more particularly of recent, you realize that our country is more likely to get the worst of leaders, not the best individuals it produces. Thus this article [referenced above] will focus on proving that claim for a more serious debate.”

You further observed that there was/is a brain drain in the country and for argument’s sake lumped the remaining citizens into the “hangers-on, those with little or no education but knows how well to praise singer [sic] their way into positions of importance within the government. And for this group, their survival depends on the survival of the current system. They will do anything and everything to serve the system which made them, so much so, even when they are led to the gallows- …”

“For Africans and Gambians in particular, our best of the best brains from these universities, [referencing Ivy League colleges] few if any of these intellectual will go on to join the public sector as civil servants or politicians. I know the frustrations of the few who have tried and end up going back to their self-actualisation jobs. This means the people joining the public sector nowadays are the least skilled that our society produces.”

“Most successful-career Gambians I meet, especially in the private sector but also in the international development community, NGOs and even some institutions of the government are often calm and reflective, sophisticated and thoughtful, balanced and insightful – they love complexity and disdain simplicity.”

“Most of the angry and intellectually inept Gambians I meet on Facebook or Twitter, on blogs and the ever growing one man (he who pays the piper calls the tune) newspaper websites or physically in public places also tend to be people whose careers have been unsuccessful. These are the men and women who join our politics. Therefore, the “struggle” and politics is a dumping ground for mediocrity.”

“It is therefore not by surprise that most of the young men and women whose careers have been unsuccessful in the professions find a home in the “struggle” bus. There, they promote a politics of confrontation, exclusion and corruption. One has to listen to callers and moderators on some of the online radios to appreciate what I’m talking about.”

“But this selection process also works against opposition parties as they also tend to attract, as their activists, people of these similar characteristics – and worse. The graduates who join them are those that cannot get the best rewarding careers in the private sector or the international development industry. They have the added burden of not being in power and look for opportunities in pamphleteering and agitation.”

“These are the passionate men and women who, having nothing to do, populate Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs and call into radio talk-shows arguing politics and public policy – because they have a lot of time at their hands.”

“They are angry and emotional; their career frustrations fueling both. If their agitation brought the government down, they would be the next crop of political leaders – representing the worst in skills, culture and intelligence that our society has produced. The sad situation is, these are “our leaders” in-waiting at the moment.”

“Their [Gambia intellectuals] detachment from public debates has strengthened the voice of the worst in our society. This means that even if President Jammeh lost power, we are likely to get more of the same corruption and intolerance or worse as evident in the current tribal debate.”

Is it in an effort to vindicate yourself to this regard that you keep referring to me as “My Mandinka brother”?

After painting such a gloomy picture of where we were as a country, and then follow it up with statements like the following excerpts from your recent article;

“The happenings on social media about the government appointments, the NAWEC saga, the Halifa Sallah shenanigan, and the subsequent reaction of the Johny-just-come late to the UDP “supporters” is a cause for concern. These position seeking activists want Darboe or President Barrow to act as a tyrant and a democrat at the same time without realising that these two are mutually exclusive.”

“Now let’s take a pause here for a minute. Are they not replicating the same ills they denounced in dictator Jammeh? That is, he only hires Jolas in key positions, APRC fanatics get rewarded handsomely, the louder, visible and explicit your attack and insult on perceived enemies, the higher your chances of getting rewarded with that dream job, you have a personal issue with a non-Jola just make a phone call and their faith is sealed.” They will argue that Barrow should hire their “freedom fighters” in important positions devoid of Jolas. They cried “fire Isatou Badjie” and hire…. you know who! Yes “them”, recall all the ambassadors and replace them with… you know who! Yes “them”.

“Tragically, whenever there is any criticism of the government, however mild it may be, these position seeking fanatical supporters will flood social media like a swarm of bees and virulently attack, accuse, insult, and verbally terrorize any dissenter.”

Is this the kind of language we expect to trigger the attitudinal change you call for? If after such a gloomy forecast you turn around and say it is criticism that me and my ilk are intolerant of, I say to you too; reflect, ponder on what you said earlier and see how one can view it as a premise for your current stance on our new crop of leaders? Is it farfetched to assume that you think so little of our current breed of politicians as you pointed out in that article? If that is not your premise then my sincere apologies, but do acknowledge where I am coming from in that you can write such an article as a descriptive of the people who grace our political landscape then proceed to “warn” them to watch their steps lest they fall in the Jammeh/Jawara trap. I agree, our politics can be better and we should be desirous of it, more than that we should guide each other towards that realization, not to talk down to each other in hopes to push the ‘undesirables’ out of the discourse. That is my whole point; tone, tone, tone!
I may be an “unsolicited spokesperson for the UDP/CDl (?)” but I still hold the belief that moderation is the key in anything. While my position on objecting to your stance is viewed as somewhat sycophantic and further enhancing the status quo without reflecting on your premise; I will agree with you on principle; that power corrupts. But what are the corrupting agents? A lot may point to the said sycophancy, where people tell a leader he can do no wrong, that the people are extremely happy with him etc. But I did say in a Facebook post and will repeat here that “If sycophancy gives birth to tyranny, then belligerence must have fathered it.”

I get it, such manifestations of extremism should be denounced, and the anger that such extremism attracts is justified but those calling for change like yourself should rise above that fray; kumo fornyaa yet again. And it was in this context that your APRC names were mentioned. My point here; not all who counter dissenting points fit in your categorization, and those who do are in the minority without much clout or influence and most importantly do not represent any official position.

See, someone cannot make a sincere effort and all the time have to hear that it is not good enough, when he does good it gets ignored because that is what he is tasked with. That inadvertently gets interpreted as the person in question is not good enough; “Well in that case then let me do what I want since nothing I do will be good enough I might as well serve my own interest.” Isn’t that a possibility/probability too? I admire your principled stance in “warning (even though I’d prefer you advise) our new government” to not “replicate” the missteps of the preceding ones. For out of sincere reminders and guiding one another will emerge a better Gambia, not by trying to bully one another out of the discourse with condescending and patronizing remarks. But “bulu lokku lokku” warning (laugh) will be countered unless if done in the face of an already committed act, a blatant disregard for laws and norms and any such extremes, in which case it would have been solicited but not when it’s all based on probabilities and negative outlook.

Sincere thanks to the editors for the accommodation.


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