Njundu Drammeh

Dear Saffiyoungba,

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

I am both appalled by your behaviour; your juvenile, infantile and obnoxious intolerance to dissenting opinions, especially one that is not in line with your political beliefs or simply contradict a particular position of the Governmet or is critical of your party leader.

You go ballistic. You curse and haul invectives and vitriolic language at the parents of the person whose views you disagree with, not the dissenter. What motivates such unbecoming behaviour? But whenever you engage in such infra dig, juvenile game, you forfeit all claims to humanity, to the religion you claim to profess in, to what binds us together as people, that respect and honour we give each other and those older than us. You betray the core values democracy. You descend to the lowest rung of civility and decorum.

Saffiyoungba, what do you gain by being profane, by using acerbic and acidic statements towards others you disagree with? Can’t you disagree without being disagreeable? Can’t you speak to issues without being personal, without personalising matters and descending to baseness? Why do you have to drag people’s parents into issues they have no bearing on or which are simply not their opinions but their children’s? Think about your attitude. It is funny because most of these people you do not even know in flesh, have never met save on Facebook.

Saffiyoung, why do you have to use the latitude and liberty of faceless Facebook to vilify and cast aspersion on the dignity of people you disagree with? Your penchant for insults and unnecessary outbursts against views that contradict your ‘truth’ are baffling and call into question your intellectualism or love for fair play or discussion devoid of emotions. You call yourself an intellectual but your attitude betrays your character, a below par student. Intellectuals show themselves as examples of courtesy, civility and liberality. They have no need of the vulgar ortifices of flattery in order to win hearts, titles and medals.

Saffiyoungba, remember just about a year or so ago, we were grumbling under a tight bag, with the tight grip of a tin god around our neck. It was fatal to dissent. We had voices but we could not shout. We disagreed with the actions of Yaya but we could not speak. We labelled Yaya a dictator, a tyrant over our opinions. The labelled still stuck. But honestly, is your new behaviour any different from that of Yaya? He was intolerant to dissenting opinion; you are adverse to any criticism of the Government? Yaya threatened; you insult. Please have a sober introspection.

Saffiyoungba, intellectuals argue on issues. They do not attack personalities or pour their spleen or venom on the dignity of others. Intellectuals do not try to win score or points, they debate and enlighten. Intellectuals have open and analytical minds. They are consistent, systematic, inclusive, analytical, active, critical and open to alternatives. Intellectuals examine issues as they are, uncoloured by academic pedantry, polemics or snobbishness. Intellectuals enlighten as a fulfillment of their social responsibility, not as an aid to climb a social or political ladder.

Saffiyoungba, when we try to silent the expression of an opinion, we rob humanity of the opportunity of exchanging error for the truth. How would we know the ‘truth’ if we do not want opinions to clash? We assume infallibility when we deny or crush dissenting opinions. We do not help a government when we insist that only favourable or charitable views must be held or portrayed. Above all, a government learns more from the criticisms of its opponents than from the eulogies of its supporters. Remember too that “the holiest of men cannot be admitted to posthumous honour until all that the devil could say against him is known and weighed” says J.S. Mill.

Saffiyoungba, it is important we always remember that life is not about keeping scores. It is not about titles and the many marks and scars that one has sustained in the battlefield. Life is not about killing a fly with a sledge hammer or huffing and puffing at every issue that is not even worth the brass button on one’s coat. Life is about overcoming ignorance and respecting the opinion of people even if they ‘rubbish’. Most of all, life is about choosing to use your pen to contribute to the intellectual and moral development of The Gambia. These choices are what life is all about. The job ahead is too great and the days are too bright for us to be bickering in the darkness of deadening competition and internal ego struggle.

Susan Mark (The Riddle of All Constitutions): ‘What you hold to be true about the world depends on what you take into account, and what you take into account depends on what you think matters’. Verbum sapienti satis- a word to the wise is enough. Till we cross roads again.