The Gambia: The Dangerous Interface of Propaganda And Ignorance

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By Mathew K Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

Propaganda has the capacity to yield subliminal, Pavlovian responses, which defy reason. As a tool of mental and intellectual repression, the intent is to freeze, and even deny, the concept of independent thinking for the safer imagination deficit and idea free subjective reasoning. A scrutiny of African dictatorships finds uncanny similarities between autocracies, which dominated East European politics in the late 1980s, and existing African monocracies that inhibit imagination, intellectual freedom and economic progress. The paucity of intellectual freedom, the thread that weaves through this complicated social and political fabric, binds the two governance systems to a blinding demonic irreverence that has kept African politics on the apocalyptic margins for many decades. The divine reverence with which African leaders are viewed is axiomatic in a political culture that bars the contours of independent ideas that divert from labels that satisfy the cult personifications of its clueless leaders. As a microcosm of African politics, a case study of Gambia shows a far more destructive violence; enduring and less obvious in its pervasive and inconspicuous presence. The deep psychological impact of the consequences of dictatorship to Gambians’ minds has not been investigated in any detail, but among its unflattering dimensions must include the destructive mental conditioning that desensitizes citizens to the catastrophes of tyranny. At another somewhat more perceptible level, the transcendence of the denial of reality across tribe and geographic location, compels the obvious search for an answer to the baffling question of how a significant segment of the Gambian population can reconcile the gap between what exists on the ground and what exists in their closed minds. Not far from the surface truth is the ability and willingness of Gambians to deny acknowledging the prevalence of chaos in the country’s body politics in exchange for material rewards that sap their moral dignities and position them on the wrong side of history. This has degenerated into a polarizing, if not, unhealthy adversarial condition, which cannot be easily swept away by the mere force of will. Pivotal in all this is the ideological straightjacket, which has grounded many Gambians to an irrational single-mindedness more attuned to the pathology of their material greed than the morals of their religious and cultural belief systems. The divergence in political opinions, so inimical to the national stability, has created deep barriers to political consensus by hemorrhaging the trust and goodwill necessary in the social and cultural homogenization of Gambian society. But a full understanding of the ramifications of political tyranny in Gambia cannot preclude the natural tendency of significant number of Gambians for the sanguinary, not because of succumbing to outside forces, but because of their independent capacity for evil, and denial of the existence of evil. The complicity to evil by the mere fact of indifference, often punctuated by dramatic expressions of extrajudicial force, a hallmark of Gambia’s contemporary politics, is underpinned by the existential threat posed by the state. The challenge to push back on the toxic politics and smoldering bitterness in Gambian politics cannot be informed by tepidity and fear, but by galvanizing the national conscience against the crippling and unsustainable social, political and economic degradation of the last twenty years. The banality of the brutal and often deadly show of force to instill fear and preempt insurrection and civil strife, has flamed out into a radical, even revolutionary strain of citizenship that is both nationalistic and deadly in character. If Burkina Faso reminds the Gambian people anything, it is to recommit to the groundswell that seeks to reanimate the sanctity of our humanity after decades of brutal, relentless dehumanization. The arch of history plays to the advantage of popular national resistance in order to change Gambia’s pitiful political circumstances by leveraging the power of the greatest political force of all, the people. The demonstrations, radio shows, newspaper expositions and photo opportunities have powerful benefits in the political struggle, but the culmination of their combined utility and effectiveness must yield a mass show of popular resistance to change a regime that no elections can remove from power. The Gambia’s slow drift towards political anarchy can be averted by a resolution to measure up to the challenges forced on us by the regime. The intellectualization of a political culture that is devoid of morality and fueled by pure greed, rather than being a challenge, presents an opportunity to reject the degenerating tyranny Gambia has been trapped under for two decades. And the Gambia, under the weight of political tyranny, and locked in a perpetual struggle to sunset the military regime, sees the path to freedom blocked by an insatiable greed fueled by the intersection of ignorance and propaganda. The rich tapestry of Gambia’s homogenized cultures, the lynchpin to inter-tribal harmony in the pre-military era, must be recaptured and revived to help break down the barriers to peaceful co-existence erected by a bigoted military regime. The bruising divisiveness of the military regime will remain seared in Gambian’s consciousness for a long time, but not even the regime’s provincial mindset and ideological rigidity can deter the return to Gambia’s noble roots. As kryptonite to those who willfully fall victim to the dangerous abyss of propaganda and ignorance, our moral sanctimony remains incorruptible as a beacon of hope to our fellow countrymen and women yearning for freedom.


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