We have a choice.
Here’s something I learned from a remarkable Sunday school screen actor [who demonstrated by attempting to balance a pencil on one finger].
Do you see this pencil? I can get it to balance here for a second or two. But then it wobbles. So I tweak it, to restore balance. If I neglect to tweak it, it falls. It may break. That’s life. An inevitable struggle to restore balance and affirm life. That’s the human condition. And our responsibility is to work ceaselessly to restore this balance and repair our Sierra Leone – which is ever in danger of breaking.
I find this lesson especially resonant in Sierra Leone at this particular time.
For the social benefit sector. For my country, Sierra Leone. And for the majority of our people that continue to face massive political oppression on all fronts from the majority of our current governing politicians.
It boils down to one Hebrew word:
It means justice. It also means balance.
It’s a word I will keep in my memory all my life as the root of the word tzedakah, which I considered to be more or less equivalent to the word charity. But what I learned from my teacher (late Kofi Annan) is that tzedakah is more about fairness than caring. You do the right and just thing, regardless of how you feel about it.
This, to me, is the broad mission of journalism or activism. It’s a values-based communal endeavour to make our country a better and more caring place. We step into one another’s shoes, imagining that “there before the grace of God.”
Empathy is essential for the survival of society.
Darwin, best known for “survival of the fittest,” actually meant it in an entirely different way than did Herbert Spencer (who borrowed the term). Darwin’s research showed that the fittest societies — those that survived — were those that cared for their members. All of them.
Sierra Leoneans, we have a choice.
Go it alone, or go it together.
Help others, or only help ourselves.
Welcome the stranger in need, or turn our backs.
Insist on straightforwardness and honesty, or succumb to hyperbole, sycophancy and malicious government propaganda.
Forgive honest, humbly-admitted mistakes or embrace self-serving and harmful deceits.
Those who work in the social benefit sector have made their choice.
To embrace public service outcomes; not acquire personal fame, power and money.
To focus not just on “winning,” but on assuring the game is fair for all.
To value the kind and steady hand in a lurching, agitatedly altering, often mean and violent Sierra Leone.
There is much about which reasonable people can disagree.
But what happens when reason leaves the room as we are currently experiencing in Sierra Leone politics?
We rely on moderating influences to restore balance when things get out of whack. That’s why nonprofits have both Executive Directors and Boards of Directors. Staff and volunteers. That’s why the Sierra Leone government has three branches.
But it’s not enough to depend on predictable systems to keep the majority of our unpredictable people in our social positions of trust in check. Especially in a country where fiscal policies are only good for lip service purposes in order to deliberately legitimise state criminality and get away with it. And the creation and circulation of wealth are specifically in the hands of the very exploitative selected few establishments.
When people exceed the limits prescribed by reason, they must be held accountable. But it appears this government of ours has deliberately refused to prosecute people in social positions of trust that amassed unexplained wealth with taxpayers’ monies causing the majority of our nationals to suffer and live in desperate miserable conditions. Whilst those in social positions of trust before and now plus their family members are living in flamboyant lifestyles. As if this is not sufficient, the government continue to service IMF, World Bank and other international debts to an extent they cannot even honour their key campaign promise of providing “bread and butter” for all nationals.
Today, we are currently in an economic situation of: “Earn More Eat Less”. What this actually means is the government is making a sufficient amount of cash to address most of the key areas of its social contract mandate with the people. However, because they have to service debts from these international neocolonial institutions, the government can no longer create a conducive environment for the majority of our people to feed their children the way they used to before. Now we are experiencing more prostitution than before, an increase in death rate, more school dropouts because parents are surely earning less to feed their families, more youth unemployment and mental challenges.
The question is: Is it fair for our government to abandon its key “bread and butter” promised to service international debts at the expense of its people?
That’s when reasonable people must step in.
For more than three years, many Sierra Leoneans have been afraid to speak up publicly, until now. Now we must lean in. To protect the values and ideals upon which our fragile civil society, few independent journalists and democracy rest. To restore balance to a wonky Sierra Leone.
Please let’s make this a possible mission to save our country. When our politicians go low, we go high,” I hear the echo of Tzedek. Justice. Balance.
And I make my choice.
Make yours — as if the balance of Sierra Leone depended on it.