By Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Amid the disheartening continuous reception of pervasive indifference in sharing national wealth pierced by shrieks of criticism against this current government of ours, the ordinary people received an extraordinary tax increase in all essential commodities under the “Earn More Eat Less” IMF Structural Adjustment Programme Austerity Measures. It’s very important for nationals to note that our government is currently making huge money from taxes, but the money isn’t meant to address the social challenges of the people. Our government is using the bulk of the amount it’s collecting as taxes to service the huge international debt. So, the government of Sierra Leone is currently squeezing poor nationals to pay for loans they never truly benefited from but were unwisely spent by the majority of our government officials who are left to slip away with these crimes or recycled to other positions of trust whilst poverty keep on destroying the lives of the ordinary people worse than before.
Each second, minute, hour and day, rationally minded people with nationalistic sense of purpose in Sierra Leone grow increasingly concerned that Sierra Leone’s economy and democracy under the current government of President Julius Maada Bio are growing in danger of belying the existential essentials of the human spirit. Many keep on voicing their preoccupations in masterful and lengthy discussions and essays.
We shall keep on calling those at the helm of our State affairs that we signed a social contract that clearly states NO individual(s) personal interest(s) should supersede national interest and they must adequately understand that they are supposed to be our servants, not masters. Those who are hiding behind political party loyalty to execute their rogue missions and illegally amassed wealth at the majority expense must grasp this fact clearly. Some of us prefer being the spirited critiques of the current Sierra Leone democracy and our proposed solution — calls for an original and ennobling national body of literature as the means to cultivate the people’s mentality, character, and ideals — this keeps on ringing remarkably true today, perhaps even truer amid our current disenchantment and dearth of idealism, accentuating by the spectacle of poor leadership that keep sending us backwards with all the minerals we own as a nation.
Literature, I am sure, constructs the scaffolding of society’s values and has become the only general means of morally influencing the world, its archetypal characters shape the moral character and political ideals of a culture. This is so because, long after the political structures of the ancient world have crumbled, I remind you, what remains of Ancient Greece and Rome and the other great civilisations is their literature.
At all times, perhaps, the central point in any nation, and that whence it is itself really sways the most, and whence it sways others, is its national literature, especially its archetypal poems. Above all previous lands, great original literature is surely to become the justification and reliance, (in some respects the sole reliance,) of Sierra Leone’s democracy. Few are aware of how great literature penetrates all, gives hue to all, shapes aggregates and individuals, and, after subtle ways, with irresistible power, constructs, sustains, and demolishes at will. After so many well monopolised bad mining contracts signed by this current regime with no benefit to the ordinary people who are the suffering majority, when our minerals finish and the country has nothing truly positive to gain from them, literature will tell our potential human resources those that masterminded the bad deals and they will potentially save themselves from such unpatriotic repetitions. The literature will also tell the potential human resources of this country those that championed the very exploitative IMF COVID-19 pandemic loans that have currently widened the inequality gap and put many lives in abject poverty than before.
In the civilisation of today it is undeniable that, over all the arts, literature dominates, serves beyond all — shapes the character of Mosque, Church and school — or, at any rate, is capable of doing so. Including the literature of science, its scope is indeed unparalleled.
We best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the Republic of Sierra Leone genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the country as inscribed in our legal books are not honestly believed in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screaming of baseless “New Direction” which was blindly delivered from the propaganda centre of the “Paopa Salone for Betteh “,) nor is the orders from above itself believed in.
Our well-bastardised democracy, with great success in degrading the masses into more sloughs, deliberately killing materialistic development, increasing the tax prices of essential commodities and cutting down the budget on health, education, etc. in a country where the majority are unemployed and were even poorer before the tax increase on essential commodities, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, a complete failure in its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary, and esthetic results. In vain have we annexed the majority of the current set of people we have in our social positions of trust, Parliamentarians, Ministers, Paramount Chiefs, and Civil Servants and reach certain none state actors too. It is as if we were somehow being endowed with a vast and more and more self-interest thoroughly-appointed body and then left with little or no soul for nationalistic sense of purpose.
To take expression, to incarnate, to endow a literature with grand and archetypal models — to fill with pride and love the utmost capacity, and to achieve spiritual meanings, and suggest the future — these, and these only, satisfy the soul. We must not say one word against real materials; but the wise know that they do not become real till touched by emotions, the mind.
Should some two or three really original Sierra Leone poets, (perhaps artists or lecturers,) arise, mounting the horizon like planets, stars of the first magnitude, that, from their eminence, fusing contributions, races, far localities, together they would give more compaction and more moral identity, (the quality to-day most needed,) to this State, than all its constitution, legislative and judicial ties, and all its hitherto political, inhuman like, or fraudulent materialistic experiences in illegally gathering national resources.
I know the set of people very wicked in social positions of trust, very deceitful, full of personal interest, ready to bleed the very people that voted them in governance to make money, full of worse negative behaviours than the past, determined to promote the dangerous habits of corruption against the majority, than the majority in this current government. Sierra Leone, it’s the truth, was doing very well during late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s Presidency when we had a bloody civil war than it is doing now, notwithstanding these antics of the parties and their heads, these half-brained nominees, the many ignorant ballots, and many elected failures and blatherers. It is the dilettantes and all who shirk their duty, who are not doing well. Sierra Leone, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without.
The sole antidote lies in our own hands and the ballots we hold — in not shirking our duty as voters. Let me share my advice with the young:
Enter more strongly yet into politics. Always inform yourself; always do the best you can; always vote and always put the interest of our country and people first.
The role of government and those in power, I soundly argue, is not to rule by authority alone — the mark of dictatorship rather than democracy — but “to train communities, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to govern themselves.” Above all, the task of democratic leadership is to bind “all tribes, all men, of however various and distant regions, into a brotherhood, a family. Many decades before women won the right to aspire for the Presidency and long before our irresponsible independence, The majority of our rogue men rulers should have realised that a robust democracy is one in which women and youth are fully empowered and included in that “brotherhood” on equal terms. I have sometimes thought that the sole avenue and means of reconstructed sociology depended, primarily, on a new birth, elevation, expansion, invigoration of women and youth… Great, great, indeed, far greater than they know, is the sphere of women and youth.
Reflecting on the perils of inequality in any guise, for any group, I soundly think of this: Of all dangers to a nation, as things exist in our day, there can be no greater one than having certain portions of the people set off from the rest by a line drawn — they’re not privileged as others, but degraded, humiliated, made of no account. The supreme tool of reconstructing a more equal society, I assert, is literature — a body of literature that gives voice to the underrepresented, that elevates and expands and invigorates their spirits by mirroring them back to themselves as indelibly worthy of belonging to society.
A newly founded literature, not merely to copy and reflect existing surfaces, or pander to what is called taste, but a literature underlying life, religious, consistent with science, handling the elements and forces with competent power, teaching and training men — and, as perhaps the most precious of its results, achieving the entire redemption of women and youth and thus insuring to the Republic of Sierra Leone a strong and sweet female and youth race – is what is needed.
But my most pertinent point is that true dedication to democracy isn’t a mere fleeting fixture of election season. Rather, it permeates the very fabric of society and must be upheld in every aspect of our lives, at every moment — something best effected by literature.
Far, far, indeed, stretch, in distance, our Vistas! How much is still to be disentangled, freed! How long it takes to make this Sierra Leone world see that it is, in itself develop as per natural resources, the final authority and reliance? Do you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flowers and fruits in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between men, and their beliefs — in religion, literature, colleges and schools — democracy in all public and private life.
The literature, song, “land that we love” and so many other lines in our patriotic song plus the “National Pledge” of our country are of importance principally because they furnish the materials and suggestions of personality for the women and men of our country, and enforce them in a thousand effective ways.