As Liberia Turns 172: The Need For Uncompromising Mental Revolution

H.E. Dr. George M. Weah, President of Liberia
H.E. Dr. George M. Weah, President of Liberia
Photo Credit: Public Affairs

Liberia, a nation established in 1847 by free slaves escaping oppression in the United States is this year (July 26, 2019) observing 172 years of national sovereignty. The accounts about the rocky road to independence have been disquieting, interesting and to some extent overwhelming. History shows that nearly every society across the globe has some story to tell, relative to where it came from, where it stands today and where it intends to go, Liberia being of no exception. For the sake of keeping along the path of genuine peace and national reconciliation, I do not intend to go into what all went wrong in the past, who did what happened yesterday  or who  takes the blame for our current backwardness, in the areas of infrastructural development, etc. But what has touched my heart so much for which I decided to publish this article is the uncontrollable manner in which our once cherished family values are declining today. For a protracted period now, I keep seeing, hearing and following some negative developments that border on lack of love for one’s own country.


Amongst these vices are lack of respect for constituted authority, reckless student militancy, combustible advocacy by so-called top notch politicians, decline in family and cultural values, failure of some older people in society, mainly parents and guardians to lead by example and lack of seriousness amongst young people to prepare themselves for the future through quality education, including practices that undermine peace and development etc.  Today, I keep seeing some form of reckless advocacy and student militancy, because it appears that our society has attached premium to these practices. If you are a student leader, who believes in using diplomacy and maturity in addressing issues, there are people who are ready to classify you as a weakling. But as soon as you start setting road blocks, obstructing free movement and bringing economic activities to a standstill, they will say you are a great, brilliant and successful student advocate or politician. Liberia’s post-war political environment has shown over and over that some people who conducted themselves in such styles and manner were accorded national recognition in the form of political positions, scholarship opportunities and other benefits. So, are we suggesting that one positive way to gain fast national recognition in this country is to become unreasonably   aggressive, problematic and noisy in addressing issues of national concern?


During my twenty one years at the Liberia Broadcasting System (ELBC), where I spent nearly ten years of active practice on  the field  as a reporter, before spending additional years on the System’s editorial team, every time I took  my microphone to people, both prominent and ordinary to actually gauge public opinion on  how we see our country, what are our problems, what is responsible for our problems and how we intend finding solutions to them, the answers are always not the same.
Indeed, the feedback often shows some divergence, the fact that the way people see things differ from one individual to the other. The other issue is that there will be no harmony in music when everyone signs the same note. Such expressed opposing opinions on how people see things, respond to and interpret them is also backed by a  provision in the Liberian Constitution which calls for a pluralistic society.


To borrow from a   contemporary managerial psychologist, , when people are made to bottle up their feelings in any society, such may one day lead to explosion, whether political or physical. I, therefore, wish to state that I personally welcome the right people have to comment on issues that interplay our society, except for the disrespectful manner in which some people address these issues. My heart is always set on physiological fire every time I see people unleash what I see as unrefined utterances, especially those often made publically. The advent of the digital age, particularly the social media, in my opinion has added some injury to Liberia’s already declining family values, where anybody can just wake up in the morning and post what they feel like posting on Facebook without any remorse. In other societies, the internet or digital age is used for find solution to many complex issues affecting people. Unfortunately here in Liberia, the social media has become a platform for tearing others apart, especially against prominent people in society. Please, don’t misquote me, as I am not suggesting that it is only prominent people who deserve respect.  In pre-war Liberia when some of us were kids and in grade school at the very lowest level, family values were so dearly cherished to the extent that discipline was not something for the compromise. A teacher could even walked into the neighborhood after school and discipline a student, an older person could discipline another’s child for practices inimical to decency  in the community without the one whose kid was chastised  running to a nearby court or the police. But today, try it; if you are not greeted with some court action, you get insulted or assaulted by a fellow parent or custodian.Remember, as somebody may put it, “We are in the human rights age”.


What do we really want as a people!


We are already behind many countries in the sub-region and across the globe, but when some efforts are made to bring development, we attempt to thwart these efforts. I am making reference to people willfully attacking public facilities in the name of advocacy or as a means of “drawing government’s attention to issues affecting them.”
This includes setting ablaze police stations, commercial cars, after accidents, taking away crushed-rocks and other materials intended for road construction/ rehabilitation, power theft in various communities, domestic  violence, especially against women and innocent children,  uncivilized approaches in disciplining innocent children, for instance mothers or caretakers wasting burning oil or  hot water on children for alleged stealing, using the various airwaves to  make unchecked  allegations against others, condemning nearly every policy statement made by government to bring about improvement,etc.  Every time I reflect on these happenings, I wonder as what do we really want as a nation.

 

There was a time I was invited by a group of young people on the Bushrod Island to address them on some crucial issues in society. During the forum, one of their colleagues said, and I quote: “It was meaningless for people to go to school, because there are thousands of university graduates in Liberia who cannot find jobs.” When I was given the floor to respond, I told them that difficulty in finding a job should not be an excuse for anyone, especially potential young people, to acquire education.
“You can’t find a job right now and tell the people to give you time to run back into the class room to learn, but you can easily  ask for time  to  photo copy your credentials,” I told them as nearly every participant nodded his head in affirmative. The international community has been very helpful in ensuring that we make progress after years of civil war, but following media reports and on-the-spot actions of certain elements in society, we seem not to be prepared to move forward. We have been crying for basic social services, safe drinking water for an example, but there are people bent on destroying these facilities, either through willful means, or through theft.

 

I am told that some people do these things as a means of registering, or drawing government’s attention to their concerns. But I think such habits and practices are uncivilized, because they help to play on our paltry resources,   especially in the midst of resource constraints and competing national priorities. 

 

  • When crushed rocks are assembled for road construction or rehabilitation for the public good, some people often take them away for personal use.
  • Despite traffic signs, some drivers are still making u-turn when there are clear inscriptions that no car should make any u-turn at such places.
  • There are zoning laws in Liberia, but some of us don’t care to obey such laws; the building of structures in prohibited areas, or in allays around our cities is a clear manifestation of some misguided behaviors of certain individuals in our society.

 

Such a  don’t care attitude towards our country’s zoning laws often results  to  devastating flooding that we squarely blamed it on the Government.  It is becoming a glaring issue that our family or cultural values are no longer holding, A typical case in point is the kind of dress code we see with young women; going almost half naked in public places, while young boys are  wearing their trousers beneath their hips.


Such way of dressing exposes their bodies, especially their body parts that are not supposed to be exposed. People, especially teenagers, are no longer willing to take correction as anyone who tries to correct them, or give them advice is considered an enemy. If they (teenagers) don’t give cheek to such person, they issue invectives, or even go to the point of physically descending on the concerned older person to the extent that he or she dares try it again. This is a society in which certain individuals just get up in the morning and say negative things about others without establishing the facts. By the time such individuals come to knowing the facts, a great damage would have been done to others’ reputation, and normally once the first information gets out there, repairing that person’s reputation becomes an up hail task. There have been reports that some people lost their precious lives during the Liberian civil war, because others lied on them for various reasons.


These are amongst several other issues that keep my heart on fire from a psychological perspective each time I think about Liberia’s current state of affairs. Is it that people think God will send Angels from heaven to solve these problems for us, or lead our country? As we celebrate another Independence Day this year, I am therefore proposing an aggressive and uncompromising mental revolution in Liberia, especially with focus on the young people. I strongly believe that the move will help change the mentality our perception as a people.   


For instance, there is this concept that everyone who works in government, or once worked in government, is a thief. This is an unfair comment, because while there have been cases of such kind, there are equally honest people in every government. Such mental revolution should every hand being on deck, whether one is in government position or not. Religious leaders take up the time and use their preaching time to talk about the need for a better Liberia, built around tolerance, love for country and respect for constituted authority. There is also a need to teach our young people   good citizenship in Liberian schools.

 

This is my plead!

The author: Jacob Parley holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Development Diplomacy from the Foreign Service Institute, former Vice President of the Press Union of Liberia, founding members of the ECOWAS Economic Journalists Network and a Certified Media Trainer, with over twenty years of extensive practice in the media, etc. Contacts: 0886560455/0770604576 email: jacobtheancestor@yahoo.com