13 February 2014

Gambia: The 'Nerves' Syndrome


There is hardly a youth in our country who doesn't harbour a craving to go to Europe or the United States. It is true that the bourgeoisie have been sending their kids to the West for further education, but the sort of craving we are talking about is the one we call "nerves": a vague hankering for Europe or the US, irrespective of whether one has the fare or indeed a definite plan of what to do when one gets there. This ambition to leave is so strong that a lot of people are now entrusting their lives to profiteering traffickers, whose perilous sea journeys have all too frequently ended in catastrophe. No amount of advice seems capable of dissuading these "hustlers" from making their hazardous journeys. The promise of El dorado has befuddled the minds of many would-be adventurers, and the glazed-over vision of the West which such a befuddlement entrails, is nothing but the glow of an illusion; soon to be dissolved by either death or the disappointing lineaments of the Western world. Tales of riches have always induced people into making the journey which they hope will improve their economic lot; but in our case, it is difficult to assess whether the current scale of exodus is a direct symptom of our economic under-development, or an excresence of the psychological morbidities that have been detected in the post-colonial mind. Most of us, especially our youths, seem haunted on our own soil, and the Western world is believed to offer the only possibility of an exorcism. To some extent, this malaise is constantly renewing itself because of the"display rituals" of " semesters": those who'd managed to get to the West, and who frequently, or not so frequently, come back for holidays. Some of these" semesters ", like peacocks, prance about town preeing their plumes in an unspoken but comic concours d'elegance.

Very rarely would these "queens" explain honestly to people the price they have had to pay for their plumes: the sleeping on other people's floors, the sponging off of friends and enemies alike, the menial jobs, the cops, and as most of the West is racist, the almost systemic sapping of one's amour propre. The indignities that await the African in Europe are in fact endless. It is unfortunate that the admiration and envy which these "semesters" arouse, tend to inflame our fantasies of the West, and all earnest advice is usually met with suspicious leers, if not hostility. Most of us take advice as the ancient Greeks took the prophecies of Cassandra---with a pinch of salt. But fantasy's bubble invariably bursts, when it crashes against the immovable boundaries of reality.

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