A Common Citizen Perspective

Amidst all the political controversy going on in Liberia and the  world today, I’ve been working on ignoring the noise and just focusing on choosing right over wrong whenever I “have to” make a choice.

All of that was tested when a few days ago, a Liberian who is based in the United States but is considering re-settling here asked me a question. He asked, “I’ve been hearing from a lot of people, and even on the radio, so since you are a second generation Liberian and you study social work, I know you will be objective. Tell me, which side is right and what do you think of the political situation in Liberia?” And after asking, he had this energy of finality settling around him as if to say “now we’re about to get the final verdict”; as if he trusted I’m supposed to have all the answers stored up somewhere. That was funny!

You see, I am not exactly an expert on these things, so, I gave three points from my perspective as a “common citizen”- points that I strongly believe in and uphold as guiding principles. 

Firstly, I said to him, “Do not take sides”. I said this because, when you take a side, you naturally feel the urge, or have an impulse, to defend it. And while it is a good thing to stand for what you believe in, it is more important that you constantly revisit and review why you believe in what you stand for. There’s a saying that goes,  “Every story has three sides,, there’s one side, there’s the other side, and then there’s the Truth”. I advise that you regularly review these three sides of every new issue that comes up, every controversy that arises, and every accusation that is being made. That way, you stay as informed as you need to be in your decision making. That way, you become open-minded enough to see that the person that seemed to be in the right on one issue that came up, might just be wrong on the next issue that comes up. That way, you know that if ever you are someday given the authority to govern, there will be others reviewing these three sides. 

Speaking of governing, my second point to him was this; “Like the songwriter says, ‘the answer, my friend, is in the Heart of men’ and for some reason, this seems to mean a vicious cycle“. What did I mean by this? Years back, we had a civil war; the causes of which were rooted in corruption, the lack of access to justice for all, poor economic condition of the masses, etc. Fast forward, we are now in 2019! It has been almost 16 years since the 14 years of civil war ended in August, 2003. But can we confidently say that these issues that led our Country to such a horrible fate have been resolved (even if by fifty percent)? The way I see it, people are aggrieved by the situation (how government proceeds), they complain about it, take to the streets and advocate against it, but when they are given the position of authority to deliver the change they have always cried for; they go right ahead and repeat the same old mistakes, sometimes even in worse ways. What is wrong with us?

This brings me to the third point I put forward, “if we want it to get better, we have to do better. Every single one of us”. Let me make this practical: if you run a business, deliver quality to your customers (poor customer care is a common deficiency amongst Liberian businesses),; don’t inflate the price simply because you’ve come across a customer who may not know the cost of the goods/services you offer. If you’re a teacher, do not take bribes;, don’t exploit your students when they have problems understanding the lessons, or when they are making poor grades. Research new ways to get the message across, be concerned about them, about their future as good citizens. If you’re a student, stop making your colleagues feel guilty for not “showing” you on a test, put in time for your studies, make further research, don’t cheat on tests, earn your grades first, don’t just buy them. If you’re a parent, teach your children honesty (it’s a rare trait here nowadays); don’t lie to your children, do not teach them to lie to others (like the common “go and say ‘my mother isn’t here’” trend); teach them to be honest in all that they do, and to care for, and share with others. If you run an NGO, let the focus not be getting the donors money for vehicles or well furnished, air-conditioned offices, focus on the people and on the problems they are faced with, don’t just do advocacy, work on solving problems that have been there for a long time, problems that seem to have been ignored. You are, after all, here to complement the government’s efforts aren’t you? For the Journalists, know that it is okay to have an opinion of your own, but when you are reporting, always let the facts come first, give the public a chance to form an opinion of their own. To those who are employees, of whatever institution, here’s a word for you: when you go to work, WORK, no matter who’s watching or not watching. 

The point here is, this change that we all want, will have to be brought by all of us, and it starts today. Wherever you find yourself, add value, dare to be different. Remember all the ways in which government proceeds that causes difficulties for you, but don’t forget to remember the ways in which “you” proceed, that  causes difficulties for others.

Authored by Jee-Won Mawein Arkoi

Featured picture by LEADERONICS

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