Op-ed: “Waiting to Die”

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Prof. Abdoulaye Saine

By: Professor Abdoulaye Saine

There is an “Endism, “ageist” mindset that is very common among people over ages 60 years and especially those in their 70s and beyond. The general refrain is: the end of the world is imminent and all kinds of “disaster,” spell looming doom and gloom and the end of humankind.. An attribute of this mindset is its focus on the Hereafter, the “other world.” and seclusion from and rejection of simple and healthy pleasures that this world has to offer. The fixation is on daily rituals in preparation for the end.

These in themselves are ordinarily a healthy acceptance of death. What appears extreme, is when almost everything, social, political and economic are dismissed as signaling the end. “Sscientific” explanations surrounding climate change, premature death and the COVID-19 Pandemic, along with economic hard times are all explained away as symptoms of the inevitable end and not leadership and institutional failures. The rule of thumb is, prepare yourselves for death and the Hereafter. Nothing matters in this sinful and morally degraded world as all things shall finally come to an end sooner than later.

Gambian culture and Muslims, in general, especially for men beyond the age of 60 years, typically buy into this “Endism ” mindset, which is often underpinned by a sedentary lifestyle. This has potential negative health consequences for many seniors who do not engage in regular physical activity. As a result, many succumb to ailments that can, otherwise, be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes. Add to this dilemma the paucity of recreational and health facilities for seniors- never mind intellectual stimulation. Against this backdrop and in the face of mounting death rates and natural disasters due to human activity, not God, many elders seek refuge and find comfort in “Endism,” a self-fulfilling and potentially deadly outcome.

In so doing, government and policy makers are let off the hook for failing to provide adequate medical facilities and expertise to meet Senior medical needs. And because many in this cohort do not vote and are politically inactive, they are easily ignored by politicians who make these “life and death decision” of allocating resources.

Regrettably, “Endism,” also has the effect of pacifying or disempowering not only the mature but the young who also buy into and peddle this mindset. While the youth are relatively more active politically, they too suffer from government neglect because of not bringing pressure on government to address their need for jobs and vocational training. For many youth, the “Back-way,” is perceived as the escape from grinding poverty, limited opportunity- fueled by societal and family pressures- and the allure of “Babylon.” In sum, “Endism,” among Seniors and youth alike are, in part, responses to deeply flawed government policies, not God, which fail to adequately address the medical, economic, and other needs of these groups. Again, this lets government and society at large off the hook.

At 60, and 70 years old, and beyond there is life to live, contributions to make to society- fully aware that at some point we each shall die. Yet, in the space between youth, and old-age and old-age and death, Seniors as well as youth, must organize politically, as Interest Groups, to sensitize as well as pressure government to adequately address their needs. Democracies are made stronger and more responsive when, within the ambit of the law, citizens peaceably demand their rights. Is this too much to ask of Seniors? I believe not, as it is conceivable to make change in this life on Mother Earth while worshipping God, simultaneously. Rather, many appear to have rediscovered God.

following many years of intemperance. Some act more compassionately with the expectation that when the end finally arrives it will earn them brownie points in the Hereafter. Yet Muslims and Christian are enjoined by their Holy-books, to seek social Justice here on earth, especially against unjust rule and rulers. To do, otherwise, is not only disengeneous but flouts the teachings of these sacred texts- that often are selectively appropriated to serve male interests. Mature citizens must, therefore, focus on the material realities on the ground and work with others for transformative change- while not losing sight of their spiritual obligations to God. Support for socio-economic rights through democratic means is not and must never be perceived as threats to government, or national “order,” but as vital elements of emerging democracies.

Curbing endemic government/institutional corruption and allocating limited resources to vital sectors and services may well be the antidote to coups. Currently, Gambia is very prone to a coup or an attempted coup, as it frighteningly exhibits many ingredients that make a military takeover likely. In fact, the current spate of coups in West Africa, had long been predicted by scholars who study civil-military relations, in part, because of contractions in the global and local economies, and poor government response (s) to stem growing social and economic differentiation. Citizens and Seniors, in particular, have a right as well as an obligation to leave the world/Gambia better places than they found them and not succumb to the societal and religious pressures of “Endism.” Live life well and beautifully, worship God but Reject the “waiting to die” mindset.

(Professor Abdoulaye Saine is a researcher, author and public- intellectual. Views expressed in this Op-ed are his own and do not represent the position of The Nyang-Sanneh Institute.)

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