Why Are We So Negative About Ourselves? The Case Of The Ebola Virus

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Sometimes ago in January this year, I carried this similar headline when it was reported that Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, had won an international award. The headline at the time was prompted by claims by some individuals that the minister did not deserve the honor. One of them claimed that there are other African finance ministers who are doing better than the Liberian Finance Minister. The person went on calling names of some of the African finance ministers, who he believed should have been given that award by the magazine, rather than Minister Konneh, “because he does not deserve it.” I was even told on January 6 upon reaching my office that the issue was one of discussion on one of the local radio stations.

Actually there have always been debates whenever such an honor or recognition is given to a Liberian. Sometimes we will see a Liberian struggling to succeed in life, and whenever such person is successful, we derogatorily say all kinds of things, and may even go on accusing that person of dubious dealings for the successes in life. Furthermore, at times, we are cynical and skeptical of the success of our fellow compatriots. I recall once that a Liberian lady who acted with movie star Steve Segal, came to Liberia to visit her mother on Carey Street, opposite the National Fire Service, and that people doubted that she was a Liberian. The late François Junius, then the promoter, had to clarify that the lady was indeed a Liberian.

The issue of being negative is not just limited to people. Some of us even say all kinds of things about the countries that are fallacious. During my recent visit to the United States last May, I was confronted with an issue concerning the Vai Town Bridge. While visiting the Embassy staff, I was asked whether it was true that the Vai Town Bridge is so small that no vehicle was playing the bridge. I was shocked to hear about that negative news being spread by some Liberians. I explained that that was not true, and that cars were using the bridge. I can remember telling Mr. Gabriel Williams, the Minister Consular at the Embassy that he could quote me on the issue, since the Embassy was working on a newsletter.

In my previous article on this similar issue, I pointed out that one of my disappointments about some of us as Liberians is the way and manner in which we speak of some of our compatriots who are making success in life. I said then that many times we condescendingly say all things about them as if they do not deserve the accolade they have received in life.

Instead of popping up Liberians who are leapfrogging in life, some of us always engage in what is referred to as “CRABS IN THE BUCKET” mentality than is, if ‘it is not me, it must not be him.”  Sometimes we create the impression that people in other countries are better than us, and so whenever a Liberian is distinguishably recognized, people get all kinds of negative things to say about the person.

Unarguably, the same way we treat our fellow compatriots whenever they win such awards, is the same article we exhibit whenever there are serious issues in the country. We are being noted for making mockery of very serious issues, and at times create the impression that that is obtaining is not true. We always trivialize these issues, to an extent that we are becoming to be known as “people who do not take anything serious.” Sometimes I hear people say, “we make fun of everything; we do not take anything serious in this country.”

Today, I am reflecting on what I previously said to bring to focus the issue of the Ebola virus which spread to Liberia from neighboring Guinea. The virus which claimed the lives of some Liberians is something some Liberians seem to doubt its existence. For some, it was used to raise funds or to ingratiate or conciliate the international community for some funds or items, as there existed no such thing as EBOLA VIRUS, as claimed by the Liberian government.

Although I heard people expressing misgivings about the existence of this in Liberia, I am mainly concerned of this because a high-profile person in society, who is part of the status quo, expressed similar doubts about the existence of this disease and is of the same view as some of the lay persons in society. Some even claimed that they did not see any EBOLA dead person and so this is not true, but a make up, fabrication or concoction. What an act of stupidity!

In the field of Mass Communication, especially so as it relates to news gathering and reporting, when certain people, because of their “status” or level of “prominence” in society, or when opinion leaders make certain comments, there is a need to take them seriously because people often listen, and sometimes lend credence to whatever they say.

I am commenting on this because of the news I heard about the number of persons that have died in neighboring guinea, as a result of the outbreak of the disease. Yesterday, it was reported by local radio that the WHO has said that more than 200 persons died in that country because this outbreak, while in Liberia, about four persons were only killed.

Interestingly, up till now, some of us still cannot believe this outbreak in our country. Instead of giving ourselves, including the government, especially the Health Ministry a pat on the back, for taking the necessary activities and steps that prevented the spread of the disease, we are busy expressing doubts about its existence. We, as a people and nation, should be proud that because of the way and manner in which we acted, it did not claim the lives of many of our citizens, as it is today in Guinea.

But one thing I know, if the government had not acted swiftly, it could have been condemned for the deaths of many Liberians. Now that it acted appropriately, some still have disbelief of this outbreak. But this is Liberia; if you do, you are doomed, if you don’t, you are doomed. As the NEW DEMOCRAT would say; “THIS TOO IS LIBERIA,” is a country of peculiarities.

In the first place, is there anything wrong with Liberians getting the credit the works of their compatriots, or the country being proud for preventing the spread of EBOLA? Why can’t we be proud that through our collective actions, EBOLA, a deadly disease was not catastrophic, as it did in other countries?

As human beings, we are all made in the image of God, and so for some of us to always feel inferior to others is sad. We should always feel that we can do what others can do. My late philosophy professor, Dr. Dr. Wollor Topor, once spoke of the universality of education, and that what others can do, we can also do.

Hence, on the issue of the EBOLA, let us give ourselves, this country a pat on the back for preventing its spread. I saw how Minister Walter Gwenigale, my Methodist brother Torbor Nyensuah, my  friend John Sumo and others assiduously worked around the clock for public education and awareness, and so to see people, including a high profile person,  making mockery because it did not claim more lives, is unfortunate and sad.

Until, we Liberians can realize that we can do what others can do and that all is not lost in this country, despite our differences, we would always see others and other countries as being better than us, I Rest My Case.

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