Anger. It is the worst thing that can happen to man. When I refer to man, I mean in the collective sense of the human being, man and woman, boy and girl-all inclusive. Anger has ripped families, communities and entire nations apart. Wars have been fought, feuds perpetuated and people killed, maimed and displaced for generations because of anger-just because someone or some persons out there allowed themselves to be angry.
What triggers people is what sets us apart. The shy and introverted, the bold and daring, the quiet and extroverted-each one’s trigger may not necessarily be the same. Some people are tripped off by words, some by actions and even some by omissions. Some by all these three or two of the three conditions herein mentioned.
The capacity to take in criticism, slights, and all sorts of unfavorable judgment for that matter is what makes us or breaks us. Thus, the root cause for each of us losing our tempers has to do with both nature and nurture- nature meaning we are born with it, and nurture referring to how we were raised. I would quietly extricate myself and spare you the motions of the legendary debate of nature versus nurture, for that is not the objective of this write-up.
Sadly, we are living in a society today, where everyone feels that it is okay to be angry. Even those who have no reason whatsoever to be angry, are pretending to be so, for one reason or the other, to pull face and be counted among the crowd. It is not uncommon to hear people feigning to be pissed off by this, that and everything else. We lash out at each other for the smallest infraction, we peeve and beef on social media for the world to see…etc. etc. The consequences of such charades may range from mere annoyance to irreversible effects.
Of course not all of anger is bad. Some of the world’s most gifted people have been able to harness their anger and turn it into something worthwhile. Indeed, anger has spurred people for generations to go beyond their capacities, to excel themselves. Some people are able to perform to the highest level when pushed to their tethers ends and also when they have built up enough anger to motivate them. Yet, not everyone can control their anger or manage it constructively to obtain the best outcome there from. Some are eaten up by their anger, and waste their precious lives being angry.
Still, anger is a natural sentiment. In all aspects, it is human nature to be angry, just as it is to be happy, afraid, hopeful and so forth. Some people have short fuses, the case being they are easily angered; others not so. In our parts of the world where fortunately we live in large communities as part of an extended family, even for those who live in a nuclear family set up, we cannot afford to be angry for too long. There is always someone out there who cares enough to lessen the anger and appease the affected person to abidance.
But this is not meant to last. There is a rising trend of iniquity, detachment and a general lack of concern for one another in our communities that if not honed down, would lead to the very demise of our societies’ distinction, i.e. our communal living. For this write-up, I would like to focus on the effects of anger on our marriages, which I believe to be the very foundation of our African society. Like the heart is to the human being, marriage is the core of the community. If marriages are not working, the foundation of our communities is threatened. thus propagating the feeling of isolation.
Let’s take some concrete examples: When a young couple live in close proximity with their respective families, assistance and integration with their families is crucial. Peace and stability is expected to thrive within that community. The threshold for anger is expected to be less. Mutual help, joy and respect are the off-shots.
But this is not always the case. Too many times, the opposite is true.
Depending on which side of the coin you fall on: Notably, whether one lives with the wife’s family or the husband’s, the former setting could make a close call. If it is the wife’s family the couple resides with, there are not many problems to be faced. Except for the occasional touch of needless inferiority complex on the part of man, the couple would thrive. The wife’s family would do everything to assist their daughter in her marriage.
If it is the husband’s family the couple is residing with, well, that’s a problem. Many a time, assistance is not available for the wife. She is alone and on her own, juggling between marriage and livelihood. All too often, help is not forthcoming from husband’s relatives with her young kids, with her household activities etc. In fact, she would be looked upon to accomplish everything on her own; be a good mother to her kids, good wife to her husband, good daughter to her own family and good ‘goro’ to her in-laws; and if she is working, a good civil servant to boot. If she is human enough, she is bound to be overwhelmed and for the most part angry no doubt.
The root cause, family unity is being traded for the emotional well-being of the despots within our families, who by their angry sentiments are wrecking havoc to the very fabric of our societies and in essence propagating the feeling of isolation in the same vein.
Take this case in point; a young couple after living with one of the couple’s in-laws for seven years are blest enough to move out and start a family together. This infuriates the mother-in-law to the extent that any squabble by this very couple is treated with utmost glee and linked to their move out of the ‘family house’! “Gis sa gout dara sah,” the in-law would say, referring to her daughter-in-law. What kind of mother would wish for his son to stagnate at one place for his entire life? What mother would not be glad to see her son move on and become responsible? Really? Should the wife know about this, would she be inclined to stay in that marriage anyway?
Another young couple stay put in the family house even after the husband could afford to move out to avoid pissing off the man’s parents. But see trouble…The wife and sisters-in-law cannot pull in the long run. The mother-in-law is the wife’s arch rival, demanding from her son everything he gives his wife. The man is undecided who to side with, so he feigns neutrality to keep the family peace, which is in turn wrecks havoc to his marriage, because what do they say, “Hell hath no more fury than the wrath of a woman scorned…” His wife is angry, feels unsupported and scorned by her husband and ultimately seeks for a divorce.
So, is it an acid test to discover why we have so many failed marriages today? I am angry because of this and that, you are angry because of one and two, we have one or two or five kids and then, BOOM-your family aggravate my anger, mine aggravate ours – we begin to express our concealed anger through various outlets… some turn to philandering, some are withdrawn and passive aggressive, others abusive and abrasive etc. etc.; the end result, bitterness, hatred and more anger. There is no lessening of this anger any time soon…
Living in seclusion is worsening the situation. But seclusion is here to stay. With the current status quo, I see a growing trend towards separations and isolation from the rest of our respective communities due to this boiling anger we allow ourselves to feel. Worse is that the number of leaders listened to and followed in our communities are thinning daily. With the demise of each elder in our communities, the common thread that joins us together weakens. The disintegration of our communities will herald the biggest calamity in our lives and livelihoods as Gambians.
Napoleon Bonaparte said it best: “Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Anger is, in my humble opinion, is one of those principles. And this anger is eating us up!
by Rohey Samba
Rohey Samba is a Gambian writer and publisher of three anthologies of poems namely, Mother Gambia…Beats, Behind My Back and Heart Songs.