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The Benefits of Being A Senegalese

On a rainy day last week, I was lucky enough to catch a taxi after a long day at work. As I settled in and put my belongings on the back seat next to me, I informed the cab driver of my destination. The Senegalese driver, smiled upon noticing my detectable foreign accent, sat more comfortably in his seat, and looked at me curiously in his mirror. "Hey where are you from?" he asked.

"Libya", I said.

"Oh Muamar Qaddafi," he yelled instantly.

I sank into my chair nodding while producing a fake smile and muttering "that's right." I looked out of the window thinking to myself, "finally the only contribution to human civilization for which my country is remembered is a demented fool!

Intrigued by this revelation and obviously undeterred by my unenthusiastic participation into this topic, Mahmoud, my cab driver, proclaimed "I love that man, he says no to the west, he says no to the imperialists, and he says no to the super powers." I completed his sentence, "and he says no to his people too." Undeterred he continued, "I wish I had a president like him in my country."

I thought to myself "that is exactly what the world truly needs, Qaddafi-like heads of states implanted everywhere ruling countries around the globe. I immediately thought of the movie Austin Powers, in which the wicked Dr. Evil creates a "mini" him to replicate his work for him in case he is preoccupied or absent. The thought of a mini-Qaddafi was equally scary and comical at the same time.

I looked ahead and told Mahmoud. "You are right, this man is so good, we Libyans can not be selfish about monopolizing him to ourselves. It is only right that we allow other countries to borrow him each for a few years. It is only fair that we share him with the rest of the world." Mahmoud shook his head in disbelief wondering if I am mocking him or seriously pondering the idea. I continued, "But he comes with some baggage." Intrigued, Mahmoud slowed down the car and looked to me. I asserted "yes, you can not expect him to be given to you unconditionally. He comes with some baggage and a bag of chips as they say." Mahmoud laughed and said, "okay no problem."

I said, "first of all, you can not call him Mr. President. No matter how many years he spends in control of your country, he is merely the inspiration, not the leader of the masses. Got it?" Mahmoud nodded. I continued, "Don't worry about the language barrier, you won't understand him anyway even if he learns your dialect. Believe me, that is a blessing sometimes. Also make sure to prepare a few handy slogans whenever he speaks to his masses. It gets him fired up. I suggest, "tawa tawa ya al 'aqeed, nebo balwa, I mean tawra men jedeed." Don't forget to rally a few hundred onlookers, students, teachers, and workers to give the illusion of a real rally. Don't worry, they are getting no education at school and no wages at work, so they'll gladly participate.

I continued, "you must be prepared from time to time to adjust to certain "eccentric" ideas that logic may not necessary provide a rationale for, but it is all part of a genius plan that you ordinary people will not comprehend. For example, if he says strangers can claim possession of your unoccupied home, you can not question the law because it is made by the masses. As a matter of fact, if you go home and find a stranger there, try not to disturb. It would be nice to offer some tea and cookies, but do remember to close the door on your way out after you apologize."

Mahmoud looked puzzled.

I continued, "one day he may decide to create an illusionary union with a far off land. He will tell you, that it's time for Senegal to unite with the new continent, to completely sever ties with its immediate neighbors and form a united front against the imperialist West. "Be prepared," I warned Mahmoud "to give up jobs and wages to your newly discovered brethren. Any objections are considered racist Mahmoud, so be careful." By the way, I asked, "how far is the sea from your capital city?"

"Is there a parliament?" Mahmoud asked.

"Democracy is archaic!" I yelled at Mahmoud. "You primitive Senegalese must get used to a more sophisticated system. You may vote for representatives who will attend mass conferences and vote on your behalf. You can vote yourself as well, but it is all irrelevant, for the decisions have already been formulated in advance to spare you the process of thinking. See how kind the system is to you, you poor miserable creatures? You can watch on TV fellow attendees of these conferences make some very crucial decisions about your future. They are very hard working and multi-talented though. You can see them voting while playing cards, drinking tea, smoking cigarettes (or God knows what), reading newspapers-all while occasionally enjoying the full pleasure of some authentic bazeen eating. It is all for the welfare of the masses my dear Mahmoud.

"By the way," I told Mahmoud, " you better come up with a new flag color that is quite unique to your people. "Don't even think of green", I yelled. I am afraid it is already taken. Also, your calendar year and months will have to be replaced with completely incomprehensible names and symbols. The old calendar's year and months are remnants of some archaic, colonialist, imperialist, expansionist, materialist, opportunist, racist, individualist, evilist (is that even a word? Never mind) times. "And this is against who?" I asked Mahmoud.

Replying hesitantly, he said "the masses?"

"Esmallah alaik ya Mahmoud." I had to admit, he is quite a fast learner.

"You must not spare any children or young adults for the cause of the revolution, I told Mahmoud. If Qaddafi wants to send your young ones to fight a war with Burkena Faso, Mozambique, or the Comorose Islands for that matter, you must hand deliver your children to him, and a kiss above them as Egyptians say. They will surely be in safe hands. Just don't ask too many questions if years pass and you hear nothing about them. They are accomplishing illusionary victories that no one has any records of, but can only be found on your national TV.

Oh yeah, occasionally you may be visited after midnight by revolutionary paratroops, they are formed to safeguard the security of the masses. Do not panic, they simply want to ask you a few questions about your basic associations, activities, and things of that sort. They will tell you that it is all in accordance with decisions made at revolutionary conferences, so hey it must be good for you, right? Make sure to take extra clothing, for your stay might be extended depending on the mood of the masses. Whatever happens, do not blame anyone but yourself Mahmoud, for it's never the fault of the leader; He already has enough on his mind. After all, he is only human.

"Where would they take me", asked Mahmoud.

"They will probably escort you to the same prison where they gather all the enemies of the masses."

"I am an enemy of the masses now? exclaimed Mahmoud.

I said, "Don't ask too many questions Mahmoud. I know you are innocent, but the masses will have to sort that out.

"But am I not part of the masses? Asked Mahmoud.

"You were never part of the masses Mahmoud. You want to know where they will take you? You will be taken to the same prison where they took a neighbor or a friend of yours the week before. You'll see people you know cheering as you are escorted to a closed military court where you have no right to legal representation or a fair trial. In a few years, you may get out, but remember don't take it out on Qaddafi or the government, it all goes back to the masses, my friend.

I looked at Mahmoud, and asked "so when should I tell Qaddafi to arrive at your town?"

Mahmoud looked at me silently, and proceeded to tell me that we have arrived at my destination quoting me the faire for the ride and bidding me farewell.

Libyan Citizen


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