The Way Things Ought To Be: The Problem with Most Liberians
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

In the Liberian community at home and abroad, every issue has become "relative". Our brothers and sisters believe that there is no such thing as "right" or "wrong". A growing number of them have dismissed the notion of objectivity and raw facts. Since all things are relative to them, truth, justice and principle have also met with similar fate.

This belief leads us to the popular phrase that states, if one does not stand for something, he/she will fall for everything. Here lies the dilemma in which most Liberians find themselves. At best, Liberia does not lack educated people but rather, it is in short supply of principled individuals. In other words, Liberians are not firm believers in the "principle of right and justice". They are forever ready to sell their souls for crumbs or positions. Their plight reminds me of the legendary story about Spider's invitations to attend two annual feasts.

According to the story, Spider was invited by two villages at the opposite ends (North & South) of the country. The village in the North was the first to extend Spider an invitation. The feast was scheduled for Saturday, July 26, 1920 at 6:00 P.M. Upon receiving the invitation, Spider responded immediately with the following suggestion: "Based on my experience, I would suggest that you should not invite too many people to the feast because when you do, some of them are likely to cause trouble after drinking and eating your food." However, this was not the actual reason for which Spider offered the suggestion. Spider felt that if few people were at the feast, he would have more food to consume.

On the following day, the village in the South extended an invitation to Spider. Their feast was scheduled on the same day and time as the village from the North. Instead of Spider being up front with the villagers from the South that he has a previous engagement on the same day and time, he decided to maneuver both villagers. He went on to promise them that he would attend both annual feasts at the appointed day and time. Moreover, he added that since he was such a busy person, he would like for each village to take the end of the rope that he has tied around his waist as a means of alerting him when the feast was ready.

In these parts, Spider was a legendary figure. He was more than a celebrity. Every village wanted Spider to attend its annual feast. Any feast without Spider's presence was insignificant. Spider was a hot commodity because of his eloquence and wisdom. Both villages made Spider their Master of Ceremony for their feast. Unfortunately for Spider, both feasts started at the same time. They began to pull both ends of the rope at the same time. Due to the situation in which Spider found himself, he was unable to attend either feast. As a result, Spider's waist became very thin.

Most Liberians refer to Spider's dilemma as: "Sar-bee man die kerle way" which is interpreted as - if you are too greedy, in the end you may be the sole looser. In summary, Spider's fate explains the predicament in which Liberians find themselves. Yet, many Liberians at home and abroad continued to suffer from this acute condition of mental enslavement. In spite of this condition, they are still proud to let others know that the name of their country derived from the Latin word - "Liber" which means, "FREE". The question that remains to be answered is what are they free from when their minds are not yet free?

In a different vein, the author of Inside Africa John Gunther wrote in the 1950s that - "Liberia is a sick country, it may get well some day". But, with the looks of events in Liberia, when will that day ever arrive? It appears not to be any time soon! Because there are too many unprincipled individuals running loose. These political sycophants and their cheerleaders have yet to acknowledge that recent Liberian history has not revealed any remarkable progress in the areas of human resource improvement, material and infrastructure development that Liberians can be proud of since 1944 to the present. Instead, the condition of Liberia and its people has continued to regress from worse to ridiculous with no improvement in sight.

Meanwhile, Liberians will have to learn to take a stand and stick with it no matter who it offends. This point of departure in the long run will serve our best interest as a people. The old approach of wanting to behave like bamboo, monkey as well as spider got most Liberians where they find themselves today. These unique breed of individuals see merits in the Spider-like approach than believing in a cause and sticking with it. The 1999 ULAA Elections controversy and the issues regarding Taylor's trip which was discussed in LAMA's August monthly meeting are classical examples of Liberians' ubiquitous behavior, or seeming to represent both sides of a given issue. This is an impractical characteristic of an irresolute people playing a dangerous mind game.

Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that there is nothing wrong with Liberians that cannot be cured with what is right. The Bible clearly indicates that we have an essential role to play in deciding our present as well as our future. The fact that we have a choice shows that God has given us a measure of control over our lives. Therefore, most of our brothers and sisters, who continue to play the role of an opportunist, gravy seeker, hypocrite, turncoat, apologist, etc. are selling themselves short. The evidence shows that those who claim the following reasons: for instance, it will mess up my chances of getting a job with the government; my brother or sister is currently working for the government, or I still have relatives living in Liberia, therefore, I do not consider it safe and wise to take a position against the government. Even though, the government violates the constitution and the rights of the Liberian people.

This is an act of a coward; there is nothing safe about these excuses. This is the problem with most Liberians. We cannot have our cake and eat it too! If the Liberian people want genuine peace and democracy, they will have to earn it the old fashion way, work for it. It means, they will have to take positions that are not always popular. For what it's worth, Liberians must pay close attention to the advice given by General Colin Powell: "Where discrimination still exists or where the scars of past discrimination still contaminate and disfigure the present, we must not close our eyes to it, declare a level playing field, and hope it will go away by itself. It did not in the past. It will not in the future."

For subscription information, send e-mail to:
or go to: