The Common Ground, with Jihad Essektani

  • 1 June, 2022

Looking at the world through the lens of mass media and various social platforms, common ground seems to be a dramatically shrinking island; sinking as we speak – literally, going down a bit with every divisive comment, stereotype or opinion engineered to stoke our tribal instincts. Supposedly, we should be feeling safer on our tiny islands, micro archipelagos at best, surrounded by murky waters spiked with invisible borders. But we don’t – do we?

And it’s not really about the topic anymore – be that nationality, religion, race, public health policy, the colour of your hair, or your diet – each one makes a perfect starter for a brawl in the virtual space, bound to happen sooner or later. Thankfully, in real-life, everyday interactions, we are much more sensible – common sense gets to be indeed more common when our physical selves are at stake – not just words, and dispensable avatars we like to wear.

If only we could meet and discuss different opinions more often with real people, or even better – just live our lives alongside one another, observe, learn about each other’s backgrounds, and only get into complex deliberations if we still feel like it. When this understanding is mutual and the process goes both ways, life becomes happier (one naturally thinks twice before uttering a mean comment in someone’s actual presence).

This, in short, was the impulse behind writing this song. Shortly after the English lyrics were finalised, we got very lucky to meet Jihad – an amazing Amazigh multi-instrumentalist, and a very soulful singer from Morocco, living in Galway, where he takes care of its people by working in a local hospital. Initially, Witek asked him for a translation into Tamazight, Arabic, or any language he chose to best convey the meaning to the audiences from his own cultural realm. However, he (upon much deliberation) did so much more! Jihad actually wrote his own lyrics from an entirely different perspective, using completely different words and context, while still preserving the core message – the importance of human solidarity. And this is not to be confused with tolerance, or acceptance of differences, which both have this underlying tinge of a patronising, self-righteous attitude, a gracious permission we kindly give for other opinions to exist at all (quite laughable when one thinks of it). Standing firmly on the real, levelled ground of our common humanity, we can safely drop the masks and look around with our eyes wide open, no longer squinting from behind the guard of our own clenched fists. Such omni-cultural message sounds like the best, practical approach for living a happy life in a modern multicultural society. And this is not to depreciate the importance of celebrating diversity – precious, valuable, and crucial for preserving one’s own healthy identity. What we have in common is much more of a solid foundation upon which all the beauties of cultural abundance can flourish.


Before we find Atlantis,
before we pin it down with flags and fence posts,
let us save and rediscover
its twin that’s sinking as we speak:

the land of common ground
at the shores of common sense,
not to fight over, but to carry us all.
So easy to be found,
just give it one more chance.
Come, leave your guard down,
let me show you around.

You see, I may not share
all your stories, likes, beliefs,
but I’ll stand here by your side
at the tiniest patch of our common ground.
And if there’s none to be found up here
I’ll go underground to find it,
but I won’t make it alone – I need you.

Like talking needs listening,
like taking needs giving,
like teaching needs learning,
like learning needs not knowing.

And don’t get me wrong –
I’m not expecting you to share
all my stories, likes, beliefs.
We don’t have that long here,
we don’t have that long to be.
As clocks tick away, tables turn,
will you stand by me?

Will you stand by me?

Jihad’s take:

You who see yourselves as guardians of religion, in fact you bereave people of the rights you have not given.
In your fatwas, condemnations, and rulings on atonement, you arbitrate the conscience of those who have answered a calling coming from above you.
You destroy lives by uttering judgements here on Earth before the Heaven comes.
It’s not for you to decide!
Listen to the Prophet, peace be upon Him, who says the ruling is only in God’s hands, as is forgiveness or condemnation.
Patiently await the day of the meeting when all will be revealed.
Until that day, guard only our human desire to live and coexist in peace.