My journey to Muhoroni...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Small morning meditation on parochialism

Africa is love or hate. You will recognize quickly if you belong here or not. If you count the days to your departure, you probably find yourself in the second group. Africa hasn´t enchanted you.

It´s probably true that we have the greatest chance to fall in love with a place if we admit that the place we come from is not necessarily the best in the world, with the best values and most developed culture. If that was true, everything here would seem bad, you would find the culture primitive and the people stupid. Unfortunately, we white often come to Africa thinking that we can civilize this place, give it the right values, and we despise the African way of life, their thinking, their food, their houses.
How is it possible that in 2007 there was so much killing here
< How is it possible that they are capable of so much cruelty? How barbarian! I can hear the conversation going.
Why did we forget how barbariously we sent millions of people to the gas chambers several decades ago? How we were throwing the bodies of murdered people into mass graves in Srebrenica, how Serbians and Croatians fought agains each other in the nineties? Yes, we are scared of anything new, anything different than ours, anything unknown. Our black-and-white view of the world is exciting for us because that way we know exactly what is good and what is wrong and we feel as the greatest experts of all. We just have to throw a bit of criticism on people to boost our egos.

The children at schools are physically punished. At our schools the students torture their teachers mentally.
Sometimes even physically. Who won? Did we really find all of the answers in our civilized world? Do we know how to approach children? Beating is not the solution but something tells me that if violence turns against the adults, it is not right either. 
I work with women who don´t talk much at the first sight. They can´t speak our language. But their tongues are all right when they speak their own. Are they to be considered stupid or primitive because they don´t understand us? Do we understand them? Is our language more than theirs? Most of them didn't finish the primary school and their way of life is quite simple. But there are many things we can admire about it! I dare say that none of the European women would be able to manage what they do. No system of support. No maternity leave. A lot of children, a lot of work. Cooking, handwashing, carrying the wood, setting the fire, hoeing in the garden, carrying the water from a kilometer distance. I don´t hear them grumble about it. It is all part of their lives. They are able to smile and laugh. Who of us would be able to take that?

Maybe someone could object that they saw how they mistreated their own children, how they neglected them. Why do we have children homes in our developed countries? Both here as well as there you can find mothers who neglect their children. Both here as well as there you can find mothers who love their children, play with them and talk with them although they might not know all of the psychology behind it, using their own intuition.

If they eat everything that the nature offers to them, they have the potential for the most ballanced cuisine in the world.
The life in Africa is slow. People don´t rush, they don´t stress out. Is it because they are lazy? We are unnerved, our hair getting grey when we are 20, we suffer from insomnia, keep running away, desperately trying to slow the time. Is that dilligence?

And so respect, recognition and honor is the key. The question may as well be not what we taught them but what they taught us. It does not mean we have to stay dumb and uncritical to injustice or evil that is happening here. It is about the attitude, willingness and desire to change and share.
If you count what Africa has taught you in the positive sense of the rod, you happen to be facing the mystery of life. It is not about Africa, it´s about us and each of the relationships that we enter. About respect, thankfulness for others, change and learning. If we are always the ones who own the truth, the better ones, others will always be one step below.
In the same way as we should try to consider others more important than ourselves we should consider Africa to be more worthy than Slovakia or any other European country. It sounds nice but it is a life-time challenge. Fight against the windmills. Battle against ourselves.

" Parochalism is a belief that our customs, values, perception of the world is better, more valuable, more developed that the customs, values and perception of the world in other countries. We often forget that phenomena we find difficult to understand, can have their purpose in other cultures, they may have their special history that explains them. If we start to despise the „barbarian“ traditions, „primitive“ rules, funny clothes and design, we should stop in our arrogance that compells us to give instant advice for improvement. After the time of learning and reflecting our „developed“, modern ways do not have to look so positive from the complex perspective. To communicate while trying to understand means first and foremost to show respect.“ Dušan Ondrušek

1 comment:

  1. that catholic church you are talking about. i studied catechism there and later became an alter boy. the sisters convent is a new development that we raised funds for eons ago. i did my high school at muhoroni secondary sch. muhoroni is the place of my childhood even thou me i resided those sides of the factory staff quarters ( have you gone there? even to the sports club? try that area out u'll love it) maybe you should also do some picnic in the thesalia area. a very great view that one