“When the Road Bends you cannot walk straight”. Roma proverb

“When the Road Bends you cannot walk straight”. Roma proverb

Oops, I think I’ve started burrowing down a different hole to where I initially planned for this post. I’ve been having fun digging up information on our historical-Cultural timeline. I’m interested to see how we culturally evolved to where we are today.

It’s strange how life’s energy synergizes though. Here I was busy trying to get a picture of how cultures have changed through the eras and why, and while I was visiting Ancient Greece I came across Epictetus and the philosophy of stoicism. Initially I just put that aside as that word just feels cold and detached, but my inner voice said something different. So I sniffed it out and guess what? I got pulled right in.

Around the same time as this, there was an influx of articles in my inbox about America, capitalism and Neo-Nazism which also grabbed my attention.

Sitting back and thinking about all this I wondered “is there a correlation here, is there a message here I may need to look at”? So here we go, let’s see what this dig reveals.

I’m having flashbacks from my first cultural shock memories to my new life in Canada. The move took place in 1978 when I moved from my home, Uganda to Surrey, British Columbia; the time period was during “President for life, King of Scotland, Dictator Dr. Idi Amin Dada VC, DSO, MC, CBE’s” reign of terror.

This was a time when life was very topsy-turvy in Uganda, the country’s back was broken. There were very few shops open with anything to sell. For 10 years there was no running water. Life revolved around lining up for basics, such as petrol, milk, bread, sugar, and oil; sometimes you were lucky and sometimes you weren’t. But somehow we survived because whether stranger or friend, black, brown, white, we stood together and watched out for each other.

Coming to Canada was a rocking shock to my system, and it took many years for the culture shock to begin to subside. There are a couple of shocks I’ll mention here as I can conjure them up very quickly.

The first shock was going to a supermarket; I was in awe of the size of the shop, the variety of goods and the number of individual items. I remember questioning what happens to all the fresh produce at the end of the day when it’s not sold. With many other large supermarkets in the area full like this one, how can it be that everything is sold before it goes off? I was told the system worked on “consumer demand”, whatever that meant. It was beyond my comprehension and reality of lining up, waiting and not knowing, “would I be lucky or not in getting what I needed”.

The second shock was when my eldest son, who was about 4 or 5 came home crying from playing at the neighbour’s house. Apparently, his “friend” didn’t want to come to his house and play as he didn’t have all the latest and cool toys that most kids had. This stopped me in my tracks; I was flabbergasted that this was even an issue. Now I had to try and explain to him that “what’s important here is to like a person for who they are, not because of their toys”. Not an easy message to share with a little boy who now believes “no one likes me because I don’t have all these new fancy toys”.

I don’t believe you fully get over the culture shock, I think you just try and make sense of it and adjust as best as you can. In the process of this journey, where my whole belief foundation was rocked, I needed to question and mull over situations I didn’t understand to try and make sense of it all. Eventually, I came to a realization that I don’t believe a culture of conveniences and a belief of “consumer demand” is healthy. What I came to see is an environment eventually reaching a level of unsustainability leading to life ultimately imploding into its self.

No one took any notice of this African woman trying to explain what she was seeing, so in the end, I shut up and basically joined the rat race. Spend, spend, spend I was made to believe because if we don’t spend the economy will collapse; what a wicked trick we have been taught.

Well, now I believe this African woman’s predictions are not just crazy talk. I think it’s clear to see the results of our convenient and comfortable lifestyle shake and shudder as we “try” to continue living our chosen and expected way of life. It’s not hard to see that there are overwhelming issues troubling the world. The climate is very confused, the poor are growing poorer, the middle class is shrinking, and the rich are getting richer every day. There is a devastating refugee crisis, the world’s debt is off the charts, and corruption is now worldwide. The physical and mental health of humanity is at its worse, and ethical and moral standards are almost a thing of the past. I would say we are in a very turbulent environment.

I know people don’t want to hear this. One gets accused of being negative, so it’s better to bury our head in the sand and claim that all is not so bad. Climate change is a hoax; it’s good to keep the oil industry pumping away and transporting this necessary oil no matter how; it creates jobs remember. It’s totally acceptable for big corporations to make insane amounts of profit on the backs of ordinary working class; God forbid, they are the CEO’s. They need the incentive to keep going, right, like creating new ways to cut back the workforce so they can make more money. Now it’s acceptable for the President of the USA and pretty much anyone who makes a ton of money to not pay their taxes. Instead, they’re allowed to hide their hordes of millions & billions of dollars in tax-free accounts rather than support their country.

I don’t know, I don’t like burying my head in the sand, I like to see where I’m going, and what I’m seeing is a very sad and sick planet.

What to do about it, people say?  Well, I think we could start looking at the system we have in place. Let’s just remind ourselves of a couple of things. The modern world it seems is run on democracy and capitalism.

Definition of democracy? Wikipedia says:-

  • It’s a system of government which people choose their rulers by voting for them.

From my research, it looks like there are 3 democratic options, all based on a system where citizens exercise their power by voting.

Direct Democracy – “citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. Switzerland has the closes form of this democracy allowing the people to have better control over their representatives. (It’s worth researching)

Representative Democracy – This is the most common form of Democracy “citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives form a governing body, such as a legislature. Canada has this form of Democracy. I wonder if this system breeds complacency.

Constitutional Democracy – “The people are the ultimate source of authority of government. Germany, Israel, Japan and the USA have this form of Democracy.

A definition of Constitutional Democracy:

“The government derives its right to govern from the people. The people and government are guided and must obey the country’s constitution. The voting populace has effective means of controlling the elected representatives and holding them accountable while in public office” (1).  

I’m not noticing any of this action lately in the USA.

Definition of Capitalism?  Wikipedia tells us:

  • It’s an economic system based on private ownership on means of production resulting in profit.

“Characteristics central to capitalism include: (2)

  • Private property (owned privately, not government owned)
  • Capital accumulation (The force that motivates the pursuit of profit)
  • Wage labour (Relationships between worker and employer; worker sells his or her labour, usually in the labour market where wages are market determined)
  • Voluntary exchange (The act of buyers and sellers freely and willingly engaging in market transactions where both parties end up better off after the exchange)
  • Price system (Either a fixed price system administered by Government or a free price system floating freely determined by supply and demand. Mixed price system, a combination of both) (I’m confused here with prices going up when the product is popular, rather than go down! Greed I’m guessing).
  • Competitive markets” (Activity or condition to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others).

There is something else at play here that needs mentioning and that is corruption.

Definition of corruption:- (3)

“Corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken either by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit”

There is:

  • Political corruption: the use of power by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain.
  • Grand corruption: The abuse of high-level power benefiting the few at the expense of the many, often going without consequences!
  • Petty corruption: small favours between a small number of people

Bribery which is part and parcel of this world: “the act of giving or receiving something of value in exchange for some kind of influence or action in return”. (4)

Ok, now I have a clearer picture of how this all ticks. It’s a delicate balance. Democracy is supposed to be a tool for us, the people. We have the power to elect our government officials who are responsible to run the country based on what we the people want. How come in reality this is not what happens? One problem could be people seem to become complacent, and a bigger problem being people don’t vote. The trend seems to be politicians become politically corrupt seeking control and making that their priority, especially in Representative Democracy, and I’m guessing Constitutional. These two systems encourage us to vote and then stand back and allow our government to get on with it without much interference from the people. When we are unhappy with the outcome we then vote for a different party and the process is repeated. Direct Democracy works differently; it cannot work if the people are not involved.

Capitalism from what I understand is the accumulation of wealth and the underlying motive for growth.

Well, the issue I see here is when the system rests on the accumulation of wealth which is not then put back into society, that delicate balance is then toppled over.

Google

Then you add the elephant in the room which is corruption which leaves no room for a healthy, sustainable and fair environment for everyone.

Google

So where does that leave us, the people, the 99% of us? How do we survive and maintain this lifestyle we now expect? We struggle to maintain our standard of life as best we can, we become complacent and bitch and moan, but don’t do anything, just let the system carry on. Or we get angry and become part of the 99% movement, and when that doesn’t work we turn to Neo-Nazism or terrorism. Many fall through the cracks and live in poverty or worse become homeless. Or we become part of the system that is not running in an ethical manner anymore and join the world of corruption.

Am I off track here, or is there a reason for concern? Personally, I believe so. This is one of my reasons for creating my website “Weaving Cultural Trails”. I feel really scared that developing countries are blindly following the ways of the modern world, believing our way of life is the way to go, that we have everything figured out and know what we’re doing, and in turn, they are forsaking their own traditional cultural ways.

Remember at the beginning of this tirade I mentioned the word Stoicism? Well, I need to keep digging here on that as I feel there could be a solution that can help us find our way back to a healthier and more sustainable and balanced way of life. Hang tight and join me on the next dig.

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL (Aesop’s)

*I would love you to be a part of the debate by offering your thoughts, suggestions or questions in the comment box below. Sharing ideas and thoughts is what this is all about. 

Google

1.( https://www.quora.com/What-is-constitutional-democracy)

2. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/competition)

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bribery

4 thoughts on ““When the Road Bends you cannot walk straight”. Roma proverb

  1. Fran, our Canadian system is the most respected in the world. Democracy is the way to go in my 80 years of living in Canada. People work, pay their taxes , when a different government gets elected, the Canadians accept it and live under the new government. This in my mind is called civilized. In Canada you will find the three party system keeps an eye on each other and if there is corruption it soon comes to light. Also human nature comes into play in some cases in Canada, there is an underground economy where citizens do business for cash and this in turn cheats rheir fellow citizens out of tax dollars needed to run the country. Then the government has to borrow to pay their debts. So far Canada is able to sustain itself but if the party in power runs us into a big debt the citizens, usually after two terms elect a more Conservative party and they work hard for the next eight years to balance the budget and get us back on track. The government that runs us into debt, does a lot of social progress for about two terms and then the conservative government gets elected and cuts the programs for 8 years. It is a circle, but it seems to work in Canada. I would say we Canadians are the most fortunate people in the world to live in Canada. Hopefully we have learned by earlier mistakes that we are trying to rectify. The newer educated generation seem to be able to be able to make decisions that are informed, they are not as easily led as my generation, they are problem solvers, respect each other and value each other better than earlier generations. I applaud them for this. I think respect for each other is so important. I love my Country and I respect my fellow citizens and believe if other countries had the opportunity to follow our model they in turn may be happier. We also do not get mixed up in other people’s troubles, we are peace keepers an known by other countries as a peaceful respectful country. Democracy is the way to go!

    1. Hi Margie, Thanks for reading my blog and responding, very much appreciated. I agree totally that Democracy is the way to go and that Canada is one of the most respected countries in the world. I agree that we are a peace-loving country with our peacekeepers rather than running to war at the drop of a hat. I also agree that this is one of the best countries to live in as it has the attitude of social justice. Maybe its because I have come from a different culture and belief structure, I’ve seen things from a different angle, and I feel deeply that the world is in trouble. There are many reasons for this, but for this post, let’s stay with Democracy, Capitalism and Corruption. As I mentioned in my blog I went through years of culture shock trying to make sense of what I had been taught growing up about the modern/developed world, meaning the white man’s world, and what I was now witnessing. Growing up I had many debates with my dad and one of the topics was why are we here in Africa trying to change the cultural ways of the people? The answer was always the same, we are here to help educate them, bring them into the modern world so they can be part of the system and live a better life; and my parents truly believed this. I soon realized after moving here that was not the opinion of the people on this side of the world, we apparently in Africa were out there just to exploit the resources etc and treat the people poorly there. So more confusion for me as that was not my reality, my parents didn’t exploit anyone. Uganda was our home, our roots were deep, we loved the country and it’s people just like you love Canada. The biggest shock, I have to say, was when we went overseas again with AID work. The first posting was to Ethiopia in 1987 with Canadian CIDA (Government} aid. We spent 3 years living there. Bon spent most of that time trying to investigate where the Canadian tax dollars were going and trying to convince Canada that there was a major problem here. Talking with other AID workers from different agencies from different countries, they too had the same issue, where was the money going? In the end, Bon was told to keep quiet if he wanted to keep his job by Canada CIDA!! This was totally shocking to us. We finished our contract and left and went to India with UNICEF for another 3 years to deal with a different type of corruption, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. From there we joined Sweden’s SIDA and came across the same issue, and again Bon was told to keep quiet when he tried to let the Swedish Government know what was happening. That was it for us, we left Government aid with a very bad taste in our mouths and a lot of confusion in our hearts. We just couldn’t understand why these Governments were pumping millions and millions and millions of dollars into these 3rd world countries, and it wasn’t helping the people. It would be interesting to know just how much taxpayers dollars were pumped into Ethiopia just in our 3 years plus the very, very well paid wages and allowances, plus education for the kids, etc. etc. etc. paid to all Canadian staff. Then to add more confusion to all of this, we would come home every year and I noticed the social structure of this country disintegrating. Cutbacks started happening with education and hospital beds were closing, we noticed more and more homelessness and every year it got worse. I still don’t quite understand it, why would these Governments keep pumping big, big money into these corrupt countries when the people in need were not getting the help. It wasn’t until I went back to Uganda to do some volunteer work that someone told me it’s to keep expats in jobs! Wow, you have no idea of the devastation all this aid did to Ethiopia, it was nicknamed the country of beggars because that’s all they knew what to do, was to beg; so much for doing good.
      I’m sorry Margie, I know I’m coming across strong here because I am really angry that the white man supports this kind of corruption; this makes the Canadian government corrupt. Heaven knows what the true reason for it all is, but what it is not, is putting Canadian people at home first and foremost. There is some alternative reason here, but whatever it is, it’s not in line with doing what is right for Canadians at home.
      Then we can look at Monsanto, we know they use roundup to kill the weeds. They now actually have it in the food somehow. It’s poison and we know it causes cancer, it’s been proven, yet the Canadian government don’t ban selling GMO’S in Canada as Europe has done. Why? I don’t know, but whatever the reason is, it’s not to save Canadians from cancer.
      All I’m saying is that the corruption is right into the fabric of society, and corruption is a dead end road. It just feeds the rich and we the people pay the price.
      Democracy is the way to go, but for it to really work for a country and it’s people, the leaders and representatives need to be ethically responsible, they are our examples. When they let us down we get discouraged and complacent and then we don’t vote. How is that working properly? Thanks again, Margie.

  2. Interesting and I look forward to hearing about stoicism and how it can get us out of our mess. I agree with a lot you say but I think you (and most in the developed world) overestimate the ability of human beings to suppress their animal instincts of self interest and self preservation. We’ve made big strides down that road and there are pockets of consistently civilised behaviour throughout the world. But many of us easily question and abandon the behaviours we intellectually know to be for the best in favour our wn interests. I studied British Histroy at school and was always baffled by thevlansdslide election win of the Labour Party immediately after WW2 , defeating thé party of the Conservative Winston Churchill, who had established himself as an inspirational leader and is considered the Greatest Englishman. Labour won on. Platform of increased taxes and the creation of a universal and all embracing Health System for all. Britain had suffered war and destruction for much of the previous 30 years and everyone was so sick of the suffering the Establishment had overseen, they were very happy to sacrifice some of their own good fortune in favour of the greater good. They did so for the next thirty years and then the eternal failings of scociety turned them towards those who preached greed and self interest as the solution. The powerful nations haven’t really suffered since and the powerful within those nations are driving the system ever more extremely in the interest of the few. Hopefully the consequences won’t be as apifuge as they were in the early 20th century and the civilised brain of the majority will recognise that humanity is straying off the path of becoming ever more civilised and putting the good of all ahead of self interest. Tif xxx

    1. Hi Tiff, thanks for your contribution. I get the feeling this is a subject many people are not comfortable discussing. It’s easier to leave it up to our politicians who are supposedly working for the good of all their people. From where I sit and what life has revealed to me, that is one of the big problems. We talk about being a Democratic society, but we forget that we the people are the ones that hold the power. We give our power over to our representatives, and then sit back and let them steer the ship. There is so much stuff that goes on behind closed doors that we have no clue about and that is where the corruption seeps in. I’m not sure what it is with politicians, it’s almost like they go to a secret school to learn how to be elusive in what they are revealing and really doing. There certainly seems to be a strong scent of personal gain and power in their intentions. Direct Democracy is what makes the most sense to me, as it can only really work if the people are involved. It doesn’t function if the majority of people are complacent and don’t vote. Europe seems to make more noise when the masses are not happy, but in Canada, people are either too polite or too complacent, leaving political representatives the freedom to steer the ship wherever. It all comes back to ethical virtues that seem to be a disappearing art. It feels like when the ship is moving, the economy is ticking along and most people have discretionary money to spend, humanity becomes more wrapped up with their lives and we disconnect from the whole. It then takes a crisis, as you mentioned to snap people out of their complacency, as now the ship is capsizing. That’s when we reach out and people pull together to save the ship. Unfortunately, people in today’s modern world don’t really grasp this concept as the majority have not really experienced anything too dramatic.
      Stoicism philosophy states that it’s through each individual living as virtuous as we can, (it’s a progressive philosophy), which stabilizes us. I guess it’s like the ship’s anchor. Look how far we have drifted from living with the intention of taking care of the whole. Thanks again for your interest. Ciao for now.Xxxx

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