The second experience took place in 2010 when I went back out to Uganda to do some volunteer work. I had a conversation with a Ugandan manager of a local NGO (Non-Government Org); the conversation was about elders.
He had called me a mzee (old person), which disturbed me for a couple of reasons. I don’t feel like a mzee. I’m still a child running around looking up and respecting the elders. Plus I’m not qualified to be placed in this category; but, I have grey hair, so therefore I’m now a mzee!!!
Ugandan cultures, and many other cultures, highly respect their elders. They play significant roles in their family and the community, and family take care of them. When I described to my friend what generally happens to elders in modern cultures, how we are placed into nursing homes once we can’t take care of ourselves, and in many cases forgotten, this visibly shocked him. He really couldn’t grasp what I was telling him. I could understand his confusion. You see my grannie lived with us and played an important role in the nurturing and supporting of our family structure. So for me this too is a normal process.
It wasn’t until I came to Canada and realised that this tradition had long changed in the modern world. The new trend is for young families to generally move away and have their own homes. For both young parents to work in order to provide the luxury lifestyle that has now become the norm. For children to go to day care rather than grandparents take on this responsibility, and for playing a part in the family structure.
This modern way is neither right nor wrong, its just how its evolved. It was his reaction though that shook me re-affirming my suspicion on the lack of knowledge regarding the modern ways. The modern world has morphed into today’s culture through time. Although there have been influences within the different modern cultures, these cultures are somewhat similar, and are basically on the same evolutionary road. These also include serious issues related to modern day culture.
Old traditional cultures have also changed over time as they travel down their own evolutionary road. But in recent history a bend in the road has sprung up. They have their own well-established structures and belief systems along with their own serious issues. That bend in the road though is the influence of the internet, and wider travel opportunities etc. exposing a different world which only portrays a snippet of a modern day reality.
So I’m wonder about this lack of understanding in “3rd world” countries. Folk here live their traditional lives, but at the same time are eager to adopt new and convenient ways. They believe this will solve all their serious problems. I also wonder through this lack of understanding on either side, if we could be on a head-on collision. Could this result in more mistrust, unrest and upheaval and escalate the confusions and uncertainties in our already wobbly world?
We don’t have to look too far to see the unrest in the world. All we have to do is turn on the TV. It’s become a daily occurrence to see how our societies are struggling resulting in acts of terror.