It’s hard to put a finger on why, exactly, the dynamic of relationships among cultures varies so greatly. After a simple misunderstanding during my interviews, I think I’m a little closer to solving the mystery.
While interviewing the family at Abia for my project, I asked all of the former child soldier’s family members what they missed most about Samuel (the former child soldier) when he was with the LRA in the bush. Each family member responded with something similar to, or involving, “We were sending him to school and he was going to make the money for our family.”
It seemed so insensitive, so impersonal and so unfeeling to say that they only thing they missed about Samuel was his value as a breadwinner. That couldn’t be what they meant. So, I asked them over and over, trying different wordings and roundabout ways of asking the same question.
But I kept getting the same answers, not to mention they were getting pretty annoyed that I was stuck on the subject.
Last night, the value of what they said really hit me. It’s not that it’s insensitive or impersonal, it’s that they don’t have the luxury of love as we know it.
We have romanticized what it means to be human because we don’t have to worry about basic survival. How could they possibly be concerned about missing someone for their company alone when they’re barely alive themselves?
While we’re cranky because we have to commute to work, or dreading the next time we have to put gas in the fuel tank, Samuel’s family is trying to figure out how to send one of the 9 grandchildren to school while keeping food on the fire.
They rely on each other to survive, but not in the dramatic, emotional way that we would say the same. For some people, life is a desperate struggle. I’ve learned that it’s not useful to dwell on the unfairness of it all, but I think there’s something to say for being aware.