Saturday, April 12, 2008

The White People's Guide to Development #4

Part 4 of guest blogger Victoria's series. Just to jog your memories, here're points 1-3:
  1. Remember that old saying, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"?: Practice tact in your speech.
  2. Discern what [behaviors, superstitions, objects] hold special significance and is sacred to the locals, and act accordingly. Discriminate more, be discerning. Practice tact in your actions.
  3. Learn the pace of time in that culture. Quit being so up-tight.
And now...

#4 Socialism and Sharing: Your things are the community's things

Learn from the little guy...share!! (photo credit: Melanga)

Don't panic, I'm not talking about communism. Traditional cultures mean big families, and extended relatives, half-cousins and great nieces and nephews. The impoverished community you spend time with is likely going to remain very medieval in their beliefs, and they might expect you, the rich visitor, to share everything you have. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Sharing food. Sharing water. Sharing your pocket knife and compass, and your iPod.

In some communities, everybody is supposed to be equal. The flaunting of better things---particularly the REI premium goods and the waterproof map---is a source of resentment. Better to leave your best stuff at home unless you are prepared to pass it around to everyone. To those who believe in closing their purse strings after they've given what they've judged to be enough, working with communal-minded people can be frustrating. After all, if you don't fork up the best things you've got and you're supposed to be the person who has had the means, you violate a code of honor and sense of brotherhood that is meant to deem you a good member of the community. Best leave the nicer things at home, and prepare to donate and write off your "losses".

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