Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Mangoes In The Teeth
Being in Haiti during mango season means learning to floss on a daily basis, it also means learning to check yourself.
Cultural mindsets can be a bit tricky to walk around. Some I need to let challenge me, some I need to learn how to challenge, and some I need to keep my mouth shut about. I'm not a sociologist, I don't hold any culture immune to criticism. Sometimes we need to stand up and in the words of Mal from Silverado say, "That aint right." If I use western culture as THE standard of comparison then freely criticize me, I probably deserve it. Even if I'm right in the instant, there's something wrong if I can't find a higher standard for support.
Watching kids throw mangoes at trees to knock other mangoes to the ground... then leave them there because they'd rather not walk in the mud to get them, is something I need to keep my mouth shut about. Sure it's wasteful, maybe 1 in 4 actually gets eaten, but there are a freak-ton of mangoes (this is a scientific term) and there just aren't enough people to eat em all. Saying "Hey, the way you've been doing this all your life isn't a good management of resources." Is like criticizing a Grizzly at the height of the salmon run for only eating the brains and skin, it only makes me look like and idiot and the principle of the matter isn't that great of a hill to die on.
I was talking with a pastor friend and he made the statement that in ten years the situation in Haiti would be better. I asked him what was going to happen that would make things better. He thought about it for a bit then said, "If we don't improve things ourselves, America will occupy us." The strange thing is an American occupation fit into his concept of "things being better", hows that for an argument against neocolonialism? I told him he didn't want things to get bad enough for America to occupy, an earthquake and some nasty poverty wouldn't cut it. I mean, we didn't even interfere in Rwanda and that was before we scalded our hands in Iraq.
There are things that just aren't right, and not in the mangoes rotting sense. Corruption, abuse, oppression, mental and physical poverty, etc. deserve a reaction, they demand a response regardless the culture we come from or the one we are in. But those issues aren't unique to Haiti and we aren't free from them in America. When we react we need to do so with a higher standard in mind. Jesus seems like a good start, he acted independent of local politics, religious catchphrases, and cultural elitism. He didn't overlook the world around him, but he didn't limit himself to worldly solutions either. I'm trying to figure out what that looks like in my life, and God knows it'd be good to figure out what it looks like in Haiti.