This is one story of imposing our understanding of the world on another, and falling far short. Why do people do what they do? Why do we do what we do? This blog is an attempt to explore these questions with stories. Stories about farmers, Europeans, the elderly, the people around us. Stories about the Zambians and their country which I had the privilege of getting to know while working and consulting with small scale farmers. Stories to foster understanding between people.
I grew up in the sixties and seventies as an immigrant child of conservative Swiss pioneer farmers in northwestern Canada. I know firsthand that deep seated world views and traditions resist change. What motivates my African friends’ actions? What motivates mine? What makes mothers force their own daughters into female circumcision? What enables one child to rise above poverty or abuse to greatness and another to succumb to misery? How much does culture and family origins form a person’s world view? Would I be different if I’d been raised in a doctor’s household, or in a family on welfare?
My time in Zambia and the struggles of physically and mentally challenged family members especially has challenged my own thinking. Life can be worth living for a Grandmother in a wheelchair, without speech. People on social programs are there because they don’t have the outer or inner resources to manage in the working world. The African small farmer isn’t trying to be stubborn or lazy when he/she doesn’t adopt the new cultivation practises that would enable better food production and better soil management. It often has to do with family and health problems, with deep seated traditions. It takes time, often much time, and trust to begin to understand.
I believe strongly that by learning to understand each other, where the other comes from, we can greatly contribute to a more harmonious environment. To understand means to listen to each other’s story. Can the Canadian farmer who grows GMO crops listen to a European consumer who refuses to purchase them? Can the reserved Swiss listen to their dramatic loud Baltic neighbour? The rich with a doctorate to the poor uneducated? The seemly whole to the seemingly handicapped? The young to the old? And vice versa?
As a free-lance agriculture journalist and author of two books, “Greetings from Zambia – letters home from an overseas Volunteer” and “Laughter in the Shadows – stories of courage from 11 Zambian women”, I tell stories. My hope is that we can begin to lose our fear of ‘the other’. We can begin to make the world around us a better place.
I’d like this blog to be a place to share stories. Do you have a story to share? Please, I’d love to hear it.