Re: Ch. 2: Compensation for the Death of a Child
I don’t believe it’s a matter of what the better way might be. It’s more a matter of an orientation to functioning in the world. In a hunter gatherer society cooperative sharing is essential and this way of being in the world is reinforced in every aspect of life including childrens’ games. (Consider the Jane Goodall example of children sharing the banana). It’s an orientation to the world that has allowed them to survive for thousands of years in a harsh environment. With the WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) world encroaching on traditional societies from all sides, frustration and conflicts are inevitable. Most of us, on the other hand, have developed this set of beliefs and way of being in this WEIRD world because our ancestors have been working on it for a few generations.
I worked in Inuit communities in Canada’s far North for seven years from 2001. I had many similar experiences. In one community my wife and I wondered why none of the three young women who were trained in hair dressing didn’t start a proper business since there were many teachers and other government workers who would have been happy to use the service. One of the elders told me that one of the women had tried to start a business a few years earlier but couldn’t cover her expenses because so many of her relatives wanted their hair done, and of course, you could never charge a relative!
In another community where I was teaching the teacher education program to Inuit I encountered a more costly example of the culture clash. One of my students, a mother with three kids was given a credit card in the first year of a four year program. She lost the use of the card and her credit because her father needed a new snow mobile and asked her to buy it with the credit card. What was interesting to me at the time was the look in her eyes when I asked her why she did it when she would have no way of making the payments. She just said, “But my father asked me for it”. There was absolutely no question of her having any choice in the matter.
In my world she is an individual with choices. In her world she is part of a family and community with ties that supersede her own individuality and needs.