Setting Examples ...

Today marks the second time that Granny has attempted to remarry.  Well, okay, she is my wife’s mother, and I take literary license for effect, but a grandmother she is nonetheless.  The last wedding was brought to an abrupt end, mid-ceremony, with the realization that the full bride-price (for a grandmother no less) was not going to be forthcoming.  It is surprising anyone would risk a repeat performance of that infamous day, including Granny herself, but here we are again.

A three day event in mid stream.  A setup day, the day and a cleanup day.  All requiring ample food and drink, mainly drink.  In theory things are talked over in advance and all involved parties, in the various families, are consulted.  In reality much has been confined to the realm of imagination and assumption.  Where others make plans months in advance, on this occasion everything was very last minute.  All considered, things seem to have proceeded more smoothly on this occasion, quite to my surprise.

As of two days ago the outcome seemed far from certain.  The groom had been unable to come up with the money for the gold and the bride-price, producing a nauseating sense of déjà vu.  Today was the “auspicious day” however, so no amount of reason was going to intervene or delay the proceedings. 

So here we have a situation where two people, without any money, have gone into debt so that they can save face and get all their friends sloppy, falling down drunk.  In what I can only assume was an attempt to save face and money, the groom approached my wife, for a short term loan.  Now however you spin that, it would still look like she was paying him to marry her mother and quite frankly there was no chance of that boat ever setting sail.  What looked like the death knell for todays event, turned out to be nothing more than a bump in the road, with the money attained elsewhere, at no telling what kind of interest. 

One does wonder what effect this has on the children, granddaughter and younger generations in general.  My wife’s futile attempts at explaining who has been married to whom, among other relationships, has always left me with a bit of a headache and images of musical chairs spinning in my head.  Growing up with multiple “mothers” is perhaps not all bad and has become part of the social fiber with all village women being called mother.  Not having role models of, lifelong loving relationships, is surely not a good thing, one would think.

I might think it wiser for todays happy couple, to take all this money they have poured down the throats of neighbors, and invest it in something more productive.  I would surely be banished or at least verbally abused for uttering such words.  What, after all, could be more important than sitting around getting intoxicated on someone else’s nickel?  And, of course, saving face and pretending to have money, when one has not, is a supremely rational course of action it would seem. 

There are of course those who write books and profess that simply understanding these cultural imperatives will make everything all right.  They suffer under the notion that the problem is a lack of understanding.  Sadly I understand all too well, the extent to which human nature drives people to sabotage and diminish their lives, necessitating that I take what measures are available to protect myself from the fallout of others misfortunes.  Not always easy to accomplish but for the most part doable. 

I’m not going to argue that the ruling classes don’t do their fair share of oppressing the impoverished masses, but in our village at least, people do a pretty good impression of shooting themselves in the foot much of the time.  Being hobbled by debt and drunkenness seems a local and self imposed tradition.  Not something imposed from outside or above.  Surely the middlemen manipulate crop prices but todays damage was purely self inflicted. 

The cycle of indulgence, debt, denial, despair, and abuse is passed on from generation to generation.  How does one break such cycles when there is no will or desire to do so?   Indeed regardless of what I might think of these things, my neighbors would no doubt fight for their right to perpetuate their traditions.  So how is it my place to attempt to change them?  I for one have no answer and seem to have no nobler goal than to protect my own.  I’ll leave the job of telling others what to do and how to do it, to those who feel themselves suited to the task.