Saturday, June 27, 2009
And now for something completely different
Okay…today I want to tackle a problem that I know has been a result of the colonization of the Acholi tribe. That problem is transformation of the family unit. This is a multi-fold problem in the history of the Acholi people that was first brought on, as far as I can research, by colonialism, and then further perpetuated by the conflict with the LRA. One of the problems that occurred that seriously damaged the Acholi was the weakening of the family unit. The men became, basically, emasculated when the people were ordered to pick up their things and move into the nearest Internally Displaced Persons Camp (IDP) in 1996. While the conflict between the government and the LRA began as late as 1988, the real “conflict” happened when the people were given 48-hours to flee to the nearest IDP camp or “Protected Village” in 1996. This really wasn’t so much about the people as it was that the government needed a place for the non-violent protesters to live and be out of the way of the fighting with the LRA. Basically, if someone was not in the IDP camp, he or she was assumed to be part of the militia and would be shot as an “enemy combatant.” So much for being assumed innocent until proven guilty. Gee…that sounds a lot like what it is like to go through airport security these days. As we hand over our shoes and liquids, we are truly being assumed guilty until proven innocent. But, I must resist from this conversation. The card-carrying Libertarian in me “made” me make this analogy. “Give me Ron Paul or give me death!?” SMILE When the men were put in the camps, basically, their jobs did not follow them. Women still had to make the meals, care for the kids, wash the clothes and all the other various and sundry jobs women since the day of creation had to do. But, the men, who had been primarily agriculturalist, lost all meaning in their lives. Their jobs did not follow them into the camps; so, hence, they had nothing to do. Nothing save do what most normal males do…have sex. Before colonization and even afterwards, virginity was a trait to be treasured. If a girl was not a virgin, she was rejected by the family and by the tribe, as well. That attitude did start to unravel during the period of colonization; however, no where was it more eroded than during the war. During the conflict, many, many young girls who had been taken hostage by the LRA came back home with babies on their backs and this lessened the value placed on virginity. Oddly, if a young girl became pregnant by a rebel soldier, the family “reserved the right” to reject her when she returned with the “pitter patter of little feet,” even though she might have lost her tongue when she said, “No!” to the rapist. Even worse that not knowing how to deal with “cultural transformation,” the people, who had always prized their ethical standards, began to allow said standards to relax and, consequently, evaporated. Sound familiar? People felt free to, well, relax the rules and immorality became the norm rather than the exception. Sound familiar? Once the family unit was destroyed, the tribal cultural went through its own metamorphosis. Incest became acceptable to the point that boys would stalk, even kill, other men who “came calling” on their sisters. And, polygamy became rampant. Both of these exist quite openly and quite unbridled in northern Ugandan society. It is not unusual to find even the most “devout” men with two or three wives and “umpteen” number of children. Even more acceptable is the attitude towards this type of behavior. The people I have met talk openly about how many brothers and sisters they have and how many wives their fathers have. Interestingly, the wives usually just have one husband and the husband is the one who seems to be the one who introduces the diseases to the wives. Today, it is not unusual to find families of 15 living under the thatched roof of one hut. AIDS/HIV has killed millions of people because of the lack of social morality. And, this lack of social morality has one “public enemy number one,” and that enemy is boredom. There has just not been anything for the folks to do in the IDP camps. Their world is very, very small. These people do not read as they have had no education. They don’t work because they do not have any skills, and they do not go any where because there is no where to go. Sure, life in the camps is horrific, but life back in the village is even worse. “Back home,” the people face uncertainty that we cannot imagine and the least of these is the lack of basic necessities, especially water. I have walked the miles to peoples’ only source of water and I can tell you that I would worry if one of my dogs drank from the stank pool of liquid these folks use to drink and bathe in. Just imagine with me, looking in a stream and seeing a herd of water buffalo upstream and then seeing the water that is downstream. It is NOT a pretty site. But, I digress again. I suppose that the collapse of the Acholi family unit has occurred because of other problems. One that I can personally attest to is the number of languages that is spoken in northern Uganda. While I used to be a strong proponent of Spanish offered on all U.S. ballots, I can really see how different languages has caused more than a conundrum of problems. I have, at times, had to get a translator to translate for the other translator. I know there are nearly 100 dialects spoken in Uganda alone even though the national language of the country is English. Just imagine! No wonder the family unit has taken an enormous “hit.” Language is the one thing that holds people together. When people communicate “samely,” they act “samely.” The camps basically brought together people who really didn’t want to be together any more than they wanted to be there. So, as the family goes, so society goes. Sound familiar?