Across Cultures

Charli Mills’ prompt this week is

September 2, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the place of migration. It can be the reverse, too such as a migrant picking up on local customs. The idea is to explore exchanges.

This week is a sombre one when the subject of migrants is raised. I am firmly of the view that our fundamental humanity means we need to step up and help these people. I don’t remember the Kinder Transport of the 1930s but I do remember the Ugandans turfed out by Idi Amin and the Vietnamese boat people. I well remember that the pressure not to take these people was intense. Many siren voices said we were full and we couldn’t take any more. But we did and we have benefited. And each crisis ended. It’s not like this goes in for ever.

I read, I listen, I watch and feel a mix of emotions from irritated to downright angry at those who can’t see this, whose xenophobia is worn like a badge of pride. I feel right in my self righteous morality.

And then I read this post by Yvonne Spence and stopped. The crisis remains and I’m arrogant enough to believe my response is correct but Yvonne’s larger point has pulled me up short. I need to reboot my thinking because she’s right. I need a compassion and understanding for all, and not just those obviously suffering. Not shaming, name calling and calling out but understanding and persuasion. Please read, it makes so much sense.

So to this week’s flash. You may recall that, as Mary was tidying her parents’ garden she found a body. It turned out to be a child, probably the victim of a ritual killing. Well, read on….

In another’s shoes

Paul put down the phone. ‘The police. They wanted us to know that child they found – it wasn’t a ritual killing. The family had come from West Africa; it was their way of burying their dead.’

‘But the child had been dismembered.’ Mary shuddered. ‘I don’t understand it.’

‘If you’ve been brought up in a culture where it’s the only way to behave, how do you know different?’

‘You just should. It’s barbaric.’

‘It wasn’t that long ago we drowned witches. Maybe we need to empathise a little more, love. Put ourselves in their shoes.’

Mary nodded uncertainly.

The previous episodes can be found here

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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26 Responses to Across Cultures

  1. Ritu says:

    This is great!

    Like

  2. Ali Isaac says:

    That’s a great post by Yvonne, Geoff, but I find it hard to feel compassion for those who act with violence, ignorance and hatred. I cant accept that they deserve it. It just gives them permission. I dont think I can agree with her on that, but perhaps you will say I’m missing the point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’m sure there are a lot of individuals whose motivations and actions are such that we need to stand up to them and decry their actions and attitudes. However trying to persuade rather than hector and bully is surely the best position if it is available. The point for me is to not react in absolutes but to understand more. It’s a small but important change of attitude.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac says:

        I know. And I agree with that. But even having understood, or attempted to understand, those people still need to be dealt with. Compassion may teach us the underlying motives behind the actions of bullies, but we should not forgive them. There is no excuse for preying on the defenceless. And unfortunately, there are too many bullies who dont need a motive or an excuse.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I agree too. What Yvonne was aiming at were the people who say close the borders, keep them out rather than those causing the problem. It’s about winning over those who fear the influx and increasing compassion. It would be interesting to discuss with you the use of unmanned drones to kill British citizens in Syria a which is a very hot topic here just now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac says:

        Well I havent even heard about that!

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      • Ali Isaac says:

        But I agree completely to not reacting in absolutes… that leads to extremism which is never helpful or effective.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jan says:

    You’ve caught the culture clash problem well. People don’t generally like change and incorporating all of the refugees is going to present conflicts for a long time – it’s a huge problem and doesn’t happen overnight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      No it’s a nightmare for governments and I don’t envy those in charge. But there needs to be a true attitude of wanting to help and that does require at both ends of the chain. I still don’t feel the UK response encompasses that yet.

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  4. willowdot21 says:

    I have read so many articles and seen so much news about the plight of the refugees I am so saddened by it all. I had a discussion with the hubby today, he said it was different to Cristal Night : I said no, he asked why, my points, the Nazis’ wanted to rule the world, the Nazis wanted to kill all those who disagree with them, the Nazis were lead by a madman…. they all followed like sheep. ISIS is exactly the same these refugees are no different from refugees down through ages……….. I do not know the answer but we must help. Why can’t we live together and why do those who die every day in Africa not deserve our help why have we grown immune to them….. will we grow immune to babies on the beach too………… I pray not .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills says:

    One thing about Minnesota is that the state as a whole welcomes migrants. There are thriving populations of Mnong and Somalie. The school district where my children attended school had over 60 languages represented in their ESL program. It was a positive experience on many accounts.

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    • TanGental says:

      Yes exactly. I helped at a primary school where over 50 languages were the first languages. It’s a huge challenge but makes for s vibrant community.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        It does! I then got involved with a community garden that invited “new Americans” and it grew into this incredible, thriving space. I learned so much abut gardening and plants I never knew of before, and new words for plants I did know. It’s so worth the challenges. I think we need to require our politicians to dig in the dirt with those they represent and those who seek refuge. What a better way to gain understanding.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Migration Reflections & Exchanges « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. Great post. Great flash. (And thank you for sharing Yvonne’s post.) ❤

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  8. My oldest friend came over on Kindertransport

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  9. trifflepudling says:

    I can’t reconcile it with my generally liberal and compassionate views, but for some unearthly reason I feel great antipathy towards the whole idea of taking in so many migrants. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do. I just do feel the answer is not taking a very large number of people into an alien culture which they will probably never feel a complete affinity with. It really, all of it, needs to be addressed at source by our government(s) and ourselves. I have sent money to the Red Cross Syria Appeal as a start. The other thing is that a government’s major responsibility is to its own citizens, but I do see that the welfare of a dispossessed mass of people will most likely override this. It seems to me that the Syrians will generally not be happy in northern Europe, so I feel it would be good for them to be here for some respite but maybe not forever. Perhaps they feel that way too, who knows.
    Big movements of people across cultures do present problems. Somehow it works not too badly if the incoming groups to the UK are from the Judaeo-Christian tradition (broadly encompassing attitudes and familiar things other than solely religious things). I feel pretty bad that I’m not moved more by the whole thing, but every day children die needlessly of much more avoidable things (so many little ones die because of contaminated water supplies and lack of sanitation, for instance), which seems completely insane when it could be put right much more easily.
    So call me a mean old bag, but that’s what I’m grappling with at the moment!
    Thank you Geoff and Yvonne for your helpful and well-written posts. They are food for thought. Sorry this is a bit long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Not at all, it’s part of a debate and as Yvonne points out this isn’t about any sense of shaming or whatever, at least I don’t think it should be. I suppose my view is coloured by my own limited experiences. We had both Ugandan Asians and Vietnamese boat people come to south Hampshire and there were a lot of scare mongering stories at the time. Those fears were unfounded. They wouldn’t have chosen somewhere so cold and wet and alien but had no choice. They don’t want to come. That’s to me the difference with say someone who leaves a stable if less affluent situation for the better live. In those circumstances it feels right we should decide if we want that person, if they are going to give back. The situation in Syria is desperate. We can help. Let’s help. Of course we should try and help resolve the problem at source but in the meantime… as I understand it they have 5 year visas. That doesn’t give them a permanent right to remain. Once the situation stabilises as surely it will they may want to return.
      As for their cultural background, that doesn’t worry me and doesn’t feel like it should but perhaps that is partly a function of living where I do and being surrounded by every conceivable grouping. Even with 20,000 we won’t notice a change in how the UK functions culturally and ethically. Thanks for joining in the debate

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  10. Norah says:

    First to your flash before it gets swallowed up. What a great opportunity to put in a message about compassion. Well done for including that aspect. I wonder will Mary bend. Does she feel compassion for herself? Can she feel it for another?
    Your post is timely and I appreciate the link to Yvonne’s very rich and thought-provoking, belief-shaking post. I had lost the link to her blog and couldn’t find a way out of Facebook to it, so am pleased to have it now.
    Thanks for sharing these insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Meredith says:

    A complex problem as we live on an overcrowded planet filled with angry people with a multitude of cultures, rituals, rules and religions.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great piece of flash fiction. I enjoyed the way it highlighted cultural difference. The conversation flowed really well – I could almost hear them 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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