Posted by: macahajo | September 21, 2015

they ran together…

Cameroon, like many other African countries, is a collective society. This is completely opposite from the American, stand on your own two feet, individualistic society.  

Wikipedia defines collectivism as “…the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the significance of groups—their identities, goals, rights, outcomes, etc.—and tends to analyze issues in those terms. Collectivism is a basic cultural element that exists as the reverse of individualism in human nature… and in some cases stresses the priority of group goals over individual goals…” (emphasis added).

I recently read a story that illustrates this well. There was an anthropologist who proposed a game to children in an African village. According to the story, he put a basket full of sweet fruit near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first would win the fruit basket. When the anthropologist gave them the signal to run, the children all took each other’s hands and ran together for the basket of fruit. Then, they went back, sat down, and enjoyed the fruit, together. When the anthropologist asked them why they chose to run as a group when they could have had more fruit individually, a child said, “Ubuntu. How could one of us be happy if the others are sad?” Ubuntu in their South African language means, I am because we are. And this is how many Africans, including Cameroonians, view life. Collectively. Not individually. This ideology is reflected in in the lives of Cameroonians, including their finances.

Last month, in Cameroon, like all around the world, children and their families prepared to go back to school. But for many Cameroonians, this is one of the more stressful times of the year because they need to come up with the funds to send their children to school.  One might say, put aside a little money each month for a child’s education. That way it wouldn’t be such a heavy burden in August. But, in this collective society, if there is an emergency in the family or a great need, then the family, who tried to save their money, would be obligated to give to the family member in need.  Then the money is no longer there, that they saved for school or whatever else.

This is life in Cameroon. So, how do we, who are from an individualistic society, respond? More tomorrow…



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