February 4, 2009

Cultural differences: Complaining

Student protest, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Honduran students protesting

Hondurans, in general, are very accepting people and tend not to want to bring any "bad news" to light. Pride has something to do with it, I guess believing that if something isn't talked about, there is no need to be embarrassed or shamed. Children are taught in school to be proud of their country, as they should be, but blind pride or a fatal acceptance of the way things are only serves to perpetuate the problems.

US Americans, in general, are just the opposite, demanding much of their governments and believing that if only the truth is brought to light, something will be done to 'right' a 'wrong' situation. One example is from the early 1900's when the exposés by yellow journalism of child labor and the abuse of poor working men, women, and children in sweatshops shamed the politicians into changing laws. I have to admit that my complaints were the original impetus for getting a law changed in Texas several years ago! Sure, I got the brush-off several times but we didn't quit and ultimately, the state law makers agreed that we were right and the law was wrong.

There are thousands more examples of complaints resulting in changed laws or justice coming to a bad situation. It's not that our politicians are better − it's just that it isn't as easy for them to get away with corruption because we COMPLAIN! Our complaining doesn't always get results but we keep on trying and sometimes succeed. Complaining can be healthy.

US Americans do a lot of complaining. It's a fact and a part of the culture. After all, weren't the complaints of "No taxation without representation!" the impetus for starting our country?

Not all complaining is good or high-minded and not all complaining is bad. Feeling somewhat removed from the US now, I have to laugh at some of the things that I hear Americans complaining about. A healthy median, if that can be found, is a good thing. Hondurans have a lot of legitimate reasons for complaining but they seem less likely to share their complaints with outsiders.

media intimidation, HondurasSome of my favorite Honduran people sometimes wince at the things that I write about. One person even said "How embarrassing for us." in regard to an article. Just as I hope that I am not judged by the things that my government or greedy US businessmen do, I don't judge Hondurans by the things that their government or corrupt businesses do.

I say that there is no reason for the average Honduran citizen to feel personally embarrassed. Despite the fact that Honduras claims to be a democracy, the average citizen has no control over what their government does or does not do, but maybe, just maybe, if enough citizens complain about the injustices, some things will change someday.

The typical means of getting complaints noticed in Honduras is to "take the streets" with a protest march or by simply blocking the street with vehicles and humans. Since many towns only have access by one road, the inconvenience and economic damage caused by taking the street can be great. In La Ceiba, for example, protesters can virtually block off access to the entire eastern part of the country by blocking the highway.

Protesting is a right guaranteed by the Honduran constitution and only rarely will officials intervene. The larger the number of protesters, the more attention it gets from the government, though as often as not, it sadly only results in false promises from the people in power. Protests are sometimes misused for political reasons, with paid attendance, but overall, I think it is a good thing. People need to be heard and unfortunately, it sometimes takes extreme measures to be heard in Honduras.

Refusing to admit or pretending 'it' doesn't exist only perpetuates the evil.

Tip for expatriates: Just as women who complain about their husbands (or vice versa) don't necessarily want to hear you complaining about their spouse, most people don't want to hear complaints about their own country. ;-) Even if they are the one who brings up the subject, complaints from a foreigner may not be so well accepted. Blogging is my major stress reliever when I just have to get something out of my system.
Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...