Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25, 2012 7:00 PM--Communal Culture

I think I’ve mentioned before how I feel that an economy like the one here in Uganda doesn’t really grow and become more developed because there is too much misguided foreign aid coming into the economy.  If people keep giving this country money, they will never learn to stand on their own two feet.

Despite the fact that this might be true, I can also see other cultural reasons for the economy not developing, in particular the communal culture.  You may be wondering what exactly I mean by a “communal culture”.  What I mean is that if someone has money (for any reason) and one of their family members needs that money (for anything) they are expected to give the money to that family member in need.  It almost leaves no incentive to work hard, because if you make a lot of money, odds are someone else will end up using it and you yourself will not get ahead.

This causes people to deal with their money in funny ways.  When everyone gets paid, which is usually once a month, they withdraw all their money from the bank and a lot of times they will spend it all as fast as they can.  This means you never want to go to the ATM at the beginning of the month because there will be a massive line.  Also, if someone wants to build a house they do it in small steps.  They will take all the money they have and spend it all to get as far as they can with the house and then wait until they have more money to continue.  If you don’t spend all the money you have, then everyone sees it as having an excess and other people might feel like they need it more than you.  Sometimes people even put their money into cows, goats or chickens.  They buy these animals with intentions of eventually selling them when they need the money.  This way their relatives are less likely to take their money.  Although if a family is really desperate for money, they may compel another family member to sell their cows, goats or chicken in order to give them the money.

Some of this plays into the fact that Ugandans are generally very close with their extended families.  In most of the local languages there are no words for aunt, uncle, or cousin.  Because of this someone might refer to their aunts as mothers, uncles as fathers, and cousins as brothers and sisters.  They see all of their nieces and nephews as their own children and therefore if they need money for school fees they can go to any of their aunts or uncles for the money.

On a small scale, this almost seems like a communist culture.  No one ever seems to get ahead unless they leave Uganda.  Although even if they leave Uganda it is sometimes expected that they send money back home to their needy relatives.  On the other hand, no one is ever really destitute.  Everyone seems to get what they need.  But again there isn’t much motivation to work hard and make for a better economy, which is part of what I think leaves Uganda in the third world.

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