A few days ago I posted a “review” of the Rock City Marathon, which I ran on Sunday. I posted my ideas that day from a very western-dominated worldview for two reasons: 1) That is my default setting for thought. And 2) most of my readers (all six of you) are American and likely think in a similar fashion.
But Jason Miller, super missionary in Mwanza, Tanzania, shared with me some great thoughts over coffee Monday morning about the news article I’d linked to and how it represented so well Tanzanian communication and values. Then he left on my blog (while I was driving 11 hours) what might have been an intelligent African response to my own post. There is a lot to be learned about Tanzanian culture from Jason’s few words on the subject.* So I am reposting his comment here for all to read. It’s likely that in the next few days, I’ll attempt a western response to Jason’s African one. But please feel free to respond while proudly wearing your own American values on your sleeve.
I see that you replied last at 6:01. Well, since you were staying at my house, at 6:15 you and I were conversing over coffee when I made the comment that your post represented to a T[anzanian] a very western valued (albeit funny) view of the newspaper article from the Guardian. I then said something like, “If someone googles ‘Rock City Marathon’ I bet your blog comes up in the top five.” You were a little mortified by that possibility. Well, I just googled to make sure…and you are number 5.
So, since I’m privy to the information that you’re traveling all day from Mwanza to Dodoma, and being that after that conversation you were concerned and wanted to add an addendum to your post, I’ll post a comment from the viewpoint of your average Tanzanian forming the jist of our conversation in order to way-lay the concerns of those that are of the sociological viewpoint of a Tanzanian. You can add or subtract later, agree or disagree later.
Just so all you readers who are going to want to defend Brett know, Brett and I are good friends.
Considering the several disparaging comments you levied against the staff writer of the Guardian, they all seem to deal on some level with your over-valuing of truth at all costs. You see, as a white-male westerner (as you can only be since you liked the nick-name “The White Mamba”), you value accuracy and truth more than relationship and decency.
Let me explain. You begin by quibbling with the phrase “all the finest runners” and the word “marathon.” Your first questions, as a westerner, are concerned with the accuracy of these statements; whereas as a Tanzanian, you would have had no questions here, since what right-minded person who considers the feelings of others at all would have so coarsely belittled the effort and ability of those involved by directly accusing them of lying. Moreover, we as Tanzanians understand that the article is representing the best hopes of those involved, and has no direct relation to truth whatsoever.
About starting the race at 7am or later, what Tanzanian wouldn’t want to start later? At 7am it is still cold, is it not, being only 68 degrees F? How would one run in all the clothes needed to stay warm at that early hour?
Furthermore, you westerners obsession with time over relationship continues to confound me. You value this impersonal entity, time, more than you value being, as you westerners say, “in the moment.” Westerners like to talk of being “in the moment,” or being mentally present to those who are in front of them for the time they require their attention (regardless of allegiance to time), but in reality your true values are betrayed by the fact that many chance encounters are ended by the fact that a previous engagement has been arranged. Truly western, that: valuing that which is in the future, or, let’s be honest, the possible, more than valuing that which is right in front of you, or, in the most basic meaning, the real.
Did you ever consider that perhaps the Coke driver simply wanted to spend a little more time with his child that morning instead of rushing off to work because of a “previous engagement?”
And then you land back on accuracy concerning numerical reporting, taking to task the “3000″ involved in the race. Yes, of course, there were more like 300 involved, but what right-minded member of a society worth being a member of would value a random number over the intentions and relationships of those involved in planning this great event. So they said 3000 and there were actually 300…so what? Not a single Tanzanian thought there would be 3000. They are again, like good Tanzanians communicating to other Tanzanians, reporting the best intentions of those involved, not the base reality. Everyone in my neighborhood knows that reality is not worth paying attention to, but that it is intention that matters.
Next you’ll want to tell me that we should judge a man by his actions! No, not even you would be that ridiculous. A man’s intentions and the peculiarities of his situation are much more important than his successes. Everyone knows that. Who in Tanzania knows more than one or two people they could name as successful? Or better yet, someone who is successful and can still named as friend? For we all know, with success so often comes a set of compromised morals.
Anyway, at least it seems from your post that you value children. At least, from a sociological standpoint, we have that in common. Jesus, as well, seemed to value them at the expense, even, of others.
Along those lines, even our own writer, Paul, tells us in Ephesians that once we have matured we will be “speaking the truth in love….” Even Paul, that genius of western logic, understands that truth without love was a sign of immaturity.
How about you?