Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 173: My Moral Code & Politics


Today I had an interesting reaction that came up.


Gian and I went to the optometrist to get new glasses. At the end of our appointment we were going through the information about the lenses and how long it would take before I would get the new glasses. The lady who was helping us mentioned that the lenses have to go overseas to get treated since the technology to do the treatments does not exist in South Africa. She then mentioned a funding problem upon which Gian made a comment about the government and the president being corrupt.

As he opened his mouth and started criticizing the government, I immediately reacted into disbelief and my eyes went big and one of the thoughts that came up automatically was 'you can't just talk about politics like that in front of people -- what if they don't agree with your point of view??!! Doesn't he know it's really impolite and inappropriate?!!'. What's interesting about this thought is that it sounded exactly like my mom and how my physical behaviour changed for a moment was exactly how my mother changed her physical posture when I asked her about other people's political views for the first time.

I remember being a kid and elections were around the corner. There were posters and ads all over town about the different parties and representatives, and our mailbox would get flooded with pamphlets daily. I started getting curious what this whole politics ordeal was about and started asking my mom questions. Like how do the elections work, what this this and that party, who is our mayor, what party is he from, what party do 'we' / she vote for (she was the only one voting at the time, since my dad is not originally from Belgium but naturalized he has the option to vote but does not have to -- in general voting is compulsory in Belgium).

She explained how the voting process is a very private thing -- which I interpreted as being secretive -- where people go in a little booth where no-one can see what party and who they vote for, and where the voting cannot be traced back to them (not sure if this is actually so, this is what I got out of it as she explained it to me).

I remember looking outside through the window and seeing the neighbours on the street. My mom is friends with them so I asked them who the vote for. She immediately reacted, almost in a fright and her eyes went all big and she said: 'Leila! You don't ask that type of questions! You don't ask people who they vote for, that's very inappropriate! You only talk about it with family. People have the right to keep their voting preferences a secret and you shouldn't ask about it'.

Woaw, ok.

This point was then classified under other points such as
'Don't ask people how old they are, it's inappropriate, it's impolite - it's a private matter'
'Don't ask people how much money they make, it's inappropriate, it's impolite - it's a private matter'
'Don't ask people how much they weight, it's inappropriate, it's impolite - it's a private matter'.

So as Gian was sharing his perspective with the lady, I went into complete fear because he was breaking an important moral code: DON'T TALK POLITICS WITH OTHER PEOPLE OTHER THAN FAMILY - IT'S IMPOLITE!!!!'

When he was done, I held my breath in suspension, awaiting the woman's response -- anticipating an uncomfortable moment. Instead she laughed, agreed and made some more jokes about the government and the president -- not an uncomfortable situation at all. There was also a sense of betrayal, because things had not played out the way 'they should have' in terms of how my mother had prepared me in relation to politics and other people.

So it was interesting to see how this one moment, this one event triggered a memory from say 15 years ago, as the first impression I got from my mother about talking / asking about politics with other people -- and how within that moment I took on the entire expression my mom had taken on when she had talked to me all those years ago - exactly copying the physical movements/changes and the exact words spoken back then, but in this case in thought form.

I mean, in terms of where I am now and my involvement within political issues -- this is a very strange and random reaction, completely out of place. This really shows how we are programmed and instructed by our parents as children, copying and integrating the impressions we receive from them and then play them out without asking/questioning -- as they are adults and they have been longer than me here on Earth and know how things are done, I must just trust them and follow foot.

It's also creepy to see how an event of 15 years ago which only lasted a few seconds is stored in the body, with all its information in tact, ready to come up when the right trigger is set off. The experience seemingly came 'out of nowhere', but when I looked at it closer it was so clear that it was just a replica of my moms experience/expression over a decade ago.
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