‘Cultural context’ needs to be clearly defined if you are using culture to defend violence

Three years ago, I asked my dad what the role of women was in his culture and how women were treated. This was when another incident of violence came to the fore.

I needed to understand how his culture dealt with women and their place in society.  My dad is a man of huge contrasts; he is an immaculately patient being with a frighteningly explosive temper. He is not someone you would easily walk over. If you did, it was because he tolerated the situation or he walked away from a fight.

His restraint was and still is legendary. He was not a saint. He did extend his share of violence to poor unsuspecting souls who chose to pick on him. Even in his worst, he never laid a hand on my mum.

The wisdom in his reply has stuck with me since.

His, was a warrior culture, where the men pretty much ruled the daily affairs of the tribe. The decisions on where to settle, which alliances to forge, which clans to attack and destroy were made by men.

However, the secret counsel and the influence came from the women.  Our ancient cultures understood the purpose of the man’s ego.  The women guarded it. They did not interfere or publicly embarrass their men in front of their peers.  But in decisions that were going to be disastrous, the women chided and counseled their men.

The man’s wealth came from the women who cared for the gardens and the pigs in partnership with her man. A careless women spelled the downfall of her husband.

Society understood that wars could be started because of the words of women and disastrous battles that could affect generations in the future could also be avoided through a woman’s counsel.

Women were not mere properties.

My dad said despite the fierce reputations of the grandfathers, women were rarely beaten or abused.  Shouting or fighting with your woman in front of your elders was shunned. It spoke of  a man with boyish tendencies,  unable to control his emotions and unable to function as a thinking, intelligent warrior in battle.

He said it was expensive to fix domestic disputes that came to the attention of older people in the tribe.  You had to pay compensation in pigs and whatever they demanded. Basically, if you are man enough to strike your woman, you must have the wealth and the emotional stamina able to fix multiple relationships affected by your actions.

Diplomacy in the home and outside of it was a skill every man had to learn.

Years ago, when my mum was a feisty, hotheaded, young woman, I used to hear her say during my dad’s most frightening moments, “Noken wari, em ba no nap paitim mi.”

I understood much later why, he always calmed down.  First and foremost, he loved his woman too much to strike her.  Second, as per the wisdom of the ancestors,  it would be too emotionally expensive to fix several relationships that came with the woman he loved.

The disrespect shown to his in-laws –  the young men and women who came to look up to him would be very difficult to repair.  The trust would be broken and it would take years to fix.  To restore his honor, he would work to repair all those relationships.

The parallels to the 21st century relationships, remain the same.  Abuse has high penalties –emotional, financial and legal.

[That is the wisdom from my culture. You have to understand your own cultural context from your elders.]



5 comments on “‘Cultural context’ needs to be clearly defined if you are using culture to defend violence

  1. Merilyn Mill

    Thank you Mr Waide for this post, am a bit emotional reading your blog this morning. I was brought in home of a loving father who proudly raised four beautiful girls and two boys who come after us girls, never raised his hands on us only gave us strict rules to live with and above all taught us to respect, humble and learn culture but now seeing alot of abuse in life that includes marriage, personally remind myself not marry and live a care free life because i was taught at the begin by my Father on non violence and can tolerate imagining myself being beaten up.
    Some say its a selfish life choosing not marry but to me its my own peace. There are disadvantage but it wont be long to stay on the earth forever.

    PS: The paragraph that got me teary is; I understood much later why, he always calmed down. First and foremost, he loved his woman too much to strike her. Second, as per the wisdom of the ancestors, it would be too emotionally expensive to fix several relationships that came with the woman he loved.


  2. Thank you so much Scott! Tears welled up in my eyes reading this. I’m sharing it with my father and brothers. Thank you thank you!


  3. Finally a piece that puts ‘culture into context’. I get very upset when our GBV rate are related to culture. You have put into words what I often try to explain but fail to articulate well enough.


  4. Scott, I like this piece and hope that young men and women come across this and read and understand. We have our fathers and mothers to turn to for advise on culture and I am happy you did that and shared your story. I too find time to sit with my dad and listen to his stories. I’m glad I always do.
    I was brought up in a home where my mum would scream her guts off in front of my dad, angrily calling him names and the list goes on. My dad’s response was ‘Silence’. He would only listen and say nothing. My mum would talk and talk and get tired. Out of frustration mum would ask dad, ‘Yu bai toktok tu o nogat!’. My dad’s response was what kept the peace between them. He never raised a hand on my mum, neither on us (children).


  5. Thank you for this insightful piece Mr Waide. I enjoyed reading it. Your father is an exceptional and honorable man indeed. I now have a better understanding of cultural views on the current affair.


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