Do we have a role to play?
It is not an unfamiliar story; born in a developing country and having the fortune of being brought up in a country with opportunities.
It is not an unfamiliar story at all, but somehow I find myself in unfamiliar territory.
Perhaps this is an issue that is best suited for quite discussion around a coffee table with trusted confidantes, perhaps it isn’t a lament suitable for the public arena. If it is an issue that is affecting *me* so profoundly though, who is to say there aren’t others with a similar dilemma that I can learn from?
I am an Australian, through and through and proud of that fact. I travel with the Aussie passport, I have an Aussie accent, when I am asked where I am from (in my brown skinned & hijabed attire), I say that I am an Australian.
The fact that I was born in Sudan was always just a part of my background story, something that added flavour to my introduction. Yes, it meant I ate different foods at home and I had a slightly “exotic” home culture and cultural expectations, but it was never really something that affected how I saw myself interacting with the world. I was Australian with mixed Sudanese heritage, I would say.
Spending some time in Sudan though, has brought up questions that I never thought I would ask myself.
The country is in an extremely difficult position, for a number of reasons (that requires its own analysis, perhaps when I am at a different address). As someone who has always been passionate about social change, human rights and the like, it is no longer something I can ignore, no longer something that is just a part of where I come from. I used to visit quite frequently with my parents as a child and the trips would be all *visits, nostalgia, happiness, excitement, family*. As you get older though, you begin to see the cracks…especially when the cracks are widening.
So it became a question of wanting to do something.
From the socio-economic perspective, I could see where work could be done. Working with the grassroots community, helping with education, food, orphans, teaching….achievable in discrete amounts, bit by bit…
Then cames the realisation that this may not be enough. No amount of aid or number of mobile libraries is going to fill a gap that the government should be filling. So I cast the net wider…
…and realise that there is, maybe, a hope for change. All the neighbouring countries rose up right? Why can’t Sudan be the same? That is the question I hear asked… by the young, the bloodthirsty, the hungry and desperate.
The more seasoned critics reason with experience:
We’ve been here before and worse, they say…
What is the alternative? they ask…
Better the devil you know then the devil you don’t, they counter…
This one is satisfied. He’s “shab3an” (ate until he was full). If anyone new comes, they will come hungry and do it all again….
So one sees all this and thinks well maybe, maybe there is a way I can play a part in this. The critics are right, there needs to be an alternative? Does an alternative exist? Do those who are rising up and protesting have a plan? Perhaps I can offer some semblance of support or control or aid…
I ask these questions because of desperation to help, somehow.
I think maybe I can play a part, somehow –
Then comes the questions — the questions on the back burner, the questions that people ask:
Well who are you to get involved?
Do you even really consider yourself Sudanese?
Who do you think you are?
Why should we listen to you?
Do you know what we have been living through?
Are you just bringing in their ideas??
Can you even speak the language properly?
…and I begin to doubt.
But in such a situation, there is no room for doubt.
All that is left is the question:
Does the fact that I grew up in another country, and consider myself an Australian, exclude me from fighting the fight in the country of my birth? What right do I have, does it make me less legitimate a voice in this battle? If I choose to join this fight as part of the Sudanese sha3b (people), does that mean I forsake my “Australian identity”?
…or is it a case of deciding for myself what my identity is and what “fights I choose to fight?”
I think that perhaps may be my answer, but that in itself, isn’t an easy thing to do…
The older I get, the less sure I am of where things stand in the world and the more I realise it is all shades of grey.
What do you think?