As Malagasy, sometimes we like to think we were made perfect, which I think we were, but sometimes we do things that annoy the hell out of me. In the following article, are my personal observations of things that annoy, perplex, and make me sad about the things Malagasy people do and experience. I have tried to come up with solutions to "fix" some of these issues, but sometimes acknowledging that we have a problem is the first step to finding a collective solution to a problem we all face.
Is this an article written by a Diaspora kid who grew up outside Madagascar examining and judging the Malagasy culture and ways of doing things? Yes! However, I think this deserves taking the time to break down these traits and behaviors to understand better our people and see what can be improved.
Here are the 5 things that drive me up the wall about Malagasy people and why we do the things that we do:
*Please note that these are my own personal opinions and not that of MadaLiving.*
I get it! Island time is island time but damn. We love to take our time. Mora Mora is a way of life to remind us to take life chill and without problems. However, it has spilled into other areas of life that don’t help the Malagasy people. For example, in the quality of work and management, sometimes we will produce the bare minimum or not our best, which is a recipe for mediocrity. This creates issues and sets the bar low for producing the best work that Malagasy people can actually achieve.
There can be a compromise with the Mora Mora mentality and I think that could be remedied with the balance between setting high standards for how we work, our goals and expectations, and strong self-control along with knowing when to chill, rest, and give enough time to bounce back in order to go back to working hard on challenging tasks. Oprah once said the following:
What I’ve learned this year is that my weight issue isn’t about eating less or working out harder … It’s about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry.
Oprah is totally right, don’t let your well run dry but also don’t live life too Mora Mora. There has to be a balance between living life Mora Mora and knowing when to work hard to achieve challenging tasks and activities.
Now this one is sometimes unexplainable and is just something in our blood. You know the classic, a Malagasy party is scheduled for 7pm but the Malagasy will show up at 9pm and I think this as a fatal flaw that people will just have to accept. Nothing annoying about this except it may annoy other people who expect punctuality. Is it a question of respecting other peoples’ time? Yes. Does that mean we can help that we are always late? No. Hahah.
I don’t know if it’s colonial trauma (it probably is) but somehow we find ourselves in positions putting White people and foreigners on pedestals. In a personal example, while working for a certain European firm in Madagascar, I found myself changing my behavior to please my higher-ups in a way that was unnatural to myself and acting more subservient. Later on, I felt myself inferior amongst my White colleagues. It was an astonishing feeling to experience and I had to self-correct and remind myself that we were equals even if my Malagasy colleagues were too timid to do so. Why do we find ourselves in positions where we subconsciously become subservient in the first place?
Ok so what are the solutions for this?
My theory is that this is part of a generational trauma that has been passed down that unconsciously makes us subservient. As a Diaspora kid growing up in the US where we are brought up to be "equal", we have witnessed ourselves and other Malagasy people being different around White people for whatever reason and also without “having to” we are used to code-switching, changing our behavior and our voice. It's part of internalized racism because of how racist people have treated our people in the past and present that continues to make its way into our inner voice and actions that need to be unlearned in order to heal and do better.
I admire how the Malagasy culture upholds close interpersonal relationships in our lives within our families and community. However, it has made it difficult to create boundaries as we always aim to people-please (*See #3 about subservience).
This lack of boundaries manifests itself in different ways:
Therapy. Honestly, why is it so hard for Malagasy to know when and how to seek help? This taboo around mental health and taking care of oneself is frustrating but know that things do get better when you acknowledge you need help, I promise. We know that for many, therapy may be difficult to get access to so we ask our MadaLiving community, how are you able to create boundaries within the context of the Malagasy culture?
Whyyyyyy? Why do we do this to our own people? Just why. There is corruption everywhere in the world, but it is so normalized in Madagascar. It happens at every level. You will get baptised to the real Malagasy way of life once corruption has happened to you.
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