Culture, cock fighting and something of value.

11 December 2010 at 07:29 18 comments

Fellow lenders, blog readers, and members of the community in general:

I posted a blog on Saturday, Dec. 13th 2010 in which I proposed a definition of culture in an attempt to inspire reflection in those of us who find certain cultural practices to be inappropriate.  I felt that deeper reflection would enrich the conversation over those practices and would benefit the activities of those that boldly fight to improve cultural values.

As I reviewed the comments and further learned of some of the messages received by Kiva, I realized that my post generally failed to provoke the reflection that I wished to inspire.  Instead, I fear that I have only lent to the polarization of communities…. and worse a break in communication between the parties on opposite sides of cultural disputes.

The post would have been better suited to conversation in small groups or perhaps a social theory class. I don’t think it is appropriate for a public forum which exhibits limited interaction between the commentators or readers.  Nor do I think my post is appropriately adapted for a blog which is meant to benefit micro-entrepreneurs.

For these reasons I have decided to remove the post from the Fellow’s Blog.  I would like to apologize for the distraction, while thanking each of you for providing me with the opportunity to share with you all and to contemplate my role in this world.

Sincerely,

Casey Unrein

Casey Unrein KF 12  joined the Kiva Fellows program in Sept. 2010.  Prior to becoming a Fellow, Casey worked with a fiduciary management company in Seattle, WA, providing financial management services for minors, the elderly and the disabled.  Casey completed a bachelors in Economics and Education at Occidental College.  He expects to become a Certified Public Accountant by the end of 2010.  Casey is currently a Fellow with EDPYME Alternativa in Chiclayo, Peru.  Please support Kiva.org and EDPYME Alternativa by joining lending teams and expanding the community.  You can join Friends of EDPYME Alternativa by clicking on the link.

Entry filed under: KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class). Tags: .

It’s Always Sunny in Tajikistan Demystified: Communal banking groups in Peru

18 Comments

  • 1. Deborah White  |  21 April 2011 at 04:39

    Sadly, I too will seek other avenues to provide support to those in need. We must as a society reject brutality on any level and of course it is the money that speaks. Being from Louisiana I have heard the same “cultural tradition” excuse for the neglect and abuse of animals for as long as I can remember. It is not acceptable here and it is not acceptable anywhere. I just spoke to a group of Unitarian Universalists about supporting KIVA but I can’t honestly ask anyone to do so now knowing what I do. We are all sentient beings. Educate – don’t excuse brutality.

  • 2. jlm  |  26 February 2011 at 15:26

    I was so sad to see this as I was about to refer Kiva to a friend. I have withdrawn the referral and will be withdrawing my funds as well, along with making this issue known. If the only Kiva explanation is it’s cultural, it’s a tradition, and it’s legal, then who’s to judge these other industries mentioned by posters? Matt Flannery wrote, “Cockfighting in Peru is legal and part of a rich cultural tradition. It may not be humane or palatable from a Western perspective, but that misses the point. Kiva, the organization, should not be making those decisions. Our lenders should be the ones voting with their dollars.” Based on this, I assume humans are fair game too. I trust Kiva would permit loans for prostitution, slavery, and other such practices that are legal in their host countries and achieve Kiva’s goal of eliminating poverty (to the subjugation of all other values). That’s not a wild extrapolation. And to reference Casey’s words above, such comments can not be dismissed as an “emotional” response. Everyone isn’t failing to be “reflective”. This is the most rational deduction from Kiva’s terribly shallow reasoning on this topic. The continued deflection is exacerbating the disillusionment.

  • 3. Geoff  |  4 January 2011 at 06:44

    More culture to be proud of –

    Fleeing Violent Husbands Puts Afghan Women in Jail

    Gul Bibi pulls back her light blue scarf to reveal faded tribal tattoos and sad, almond eyes. She has not seen any of her three children, or any other family members, in the five months she has languished in prison. Her “crime”: running away from a husband who viciously beat her throughout their nine-year marriage, which was arranged by her parents when she was 16 to end a land dispute. She finally fled to Kabul from her home in eastern Khost province this summer with a neighbor named Ajmal. They’d fallen in love and planned to get married, she explains, until her husband took several of his relatives hostage, demanding that she turn herself in to police. Her insistence that she never had sexual relations with her companion doesn’t matter to an Afghan justice system that deems her desertion tantamount to adultery. “It’s difficult when a man and women really love each other here,” says the 25-year-old ethnic Pashtun. “Now I’m trapped.”

    Most of the nearly 200 inmates at the Badam Bagh women’s prison are runaways like Bibi, confined alongside a smaller number of murderers and drug traffickers. Many of the runaways were forced into marriage as teenagers, in some cases to men three times their age, enduring regular beatings and verbal abuse from their husbands or in-laws. Some fled to be with other men; others, simply to find peace. Most expected to eventually be caught and face the consequences, but their lives at home had become intolerable. “When a bird is sitting in a tree, if no one throws a stone, it will not leave its nest,” laments a sympathetic prison guard. “The same can be said of the women here.”

    To be sure, the Taliban’s alternative is far worse, as an Aug. 9 TIME magazine cover image of a disfigured Afghan girl, Aisha, so jarringly illustrated. Having fled an arranged marriage to a militant, the 18-year-old was sentenced to have her nose and ears sliced off by in-laws with the approval of a local Taliban mullah. Afghan authorities have since arrested the father-in-law. But rights organizations say the Taliban is not the only problem; violence against women is a national phenomenon driven by norms deeply embedded in Afghan culture, and a weak government often turns a blind eye or prosecutes victims for breaking taboos. Runaway brides are almost always imprisoned on charges of having sex outside of marriage, regardless of evidence of lack thereof.

    A recent report by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan concluded that the government has not done enough to uphold women’s rights since the Taliban’s ouster. The report, based on 150 individual and group interviews in 29 provinces, found that violence against women remains prevalent, to varying degrees, across the country’s regional and ethnic divides. Nationwide, more than half of all girls are married before they turn 15, usually to settle disputes. And authorities’ reluctance to incur the wrath of conservative communities by enforcing laws against domestic violence has led to an increase in “honor killings” and abuse. When women flee family violence, they risk the ire of both their families and the government.

    Trouble also awaits those who try to help women in caught in violent marriages. Abdul Wahid Zhian, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Organization of Afghanistan, a nonprofit that provides free legal assistance, had to leave his native Ghazni province a year ago after taking on two controversial runaway cases that resulted in his receiving death threats. The first case involved a father who had raped and impregnated his daughter but was acquitted of charges. In the second, two girls were raped by their father and brother. Yet the men were pardoned, in the interest of resolving an interfamily dispute, by a tribal jirga that ultimately decided that matters could be made right by executing the lawyer and the girls. (They are now in hiding.) “We have a cultural problem here that undermines the law,” says Zhian, who is now seeking asylum abroad. He remains adamant that “running away is a right, not a crime.”

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2039564,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-mostpopular

  • 4. Geoff  |  31 December 2010 at 18:37

    More cultural practices & traditions we should understand, support & allow:

    Albino boy killed in Burundi, witchcraft suspected
    – Fri Dec 31, 6:13 am ET

    BUJUMBURA (Reuters) – A twelve-year old albino boy was killed late on Thursday by armed men in the central Burundi district of Kiganda in what authorities suspect could be linked to witchcraft.

    Albino hunters kill their victims and use their blood and body parts for potions. Witchdoctors tell their clients that the body parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

    “The twelve-year-old albino was killed by four men with guns and knives. They cut off his left hand and fled away with it,” Kiganda administrator Joseph Ntahuga, told Reuters on Friday.

    Ntahuga, a government official in the district 80 km from the capital Bujumbura, said the victim had two other albino siblings.

    The murder brings to 14 the number of albinos killed in the tiny central African country since 2008.

    The coffee producing nation of 8 million people has around 500 albinos, who lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair.

    Burundian authorities believe the killings are carried out local residents who work with witchdoctors in neighboring Tanzania, where 53 albinos have been killed since 2007 for their body parts, which are sold for use in witchcraft. There are around 170,000 albinos living in Tanzania.

    Kazungu Kassim, head of the national association of albinos, says albino killings continue in Burundi because severe punishment is not taken against the perpetrators.

    “The solution is to sentence those responsible for albino killings to hang as it is done in Tanzania,” he said.

    A man has been sentenced death by hanging for killing a five-year-old albino girl in Tanzania by hacking off her legs with a machete and then drinking her blood.
    http://tinyurl.com/2743tao

  • 5. Jeff Erz  |  19 December 2010 at 01:38

    Honestly, would you craft some long, romantic post about confederates waxing nostalgic about their rich history of slavery? For gods sake. Every repayment I get from Kiva I am withdrawing with your supporters eating the transaction costs, and the funds are going straight to Vittana. Kiva is nothing short of pathetic when it comes to this issue. I mean, take your arguments to the logical fulmination and, heel, start posting those female genital mutilation loans. Who are we to judge? Ugh.

  • 6. josh  |  14 December 2010 at 02:17

    phew!
    Quite a heated discussion so far, only just got wind of it today (I missed the initial, removed, post but think I´ve got the jist of it).

    Was quite saddened to read of those who felt the need to turn away from Kiva over this issue, but understand that people need to follow their conscience and am happy to think that they will continue to do good in other arenas regardless.

    However, as previously commented, I do think that the issue is more one to be taken up with the MFIs posting the loan rather than asking for Kiva to enforce certain cultural demands & norms on our behalf, a power that is possibly best not granted to any one organisation.

    Assisting “change from within” & education through the sharing of past experiences & research of others (such as the links mentioned above, between other damaging social behaviour & this “sport”, which I personally found informative) would seem a more respectful & effective way to approach this problem.

    If Kiva were to make the decision to exclude what is acceptable in other parts of the world on our behalf, we would; a) be more easily ignorant of where such practices exist and therefore less able to direct our efforts to make change possible where necessary, if that is how we feel; and b) providing fertile ground for the kind of cultural imperialism that will only alienate other communities & make them even less reluctant to engage in any discussion of change.

    Kiva is a tool to bring together borrowers & lenders around the world, for the mission purposes stated. In my opinion, it is those using Kiva who should concern themselves with addressing such differences in customs around the world, as they see fit, & not Kiva HQ.

    We do live in a very culturally diverse world (thankfully!) and closing doors on people can be a lot less effective way of challenging inhumane practices than exchanging ideas & words across an unbarred threshold.
    Communication & information exchange with the MFI is possible, NOT funding a loan and letting people know why would, in of itself, send a very clear message.
    In terms of the different customs described in this thread, engaging with other communities & joining with like minded people within those communities (they do exist!) is possibly a little more effective than insisting Kiva dictate to or exclude them.

    • 7. joann  |  14 December 2010 at 07:08

      I don’t think anyone is asking kiva to enforce cultural demands as much as stand up against animal cruelty.

  • 8. Alaska Pack  |  13 December 2010 at 22:50

    I am glad that the post was removed, but the damage has been done. When the loan for the spurs was posted, I made only one loan about a week later when it was the spur loan was to be refunded. It gave me a bad feeling even more than any other cock-fighting loan.
    We have been waiting patiently for Kiva to change, but alas for not.
    When you posted your blog, My husband and I learned the process for withdrawal of funds. After almost 2.5 years of adding or reloaning, we have started withdrawing funds and will continue to do so on a monthly basis. We are at 999 loans and holding. Could possibly add a few interesting loans since we have some long term ones that will not mature for 2 to 3 years.
    Growing up in Hawaii, although illegal are neighbor dealt with cock-fighting. I cannot tell you how many times the police appeared, the drinking, the screams from the abuse the family endured from the father. It was heart-wrenching. I still remember after all these years as if it were yesterday.
    I will not reiterate most of the comments before as they are much of my sentiments. CherylS beat me to the point of genital mutilation as I would consider female circumcisions are thought of as “cultural” but tortuous to the female.
    Killing for food as humanely as possible is one thing but watching an animal suffer, adding blades, tying up a bait dog’s mouth so it can’t fight back and the list goes on, is totally different.
    Bernice from the Pack

  • 9. joann  |  13 December 2010 at 09:11

    There are many facets of “culture” I can agree with you on. Cock fighting is not one of them. The reason for this is the cruelty of it. If it were only animal cruelty it would be bad enough but the combination of that and the culture that it creates of gambling, abuse, and drinking, does not make it good for anyone. I agree with Jan that this should come from within. What I don’t understand is why an MFI would want to post a loan for cockfighting related activities on Kiva knowing how many feel about this in the western world. Only 30% of funding for an MFI comes from Kiva, so why not get funding for these loans from one of the other places that funds the other 70%, perhaps from within country where this activity is considered ok.
    Thanks Casey for posting this and allowing the discussion to become more than a single loan.

  • 10. Eli  |  13 December 2010 at 09:06

    Kiva had the chance to take the high road on so many occasions, but chose to wear blinders and hide behind the ‘it is a cultural thing’ instead, and it is just one of the red flags that made me stop lending through Kiva. Two accounts are fully withdrawn, one to go.

    It is known that cockfighting is more than just animal abuse, but creates a culture of gambling, drinking, and abuse of spouses and children, and spreads much further than just the cockfighting ring. That is the part that Kiva has failed to comprehend.

  • 11. Casey K  |  13 December 2010 at 06:56

    Thanks for a well written (and brave!) post.

    Cock fighting is popular in the Philippines, too. I have to admit — I’m attracted to it. It’s exciting and romantic and small wonder so many 20th century writers were drawn to it. Same with bull fighting and hunting.

    Rather than defend blood sports, I would like to repeat the standard line for loans in the gray area, which include tobacco growers, alcohol distillers, and charcoal vendors: if you don’t like it, don’t lend to it.

  • 12. Susan  |  13 December 2010 at 06:13

    I was thinking about what to write here but now I see that poster no. 5 (Julie) has already expressed my feelings perfectly. Lots of things are legal and have “a rich tradition” in other parts of the world but that does not mean they’re worth supporting. Since the start of this debate — or rather since it became obvious to me that Kiva wasn’t going to change its stance — I have not reloaned funds as they became available. The appearance of Mr. Unrein’s blog post was the final straw. I have withdrawn the unallocated funds and will use them elsewhere. As soon as the remaining money (about $120 or so) has been repaid, I will leave Kiva altogether.

  • 13. punalei  |  13 December 2010 at 01:37

    This blog is the worst case of misguided rationalization I have ever heard. Kiva loans are for people to better themselves, not for them to harm other living creatures as a sport. It is not a matter of imposing our standards on others. It is a matter of not supporting something which is cruel.

  • 14. CherylS  |  12 December 2010 at 11:39

    Female genital mutilation is also a tradition – and legal – in many parts of the world. Would you also defend loans for this practice in the name of cultural sensitivity?

    I was an avid Kiva lender for two years, but began withdrawing my funds after the cockfight wars. Your defense, in which you equate a bloodsport with a favorite song or meal, reminds me of why I am disillusioned with Kiva’s reasoning.

  • 15. Andrew  |  12 December 2010 at 08:28

    I have posted my comment on one of the kiva team boards, but I’ll reiterate here.

    Sure cockfighting (or any other activity done in a group, specially if it involves competition) makes bounds between people. Sure it can be part of somebody’s culture, traditions and history. Sure these cultures can be beautiful, rich. Cultivating traditions can be cute. But does that really justify anything?

    What you’re saying is that if a lot of people do something, and they’re having fun, then it’s fine to do that. I don’t even want to think about what other horrible things in our civilisation’s history you can justify that way.

    Cultures are different, but there are some invariants that I’m sure you know about, just don’t want to see them applied. Namely the one big invariant of all the respected cultures is “one being’s freedom ends where another being’s freedom begins”, and this is being violated here. This is not my own culture’s rule (and yes, I’ve had a chance to visit Peru as well).

    It’s extremely short-sighted to claim that the “developed” cultures have outlawed bloodsports just because. No, the ban is just a consequence of respecting the big invariant.

    Similarly there are sub-cultures where stealing and robbery is the way to live, where it’s a two or three generations-long tradition and is the way to live. Does that justify anything? No, because the freedom of other beings (who are or aren’t part of the same sub-culture) is being violated and that’s a very high cost for having something “cute”.

  • 16. Jan & John, Kiva Friends  |  11 December 2010 at 20:25

    Thanks Casey. I was one of the Kiva lenders who wrote to EDPYME Alternativa. I did not ask them to remove the loan from Kiva.

    I did however tell them that “in Canada we have found that cockfighting leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime. These hurt the local economy, and slow growth. That we feel encouraging cruelty to animals only encourages cruelty to other creatures, including fellow human beings.”

    I asked them to “Please consider reviewing your company goals and based on your values, please encourage your borrowers to find other ways to feed their families. We think this type of loan does not follow the larger goals of microfinance.”

    I understand the deep rootedness of culture and am usually happy to allow all in this world to follow their own path. We lenders cannot change the laws and certainly not the cultures of another country but I hope we can provide food for thought so that change might someday come from within.

    -jan-

    • 17. Casey Unrein  |  13 December 2010 at 07:24

      Thanks Jan. From reading the other comments I am only reminded of how emotional our response to such issues can be.
      Like you, I hope that we can all chew on that food and see that change comes from within.
      Honestly, thank you for being one of the parties that raised the issue. I can’t say that all of the messages received were as reflective as yours… but all in all it inspired excellent conversation here and further inspired my post.

      “Hopefully the conversation over cockfighting will go beyond Kiva and loans, and center more on the day to day life of those that are directly involved in the dispute. I suspect that only then will the parties be able to detect any hypocrisy in the cultural systems which underlie the dispute and be able to trade cultural practices for something of value…”

  • 18. Julie  |  11 December 2010 at 15:39

    This is a reasoned post. For me, the ultimate point is that I have quite limited resources to invest in charitable organizations, and my preference is to invest in those I can feel 100% comfortable with. I understand Kiva’s stance but plan to withdraw my money as my loans are repaid and to participate in some other organization that, to the best of my knowledge, funds no activities I deem abhorrent because helpless, voiceless animals are tortured and killed for entertainment. People who are not bothered by the inclusion of loans supporting this type of activity can stick with Kiva.


Get Involved!

Learn more about this blog and about Kiva Fellows

Visit Kiva.org

Apply to be a Kiva Fellow

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,336 other followers

Archives

Drawing from the Field

Kiva Blog Policy


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,336 other followers

%d bloggers like this: