Thursday, November 03, 2005

A note on housekeepers

Wow I did not expect this topic to cause such a stir. The comments have been great people, that is exactly what this blog is for!! I feel that I need to clarify from the beginning that I do not believe that having a housekeeper is a necessity, nor do I feel that I am “entitled” to such a service. If I were living in Canada right now I would not have hired a housekeeper. But when one lives in a different country, one must be aware of the cultural norms and practices and adjust their worldview accordingly. Two months ago I shared many of your objections to hiring a housekeeper but over the past two months I’ve become aware of how much domestic help is a part of African culture (as it is in many cultures south of the equator). It is widely believed here in Mozambique that if one has the means to support someone in this regard then they should do it willingly. It is considered selfish and narrow minded to do so other wise. This extends to all those living in Mozambique: black, white, red and blue. It is certainly not perceived here as something that is “keeping the poor in their place”

This is no doubt a luxury that I have been able to afford out of my affluence, and I can only be thankful that I am in such a position where I can give a little back. There are no doubt other ways in which I could contribute to the local economy but hiring Rebecca allows me to make a personal connection with a Mozambican family and I really like that. And yes, I admit, washing clothes by hand is not something I miss all that much!! Keep the comments coming people!!

Tchau
Jp

26 Comments:

Blogger jfunk said...

Oh Jared. If you practice using a housekeeper because it is the way they do things in Africa but you wouldn't dream of it back home does that mean if you lived in the southern US in the 1800s you'd have slaves. I don't wanna be a poopy pants here or god forbid a hippie but that's a silly argument. How about you feel a little lazy and hey everyone else is doin' it! You do not have to conform to all aspects of a culture because people won't think that you are normal. Keep your beliefs and if you think the practice of servitude is wrong then someone elses cultural beliefs shouldn't sway you. Principles are always good to uphold even when you don't fit in. Think or that abnormal place you frequent back home where nobody fits into the cultural norm and we are all good people. DO NOT CONFORM!! But dude have tons o' fun good luck and stay safe. I look forward to your return.

11:50 a.m.  
Anonymous figureitout said...

"Principles are always good to uphold even when you don't fit in."

JFunk is now my favourite!

12:26 p.m.  
Blogger Hungry J said...

The housekeeper thing is something that people living overseas have to deal with, and that it's pretty narrow minded to dismiss out of hand. (Disclosure: I'm off doing Mennonite things in China, where people do have housekeepers.)

Fine fine fine class structures yadda yadda yadda but cultural sensitivity is cultural sensitivity. Jared's in a far off land in what is supposed to be a cultural exchange. It's not much of an exchange if all you do is hang onto your ideas of how you do things in Canada, is it?

Yes standards blah blah blah be true to yourself not to what's happening around you. I'm guessing that Jared is different enough from the people around him that something to feel normal and to stretch himself (and make his life easier, I'm not saying he ain't a rationalizer) is pretty welcome at this point. He doesn't sound like he's in any danger of going native.

Unless he's decided to go off genitally mutilating females and has just neglected to blog about it.

8:22 p.m.  
Anonymous Hassie said...

What would Jesus do?

10:41 a.m.  
Anonymous flogging the topic said...

What would Jesus do?

He certainly wouldn't have done his own cooking, cleaning or washing. Not in that era!

12:43 p.m.  
Anonymous nolongerafrican said...

He did have 12 men follow him around and do his bidding, and, they did learn alot by being his servants. Not saying that Jared will teach his housekeeper anything though.

11:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Click, clickety-click-click, click-y, clock, click (translation: forever african) said...

Justin, we all know that Jared has done his fair share of female genital mutilation... damn skating shack - what happens in the skating shack, gets posted to the world wide web.

1:59 p.m.  
Anonymous above poster said...

after the clicks, it should read "translation: forever african"

2:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Tyler said...

I can't help but fall into this discussion.

Paying someone to clean your house is not slavery, hence the whole exchange of money thing. Differenciate the two and deal with it.

Rebecca is an entreprenuer, a true business woman. She is someone who has seen someone's need/want and decided to fill that for a profit by giving her services. Do not degrade this woman because of the 'housekeeping' aspect of her work.

If Jared can't morally pay someone to clean his house, he should not pay the chef at the restaurant who cooks his food either.

If it is wrong for Jared to hire Rebecca because she is black, what in the world is affermative action for? If it's because she's a woman, then why were women even allowed into the workforce in North America in the first place?

It's capitalism, groovy baby.

4:57 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Tyler: the exchange of money thing, as you so candidly put, is not as volutary in this instance as Adam Smith would have wanted. Sure it's a voluntary exchange but when it's a "money to live or your dignity" decision... sure she would take her life and let her dignity go. Sure it's still a voluntary decision she made, but it doesn't mean that it's right (or that capitalism is right). Her decision to be a servant is not out of entrepreneurial spirit, rather it's because she has not been afforded the same rights and opportunities as some of us in the western world.

We are merely saying that instead of feeding the current system, one in a position such as Jared's (or Justin's) may want to take positive steps at reform. By not supporting these systemic problems(and I will suggest that YES it IS a problem if the only employment a woman in Maputo can find is that of cleaning), instead finding employment for Rebecca in some other way may be positive. For example, perhaps Rebecca is one hell of a weaver, and maybe she can weave good quality blankets... maybe Jared could help her by putting in a phonecall to Ten Thousand Villages, opening up a market for her talents that goes beyond the village. Should he do this, maybe she would be able to make her own contacts and take over responsibility for exchanging the items... then possibly she could leave the business of housekeeping... and possibly employ other women in the town in her new venture. Upon seeing this, other people may think to themselves what they could possibly offer to the international markets. Instead of employing her as an uninspired housekeeper... perhaps he could employ her as a true entrepreneur. The lack of education available to some women as to what possibilities are out there is sad. Should they be taught what they can possibly contribute to markets all around the world, maybe they'll take some true entrepreneurial spirit and take some positive steps to improve their position... if not for monetary gains, then for the feeling of freedom that comes from self-employment as opposed to taking orders from someone.

I acknowledge that this will not work overnight, so Jared should not be so easily swayed to rid himself of a housekeeper... as he has entered into a contract with the woman and she is somewhat dependent on the income from housekeeping. However, I challenge Jared to take an hour out of his day, if he can spare it, to join her in her duties. Not just to get an idea of what she does... because I'm sure that Maureen has had Jared clean a bathroom or two in his day... no, talk to her and find some way to communicate to her that there are other ways of earning money. Maybe he could educate her and let her know that he'll do whatever he can to support her. So if she thinks of some way in which she could provide a good or service that isn't confined to Maputo, she'll get some support.

I'll suggest that Jared give the blog a weekly update of their talks, or communiques if language is a problem. Maybe the forum can also, upon hearing about their talks, think of some ways in which she could assume a new position in life. I know that most people in this forum would help her as well...

That way, if nothing comes of it - at least Rebecca made a new friend... but if something does come out of it, it will be beneficial for everyone, especially Rebecca. Should Jared and the forum help out, the effects on the local Maputo economy may be far greater than if Jared simply employs her to clean house. Nope - she'll be employed as a thinker as well... it's worth a shot - what's there to lose?

Diversification of a workforce and increased specialization in global trade benefits everyone!

Sorry...

8:04 p.m.  
Anonymous Tyler said...

Sean, she is a housekeeper, not a servent. Big, big difference.

Many women in Canada clean houses for money, ever heard of Molly Maid? I even know some of them (forgive me for carousing with the untouchables). Not everyone considers such a job to be degrading. It's not like she's working at DOMO.

But you're right. Maybe Jared can get her a job weaving for her life instead of cleaning for it. Or maybe he can teach her about Political Science and she can start developing micro-finance policies in Africa.

Oh but now I'm being ridiculous.

I know that it's difficult to swallow, but not everyone in the world can run an organization with numerous employees as you suggest Jared aid Rebecca in doing. Someone must be the employee.

I've never said that capitalism is right, it's just the way the world works. If there was another viable alternative, that would be the system we would be using. Mozambique has already tried socialism. Just ask them how that worked out for them. Until the individual ceases to look out for their own best interests, we're stuck with capitalism.

I don't think that Adam Smith would be worrying too much about the employment choice of Rebecca. He would be more concerned about the farm subsidies that cause Africa to be a non-player on the world grain markets. More concerned about the poor govermental choices that have not taken advantage of the country's vast beaches and ecological diversity. More concerned that socialism resulted in civil war that decimated the country.

In exchange for money I've gotten covered in cow, chicken, pig and human crap. Let Rebecca clean Jared's in peace.

P.S. No sorry needed Sean. All in good fun.

9:20 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have the means to hire a housekeeper, and someone is willing to be a housekeeper, keep the ecomony fluid and hire her. There is nothing degrading about it. People, stop feeling compelled to advocate for the greater good and think about the big picture! Services are a fact of life. Dare I say that some of these comments border on racial profiling? I dare.

9:41 p.m.  
Anonymous Jared's Mom said...

To Clickety

I was utterly appalled and extremely disappointed that you would make such a false accusation against my son and to do so in such a cowardly manner. Your comment is out of line and you should be ashamed. Must I remind you, that this is not a simple chat line, but a blogposting on a Christian organizations website. Please be more sensitive to other readers and keep your smutty, sensless comments to yourself. I can only imagine how devastated Jared will be when he reads what has been posted.

Please demonstrate some maturity here.

Maureen

10:03 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Tyler, I'm going to talk to you about this one... as I may be sounding like a dip here.

Mrs. Penner, I didn't write the gential mutilation comment... but I think it was in response to Justin's flippant remark... and it further expressed, through sarcasm, the implication that Jared was indeed not doing anything wrong - that he was just assimilating as best he can while not actually doing anything wrong. I, however, do see your point and feel that in the circmstance, it was out of line in this forum.

What are your opinions of Jared having a housekeeper? Good? Bad? Don't really care, as long as he doesn't get mugged again?

11:37 p.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

oh man now I have my mom coming out swinging...this is getting out of hand!!

12:23 a.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Jared, go into blogger and set it up so that anonymous postings are not allowed. (Personal note: don't take anything of what I say as an objection to what you're doing buddy... just talking)

1:02 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming into the discussion a little late, but I've been too appalled by too many of these comments and the way in which Jared's "friends" have ripped into him for something that just might not need to be such a huge issue.

That said, here are a couple of my thoughts:

1) Perhaps this woman wants to be a housekeeper. I know people who really, truly enjoy cleaning. Not saying that she doesn't perhaps wish for a better life, but it's arrogant to assume that we, as North Americans, far removed from the situations and the people, know what's best, and what an individual would best like to do.

2) All you people spouting off about the servile status of housekeepers in a far-off country - how do you treat the service workers in your own city? Do you blow through a check-out till with your head phones on, cell phone out, or without a look into the eyes of the person who is serving you? Or do you acknowledge the humanity of the person on the other side of the till?

All "evils" of humanity and service are not far away.

...just my two cents....

Katie

8:05 a.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

I'm sorry Katie, but I think it's fairly obvious that the objection is a societal one and not specific to Rebecca, the cleaner. The objection is that she may not have the choice to do something else, that Maputan society demands that she clean houses of the wealthy. That, in my books, is an injustice... I certainly don't look down on cleaners and service people (I offer my skills in a service oriented labour market)... no, it's not a matter of looking down on the job, - it's looking down on the society that puts people in a position without choice.

Employing someone in this sort of system, one of oppression, would be a negative thing... this is what the concern is, and the comments to this effect allow Jared to respond as to what he can or can't do... and his observatrions. Whether or not the choice exists for Rebecca, and whether employing her will help or hinder society.

I don't think that his friends, and we are his friends, are slatning him... merely challenging him. He has responded (as did hungryj), and they offered clarification - an open dialogue, if you will - maybe in this whole communication thing understanding and peace can be achieved.

I don't think we are spouting off to state that we know what's best... but the ideal that people can have more choice and that Jared is in a position to understand and maybe even help people to increase their choices is what is being identified. It is not an attack on Penner, merely an attack on society. Very anti-North American sentiments are being expressed here... discontent that we live well and are afforded choice because people far removed from us may be exploited and indeed denied choice themselves. I think it's prudent that these comments be stated, and not left to simply accept the way it is in the world.

No, in challenging what Jared is doing over there, we challenge ourselves at home. That's the last I'll say on the matter - which may be what everyone wanted anyhow!

12:40 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean! This woman is gainfully employed. It is not an injustice and certainly not oppressive. Maybe it is one of the only jobs that she can get, so what!? She is making an income. There are countless people in Canada who face very similar situations, and who appreciate the chance to make a living. Take a stance on prostitution if you are so passionate about women's rights and leave housekeepers alone.

5:01 p.m.  
Anonymous buddy said...

I think you missed the point, Sean is quite clear that it is a comment about society in general and not specifically about housecleaners. If you can't understand this, that is not his problem - I get what you're saying Sean.

5:19 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Aye aye aye... I guess I didn't make my point clear. I don't think I would have gone quite so far as "buddy", but whatever... I've said everything, and if the words make no sense or if they've fallen on deaf ears, I can't do anything about it. sorry...

7:45 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean, while some of the comments are, as you state, obviously about societal injustices, I don't think that you can deny that some of the comments on this post are slams against Jared, and that people are calling his character into question. That is what I was reacting to.

I do understand that [at least most?] of the people who post here are Jared's friends, I guess I was just taken aback at how much was thrown his way, and the manner in which it was done. While I also understand the whole societal connotation of the conversation, and certainly agree that it would be a very sad thing if this is the only job possible for Rebecca, I found the seemingly personal attacks on Jared himself to be objectionable.

It seems that there may be a fine line between holding someone accountable and tearing them to shreds.

Don't get me wrong, my heart pangs for the injustices of the world as well. I guess it's just hard for someone who is simly reading these comments, knowing Jared but not knowing any of the commentors, to see them with the filters that you suggest that I read these comments through. I trust that Jared would only make this decision after much deliberation, and not out of mere laziness or caving to societal demands.

Perhaps my issue is that I am unable to see some of the distinctions between people ranting against societal shit, and people ranting against a friend.

Katie

10:54 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

oh no - you aren't imagining Jared's friends taking shots at him... it's just how we are. Belive me, if I were doing anything good Jared would be jumping all over my back for not being a saint all the time also! Personal attacks are the new warm embraces!

12:18 a.m.  
Anonymous mwp said...

It really is all about perception Sean. One may assume their words/actions are being understood one way, where in reality they are being interpreted in another.Your idea of personal attacks being the new warm embrace may not be comprehended by others the way you think. Be careful. I personally cherish every friend I have and you probably do as well. Ensure that those you sincerely care about do not have reason to question the fact.

5:14 p.m.  
Blogger Hungry J said...

(to mwp) Dude, I checked. Personal attacks on Jared have been the new warm embraces since at least 1998.

He's a big boy and can deal with his friends questioning/making fun of him.

10:23 p.m.  
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12:36 p.m.  

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