Diaspora challenges- power dynamics and negotiating space in families
Are you after power? Do you like to be powerful? Many people find it difficult to answer this question and will skirt around before giving a non-committal response or a confusing answer. For those who are familiar with work by CitizensUK (CUK) and the Industrial Areas foundation(IAF) the answer is a straight and unequivocal- yes, I want power. Why, because per Oxford dictionary power is described as the ability to do something. It is my submission that we live in a world full of challenges and we are always trying to change things to live a better live. Without power, there will be no change.
I have come to realize that many are afraid of power because they can only relate it to bad power; an overbearing father in a home, a ruthless headmaster, a bad councilor, member of parliament, political leader, president, manager the list is unending. In as much as there is bad power, there exist good power-relational power. Relational power comes from spending time listening to the other person`s life story, locating their self-interest, their passion, matching it with ours and using the common interests as bed rock to perform acts which change both our lives.
I have always reminded colleagues that power is never given. One must get it. Those with power will never let it go until they feel threatened by possibility of losing it. Those in political circles are familiar with coalition governments and governments of national unity. Power is not like sweets at a nursery which can freely be distributed around. One must build their own power in order to be recognized by the incumbent holder and then afforded an opportunity to sit on a negotiating table. Show any political leader that you can build your own constituency and see how quickly you are invited for tea and an offer for a higher position. These power dynamics have not spared the church fraternity, hence the endless church splits. Of course, there are those who say they do not want to bring politics in the church. How do people read the bible and fail to relies it is a book about politics? It is a book about God`s kingdom which has power at its center. Without spiritual power demons, would play havoc in the church. Remember the rise and fall of kingdoms in the bible, the wars the annexation of land? If that is not power dynamics and politics, then what is? I urge my fellow Christians to have this revelation. Whenever, there are electable positions there will always contestations around who should occupy a certain powerful office. Why have a powerless office which cannot change people`s lives, physically and spiritually?
I grew up in those days when fathers yielded so much power that any mention of my mischiefs landing in his ears was a sure case of impending disaster to my wellbeing. I also became a powerful father to my wife and children until I landed in these shores and realized that I had to learn to negotiate power with my wife and children. Any attempt to hold on to my old ways was a sure way of losing the family and possibly a heart attack.
In many family’s wives and sisters were the harbingers into the diaspora. Men followed only to find women masters in the diaspora life dynamics. My wife had to teach me how to travel in London, where to get the first care job, how to register at the surgery and so many other host country etiquettes. I had previously dominated this knowledge at home. Now I had to be taken on a tour by a powerful woman! Did I have any choice but to comply? No. Children quickly realized that the once powerful father was no longer that powerful and after all mum was paying most of the bills.
I had derived most of my power from my earning capacity at home, which was well beyond my wife`s. Tables had changed. I had to comply or face a revolt in the home. I was not ready to turn my home into a battlefield, so I started sharing power and peace gradually returned. I have shared stories with several married men. This power shift was experienced by many when they landed in the diaspora. Marriages broke and continue to struggle as seismic power shifts take center stage in many families. Politics start in a home setting. Handled well, home political landscape lends a good training ground for national politics. The home provides the smallest unit of democracy. Anyone who succeeds in that unit is likely to become a good church leader, community leader and obviously national leader. Perhaps a look at our current leaders and their failures can be traced back to how they are faring in home politics.
Many families had one parent coming into the diaspora first to test the waters. Once they had attained settled status they then applied for spouse or/and children to join them. Having lived apart for a while relationships had to be rebuilt. Spouses had developed new habits, children had grown up. Power within the family unit had to be renegotiated. Those who had got new power because of the new environment celebrated whilst those who had lost power winged. The main loser, in many homes, was the father. His positional power had been superseded by women rights, children’s` rights and financial power, which, for many households, had shifted towards the mother.
Children grow and flourish in stable families. The tempo or environment is set by the parents. The way children talk in the playgrounds or in class tends to mimic how conversations are conducted in the home. If parents speak with love and respect, more children would mimic that wherever they would be. We are all children of the environment. It is this unfriendly home environment which then translate into the gangsters which has taken over our children. Some families behave like a gangster training grounds. There are plots and counter plots. Spouses rebuke and fight each other in children`s presence. Children are manipulated by whoever seems to have more financial power against the weaker spouse. Suddenly, the children start leveraging the new manipulative power even against the sponsoring party, asking for small bribes if allegiance is to stay. Most broken families are a result of a failure to deal with this power dynamics in the home. By now we should have learnt to accept embrace the new cultural shifts and curved a new life styles to revert our homes to spaces where respect, care and love are the hallmarks of a good life.
Getting it right
It is important to get these family power dynamics right whilst still alive. I am reminded of the power dynamics which come into play when one dies. Diaspora deaths are worse. The husband`s relatives will fight with the wife`s even about where one should be buried, let alone the estate. However, apart from wanting to usurp whatever is left of the estate, no one is ready to pick up the end of life expenses. This is where insurance plans like the Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan become handy.