The other day in Bratislava, Slovakia (we went just for a day trip) Michael, Dad, and I were riding the public bus and started talking to the girl sitting beside me. We started out by asking her for a recommendation on a good restaurant near the city center. She ended up suggesting a Japanese place, after which we continued talking. After a couple of minutes of corny jokes, Dad asked her if she was a student and what she was studying. She giggled slightly.
“I am studying Japanese language” she said.
After a few more jokes someone asked her how she has decided to start studying Japanese and her answer was shocking. She said, “one day my father asked me what my plans for the day were and before I could respond he told me I was to start studying Japanese. So I did, and I have ever since.”
I could not understand this! Guessing by her age, her father probably grew up in a young post-World War 2 Czechoslovakia that was all about harsh control and “community”, but 20 years after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and almost 70 years since World War 2; how could this be? Who was to blame for this, her dad, culture, or society? What effect had this philosophy had on an entire generation, almost 70 years since it was “main stream”? What was her dreams? What would she have chosen? How many more generations will this ideology still be a major influence?
This really hit me hard because of our research project on human trafficking. Even though she was not being trafficked, her freedom to choose her life path had been taken away. Sure, it was taken by her father (who hopefully had her best interest in mind) rather than a pimp, or slave owner, but it was still not in her hands. At what point does this become a serious crime against freedom?
Later in our conversation with this young lady, she went on to say that at first she had hated Japanese, but over time she really developed a love for it.
Was this really her passion? Or was it something she had just developed a respect for over time? Is there a difference? I guess I will never know her thoughts on the issue…
I may be over thinking this particular instance, and the work on our human trafficking project may have made me overly sensitive to womens ability to make decisions for themselves, but it is something to think about! Either way, I would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts, so please post a comment with what you think about the issue.