The beginning of Book 1 of the novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country”, illustrates the poverty and brokenness in the village of Ndotsheni. Here, people are diabled from experiencing proper education which is caused by their poor environment. Due to their unfortunate circumstances, many of the young men decide to leave the village. As I read the book, I was able to observe how the root of the poverty in the region towards the local people was related to racism. The way the white farm is located on the top of the hill which is a better environment for crops to grow, compared to the black farm which is located in the bottom of the hill. Here, it seems that the native people are getting ruled by the white people even though the land originally belongs to them.
This lack of wealth and opportunities for the natives represents how corrupted the society is and how unequal the world is. In our current society, it seems as if, in order to make one feel power, someone else has to take their rights of being equal to others. Those people who are abandoned from the society will be forced to step down their social hierarchy and will be put in a place where they have to work so hard to satisfy their basic needs.
While reading the novel, I started to see some similarities between the village portrayed in the novel and the Khlong Toei slum, which I visited for my Capstone project. For my capstone project, I did a project on distributing uniforms to the Cambodian immigrant students living in Khlong Toei slum in Bangkok. The Cambodian immigrant community which I was enabled to understand deeply about through my project with constant interviews with the community and information from Sikkha Asia Foundation, the organization I have worked with. When I had a conversation with one of the adults of the community, they talked to me about how their children have been getting bullied at their school. They mentioned to me about how their race was being one of the main reasons why their children were getting looked down on. According to them, even though it is not very obvious, the Thai people do discriminate towards the illegal immigrants, especially in the slum. Whenever a volunteer comes and do a project for the immigrants, the Thai community in the slum will report it or come and complain about how they need to be helped before the immigrants as the immigrants do not belong to the country and therefore should not be helped. When I heard this, I was able to understand the Thai people’s side; however, at the same time, felt that they were being a bit too greedy and are trying to make the immigrant people’s life harsher on purpose in order to feel power. This is because, the immigrant people are unable to receive the governmental support which the Thai people can receive, and there are still many volunteers helping out the Thai people as well. Moreover, due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, many of the people in the Cabodian immigrant community have lost their jobs which led them to rely their lives heavily on the volunteers who give them food, clothing, stationeries, shoes and other basic needs. For these reasons, I felt that it is unreasonable for the Thai people in the slum to completely stop the volunteers who are genuinely helping the immigrant community from helping them.
As the immigrants are illegal to stay in the country, I understand that it will be nearly impossible to improve their lives through the government’s support. However, I feel that it is possible to better the relationship among the Thais and the immigrants living in the slum. I think that we can make this possible by hosting events where they can share each other’s cultures (food, language, beliefs, and more) and talk about their struggles in life. I feel that by doing this, they can have more empathy towards each other and accept the importance of cheering each other for a better life.