Apparent Differences Between Culture and Behavior
It is initially quite puzzling to see that in the survey interviews parents and children agree that the members of their own, as well as the other, generation are failing to act as they should according to their own standards. It is not unusual for individuals to see themselves as wrong in particular instances and as personally responsible for specific, undesirable events or states. Still, to characterize themselves as behaving badly over a length of time and across the spectrum of training children or growing up is surely remarkable.
Karen Horney (1937) held that neurosis was characterized by continuing behavior contrary to the values of those who displayed the behavior. Since the Swahili survey interviews show that those interviewed do condemn what they say is their own behavior, the possibility must be considered that they are neurotics in Horney's terms.
Another possibility, of course, is that although informants say that a crucial factor in producing the family life and child behavior they themselves condemn is their own behavior, they do not "really" mean what they say. It is less than startling to observe that people in a wide variety of societies say things for reasons other than that they believe them to be true.
If we must choose between characterizing the Mombasa Swahili informants as neurotics who cannot restrain themselves from acting in ways they themselves find objectionable or as characterizing their statements as reflecting something other than a straightforward expression of the understandings they hold, it would seem that there is more support for doubting the full and complete accuracy of their statements than for doubting their mental health.
Taking the members of the Swahili group in general, I have no evidence indicating that neurotic tendencies among them are beyond what is found in other groups. They make their livings, raise their children to become functioning adults, carry on many reasonably gratifying social relationships, and give no signs of suffering more than the rest of humanity. However, members of this group have shown themselves to be no less willing to bend the truth, exaggerate, omit, and plain fabricate when it serves their purposes than do members of other groups I am familiar with.
This is not to say that informants were not telling the truth in their responses to the survey. A statement made independently by a substantial proportion of a group's members surely takes on a special status even if it is ultimately judged to be one that those who make it know to be other than an accurate representation of reality. What can be said about the survey interview data is that they are at odds with the informally gathered information about the same issues and that they do not seem to be in accord with observed behavior.
The statements in the survey must have some significance for those who
make them; otherwise, why would so many different people independently say the same things? They cannot, however, be taken as straightforward statements of "real" beliefs and evaluations. If the elders blame themselves as much as they blame the younger generation, as their statements in the survey indicate they do, why do their informal statements and observed behavior only manifest disapproval of the young and no effort to change their own actions?
Similarly, if the younger people recognize their own behavior as "bad" and accept at least part of the responsibility for it being that, why is there no evidence that they attempt to abandon their current patterns of behavior? The responses in the survey are shared, as the statistics in table 12 show, but they do not seem related to the behavior they address in any straightforward and observable way.
What people say concerning the behavior of the younger generation in the informal discussions of that behavior is consistent with what they are observed to do, in that each group deplores the activity of the other and implies or states a view of itself as blameless. Unlike the implications of the responses given in the survey interviews, the understandings inferred from the informal discussions are entirely consistent with the behavior that the members of each generation manifests. What explains this seeming contradiction between what is said in the interviews and what actually guides behavior?