Interviewer: Madison Chan
Interviewee: Assiz Mahu
20 Jan 2019
The aim of the task was to get insight into the daily life of an Ambonese resident and their perspective on tobacco. Interviewing as a research design method was chosen not only because it enables us to inquire about one’s social world, but is actually a significant constituent of the kind of society one lives in (Brooks & Horrocks & King 2019).
Assiz Mahu is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Ambon, Indonesia. As neutrality is the byword of interviews (Gubrium & Holstein 2001), I lead with the unbiased and open-ended question,
‘What are your thoughts on smoking?’
Mahu’s immediate response was,
‘I do not smoke…it is bad for you and not good for your body.’
How did he come to this confident conclusion? Not only did Mahu witness anti-tobacco campaigns on the street but he also conducted his own independent research on YouTube. I found it interesting that when I mentioned emphysema and COPDs, he was not aware of these terms. The only impacts of smoking Mahu knew about was that it made you ‘sick’ and ‘cough a lot’. However, despite not knowing this terminology, it seemed Mahu’s association of tobacco with ‘being sick’ was powerful enough for him to not risk even trying a cigarette.
It is suggested, that people are motivated to form accurate perceptions of reality and react accordingly – to comply and conform – in order to develop and preserve meaningful social relationships, and to maintain a favourable self-concept (Cialdini & Goldstein 2004). Mahu’s friends have all complied to smoking because they believe it makes them strong. They have called Mahu a ‘sissy’ and ‘not a man’ for not smoking but he did not care because he understood the impacts. It was admirable that Mahu valued his health over social conformity considering Ambon was largely based on community and unity.
As the respondent is someone who can provide detailed descriptions of his or her thoughts, feelings, and activities (Gubrium & Holstein 2001), I was intrigued about Mahu’s personal experiences with tobacco. It was clear smoking was a sign of masculinity. His dad was a former smoker, his two older brothers smoked and so did his male friends. Yet, when I asked ‘why is this?’, Mahu struggled to go beyond the reasoning of ‘it’s our culture…it’s habit…you’re a bad and shameful woman if you do…why?…just because,’ which supports my argument of smoking as an unquestionable and normal behaviour in my previous blog Smoke, Eat, Drink, Repeat.
Although Mahu was aware of smoking impacts, he has accepted it as a norm. The following stories were unfamiliar and shocking to me, but for Mahu, this was his everyday life. Mahu’s job was security in the women’s prison Lapas Perempuan Kelas III, and claimed that there was ‘rarely a case of tobacco’. The exception: when prisoners had a headache or blocked sinuses, the doctor would prescribe them with one cigarette a day for relief. At the high school that Mahu attended, there was a no smoking policy. Students would hide behind the walls and if they were caught, the punishment from the teachers involved smoking five cigarettes at the same time. Mahu admitted, ‘sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.’
Mahu, A. 2019, Photograph, Ambon.