I like to think of myself as a Happy Atheist. I don't care what a person believes as long as they respect my rights not to. I try to be courteous of the cultural and religions habits of those around me. I don't go out of my way to offend anyone or force them to my way of thinking. Life is too short to be bothered by the non essentials. If I can't see, taste, touch, feel, smell or hear it; if it doesn't effect my life in any perceivable way, I probably don't spend a whole lot of time pondering it. After all, there are so many more interesting things to explore! Least of all would I want to get into an argument with anyone who claims that logic cannot apply to the subject. If the rules of logic as we know them do not apply, then it isn't a debate, right? Why don't we just order another beer and discuss the navy's plans to sink ten aircraft for artificial reef construction?
Anthropology is fascinating. Sociology is exciting. Theology gives me a deep sense of awe and insight to humanities many colorful perspectives. I love these topics. I live to sit in dusty old pubs and learn about such things.
I just don't really see the point in arguing the right or wrong of any situation when a person cannot be convinced, anyway. My life is fulfilling and I contribute to this world and it's population. I'd rather spend my time focused on the positive ( -and how to make more of it! ) than fight a needless battle or belittle others.
Most of the time.
Today hasn't been one of those days. I'm pretty much disgusted with the bald little apes we lovingly call the human-race, and wonder that if it is indeed a '"race" why the fuck isn't anyone going anywhere? I watched the Clint Eastwood film 'Grand Torino' last night, and at the time, couldn't help but smile. I was born and raised in the very city where the first Hmong criminal gang was formed. I lived in that neighborhood that was once overflowed with white American families, but in a matter of a few decades came to be filled with poverty level immigrants. This wasn't a bad thing, you see. It taught me that there were other, more interesting people in the world than my boring mom and step dad and siblings. My friends told me about the exotic places of their homelands, and I longed to see them. At the age of 6 I could count to ten in eight different languages, including a dialect of Hmong, Punjab and Laosation. It inspired my love of travel, and it is what aimed me towards fulfilling the goals I have today. Last night as I watched that movie, I thought back to the time I spent in Northern Vietnam, and the Black Hmong and Flower Tribes I'd met there. Lazy afternoons were spent talking to the women my age while the rested from their work of peddling souvenirs to the Chinese tourists that frequented the area. They told me about life, about family structure (and contrary to the movie, the ones I met ate dog, not cat.) Their society is complex and intricate. Living in the mountains and the decedents of a once-fierce warriors, it wasn't difficult for me to understand how those lucky few that settled in America came to have so many problems. At the time, in that place, I respected their culture as a dying, beautiful thing. Today I feel frustration for the disease of crime they spread, not just within their own community, but the new home they've moved to.
Hmong men beat their wives and children when their is any wrong doing. It keeps the family order, it keeps discipline. In a way that most of us cannot understand, it shows love, too. They beat their wives for spending too much money because they CARE. Because of this system of patriarchy, Hmong women have never had a chance to grow into functioning adults. What makes them seem so innocent and care-free in the mountains is selfish, shallow and irresponsible in Americans. Since domestic violence is illegal in the U.S, there is no way to keep the order they've depended on for generations. Fathers resort to emotional and verbal abuse, or sometimes sneaky physical. Little boys grow up torn between two world, having no respect for women at all. The young girls, for their part learned quickly that education was the only way out of this poverty, this cycle, so they gear all their energy towards careers. They marry into other American ethnic groups, thus breaking the family traditions.
In traditional homes, only the Hmong dialects are spoken. Adults do not feel the need or desire to learn English, as it is seen as eroding their own heritage. This means the once disciplining father is further emasculated, as he must rely on his children for the smallest necessities. Without a grasp of the local language, he cannot find or hold work. Accepting government money is shameful, so the quick spiral into poverty is what awaited these first generation immigrants, which of course gave way to the crimes we see today. Hmong boys see their fathers without jobs and consider this the norm. Women now hold the paychecks, but haven't developed financial education yet, so even further down does the family unit decay. They become not just a minority, but a dirty spot on the fringe of society. Men grow depressed, often turning to alcoholism. It makes for a deadly cocktail, and the perfect breeding ground for male criminal gangs. Meanwhile, the next generation of women aren't really able to put time into uplifting the culture. They are busy with American husbands, college educations and careers. The most successful of their people are slowly becoming less and less Hmong, leaving only the dredges of society to self-identify. Slowly, America is seeing an emergence of aid groups, but it might be too late. Racism against their culture is rampant, and that is a great dishonor to us as well, considering the reason WHY Hmongs are in the U.S to begin with.
These aren't opportunist peoples seeking a better life. We used them in the Vietnam conflict, promised them great rewards (or at least escape from persecution) and then didn't follow through. Of the quarter million trackers, scouts and special units trained by the CIA, only a handful of the wealthiest families were actually given what they were promised....a new home.
I don't pity these people, though I do tolerate their plight. On the best of days, I wish that there was a way for me to help.
On the worst of days, I just think that their older generation needs to grow the fuck up, live by the laws of the country they inhabit or go find themselves an island somewhere. The war is over, we lost, the government won't keep it's promise and unless you want America to hate you as much as the countries you fled from, then drop your chauvinistic ignorance for the sake of your families and your entire PEOPLE. On the worst of days, I feel that they are the "pikeys of Asia" and there is a reason no country that they've ever inhabited wants anything to do with them. As always, it isn't even their religion that bothers me, it's their BEHAVIOR. After all, a lot of religions look good on paper.
Buddhism in theory felt right when I moved to Asia, but quickly I encountered and grew disgusted not just with the hypocrisy, but the very paradox of it's fundamental beliefs. For a philosophy that teaches the shunning of material goods, the Thai culture is the exact opposite. The bastardization of these two worlds is embodied in the shrines outside of major shopping complexes where you can go to pray for store-bought goods. A family of ten will huddle in a leaky shack using a dirty stream as their only water source, but every person, both adult and child will have a top of the line cell phone. What bothers me the most are the people that bring children into the world, drive them around without helmets or any other protection on swerving, speeding motorbikes, send them to school in under-funded "schools" where they have no hope of even the barest form of education, no future prospects...but both parents will be wearing huge, solid dangles of jewelry on every body part unhidden by clothing. It's all about "face" you see. This concept is hard to understand unless you've experienced the people for a good amount of time. A lie is only a lie of you get caught and confronted. Otherwise, it is excused as just "saving face" This is an expected social interaction, and the downside of it is that Thais think all other people are liars, too. "Face" is the root of all passive aggressive behavior in Thailand. You cannot tell a Thai employee that he made a mistake. You cannot tell a Thai boss that he made a mistake. You just keep living with the mistakes day after day after day, because the alternative is that the mistake will be corrected only once, and then they will go out of their way to make your life a living hell. Nothing will get done ever again. They will deny this if questioned, of course, but that's just "saving face" too.
I'd like to feel that my anger is righteous. I'd to say that this frustration is because I am right and they are wrong, and that is simply the way of it.
I'd like a lot of things. I guess what it comes down to is pretty simple. I've got no right to tell the Hmongs, "get with the program already" when as a very disgruntled immigrant in another culture, I'm not able to do the same.
Today, just for today... I'm going to move to my own little island where the world operates the way I expect it to, the way I think it should.
When I no longer want to strangle the next lying, negligent parent that can't figure out how a round about works even though they've driven on the same one in the same place for their entire life, I'll come out to play again.
Until then I'm just going to lock my doors and pretend that I'm not in Thailand, not in that little town in American, not even in a populated world....because believe me, these aren't the only cultures or people that have the ability to piss me off today. Anyone on earth that doesn't think exactly as I do must have something somewhere that my elitist, holier-than-thou-art attitude can find to tear apart.
See you in a few days,