Tag Archive | action

A Brit Insulted An Asian Woman In Germany

My friend and I laughed at it in hindsight, but at that moment of the insult, my Asian friend was outraged.  M was an immigrant to the States decades ago.  She became a US citizen, married a European immigrant who’s also a US citizen now.  But this is really beside the point.

On their recent vacation trip to Europe, one afternoon, a British man suddenly and rudely shattered their otherwise relaxing meal in a bucolic German town.  As the sun slanted and many patrons of the café put on their sunglasses, so did M.  Immediately, this British man just cursed her for being an uppity bitch (actually in more colorful accented German than what I write here).  Seconds after his outburst, he left the café, leaving M speechless.  She only recovered in time to swear at his backside.  Her ever calm and collected husband said, “Just let it go.”  No, we feisty Asian women (or any feisty women) do not take such beatings lying down.

Calling this "major" snow is an insult.

Calling this “major” snow is an insult.

Seriously, the cursing man has a right to exercise his freedom of speech, and he has his right to be a jerk as well.  However, while free to, since when are we legitimized to insult anyone we happen to dislike/hate just based on appearances?  I know, I know, racial prejudice is around us still and abundant.

M’s story reminded me of another occasion, a couple of years ago at our capital city, Washington, D.C.

I waited for the bus to the Arboretum located on the outskirts of D.C.  Upon stepping onto the bus, I was slightly taken aback.  I was the only Asian in the full busload of African Americans.  I couldn’t tell what people saw on my face; I couldn’t have known what my facial expression might be.  I asked the driver about my intended bus stop and sat down.  Someone sitting nearby told me that he would point out the stop for me when the time came.  I greatly appreciated it.  As the bus seemed to serve the African American working community, I remained the only Asian.  It was the same on the way back to town.

I found the experience interesting.  Had I acted suspicious of my environment, clutched my backpack closely, or looked vacantly ahead without engaging in any eye contact, kept my face frozen without any expressions, or registered apprehension, I wondered how my fellow citizens might have reacted?  Most likely, they would have ignored me and I might not get any signal or indication to get off at the right stop.  Had I been a white female?  Had I been a white female behaving nervously or suspiciously?

“For every action, there is reaction.”  The cliché is apt for the above stories, indeed invites the corollary “For every reaction, there is further counter-reaction.”  Reactions based on appearances are without forethought.  How many racially charged situations have come about simply because one person/group of people arbitrarily decides what the other’s humanity (or lack of) entails?

I have been living in the States for almost four decades, and have endured my share of discrimination.  There is certainly discrimination in China and Taiwan and elsewhere; maybe not always based on race, nevertheless discrimination.

Now, this is a bit more promising.

Now, this is a bit more promising.

Americans do not have a monopoly on ethnocentricity or discrimination.  What complicates these matters in today’s world is subtlety and uncertainty disguised and covered up by politically correct (PC) expressions.   PC makes conversations difficult and understanding almost impossible.  On the other hand, what my friend, M, encountered was blatant and infuriating, blatancy and fury which could in other settings have lead to violence.  On the fifth hand, how shall we proceed?  I refuse to give up.

For starter, let’s discharge all those prescribed dialogues based on PC (political correctness).  Honesty doesn’t have to be brutal.  I have had people asking me if I would be offended by their uncertainty and confusion over whether I am a Chinese or a Japanese.  Given the historical animosity between Japan and China, many Chinese are testy about such confusion.  To me, how refreshing to be asked!  I usually reply that I cannot tell the difference between a German from a Scott, until they speak.  There are limitless ways in which we can have genuine exchanges about our lack of knowledge; we can actually learn as a result.  Yes?

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful for what my adopted home has given me, decades of learning, endless opportunities to explore, and an array of friends from all walks of life who have bestowed upon me their love and wisdom.  Whenever I get impatient, testy, or self-righteous, I conjure up images of my friends and others whom I respect, to teach me and to calm me down.  I don’t always succeed, but I have improved.

happy TG

I wish you all a beautiful Thanksgiving and safe travels.  Till 12/8,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact:  taso100@gmail.com

Of Mice & Cheese, And Little People: Resistance, action, and change

Many years ago, when I was working for a diversity office, my manager excitedly asked me if I had read this wonderful little book “Who Moved My Cheese?”  I was, and still am in general, very dubious about these popular trendy “how-to” books that pop up on the mass market.  They can offer a few gems and some wisdom, but like motivational speeches, readers and listeners may feel “good” about certain messages for a while.  But passage of time would dilute the enthusiasm, unless there is follow-up with actions.  Nevertheless, after the inquiry, I felt obligated to read it; it was a quick and easy read. Overall, I didn’t take to it, and it took a while for me to be able to verbalize my disquiet feelings.

I read it again recently, just in case I might have come to a different level of appreciation.  There are indeed some good tips, and because it’s a short fable with a mixture of rodent and homosapiens (albeit in rodent size) using simple logic, it actually does invite readers to contemplate.  But what bothered me then, and still does now, is the whole premise that since changes are inevitably coming our way, we should just adapt ourselves in order to move on.  There is nothing profoundly wrong with this particular stance, other than the notion that we would be better off blindly accepting all the changes, especially, changes imposed onto us from the top.  Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I believe that there are times we need to question the premises of some changes.  Not all changes are threatening, and not all are inevitably progress for us.

looking down from 14,000+ feet

I guess I’d better give a quick sketch of what the story entails before plunging in further with my reaction and analysis.  The story involves two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two “littlepeople” in the size of mice, Hem and Haw.  These four beings worked in a maze to search for cheese.  After they located a motherlode, they made themselves comfortable and made a living off that hunk of cheese.  Sniff and Scurry definitely were very comfortable; they built a “home” thinking that they’d have the cheese for life, Hem and Haw were always on the edge, ready to move on.  After a while, as the cheese got smaller, the littlepeople noticed it, left that chamber, and moved on to find other food sources.  The mice regarded the move silly and continued their comfortable living…till one day, the cheese was gone.  The mice discussed the issue but thought for sure more cheese would appear.  After another period, mouse Sniff began to think differently about staying put while mouse Scurry felt that the cheese was owed to him and didn’t see why he should bestir to look for new cheese.  More time passed, and eventually Sniff decided to face his fear of the unknown out there and moved on; at each turn of finding no cheese, he had to battle against his mounting fears and doubts.  But eventually, he did find the new cheese, as well as the littlepeople.  While they all enjoyed the new find, they were also always in the “ready to move on” mode.  Mouse Sniff left various messages along the maze walls in case his pal, Scurry, would decide to join them…

Nice little story, which seems to have inspired many people to buy the book (and probably read it) and some have indeed followed the cheese trail and changed the course of their lives.  I don’t mean to belittle the power of this message, I just question the premise that mouse Sniff’s adopting the change is the only or the best way of facing changes in organizational life.

another view from the top

Here is an important distinction:  Sniff’s decision to leave his friend, his comfort zone, and to step into the unknown, while courageous, is nevertheless an adaptive strategy.  During the process, he did learn about himself, and discovered his core of being, willingness to question, tenacity, possession of some sense of humor, etc.  He didn’t really change his core being; what he changed was his behavior in order to survive and keep on living.  His buddy, Scurry, didn’t even bother to change his behavior; he just kept digging deeper into his professed principles, i.e. cheese was owed to him and it wasn’t his fault that the cheese was gone.

A “real” change to the core of being, in this case, the mice (or the littlepeople, whose significance initially escaped me) would/could have said something to themselves, like, “do we really eat only cheese?”  Or, “could we try to make our own cheese?”  “Is this maze (now, how would they recognize it’s a maze?) the only universe for us to locate cheese?  Might there be more space outside these walls to look for “others” or create something totally different?  “In what ways can we change our very being to pursue the next food sources?”  And so forth.  A friend introduced to me the concept of “technical change,” to be differentiated from “adaptive change.”  I am not quite settled on this term – something is still missing – but for now it’s a good enough distinction.

There are a couple of minor points that also bother me.  In comparison to the “littlepeople,” the mice did not pay attention to the diminishing size of the cheese.  “The mice did not overanalyze things.  And they were not burdened with many complex beliefs.”  Yet, later, Haw somehow developed incredible analytical capabilities to help himself understand the dire situation, visualize future possibilities, conquer fear with humor, and to keep himself moving forward by asking this question repeatedly, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”  That is a very wise question.  I know this is a fable, but when the logic doesn’t add up, it bothers me.

storm coming…

Another bothersome point is the lesson that “old beliefs do not lead you to cheese.”  But how does one determine the belief in question is “old”?  When does it become old?  By what criteria?  Did the criteria come from the same source that adopted these “old” beliefs?  Or, did the source at some point stumble upon, or intentionally acquire a new language or new set of frames with which to view the world?  And should “old beliefs” include religious beliefs?  My point is:  What tools do we use to compare and judge one set of beliefs against other sets?  And how do we acquire these tools? And keep them polished?

My schedule from now till end of August is rather fragmented and busy, and so my entries will be somewhat uneven, in length and timing.  But I will keep on discussing interesting points.

Change is really a knotty issue.  I will attempt to delve into some philosophical lessons I have learned on change in the next entry.  Till then,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact:  taso100@gmail.com

copyright taso100 © 2010 – 2015 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent