Friday, 24 February 2017
All the Same
Some time ago, about four years I suppose, while working in the outdoor retail business, I decided to conduct an experiment. It was around the end of winter, a quiet period for trading, and on that day the shop was being run by just me and a female colleague. With respect, she was an ideal subject for my research, since her conscious attitudes were almost completely formed by full immersion in mainstream media.
Being located near the centre of a small city very much on the tourist trail, our shop was visited by a steady trickle of people from all around the world, a trickle that could turn into a flood during the summer months. On the day in question, a Chinese family had just been in to buy some snow boots, winter jackets, or whatever. After they had departed, I started to imitate the accent of a typical Chinese visitor.
My colleague, who looked rather pale at the best of times, rapidly turned a whiter shade of white. Once she managed to animate her jaw, which had dropped open wide as I began to speak, she let out a tirade of protest. "What are you doing? You can't speak like that! No! No! Stop it." Encouraged by her interesting reaction, I continued. She turned her back on me, clasped her hands tight over her ears, and began jumping up and down on the floor. "No! No! Don't! You can't do that. That's awful. I didn't know that you were like that, Ian!"
I eventually relented, permitting my natural all-too-English accent to return. From that day on, however, a certain power was conferred upon me over the poor girl. Anytime she was messing around, not getting on with what she was paid to do, I would cast her a knowing look. "No, Ian. Don't you dare," she would stutter timidly. Then she would scuttle off to do something vaguely useful.
For the second stage of my research, I approached the shop manager. Year after year, the shop manager came bottom of the league table for political correctness. Even he was initially taken aback, however, as a pristine example of rucksack-purchasing Chinese-style issued from my mouth. Anyhow, he found it so outrageously entertaining that he got me into the room when a meeting of local managers was taking place shortly afterwards. I felt like I was being dragged along like a pet, but that's what managers sometimes do. Just like Fido doing his trick for the amusement of the family, I bleated out my Chinese in front of the gaggle of managers. I could see great confusion spelt across some of their faces. I could see shock, horror: like my female colleague, they had a 'what is going on? You can't do that sort of thing' look about them. At the same time, there was real amusement. But I was left with the abiding impression of them thinking "Ian always seemed like a nice guy. I didn't know he was like that......"
So what is that that, which supposedly nice guy Ian was like? Behind it all, apparently, a bit twisted, warped, not quite healthy: racist.
The interesting thing is that, at no point did I suggest, imply, or express any malice, ill wishing, ill intent, any prejudice toward anybody at all. If anything, my humour was flavoured with sympathy. Having spent over a decade in London trying to teach English language to people from all around the world (a highly suitable job for somebody with racist feelings), I knew full well how difficult our language can be. This is especially so for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai students. Anybody from the Far East who succeeds in a degree of fluency and accuracy in English gets my genuine respect. Their own languages are so different to English - in grammar, pronunciation, the perception of life even, embedded in their native tongue. To become proficient in English, it's almost as if they need to rewire their brains.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the English which comes out of their mouth can sometimes sound a bit weird, a bit amusing, to a native English speaker. There's nothing wrong with that at all. But certain influential elements within modern society have twisted the very notion of racism, to include not just prejudicial acts rooted in ignorance, but the very recognition of difference itself. All that I expressed during my research was a certain difference. The effect that my experiment had on other people is what was truly shocking. I had simply presented an undeniable reality, nothing more, nothing less. This, however, is apparently no longer permissible. The reality staring us straight in the face is to be denied. "You are forbidden from recognising reality. There is something more important. More important than reality."
It was clear demonstration of the repression of truth, simple truth, which has become the hallmark of much so-called anti-racism nowadays. It is not about racism at all. It is about chopping off people's natural instincts and reactions, forbidding freedom of experience. It is every bit as repressive as the morals of the Victorian era ever were.
Maybe we should return for a moment or two to Donald Trump. Dear old Donald. The main reason, I feel, that he is so viciously reviled by the 'liberal' global elite and its puppy dogs, the mainstream media, is his acknowledgment of difference. Not only difference, but that a difference does, or at least can, make a difference. Some of his posturing threatens to undo all the good work they have done over recent decades to reduce everybody to sameness; to being bland, placid cogs in an easily-managed machine. Take the travel ban, which has created the predictable outrage, venom, histrionics. Trump has merely followed the simple logic of the narrative that has been spun for us. Over the past fifteen years, we have been told, the major threat to our stability and safety has come from extreme and 'radicalised' people who profess the Muslim faith. At the same time, it is very bad, unacceptable even, to say anything critical about aforementioned religion. It is important to be 'inclusive', 'tolerant', to avoid putting obstacles in the way of the establishment of Heaven on Earth i.e. total sameness.
Trump has come along and seen the naked emperor. "Hang on a minute. We're saying that international threats originate especially in these countries. Yet we're allowing folk from these places to roam around the globe pretty freely. Even my own basic understanding of logic knows there's something weird here."
An awful lot of people, it seems to me, have been freaked out by the arrival of huge numbers of people into Europe from Syria, Iraq, northern Africa, you name it, in very recent times. Just walking in. "Come on in. You're all welcome. No passport? No identity? No worries." Even the UN has confirmed that the vast majority of those people were not bona fide refugees, but economic migrants, especially youngish males. To large portions of the western populace, the credibility meter was put under great strain. Then it just exploded. Even to Norman Normal, this was all too weird, it didn't add up. It was a step too far. Maybe it's all part of an evil plan by the global elite to take more control in a 'divide and conquer' manner, by creating further instability in western nations. Maybe it was a miscalculation on their part; maybe they overstepped the mark. I don't know.
There is a higher dimensional aspect to all this. For want of a better term, let's talk 'spiritual growth'. Our growth is rooted in, based upon, our own uniqueness as individuals on this planet. It cannot be any other way. Only a unique and solitary individual can decide to grow. I am me, you are you. We are not all the same. We have feelings, wishes, likes, dislikes, thoughts, aspirations, pasts and presents. Some of this we may have in common with other people; but it all flows out of our individuality, our uniqueness.
To 'grow' depends on my abilities to discern, to distinguish, to discriminate (using the word in its original meaning). I need to be able to see difference, and to be able to say 'these things are different, but it makes no difference' (the way people speak English), and 'these things are different, and that really makes a difference' (this person wants to be friends with me, while this one wants to blow me up).
This natural, healthy experience of difference is thwarted, repressed, by modern political correctness as it is applied to the reality of difference of peoples, races. Instead of being seen as a marvellous resource, variety is viewed with suspicion, paranoia even. It is not to be spoken or thought, the hope being that it will eventually disappear from our conscious perception completely. Thus will Paradise on Earth be established.
On a deeper level, the denial of difference is a war against 'growth' in itself, and all the great that human beings can achieve in this life. The result is a completely sterile environment, rid of vitality, 'edge'. Excellence, which requires a sense of difference, specialness even, in order to emerge, is absent, replaced by mediocrity, the lowest common denominator, the fear of offending anybody. God, the Divine, the All, the Dharmakaya, take your pick, may be One; but it expresses in distinctions, meaningful distinctions. Gender, race, preferences, abilities.There is a body of thought which suggests that the One actually requires duality in order to be aware of Itself. Heaven help us, surely not. But hey, we're getting ahead of ourselves here.
In the meantime, my wife has been laughing at my efforts to speak in Spanish -again. I'm off to complain to the Equalities Commission or someone.
Image: Amitabha, Buddha of Discriminating Wisdom