I’ve noticed draft posts are piling up. Lately, I just can’t bring myself to write the in-depth Serious Side posts I used to. It’s partly because I’m just busier now. There’s more that I want to do. I never had to juggle more than one main thing at a time. If I was in school, that was it. If I was working, that was it. Granted, now I’m not officially in a degree-earning program, but aside from work, I go to a weekly Japanese class, and have to keep up with the JET Program’s correspondence Japanese course. I hardly ever draw now, so when I do have a piece to work on, I want to give it my full attention. Things like planning trips home take up space in my mind, if not all that much time. And of course, it takes a while to write posts for my JET-specific blog.
Given all that, I could shut down this blog. I was on the verge of doing so, because I also thought, “I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of trying to be a calm voice against racism and sexism in the maelstrom of hatred and ignorance that people unleash on the internet shielded by anonymity.” But then I remembered something I truly believe: it’s important to put the message out there. If even just one reads this blog and finds the Serious Side useful (or the Light-Hearted Side amusing), then it was worth it. I’m trying.
So, given the constraints stated in the first paragraph, I decided that it would be better to at least make my points in brief rather than not at all. Therefore, I present four things that have been weighing on my mind.
The “I’m a _____ so I can’t be ______” Belief
A while ago I read a comment on a blog where the commenter said that she hated female doctors because they’re always on power trips, then went on to say “I’m a woman so I’m not sexist.” Riiiiight.
First of all, power trips aren’t exclusive to female doctors. Male doctors go on them, too. Second of all, you don’t have to be a man to be a sexist. You can be a woman and be sexist against men, or, more commonly, against other women. Sexism would not survive in this world if half the population wasn’t letting its beliefs continue into the future. Every time a woman says stuff like that and truly means it, she is supporting sexism. Every time a woman says, “Oh, I can’t lift this, I need a man to come help me,” rather than saying, “I can’t lift this, I need someone stronger to help me,” she is supporting sexism. Every time a woman speaks about “masculine” and “feminine” as if these things were absolute, rather than the changing social constructs that they are, she is supporting sexism. There are many women who say such things with a straight face; they’re not joking at all. They’ve been so thoroughly conditioned to believe that men and women should live in the strict confines of gender roles.
It’s the same with racist jokes. If I said a really hateful joke about Hispanic people and meant it, I couldn’t say, “I’m Hispanic so I’m not racist.” Of course I’d be racist! To look at it most bluntly: think of the Boondocks character Uncle Ruckus. He’s black (or has “reverse vitiligo” as he says), but that doesn’t make him any less racist against black people. Ruckus may be a cartoon character, but there are people like him in the world (they’re just not as obvious as Ruckus). The “I’m a ____ so I’m not ____” argument just doesn’t hold water.
Ethnocentrism vs. Cultural Relativism
It’s not good to be an ethnocentric, but I think people are using cultural relativism the wrong way. For example, on a discussion across some GACKT fanblogs about whether or not GACKT was a chauvanist, many commenters told a native Japanese person, “oh, thank you for explaining the Japanese view to us non-Japanese.” This irked me, because while it’s possible that the Japanese author’s view reflects the majority of mainstream Japanese society, it’s impossible for it to represent all of it. We should never take just one person’s word as law when they’re talking about something so vast. While there’s certainly validity to what one person tells us from their experience, we can’t just sit back and say “okay, that’s how it is for an entire country.” Especially when the conclusion they come to is as insipid as “that’s just the way it is.” No, nothing just is. Sometimes things start for no reason, or by accident, but large numbers of people don’t continue doing something for hundreds of years if it doesn’t serve a purpose. It may be a purpose that’s hard to see if you don’t think about it, but the purpose is there, and it’s not necessarily a purpose that benefits all parties involved.
And speaking of hundreds of years…
Using “Tradition” as a Defense of One’s Arguments
If you think about it, what is tradition? It’s the last thing that people remember. What I hate about the tradition defense is that people usually use it to mean something has gone on for hundreds, even thousands of years, when it’s possible it may be relatively new. For example, did you know that the color blue used to be for girls and that pink was for boys? (Read this article to learn more: The power of pink) Another “tradition”: has Japanese always had distinct speech patterns for men and women? (Read these articles to learn more: “Be Careful Not to Bend Your Gender in Japanese” and this page reviewing books by Orie Endo, a sociolinguist studying gendered language in Japanese.) There’s few things in life that we could truly say, “it’s always been done that way.” I’m thinking mainly of biological functions such as urination, defecation, and sex, but hell, even these things are done in different ways around the world and across time!
The “We live in a rotten age” Belief
It’s a joke to think of older people saying “Back in my day ~.” But lots of people believe it, I think. Lately, GACKT has been saying that in his blog. But you know what? People have been saying that for at least one thousand years! Read the Tale of Genji, what do you find? Characters constantly saying, “we live in an age of inferior men,” “an age of decline,” etc. Read the Old Testament, what do you find? “We live in corrupt times.” I should think the Earth would have already been destroyed if we’ve been in an age of decline since the time these texts were written. Do we really want to go back to eras of rampant imperialism, colonization, enslavement, disease? To a time when feces flowed freely in major cities? To a time when people believed a woman could get pregnant if she slept under a full moon? In other words, to times when ignorance was defended and reasoning punished? No thanks! If you say, people in the past had morals, I want you to seriously think about what you’re saying. In the late 1700s we had Africans enslaved by those who became known as “whites.” In the 1800s, we had Chinese turned into opium addicts so the British could have tea to give the workers in the factories during the Industrial Revolution, to keep them awake during 14 hour shifts. In the 1900s we had all manner of horrific occurences: the Holocaust, experiments on the Tuskegee Airmen, Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army…and for as long as there has been a concept of power and property, a small percentage of the population lives in luxury through the hard work of starving masses. This is the superior morality of the past? BULLSHIT.
Yes, we have heinous problems in this world. But pining after a past viewed through romantic rose-tinted glasses doesn’t provide answers. I don’t think it’s that we’re currently living in a rotten age, I think the concept of morality is relatively new to human history, and we simply haven’t worked out the kinks. Perhaps we never will, because our circumstances keep changing, changing the dynamics of certain problems. It’s not that anyone has lived in “an age of inferior men,” it’s that the majority of human beings are satisfied with being average, and if everyone strove to be above average and accomplished it, than that higher level would become the new “average,” so in short, there would always be a lot less “extraordinary” people than “average” people. If you really think about it, there’s only a very small fraction of people that are either extraordinary or completly worthless. Most of us are just average. That is, afterall, the definition of average.
Well, that’s what’s been on mind lately.