Asian self-awareness


In some cultures, people felt ashamed to put on clothes, or if they dressed at all, they would go to the middle of the house in plain view instead of the far corner (where it would draw more attention to the act of changing).

Au contraire, at 24-hr fitness, I notice most of the corner lockers are taken.

In the slump of Calcutta, people have to make do with limited water supplies (10 times less per person than in the West), hence, bathing with their clothes on in public.

When you cross that invisible line between the cultures (East-West, in this case), you move toward individualism. Second-generation Asian American, the I generation, wants nothing to do with their parent’s past i.e. collective living, sharing with siblings or vertical integration with grandparent generations .

I kept hearing that soldiers in the Middle East who defected to neighboring countries’ refugee camps, said they did not want to shoot randomly at mothers, uncles, children etc… Some people are still connected in an extended families web.

The Tunisian vegetable vendor  yearned to break free, to explore, and assert  his rights to exist (while dictators kept dyeing their hair to look young, in control and in charge).

The advice used to be “go West young man”, or “plastic is it”.

Now, backpackers want to go East, and silicon is it.

You know you have completely crossed that invisible cultural divide when you asserted that you are an Asian-American lesbian, with tatoo and want to “kick the hornet’s net”.

– First, it’s not socially acceptable for Asian to self-promote (unless you are in show business – which follows its lead from world’s cosmopolitan centers) for a nail that sticks up gets hammered down,

– Second, although not as extreme as the Taliban, Asian societies are still coming to terms with women in the work place (hence, out of the home). Currently, an act of woman driving alone in some Mid-East cities equates to an act of defiance.

– Third, even in America, and California outside of San Francisco, people are slowly warming up to gay couples and gay marriages.

Social networking helps equal the playing field. The default and template-directed choices both restrict and encourage Asian to “fit” in this new playground (more Asian are on Facebook than any other social networks).

In today’s China, young people are more aware of themselves, and assert their individualism (rapid urbanization in coastal cities) while Chinese society as a whole only focuses on making money. Hence, bikini contest to raise awareness to a cause is an echo of the West’s no-fur protest. (as of this edit, there was a recent Tunisian women lib protest called Female Jihad).

It’s ironic that as Western companies are moving toward collaboration and co-creation , Eastern societies are moving toward individualism and assertion of rights ( China’s wage pressures). In Post-American World 2.0, Fareed noticed that, for 60 years, American went about promoting individual rights and globalisation.

Now that emerging countries picked up on that and welcome MNC’s (GE and Ford made most profits overseas), America forgot to globalise itself (foreign countries are not quite reciprocally welcome e.g, Korean batteries company in Michigan or Chinese refrigeration company in S Carolina).

Maybe someday, there will  be a mutual ground (Hawaii?) where the twain shall meet.

For now, Asian living in America are still negotiating and taking inventory of their predecessors’ cultural baggage (Chinese laundry).

Like a college student leaving home for the first time, she needs to decide which items to keep, or leave behind (for the compact car can only hold so much).

I know she will miss mom’s cooking and dad’s stern disapproval. It’s called conscience.

Internalized code of ethics. Even when rebelliousness is factored in, Asian kids are still slated to excel in college, if not Ivy League (Tiger Moms). Some kids even went on to fulfill their roles as model minorities (doctors and dentists) (a Korean doctor is coming out with a book entitled “In Stitches”).  A few follow Lang Lang and Yo yo Ma

But none so far, emerged in the league of Gaga or Paris Hilton.

It takes generations for the gene pool to produce mega stars, and even then, they can’t handle success (Lohan) or turn up dead (Bruce Lee). In cross-cultural studies, I learned that Asian societies are analogous to crabs in a container (with out a lid, because as soon as an “individualized one” manages to crawl out, its legs are caught by another’s which pulls it right back). There’s no “defriending” button in Asian society. But then again, there is no need to go rob a bank for a buck, to get inmate’s medicare as showed in the news recently. In “On China”, Mr Kissinger referred to the 19 th century during which a British merchant presented his industrial product samples only to be misconstrued as Britain paying tribute to the Middle Kingdom. That mindset i.e. old China to burn their own naval fleet, cheated them out of centuries of progress.

Until 1980 and until now.

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