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Monday, June 18, 2007

The nerve...

Wow, I'm really amazed at the nerve of some people. I've heard a few foreigners (yes, we Americans can be foreigners too) here in China talking with impatience about the accuracy of Chinese translations into English... Hello!! This is their own country!

What would these same people say if common government signs in the U.S. such as on street signs were even shown in Chinese at all? They'd probably huff-and-puff about the fact that everybody needs to know English... But to carry on their U.S.-centrism and apply that within other countries? Now that takes gall...

While I am appreciative of China seeking to bolster their image and economy and in the process make life more convenient for foreigners, these people are independently governed and can choose whatever language or languages or lack of languages on their signs that they like.

What a contrast in character... You can argue about the motives (boost tourism, etc.), but I find the more tolerant attitudes boil down to the common people too. Many people in China consciously consider that they think life should be made easier for foreigners, whereas in the U.S., they are just expected to fit in without the slightest concern (that I have seen anyway) for how easy it may be (assuming these people are not faced with even more hostile attitudes). On the contrary, you commonly find attitudes in America that it is much harder to find in such a degree elsewhere: abandon any trace of your "ethnicity", "language", etc., and get on board with being the model white citizen.

Besides, the U.S. could also improve its tourism as well as its international image if its citizens showed a bit more tolerance of others (do you really think cheesy stereotypical roles for Asians, etc. in Hollywood films, etc. are just unnoticed by the rest of the world, for example?)

Granted, the number of foreigners in China is a lot less, but the whole world could really take a big, big lesson from Chinese hospitality. I don't know how many times I've struggled in vain to pay for a meal here. Can I imagine a common American (at least in the cities; people in the countryside generally have much better manners unless they belong to the also still large bigoted class) paying for the meal of a Chinese visitor to show them extra kindness for the difficulties they face? Oh, that would be something...

Now, if anyone actually ends up reading this, I can imagine some Americans jumping it with characteristic lack of tolerance for any self-criticism and complaining about this as being anti-American or saying something else predictably arrogant and unwilling to self-examine. Guess you can't say, "If you don't like it here, get out of the country" since I'm already out of the country. :) That phrase should probably be turned back on them when they complain about policies that allow multilingual signs, etc.

I should say though that there are indeed many generous-hearted Americans, but for some reasons even many of these seem to be amazingly oblivious to the fact that their fellow compatriots can indeed be selfish to foreigners or minorities.

Chinese media also has one focus that America does not. Consideration of culture and daily life of people in many other countries. America has its self-absorbed lens and mirror pointed in constant self-obsession back at itself---to a degree which is quite amazing. The only chance to learn about other cultures in America is if it is a hot-dog eating contest in Japan, a human tower of people that tumbles down in Spain, or whatever extreme thing like this that can hold the attention-span of most American TV junkies (which by the way includes the absolutely disgusting and inexplicable obsession with topics revolving around murder and other dark aspects of human nature which are quite rightly held by other culture's as unworthy of such extreme attention).

Now, such selfishness will only get its own deserts. Ignorance of the world has its costs. The greater moderation and less confrontational attitudes actually, I would say, harbor well for China's economic as well as cultural future. Does China have its own citizens who are so China-centric that they will hurt themselves by so doing, just as Americans hurt our own country by extreme nationalism? Yes, it does. And I hope, for example, that China, as with America and the rest of the world, will agree on a U.N. education platform which includes "world citizenship" as a part of the basic curriculum to cultivate attitudes which both better benefit all on earth but also best address self-interest. But first take the sliver out of your own eye, my fellow Americans... Now if that attitude would prevail ever more in America, we would really have something to be proud of in the world...

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