Socialization and Social Mores: Political Correctness and Multiculturalism: Immigration and Assimilation: Chinese Culture: - My country, Australia, is officially a multicultural country, but in fact it was always so. The 'political' entity called multiculturalism, is, in my personal opinion, something that tries to raise 'foreign cultures' to some imaginary 'aspirational height'; whose value exceeds and therefore should replace our own homespun generic varieties. (Such will never happen in China).
Preface: In this second installment, my focus is actually to show up the inherent 'hypocrisy' of those politically militant 'multiculturalists'. Fundamentalists that they are, their prime concern is their own power base, which they assert by their constant condemnation of those who do blindly accept 'foreign culture'.
Although first written in 2005, the sentiments expressed in it hold just as true for me in 2011 as they did when I first wrote it.
Western Socialisation Versus Life in China Pt.2
I introduced last week's newsletter by mentioning an article I had read on the internet about how the social perceptions of one visitor to China had changed. That article written by 'Thunder', originally appeared "Cultural Adjustment Part II and the Downfall of American Socialization" at http://www.traveljournals.net /stories/2488.html (2009 no longer accessible.)
He commences his story by relating his shock when he left Hawaii to live in San Francisco, and for the first time observed openly homosexual behaviour; something which he would not find shocking now. He then continues on to general shocks that one encounters in China, such as 'crippled and deformed individuals begging on the streets, 'one nostril' nose-blowers, pajama wearers in the ritzy department stores ...'
From these observations he moves on to recount an event which saw himself, a black african man, and a 14 year old girl all together in an apartment watching an NBA video. I quote here in parts:
'during our discussions, me, a fourteen year old girl and the West African guy found that we all shared an interest in American NBA basketball ...
we decided to get together to watch the yet unseen DVD ...
Think about the situation for a moment. Would this arrangement pass muster in the USA? A fourteen year old girl and two men; one of them being a black. Certainly none of us see nothing wrong with arrangement and it appears innocent enough.....
It then occurred to me how the American Media has shaped my way of thinking and the brainwashing effect which is finally wearing off.'
The point he makes here is that halfway through finding himself in a 'normal' situation here in China, he suddenly remembers that the folks back home would find this behaviour strange, if not down right unacceptable. It flies in the face of the standards under which he was raised, but by which he no longer lives. Think about it. What would you think about two men and a 14 year old girl in a man's apartment watching TV? Does it shock your social values?
One of the first things you learn about 'living in China', is that the way you, a foreigner, views things in general, is generally considered pretty strange and mysterious. What we foreigners take for granted can be completely unknown to the average Chinese person (and totally untrusted), whilst everything we mistrust or fail to understand about China and it's people, is commonplace, rating no particular consideration for the Chinese person. In short, we live and think and approach life from completely different perspectives; perspectives that we have 'learned' within our social environments.
The first priority in this article, is to bring to your attention, ways of thinking, acting and living that you might not find appropriate. But further than this I briefly want to raise the issue of that political invention called 'multiculturalism'.
My country, Australia, is officially a multicultural country, but in fact it was always so. The 'political' entity called multiculturalism, is, in my personal opinion, something that tries to raise 'foreign cultures' to some imaginary 'aspirational height'; whose value exceeds and therefore should replace our own homespun generic varieties. (Such will never happen in China).
Some politically correct 'thought police' like to brand as 'racist', anyone who expresses any dissatisfaction with or disapproval of another's ethnic culture. Anti vilification laws were never designed for this purpose, that is, to silence people in the expression of their general thoughts and opinions.
The same people who would militantly police 'my' acceptance of multiculturalism and brand me 'racist' if I object to something about another culture, are also the same people who generally espouse such causes as feminism, homosexuality, pro-abortion, anti-circumcision etc. etc. However, what they often fail to understand, is that many of the cultures that they wish to elevate, have their own agendas on such issues, that may in fact be in conflict with those who 'push' multiculturalism down everyone's throats.
These people will for instance tell you that you must respect Islam, whilst their personal agendas are in fact in opposition to the treatment of women in Islam. They will tell you that you are committing a criminal act if you circumcise your son, and yet many of the 'ethnic' cultures also follow this practice.
Acceptance of other cultures may in fact require you to 'accept' behaviour that you have been raised to reject, and this was 'Thunder's' point about socialisation.
Let me give you some examples from ordinary daily life in China.
How would you feel, if your 15 year old son, whom you thought to be staying a few days with his friend and his family, had left their home and moved in with a foreigner, temporarily in the country. Worse, you go there to find your son sleeping in his underwear in the same bed as the foreigner. How would you react? Well if you were Chinese, you would have no problem with it at all. But as you have been raised to think dirty, you undoubtedly have a big problem with it.
One of the grade one students who decided to drop in on the 'Teacher's Summer Camp' at which I have been teaching, asked me if he could come and talk with me at my home. I told him to come at 5:30pm when others would be there. He turned up at 8 pm. (Time and appointments mean nothing in China). At 11pm, after spending the evening with myself, my 14 year old boarder and my 33 year old guest, he advised me that, 'I will sleep with you tonight!'. Do you find that strange?
Certainly the American Teachers here this summer did, but for me, it is common place. People come to my home, they help themselves to anything they want to eat or read, turn the TV on, play music, take my bicycle or camera if they wish, sit down and start playing with my computer, and many just stay. They climb into bed with me or with whomever is sleeping in the spare bedroom, and if there is no spare bed, they just curl up on the lounge or in a corner. It is normal. For the average Chinese person, a king sized bed is made for 4-5 people.
In an upcoming 'Stories from China' you will read how 13 year old Zhan Yan was dropped off at my place by his parents so that he could have a 2 hour conversation with me in English. One week later they returned to fetch him. It is normal!
Now when you read such stories, I feel certain that two words probably pop into your head. The one is homosexuality, and the other is paedophilia.
If these two words draw your ire, and especially if you are homophobic, you should never come to China. Not that homosexuality is popular or visible, it is just that everything that men and women do in public in China smacks of homosexuality. In China, all men are homophiles. I guess the same word applies to women (homo / another of the same kind & phile / filio from 'brotherly love').
To sit in a classroom in discussion with students and watch 17 & 18 year olds of the same gender laying in each other's laps, holding hands, or sitting cheek to cheek as they listen to you, is very offputting when you first encounter it, but it is NORMAL. In fact, I nearly fell out of my proverbial tree the first time I saw a boy holding a girl's hand in Wuhan. But then again, Wuhan is an upbeat place. Try and explain to the Chinese youngsters of the same gender that they look like lovers! They firstly have no reference point for the statement, and if you explain it, they look at you quizzically as they try to fathom your gross stupidity.
Last week one of the regular teachers in this school called out to me. When he caught up to me he took me by the left hand, and locking his fingers with mine, began to walk me to my classroom as he discussed whatever matter it was that he wanted to discuss. I was utterly astounded. Not because this 40 year old man was holding hands with this 51 year old foreigner, but because this is the first time that he has made physical contact with me. You can tell a lot about how people consider each other by the degree to which they are tactile with each other. It has taken this man 18 months, but he finally considers me a very good friend.
Likewise, in class, the quickest way to find out what boys think of me, is to put my hand on their shoulder. By their reactions, I can tell if they hate foreigners, if they hate me, if it doesn't matter to them, or if they like my 'friendliness'. In the west if you wanted to know what students thought of you, you would most probably be able to tell it by their eyes, but since rarely (at first) do students look you in the eye, you can't tell.
In the west, if you put your hand on a student you would be branded a paedophile, but here when a student who is sitting next to you in a group discussion, leans over and puts his head on your shoulder, no one even notices.
As a westerner you probably think that young people should be encouraged to think for themselves and make their own decisions, but in China, boys and girls will study only what their parents want them to study and if there are two children in the family and not enough money for both to go to school or university, it will be the boy who studies, not his sister. They are also not permitted (by law) to marry until they are 22 and 20 years old respectively.
You might think that all children should be taught about the birds and bees so that they can be responsible in their sex lives. In China, most boys and girls will remain virgins until they marry. Most university students asked to fill out a questionnaire on AIDS, thought that AIDS was spread by mosquitoes. Most young people are taught and believe that 'self pleasure' is extremely bad for your health.
Now if this all meets with your approval, then note that on the other hand, if you are married and your best friend comes for a visit and stays the night, you do not sleep with your wife, you will honour your guest by climbing into bed with him and spend the night talking.
Chinese people are extremely modest people, or so they believe and say, but if you go down to the local 'swimming pool' (creek), you will find hundreds of men of all ages running around in their wet jocks (briefs), many of which are well worn, baggy, light coloured or otherwise 'eye catching'. And they do this in front of both genders of all ages. 'It doesn't matter! It is normal.'
Would you let your daughter go swimming with several hundred boys who were wearing only undies? Well, in rural China, neither will anyone else. Any girl who goes swimming in public and who is not accompanied by mum, dad, grandma and an assortment of aunties, is a disgrace, but not so in the big cities. Would you be branded an irresponsible parent for letting your daughters go swimming in the local swimming hole? As for little children, clothing at the best of times is not compulsory, let alone in the local pool, and since all little kiddies clothes are crotchless, one is never in doubt as to a child's gender.
Whilst not denying, discounting or minimalising the issue, I personally think that feminists and media hysteria about paedophilia has robbed many people in the west of their innocence. I remember that my wife's constant instructions to my children led on many occasions to paranoia and hysterics. In China, one begins to wonder if it is something genetic, or possibly relating to strict Government control over what can be seen on television, that leaves Chinese people free to live their lives unfettered by 'dark fears' of 'men' and 'dirty old men'. Furthermore, you begin to wonder why it is that what is demonstrative of genuine love for someone of the same gender in China, is both 'dirty' and a sure sign that someone is 'gay' in the west.
Our western perceptions of right and wrong are not necessarily shared by people of 'other' cultures, and in fact, may not at all have anything to do with morality or righteousness 'per se', but perception, and that, not just a personal thing, but something engineered by some 'vested interest'. Furthermore, if we are truly 'multicultural' and truly 'anti-discriminatory', then we really do not have a right (politically correctly speaking) to stigmatise 'ethnic' values, just because they clash with our own.
Now continuing on with other 'less shocking' cultural norms, let me ask you something. How would you feel if you let your 13 year old son go to his friend's house for the weekend, only to discover that he had been allowed to drink beer with his meals, to the point, that he got drunk? Not a problem in China! It is normal! Take a 14 year old to dinner and he will just grab your beer and pour it into his water glass and no one will bat an eyelid.
How would you like your son's school friend to come home for the weekend, only to find him walking around in his undies after he has had a shower? How would you feel when you discover him sitting in front of your dressing table or cupboard, rifling through everything you own? Do not worry, it is normal in China! I once had a student ask me why I left so much money lying around in my house. I asked him what he was talking about, and he informed me that I had 7000 in cash, 'just lying around' in my room. In fact, that money was in an envelope, inside a bag, inside a box, underneath a pile of other things, in the bottom of a cupboard in my room. 'But it was just lying there for someone to find!'
Imagine going to get your digital camera, only to discover that your son's friend had taken it and gone out to take some photos. Or perhaps you want to go bike riding only to discover your son's friend has beaten you to it? And what is worse, is that he doesn't come back for a few days. Don't worry! It is Normal!
But imagine that none of these things have happened. Everything is going smoothly (he has only been in the house for 15 minutes). You ask him if he wants to eat an orange. He says 'Yes!' You hand it to him. He takes it (one does not say thank you in China for such unimportant things as being handed food). He begins to peel it, and drops the peel on the floor. He then decides to go to the toilet while he is eating it, and you find orange juice all the way to the toilet and back. Don't worry! It is normal! 'Someone will clean it up!'
Finally you all sit down to a chicken dinner. The boy has difficulty with the knife and fork. 'Pick it up with your hands' you say. He asks for plastic gloves. (You should not touch food with your bare hands). You finally convince him that it is Ok to eat with his hands, and as he eats he starts spitting unwanted food either onto the table or onto the floor. You can be polite and handle this can't you? Of course you can.
When dinner is done, you say to the boys, 'OK you two. Pack up the dishes!' The Chinese boy looks at you strangely. You explain to him that since you cooked dinner, the two boys must clear the table and take everything to the kitchen. 'That is woman's work!' he declares, as he heads off to turn on your computer, TV or cassette player.
Next night, as you are preparing dinner, there is a knock at the door, and it is the boy's parents, sister, grandma and two aunties. They have come for dinner! Their son invited them. Nice boy that. Don't get upset! It is normal! Besides, it is a big honour! They would never have come if they did not like or appreciate you.
Later in the year you will be able to read about my adventures in TianJin, and the horrors of being an 'honoured guest' at a Chinese Dinner. Recently, Chen Yang's mother, who owns the dry cleaning shop that I go to, invited me to dinner. I told Chen Yang that I would be happy to go, but would not accept if it meant eating in a restaurant. There was some 'back and forth' discussion about my unreasonable request, and finally I agreed to go to dinner with them in a Restaurant, on the proviso that I chose the restaurant. When I told them where I wanted to go, dinner got switched to their home. And what a pleasure it was. They felt that they were not honouring me by taking me to a fancy restaurant, but every time someone does this, I end up insulted, infuriated, or drunk, and lose any desire to have anything more to do with them.
My dinner on the roof of their apartment was for this strange foreigner, the greatest honour that they could pay me. Not only was it a fantastic view, but I thoroughly enjoyed the company. A week later, I was taken to dinner by someone else. The private room was cosy; it had a window, a view, nice curtains, and chairs that were covered and had cushions. When the big wig arrived, he decided that this room was not 'honouring' enough, and so we had to change. The 'best room' had no window, no view, an air conditioner that did not work (hot room and full of cigarette smoke), and beautiful chairs (hard as a rock).
It was a completely 'white' room, and full of helogen lights. I could not focus my eyes on anyone as the room seemed to 'float' before my eyes. It was also a soundproof room, which in China, means that the sound reverberates around the room. Definately not conducive to a pleasant, intimate dinner.
The inevitable discussion arose about what I wished to have for dinner. It's a polite but useless question, because whatever you say, (beef, pork, chicken, potato etc) they will just pick one of multiple choices for this item from the menu, and when it arrives, your stomach turns, but since YOU chose the dish, you must eat it. So I informed them that I did not eat anything that lives in water, whether the ocean, lake or river, and that beyond that they could just order whatever they wanted to eat and I would find something to eat from amongst those dishes.
Naturally we went through the 'but you are our honoured guest. You must choose ... etc' Finally they understood that my lack of politeness was in fact deliberate lack of politeness, and they ordered. To honour this guest who does not eat anything that lives in the water, they chose duck soup, fish lips, prawns (shrimp), some other fish dish, and a variety of different vegetables. They kept trying to tell me that I should try these dishes as they had been ordered especially for me, and within a few minutes of my stubbornness they left off insisting.
I learned in TianJin that I am not afraid to offend people who in their effort to please me, insist on insulting me and forcing me to eat stuff that I simply cannot eat. In TianJin I actually shouted at the dinner table Fine! I'll eat the F'ing Shrimp! But you had better get the ambulance here real quick and tell the doctors that I am allergic to Iodine! This occurred because my interpreter was too embarrassed to tell the hosts that I would not eat the shrimp. He kept insisting that I can just try it.
But back to the other more recent dinner, my friend Tobias who had been invited to go with me, at some point whispered into someone's ear, and they ordered some 'Chao Rou'. It was the only meat I could eat. Chao Rou is finely diced pork with capsicum and peppers. Not bad for someone who had never eaten pork or peppers before he went to China.
As dinner progressed, in came the lady holding the big expensive bottle of Chinese Spirits. I turned to the lady who had invited me and said: I know Chinese custom, and I know this is going to be purchased to honour me, but I do not drink it, and I will not drink it!' 'Not a problem!' she declared, before proceeding to insist that I try some.
So what am I on about here? Just this! It is one thing to talk about multiculturalism and how we should 'respect' everyone's culture, and it is another thing, to have to 'put up with' that culture in our daily lives, or expose aspects of those cultures to our children whom we have raised to hold contrary values.
Beyond this, there is another more important matter, which is, that many of our cultural values, are truly only relevant to our own culture and society. Idealists like to talk about making our culture multicultural, but we tend to forget or fail to know that some of those customs are things we find offensive in our personal lives.
Circumcision (male and female), tattoo's, alcohol, smoking, modesty or lack thereof, women's rights, gay rights, general manners and curtesy, religion or lack thereof are just some examples of things in other cultures that we might find offensive.
You may consider homosexuality to be a 'choice', a 'human right' or a 'predisposition', but your beliefs are irrelevant, for homosexuals are not wanted in China, and are regularly dealt with as criminals. I often wonder how much anti-gay sentiment in Australia derives from less tolerant cultures, rather than from generic Australian culture. Anti-Abortionists are not welcome in China either, and there is no point talking about God because he doesn't exist here. You have no right to have more than one child in China, no matter what you 'think' are your (dare I say it) 'God given rights'.
People of the same gender sleep together, even if they are strangers, and no one understands what the dickens you are talking about when you object to this disgusting practice. You have no right to criticize the government, and protesting that the government has no right to silence you might result in being silenced by a bullet.
In China, no one ever tells people exactly what they think. On this score they are very western (politically correct). Much of your 'common/ordinary' western conversation will be considered improper if spoken in front of women, children or old people. Say thank you except on formal occasions, and people will look at you strangely.
Family members do not lend money to each other, it is just given. If someone gives you a gift you must return the honour with a gift of your own, even if you have to steal to afford it. There is no need to say thank you to your parents for anything, for everything they do for you is their duty. Washing, cooking and cleaning is woman's work. When people pay unannounced visits to your house at meal times, you MUST feed them all and smile while they spit out unwanted food onto the table or floor, or blow their noses directly onto the wall or floor.
If you refuse to drink alcohol, even if you are a non drinker, you dishonour the people who force you to drink, and force you they will. They are after all, 'honouring you' and displaying their love and appreciation for you. Heaven forbid that you not be a smoker, or worse, that you are, because they will make you chain smoke more than at any other time in your life. Smoking at the dinner table during dinner is usual, and if in a restaurant, the moment the last person takes their last mouthful of food, everyone jumps up and leaves. There is no hanging around for coffee and a chat.
In your home, you (the woman) will be expected to hover in the background and eat when the family and guests are finished. In Summer, you will wear summer clothes (even if it is cold) and in Winter, you wear winter clothes, even if you are in the middle of a three day heat wave. (I went through a 3 day heatwave in winter. Everyone was standing around in suits, holding umbrellas and fans, laughing at me for wearing a short sleeve shirt.) People go shopping in big department stores in their pyjamas, while laughing at you for wearing a long sleeved shirt in summer.
All of these things I mention are ordinary everyday events in China, and while the foreign visitor may find it quaint, the foreigner who lives here must integrate and learn to 'go with flow', or take a stand that may alienate him from those with whom he works. But
Would you tolerate these things in your own country?
Would you expose your children to people who live this way?
Would you be racist if you did not?
Racism is discrimination without discernment. Discernment that directs toward a discriminating value judgement, is not Racism.
***You ought not to look down on foreign people just because they have not reached your 'enlightened' level, or do not share your colour, culture or religion. That is racism. Similarly, you ought not to look down upon (your own) people because they do not want a 'foreign culture' to replace their own.***
I've heard it said that the Chinese are racists. In some ways I think this might be true, but generally they do not hate people based on race. They do not look down on people because of the colour of their skin, or their religion.
They merely insist that their Chinese culture is superior to foreign cultures,
that Chinese culture ought to be maintained,
and that foreigners should not force their foreign ways on the Chinese.
My daughter-in-law does not remain in the lounge room with me if my son leaves the room. Outside of the house, she wears the veil. At no time may I take a photo of her, and I must never touch her, embrace her, or kiss her. I respect her, her customs and her values, and her right to live her culture in her own home. I would respect her right to have her children taught in an all Muslim school. But I note, that if a public or private school does not want a 'foreign' culture entering or influencing students in that school; or a 'Christian school' does not want a non-Christian teacher or a homosexual teaching in it, then they are branded discriminatory or racist.
Racism denies to people the right to have and maintain their own culture, language and religion. Everyone however has the right to do so, as do they also have the duty to 'integrate' into the existing culture of their new country. (Suggested reading)
Beyond this, we should also not expect peoples in foreign countries to believe as we do on a cultural or political level. Just because we believe that democracy is the right or best way to govern a country, does not mean that others view it this way, and we have no right to insist that they see it our way.
Cultural change can only ever be successful when that culture changes from within by the will of the people. Not by legislation. We cannot force countries to change their social culture, just because we find it unacceptable, and we should not force our own people to accept foreign culture, simply because we undervalue our own national culture.
It's a difficult kettle of fish to cook, but:
we cannot claim to be non discriminatory, when we discriminate against our own people,
and nor can we say that we embrace other cultures, when we institute legislation to outlaw certain social 'norms' of immigrants entering our country.
Should you decide to pay a visit to China, you should not encounter too much of a culture shock. If on the other hand you decide to live here, you had better be prepared to suffer quite a lot. It is amazing at times how (ultimately) easy it is for me to go with the flow; to cook a meal for 6 people without prior notice; to give friends money because they ask; to take in people because they expect it; to not notice a million things that would have upset me a few years ago. It is also amazing how assertive I have become in refusing to succumb to manipulation.
In the final analysis, personally I am extremely comfortable in China, but that may simply be because I am a Chauvinistic Sexist pig. (What did you just call Chinese men?)
Some parts of these two articles might lead one to ask 'Why?" or "How?" in relation to some of the political observations. Suggested reading that might help understand 'cultural norms' can be found in: The Imprisoned American Mind by Manuel Garcia, Jr.
Copyright 2011/2012 is held by the nominated authors on this article page.
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R.P.BenDedek is the owner and Editor of KingsCalendar.com which was originally set up to publicize his research results into the Chronology of Ancient Israel. Those results were published under the title: 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran'.
Whilst there have been many attempts to solve the chronological riddle of the Bible's synchronisms of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah and their synchronism with other Ancient Near Eastern Nations, no other research is based on a simple mathematical formula which could, if it is incorrect, be disproved easily. To date, no one has been able to dismiss the mathematical results of this research.
Free to air Academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah.