Saturday, June 1, 2013

He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I grant two things about White Westerners: 1) Their ancestors did a lot of bad things in the past and oppressed people from countries all over the world, and: 2) They are usually still in a position of privilege compared to other races and nations.  It is perhaps easiest for them to criticise given their their exalted position and that their ancestors have had it easier than others.  For these reasons how can they possibly understand other cultures, races, and countries?  Who are they to comment?  What right do they have, given their track record, to advise others on how to behave?

Well, this depends.  Do white westerners have a right to dictate to others?  No.  Do they have a right to be proud of themselves and belittle others?  No.  Do they have a right to suggest that things in other cultures or countries aren't right and that they could do things better?  Absolutely, yes.  Should they just sit idly by and watch as people suffer (and as they suffer themselves) under injustices?  Absolutely, no.

I am a White Western man, guilty as charged.  On this blog I criticise aspects of Korean culture, guilty as charged.  But hang on a minute, I live in Korea and I am married to a Korean, does this not entitle me to have an opinion on the culture?  Is that how it works; you go to live in another country and you just accept how they treat you and each other without questioning it?  I think not.  What difference does it make where I'm from or what colour my skin is?  If something is being done badly or wrong, those doing it should be ready for some criticism.  If they can't take this, then it is their problem; it is not like arguing a point is threatening violence, they are words and words alone.

Now words can be harmful and incite violence sometimes.  Ideologies are some of the most deadly aspects involving human nature.  Bad ideas can end up killing millions of people, so I am not saying words don't matter, of course they do, in fact very much so.  The only way to feel safe in a world of conflicting ideas and ways of life is to encourage ideas and opinions to be heard and for all sides to be dispassionate and reasonable in dealing with disagreements.

What I do find slightly ironic when I get accused of prejudice or am criticised about making arguments from a 'White man's' perspective is that most of these criticisms come from people who live in Western countries.  These are the people that are meant to be standing-up for freedom of speech and expression in the world, yet it is they who are the biggest callers for my silence on this blog and on other sites.  When I talk about this to my wife or some of my Korean friends, they give me a quizzical look and say things along the lines of, 'why is saying something bad about part of Korean culture so wrong?'  In fact what often gives me confidence in making my arguments on this blog is that I have run them by Korean people first and they often agree.  What I dislike about Korean culture is exactly what many Koreans themselves dislike about Korean culture, and especially those Koreans lower down the hierarchical tree of status, i.e. women and young people.

I can't also help but see some hypocrisy in the way Western liberal-minded people deal with some of my posts.  If I write something positive about Korea, I receive kind comments (gratefully received of course) saying how I have really hit the nail on the head and how it is obvious how I understand and love Korean culture.  If I write something negative, however, I haven't gone into the culture in enough depth, need to read up on the subject, or obviously hold a deep grudge or prejudice towards Korean people.  I have even been accused of suffering with depression after writing a negative blog post about Korea.  So in summary, if you live in another culture and are immersed in it like me, you are only talking with knowledge and authority when you say something nice.  If you are not saying something nice you are either ignorant or some kind of bigot.  I must, however, acknowledge the many kind messages of agreement with my less positive posts that I receive on my blog, and encouragingly these kind words are regularly posted by Korean people themselves.

It is, of course, quite possible that I do write some unjustified codswallop about Korea sometimes, after-all I am a simple blogger and no Einstein.  It is quite probable that during the course of writing a great many blogs now that I have been wrong about a number of things.  If so, however, the best course of action is to counter those specific arguments with better arguments, not play the 'White Westerner, who is he to comment on anyone else but his own race' card.  This move is basically to accuse the person of a degree of racism, it is a soft way of warning the person against being a bigot or at least be careful not to turn into one.  I find this troubling, and although I hate throwing around the word 'racist' as it occurs all too commonly these days in all manner of arguments, it seems to me that criticising people of all different races and cultures as objectively as possible is very anti-racist and those who say I can't comment (or at least should be careful commenting) because I'm white are the one's with the explaining to do.  Most of my problems with Korean culture are born out of the suffering of Korean people within it, not of me personally.  I criticise because I care about these people.  If I don't like something, I go for the culture not the people, there is a big difference here.

Anyone who knows me, and especially my friends from back home in England would also know that I am often equally scathing (if not more so) of my own culture, it is not only one-way traffic on Korea.  This is not to say that I hate my country, I don't, I have a certain love for my homeland and I also have genuine fondness for Korea.  Korea is a place that is not especially well-known in the UK and my friends often have a slightly negative view of the place and think it is a little more backward than it actually is.  In their company I will often tell them the good things about Korea, of which there are many and this blog deals with those too.

As I have said before, there is a negative bias in reporting stories generally and this bias probably extends to this blog also.  Just think if you were an alien and got all your information about the human race from the news; what a sad reflection on human nature it would show, but there is more to us all than that.  However, this doesn't mean that valuable lessons can't be learned from regularly watching the news, as long as it is with an open mind and and a critical eye.

Perhaps it is difficult to trust a white man and what he says about another culture, but maybe you could give me the benefit of the doubt.  I criticise because I care about people (and non-human animals), especially the vulnerable, no matter what colour they are, where they are from or what culture they subscribe to.  However, I don't give a damn about offending them if they are wrong, and especially if they are using cultural traditions for their own advantage over other people or infringing on their rights because of cultural philosophies best left in the past, which have no reasonable basis to back them up.  I am a white man, an ancestor of the those that were part of the British Empire.  This doesn't mean I am who they were, but I am guilty of criticising a culture that I wasn't born into and I am proud of that fact.

11 comments:

  1. Reparations easily parallels the idea of blood feuds, and the western world outgrew them long ago. Rest of the world? Not so much.
    One of the things that people forget is that westerners haven't had it easy, just because the western civilization evolved much more prominently.
    The western world HAS had its wars. It HAS had its crusades. It HAS had its difficulties. Past time.
    When these difficulties were overcome, things sped up, and culture and technology evolved on a decade basis, while the rest of the world was fawning around, setting up the colony age right around the corner.
    What it comes down to, is "should you allow people to interact with with each other?"
    Of course! But what about on a global scale? If yes, the responsibility of evolution and progress is held to oneself, and not others. This means privilege and reparation are sacrificed for interaction, as they are far too inconsequential, i.e.Take the good with the bad.
    If no, then the west is gonna have a mass deportation plan ready. Not only are reparations prevalent, so is the responsibility to others relative to racial, IQ, cultural, and evolutionary differences (ala Star Trek with Prime Directive), and as such, should be enforced.

    Besides it's a bit stupid calling someone out because of race only, as to why you should or shouldn't dictate others, when things such as wealth relative to country of origin, IQ of the individual, technological progress relative to country of origin, should be cited as well together with the racial sentiment, which they aren't, outing the accusing party and it's argument, as little more than an EXCUSE (keyword).
    If you bring up race as an argument, then it should be handled scientifically, and brought up together will ALL of the sociological and genetic references, to handle it properly, and that is rarely the case.

    Don't ever feel bad about the negative incentive of people, only learn.
    Everyone learns, albeit some refuse to, often attributed to those unwilling to discuss argument rather than 'argumentee', as you inferred. Liberals are therefore last people, you should feel bad about getting flak from.
    You just keep writing, Chris.

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  2. Good points as always.

    Don't worry, although I can't help but be frustrated and feel slightly negative about the regular calls for silence because of the colour of my skin and my nationality, the criticism actually tends to fuel the fire.

    Western liberals are frustrating me at this moment in time, because I do share most of my political opinions with them, but in many respects liberalism has gone too far and I think it has largely negated our ability to be honest and forthright about our own values and opinions and is rendering us impotent in response to ideas and attacks from other more conservative cultures. Islamic cultures are the prime example and the media obsession (maybe for good reason), but it also occurs in other places around the world. It seems as if most people in the West don't want to respond to their own suffering at the hands of aspects from other cultures and perhaps more importantly the suffering of people within these other cultures themselves. It is a tricky business to address for sure, but an open dialogue would be a good start.

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  3. I agree with you , but many westerners are hatefull to non europeans.

    I am Russian living in nyc US.
    But almost on any You Tube video that deals with Russia and China you get racist name callings etc...we get called commies
    Slang for communist...subhumans etc

    Chinese and Asians get called "gooks", "chinks" "slopes" etc.

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    1. Yes, I know. Unfortunately my wife experienced it in England and Australia. In England i experienced it alongside her. I think there is racism present in every culture but in many Western cultures the racism is more 'in your face' and unsubtle. I have written about this before on this blog. It is something about Western cultures that needs much criticism both within Western countries and to be highlighted by people outside these countries also.

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    2. Well..to be honest, nearly EVERY video on youtube has racist remarks against one race or nationality. Whites get called crackers, blacks get called monkeys, latinos get called wetbacks...etc etc. Rather than to say "westerners are hatefull to non Europeans."...it would be more accurate to say..."People post racist comments of ANY race that is not their own". Show me the equivalent of a youtube or yahoo based in China or Russia featuring many videos of non-Asians and I will bet money we will find the same kind of hateful comments on nearly every video.

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  4. I am curious of how South Koreans view Russians?

    Do they look down on us like many Europeans are.

    Not to say all Europeans are racist to us, but many hold negative views because of communist past.





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    1. I don't know a lot about how South Koreans view Russians, as it is a topic that doesn't come up all that much, but there is a stereotype that Koreans have of Russian women all being prostitutes. Some Russian women used to come to Korea for prostitution and sexy dancers in bars. The blonde hair was apparently a bit of turn-on for some Korean men and they considered them very pretty. These days though, it doesn't happen that much but the reputation remains.

      A little anecdote for you as an example of this; an American friend of mine was waiting for a bus one time in the port city of Yeosu with his blond-haired girlfriend (also American), when an old Korean woman bent over in front of them saying "happy birthday, happy birthday, have a good time" while slapping her butt, squeezing together, pulling it apart and laughing. This represented buying a prostitute for the day on his birthday and she assumed the girl was Russian because of her blonde hair. Needless to say they were none too impressed.

      I don't think South Koreans view Russians negatively over communism despite the Korean War and I didn't experience any issues in the UK with Russians. However, I never experienced any negative issues with Koreans/Far East Asians really, until I walked around with my wife.

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  5. I mean our Russian communist past.

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  6. Well, all I can say is not all Westerners are "privileged" I may only be 21 years old. But I can assure you, I'm not like any other 21 year old. - female of course.

    I got abused by my parents, spat on at school for 6 years - by people of multiple races, I even just said "hello" to a Mexican boy when I was 14 and had racist insults thrown back at me. Though I'm interested in Japanese culture. - Yes, I do know they did back stuff in the past [against Koreans and Chinese people] however, it was in the past. The Japanese people I know are kind, a little hormonal, but I'm putting that down as normal considering how much seafood my friends eat - plus their ages. [varying from 20-41.]

    My point is, you say "shit" about westerners and well.. It's not all true. - I've already said not all westerners are privileged. I need to say no more. -Even when I hear racism against other races. I myself feel insulted - though I'm "white" ..Not my choice, but there's nothing I can really do about that..

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    1. Is this a criticism of my post, I don't really understand? Surely you would agree on what I wrote in this post, judging by your circumstances?

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