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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Advanced racism

If you've been paying attention, you'll have probably noticed that my wife is Chinese. That's not her in the picture by the way. Anyway, my wife (whose name I'm not going to mention - you wouldn't be able to pronounce it; I know I can't) is Chinese from Taiwan. If that sounds a bit odd, then it's because you don't know anything about the political history of the region - and that makes you lucky.

The wife's sitting behind me right now watching Korean dramas (halfway between a soap opera and a period drama) and laughing her head off. We've sat and watched comedies in various languages and yet I've never heard her laugh quite as much as she is right now. The main actor is attempting some (Chinese) Tang Dynasty poetry and messing it up somewhat. Yes, that's right, she's laughing at a man having difficulty with thousand year old poetry in, what is for him, a foreign language. That's some pretty sophisticated racism right there. You might think a London cab driver is racist because he doesn't like people with dark skin, but hypothetical stereotyped taxi drivers ain't got nothing on the wife.

Taiwanese 'Darkie' toothpaste over the years - at least
they've changed the name and reduced the, uh...
impact of the image a bit. There's a tube of this in my
bathroom. Yeah...
Most Asian countries are mono-cultural, China especially. China has had several thousand years of a single continuous culture - they've been invaded many times, but due to sheer size, the invaders have ironically become assimilated; their cultures subsumed. A similar situation has occurred in most Asian countries, with the only successful invaders being the Chinese themselves. Accordingly, in most countries in the region, there is a single culture - foreigners are rare outside of tourist or business areas and they don't tend to stay. Foreigners are outsiders and different races are very different.

Across Asia there's a tendency for what we would regard as casual racism. It's often said that racism is caused by ignorance and this is certainly true in Asian countries. Foreign races are so rare that information about them and their cultures is rarely above the level of comic-book rumour and innuendo. But what surprised me is that many Asian cultures are so insular that they have little idea about other Asian cultures - my wife can barely find Indonesia on a map.

Not just racism, Chinese racism
So I made the mistake of asking just what it was that made Koreans so funny. And I made the further mistake of asking what she thought of the other Asian countries. She has a list, in rank order. This is undoubtedly offensive to some (well, quite a lot of) people, so caveat lector and all that.

1. China - The home of culture. There's good and bad, but 5,000 years of continuous history, invention and culture cannot be ignored.

2. Japan - They're alright. At least they don't live in the mud. They've got quite a good culture, even though they stole a lot of it from China. They're a bit too kind though [no idea, I just wrote it down]. Good manners.

3. Singapore - At least they have strict laws. Quite a good country... for a democracy [yeah, she's not a fan of democracies]

4. South Korea - A bunch of peasant farmers dressed up in suits.. ah, I should say Burberry. They're too low class and yet they try so hard to be proud.

5. Taiwan - In some ways better, but they still have the Chinese disease [she means societally]. Education has failed. Farmers go to school - school makes them smart, but they make themselves stupid.

6. Hong Kong - They take your culture but stay in Gung Ho brotherhood [gung ho means something rather different in Mandarin from how it tends to be used in English] Bit too interested in money, power and materialism.

7. Malaysia - Lot of Chinese people live there. All the rich or smart people in that country are Chinese.

8. North Korea - Independent and keep their own culture.

9. Indonesia - Never think about them. Lots of rich people go there for business. They accept all races and cultures, so there's no problem. The live in real multi-cultural society. Poor but happy. They are second race; not high class, but they don't think they are high class.

10. Vietnam - Pfft.

11. Philippines - Servants and prostitutes. Do they even have a culture?

12. Thailand - See Philippines

=13. Cambodia & Laos - Not even human. Not even like the pigs who live in the mud; just monkeys. And for us, monkeys are not even cute.

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