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JAKE 'XENOPHOBIC' SHOCK!! -full debate

INDIA | Tuesday, 27 July 2010 | Views [524] | Comments [2]

 

 

Hello all! First of all, thank you! I now know there is an 'all' to address, because the ting has a little ting saying how many people have read the blog, and it's more than the paltry 'six' I was expecting. (SO why is no-one posting any comments? I deal with them really gently, honest I do)

I'm in Manali now. And for reasons I shall leave to your imagination, I have nothing to report. (Actually, that's not true, I have this to report; it's a bit cloudy and everywhere stinks of ganja. Now, I have nothing to report.) So instead, I have something different with which to tickle your literacy. Several of my readers (aw that was WICKED calling them 'my readers' then! I've ALWAYS wanted to do that!) - several of my readers have been clamouring (and for once, unusually, I use no hyperbole) to hear the substance of my emailed discussion with the mysterious 'ex-acquaintance', who was disconcerted by the apparent Complete Lack Of Mindless Enthusiasm in my epistles. Seeing as it's that or I describe my tummy bug and the consistency of my stools over the last week or so, I reckon that's a good idea. Here it is, or they are, all the messages copied and pasted faithfully,  so you can make up your own minds as to the eternal question; Bigoted? Snide? Or just really fucking negative?


this was the original comment - not discreetly sent as an email, not discreetly posted on my private facebook page, but left right there on my blog for weeks before I noticed it
STEVEN
It might be just me, mate, but I prefer to read about people writing about how they had good times than xenophobic sneering.


I found him on facebook, partly to work out who he was, then sent him this
JAKE
Oh, Steven. Would I spend my entire working day each day with foreign people if I was xenophobic? Would I spend years abroad in Italy, Spain, South America and South-East Asia if I was xenophobic?

More to the point, if I don't like Brussel sprouts, does that mean I dislike food? No.

If I marvel at the way that someone can sell ten rupees bottles of water for fifteen hours a day and still not know that a hundred-rupee note is going to require ninety rupees change in exchange for a bottle of water, does that mean I am afraid of foreign things? I don't think so. I'm quite capable of sneering at someone being stupid (as I am doing now) without it indicating any degree of prejudice whatsoever.

It's also worth pointing out that I write for a specific audience - people I know have the intelligence to distinguish 'fact' from 'opinion' and 'entertainment'; who know me and who know what to expect, who read it to be entertained. I'm not sure why you're reading it. Do I know you? Did we, like, play football together once at school or something?!

This is on my blog now if you want to post an answer there ;-)



STEVEN
Whether you are or not (xenophobic) has no real bearing on how your writing comes across. That's the beauty of literary control.

No I never did know you very well, and perhaps it was wrong of me to assume anything of you, but I found your perspective of India suprisingly lacking and worryingly close to '"But how awful, there's nowhere to plug my hair-dryer in."

Still not as bad as the Europeans you meet in India who spend hours talking about Karma and Shaman before finally revealing they work in a bank. Spiritual indeed.

I had it in my head that you would be less affected by the environment than you seem. Mostly I'm just jealous that I'm not there again, but I'll soon be in Colombia where there are some delightful imperfections to be appreciated also.

Anyway, I'll leave your blog be. No offence intended and I take the point that I might 'miss the joke'.  Enjoy the rest of your journey.


STEVEN
Just as a side-note. Xenophobia can be the hatred, as well as fear of foreigners and a phobia can indeed apply singularly. Someone who hates Germans (or Indians) but likes all other nationalities is still Xenophobic by definition. I happen to know a few living in foreign countries.

And I'm sure they know full well that you are supposed to get 10 rupees change despite being hideously undereducated. Perhaps they just hoped a relatively rich westerner could spare 7p? The intensity of India does make it hard at times though.

Where did you go in South America? I love the continent and am planning to move there permanently.


JAKE
Oh come on, please... I'm going to do this in the wrong order, but I'm definitely going to do it, and more comprehensively than last time.  

Firstly

I've been a teacher for quite a few years now. If I marvel at someone's extraordinary inability to add multiples of ten despite the evidence which suggests that they do nothing else fourteen hours a day, then it's because they genuinely can't, not because they would prefer not to give me change. I don't need to explain that to people that know me, because they know I'm not a complete idiot. Just as I don't need to explain repeatedly that 'I'm having a great time', because people that know me already know that, the same way they know that Jess and I have been planning this trip for three years, or in my case since I came back from South America seven years ago. They also know that I hope to do some volunteering at some point here; and they know that I I do, of course, spread my money around judiciously, including plenty to charity, beggars, and urchins who look cute enough to augment my photo essays. So why would I labour the point? It's not funny. It's self-aggrandising. Far better to parody myself as the slightly stuffy, demanding, supercilious, miserable Englishman Abroad that I know I could be if I wasn't more self-aware, and didn't drive myself out of the country and the comfort zone as regularly as possible.

(Just as a little test to see if you're learning - sorry for being didactic, it's a job and a hobby - did you spot the point at which the previous paragraph briefly sacrificed banal truth for entertaining parody? If so, we're making progress. Doesn't seem so bad once you know who I'm mocking, eh?)

***

The issue we've had is perhaps one of misunderstanding. As I said, I'm writing to people I know. There are only about twenty-five people who I've advertised that page to. You're the only one reading it who I've not invited to, as far as I know, and as a matter of fact. They start life as emails originally, and only get posted to the blog page because I find the attached map gizmo quite handy. If you'd seen all that in an email (which you'd be unlikely to, because I wouldn't expect anyone who DOESN'T know me to find it at all interesting or entertaining - it is, after all, a record of MY experiences of India), you would, I genuinely hope, have treated it with the courtesy of a personal communication from someone you know. Seeing it on a more commercial-looking website, with glossy presentation and impersonal graphics, puts it in a different context - the context of something published, and therefore in the public domain.

This is how I'm going to square with myself the idea of my not hating you. I also console myself with the thought that it was late, and that you may have drinking, and that you may have just posted comments on the blogs of, say, Tory child-abusers or evangelical morons, the venting of your ill-considered spleen upon which I would heartily approve of, and which may have conceivably, and worthily, got you all fired up. In the meantime, I apologise for my part in the misunderstanding as well; I will try to make myself qualify and restrict my graffiti-scrawled generalisations in future, even if the wall I am desecrating is only my own - other people may be able to see it.

(What you must be realising by now is that I write for the fun of the construction, and exaggerate for the thrill of the hyperbole. Look at the pictures, as all the blog readers are supposed to do - they make it clear how much I love it all. If I went on about it in prose as well that would be like laying it on too thick. And personally, and maybe this is an issue of mine alone - personally, I don't want to hear someone gushing inanely about how wonderful everything is. If I'm stuck in England, I'm unlikely to persistently make myself feel slightly sick with jealousy reading how someone else is having a great time.)

***

Secondly

Xenophobia frequently, in modern usage, incorporates hatred, I'm fully aware; but the best proof of my point is your own false argument. Someone who hates Germans isn't xenophobic. He's Germanophobic. A xenophobe is someone who hates foreigners indiscriminately. Rightly or wrongly, I do nothing indiscriminately. (I hate the idea. It smacks of inaccuracy and reductionism. I can't even hear someone say something as innocent as 'I love the continent' without something in me shuddering and muttering "how inane. How annoying. What empty, meaningless words. How much of 'the continent' has he seen?")

More importantly, the implication is, moreover, that a xenophobe DOESN'T hate things which are NOT strange or foreign. More importantly than anything else, those that know me know that I am as critical of myself, and the country and cretins around me, as I am of anything elsewhere. Then again, most of them also know better than to argue semantics with language teachers. But still).

The problem in Rajasthan, as you must surely have encountered if you have been there, goes beyond lack of education. I've not only met but TAUGHT hundreds of people without education, or with one of the wide array of educations that the world can offer, and I've never encountered such a high proportion of people so almost apparently retarded as I did in Rajasthan. The only comparison I can offer is South Mexico, where only the women make eye-contact; the men have nothing to offer except vacant stares. I won't be going back there either, because, although it's not their fault, I prefer to spend time around people I can interact with in a way I can understand and enjoy. Should I keep this a secret? Will anyone suffer as a result of my discussing my experiences? or will they suffer more if I treat the subject with a light-heartedness it probably doesn't deserve? It seems unlikely.

But, to hell with it, I'm taking the chance. Abuse me if you like, but you asked about South America, and here come some generalisations based on personal experience. I don't recommend South Mexico. But that's technically off your continent anyway... 
Rio was very difficult to leave because I was always hung over- quite pricy but great fun. Gorgeous natural setting which never wears off, but a bit theme-parky after a while. The Amazon was quite a laugh. Capybara are globally under-rated, and baby armadillos don't get enough publicity either. Argentina was a fortnight of rain, but I think that was bad luck. Buenos Aires was still fantastic, my favourite city of the trip, I reckon. Not so aesthetically spectacular as Rio, but more real, a self-consciously arty feel, plenty of lovely Argentinians who seemed to offer more, over time, than Brazilians, who are very friendly but often not given to looking beneath the surface of things; the South American USA, almost. Chileans are, in my experience, clear-thinking, open-minded and interesting, as are Argentinians. Peruvians I know little about - I have taught very few of them over the years - but the ones I met there I loved; peasants and farmers of surpassing friendliness, responsiveness and simplicity, city-dwellers not so warm but also with an unusual dignity to accompany the noble features inherited from the indigenous tribes. Bolivia has a great reputation, but it was too easy to compare it to Peru, and the people seemed less giving, and the place as a whole seemed dirtier. Guatemala kinda sucked except for Tikal which was the best place I've ever been to - but that's out of your remit again. Colombia I never visited (bit dodgy at the time) but, with the exception of the Venezuelans, the many, many students I've had have been about my favourites. Only the Thais and the Vietnamese are friendlier than Venezuelans and Colombians. They're just great. Don't think I've ever met one I didn't like. Supposed to be a nice place too...

But this is getting out of hand. You've been a good sport, Steve, and I have, eventually, enjoyed this vitriolic correspondence, although I don't mind telling you that I was pretty fucked off by the inception of it.  I hope I come out of this with your opinion of me (formed God-knows how long ago) more-or-less intact, while for my part I can assure you that I can tell from here, as it were, that you're not dull at all. And I feel that's about the nicest thing I can say to anyone. Y espero que tienes unos meses bienes en 'Locombia' - si encuentras alguien qui tue clases en oxford, pregunta si cognesce un profe que se llama

"Jake"

 

STEVEN

Haha. Good man. Now THAT is what I call writing. I fear, through greater insight, that you may indeed be a man after my own heart. I must confess that despite my previous sobriety, I am quite unqualified to say the same now, so I will keep my response brief.

Like I said, I didn't intend any offense, and I could, if I cared, take issues with some of what you say. But then I would be venturing into the realms of perspicacity - if I haven't already.

Anyway, zooming out from the discourse that has already taken place - my initial questioning of you was clearly derived from an expectation which I must confess you have more than fulfilled. That, I think, you can take as a compliment.

Admittedly there might have been a better way to insight conversation with you - if that was what I unknowingly intended - but nevertheless I'm glad of your correspondence.

Ferrers can't have been that bad after all. If I haven't rubbed you up too much in the wrong way already I'd quite like to communicate with you again as you are obviously as smart as I imagined you to be (my mum telling me that you had the nerve to say 'No, It didn't say Mr Terret has a small prick, it said he IS a small prick' sticks in my mind as comical/arrogant genius).

I'm not retracting my initial remarks - your committed application of rebuttal as much as proves their worth - and I think we might ultimately still be in disagreement. But I think in a world where so many views differ so massively from my own, certain things ought to be overlooked in favor of building more productive bridges between minds which concur more than not.

All intellectual garble aside, I think we might share a sharpness of mind and tongue.

What have you been teaching? And good luck in the rest of your travels.

Steve

 

 

 

JAKE

English.

In Other Responses - how the hell did your mum know about THAT?!?!? (the sergeant found it funny. My mum didn't)

"my committed application of rebuttal as much as proves their worth" - such a good phrase i hardly have the heart to disagree. Let's agree the mistake was mine for writing as if to people I know, rather than agree that I'm an ignorant racist, though, eh?

Jake

 


STEVEN

Cool. I'm planning on teaching English in South America at the moment.

I'm not sure how my mum knew that but I remember her telling me at the time and thinking it was pretty sharp.

I never did think you were racist (I think there were 6 non-racists who went to Ferrers in total). I get now that it doesn't reflect your true sentiments, so apologies for being so pushy and argumentative. I really should mind my own business but I'm afraid it seems not to be in my nature!

 

 

 

 

STEVEN
Cool. I'm planning on teaching English in South America at the moment.

I'm not sure how my mum knew that but I remember her telling me at the time and thinking it was pretty sharp.

I never did think you were racist (I think there were 6 non-racists who went to Ferrers in total). I get now that it doesn't reflect your true sentiments, so apologies for being so pushy and argumentative. I really should mind my own business but I'm afraid it seems not to be in my nature!


****************


I think that's it.

I see next to me Jess is squirreling away (not beavering away. Distinctly not beavering) at her own, rather more conventional update. So I will leave you in her capable hands. Just to say, learning from my mistakes, I have sifted through the email list to make sure I don't invite people who don't understand me to read my blog and pass arbitrary judgements upon me afterwards. If you're still being invited to read this and you're getting offended, or indeed never finding it amusing, it's a mistake. I'm sorry. Please feel really, really free to go away and not read it again, in the same way that Daily Mail readers who write in to Ofcom are presumably free to change their channel, or even not watch the TV at all. Thank you SO much.

(Sorry getting hungry got to go love you all)

jx

 

 

Comments

1

Wordy bastard.
Love it.

Don't go blogging better than me now, though.
I won't take kindly to that.

J
x

  jay Jul 28, 2010 10:04 PM

2

Not wordy. I prefer "sesquipedalian". And don't be so competitive ;-) x

  yaccob1 Sep 1, 2010 1:13 AM

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