Life would be simpler if we accepted everything at face value – but would it be just as meaningful?
A garrulous colleague at the lunch table admitted, “Whenever I think bad about someone, the bad turns upon me. So I try not to think ill of anyone.” You could see it was a struggle for her, as she is one of those natural, ‘honest-to-the-face’, ‘will-speak-my-mind-fearlessly’ individuals you see very few of nowadays. “So I just keep asking God’s forgiveness in case I inadvertently think or speak ill of anyone!”
As we all had a good laugh at the idea of a normally devil-may-care Indira begging forgiveness in a praying mantis style, another colleague confidently interjected, “Life’s simple for me. I just don’t believe in God; I am an atheist, so I’m not scared!”We looked wonderingly at him and asked did he never wonder where we all came from, how the Universe originated? And was he not scared of where he would go from here – what would be the next stop after this life? “Not at all,” he smiled. “I do not even think of these things. This is it, this life – just live a good one!”
I wonder what it must be like to just live life simply, without wondering too deeply about it. To be able to take everything at face value, not wondering about the whys and wherefores; life indeed would be so much simpler! It has been a habit with me, indeed the bane of my life, to try and delve deep into another’s mind and heart, to figure out thoughts, emotions, intentions, the truth or untruth of what a person says. Anybody who does that will know how complicated such a practice can make everything!
To not be able to just accept someone’s laughter without probing if he is actually as happy as he sounds, not to be able to listen to someone’s complaints without wondering how genuine she is, not to be able to accept a gift without wondering why it was given, not be able to celebrate a success without wondering whether it really does call for a celebration!The critical, questioning mind refuses to stop at the diagnosis of one doctor and seeks out more opinions, refuses to accept the written word just because it has been penned down and questions even well-established facts. Such a mind will not accept that goodness is all good with not a twinge of evil, nor will it accept that evil isn’t tempered with goodness at some unseen level!
The person takes a longer time to decide, because it’s not just the options but their repercussions and effects of those repercussions that are being examined!A peculiarity of such a mind is the scenarios it builds and demolishes as it works overtime to unravel the “real” behind the “perceived.” As a result, a person who tries to decode words, gestures, phrases beyond the visible, dies a thousand more deaths than he really needs to, is hurt many more times than was intended. Sometimes, just sometimes, it helps to stop with the spoken word and not worry beyond! It is important to understand the difference between critical thinking and a suspicious mind that borders on a persecution complex!
Though to take all things at face value would certainly simplify life, what then is the difference between humans and animals? We are given a sense of reasoning and the mental capacity to make reasoned choices. Gaurav Bhutada on my Facebook Wall, warns that taking things at face value would restrict the process of evolution. “But yes, for the things totally out of human control, it would be very wise indeed to keep the reasoning system at peace…” Saurabh Agrawal wishes life were as simple as that, “but the human mind wants to complicate simple things…..just bcoz it likes to solve tough things!” Amaresh Lenka says, “ Humans would not have evolved so intelligently without ‘why’.”
Indeed our lot is as much to wonder why as it is to do and die! As humans with a critical reasoning faculty, we have an insatiable intellectual curiosity that needs to be indulged. It would have been disastrous if Newton had accepted that apples fall off trees and never wondered why! Or if man had accepted that birds can fly and not wondered why he can’t! It would truly be a pity to believe the false compliments of a tricky person and be unprepared for the hurt that follows.
Or, to accept a Raj Kapoor smile at face value and totally miss out on the pathos in those deep eyes!
Like my fellow Asian girls who’ve been raised in the West — from Ji Hyun Lee in Marie Claire to Ch!cktionary writer Lena Chen on Good.is — I, too, have had my fair share of run-ins with guys afflicted with the so-called “Yellow Fever.” Similarly, I have developed a finely-tuned fetish radar. So, you’re an East Asian studies minor? You have a favorite manga-to-anime adaptation? When I say “Chinese,” you say, “from what province?” and then subsequently name your favorite food dish from my hometown?
Folks, we have a ringer.But perhaps unlike many Asian females, I don’t believe that non-Asian guys who like Asian women, even those white guys who predominantly date Asian women, are necessarily racist. And in my experience, they’re often no worse than many Asian girls themselves.The problem I see is that this constant espousal of the stereotype of men who like Asian women oversimplifies complicated race, gender and sexual politics, and actually damagesthe dating prospects of Asian females and non-Asian males alike.
By promoting the “creepy [white] man with Asian fetish” stereotype in public discourse, we Asian women are shooting ourselves in the foot. We subtly reinforce that the predominant narrative of interracial dating between non-Asian men and Asian women is one of patriarchal, racist power structures, when we know that is not always the case. There is a world of difference between the old, ignorant fetishist and the average guy I’ve met who dates Asian women. In the areas of California where I grew up, where Asians range from 20 to 50% of the student population, a college-age male would have to make an active effort to exclude Asian females from their dating pool. And that, my friends, would be pretty racist.But by constantly projecting this idea that men who specifically like Asian women are creepers, we risk making otherwise decent, respectable guys avoid dating Asian girls for fear of being labeled a creeper — until we have nothing but creepers left.Ironic as it is, I’ve met guys who have come to me and said, “I like this girl a lot, but I don’t want people to judge me because she’s Asian.”
“I know this great bibimbap place in K-Town, but will she think I’m racist because she’s Japanese?””I taught English in Cambodia out of college because it was a good opportunity; now everyone assumes I’m a sexpat.”
That’s not to say creepers don’t exist. Ignorant men who assume things about Asian women’s sexuality and physical attributes certainly abound, especially on the Internet. And since I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, I’ve become quickly acquainted with the ugliness of what sexual fetishism looks like when it comes in contact with socioeconomic inequality and neocolonial racism. This article is not defending those men who buy sex abroad or who assume their privilege grants them special access to “exotic” women, because what those men do is indefensible. However, more often than not, I find the advances of fetishists to be less infuriating and more amusing — because they are just so darn bad at seduction. Their attempts to woo me with their poorly pronounced “ni haos” and “konichiwas” are on par with little old ladies who exclaim “but you speak English so well!” to classmates who innocently ask me to translate a “Chinese” tattoo. Ignorant? Yes, but hardly worth griping over.