I wish I could upload some of the pics I got today. One kid wrote a comic book about me where I’m some kind of pig samurai with a flaming sword. Another girl bestowed me with a hilarious comic book after club time today. I got a few good pics of kids in my class too.
Needing a shower, but that means going up to fifth floor because all the lower floors’ dorm rooms smell like kid-poop. It’s quite atrocious, actually: by mid-week the sit-down toilet stalls in all floors by second are taped shut to keep kids out; they get fixed sometime on the weekend, meaning they’re functional about a day or two per week (maximum) during camps. This leaves on sit-down toilet in the dormitory… one sit-down toilet accessible to men in the whole building.
Now I understand why teachers always had their own toilets at school.
Anyway, it’s dark in the hallways, quiet, and I’ve finished my essay-writing; I emailed it out to a bunch of people for advice. It’s a kind of debate-in-writing between two fictional characters about a very weird form of outsourcing. I’m hoping to win a pile of money for my student loan payments off this essay.
Talking with Lime on the phone tonight was, well, it wasn’t like being together, but it was something. She had a rough day at the hospital, but she’ll be okay. Something she said stuck with me: “I feel like I am in a minority in this world.” I am quite certain all decent, intelligent, interesting people feel this way. The bit of Thoreau’s Walden that I read to her when she spoke harshly of life in general was this:
However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.
I just finished rereading Walden last night and was left with the distinct impression that it is exactly the book for Lime at this moment in her life, which I told her. As always, talking with her was good for me, and reminded me that I’m not the only person frustrated by the bizarre irrationality not only of jerks in authority positions, but also the people around me who seem either too weak-willed to question them, or too resigned to even want the situation to improve. She’s surrounded by the same kinds of attitudes, and the same kinds of ridiculous rank-pulling behaviour.
And now, I feel as if I am growing close to having words with someone whose hidden bigotry is starting to turn my stomach. Should I be more tolerant of someone who is, in effect, a racist? I don’t believe that racism is actually inherent in cultures; it evolves in societies, of course, and most cultures contain racism; but I think racism can be discarded without losing anything truly essential in the culture. I believe, in fact, that the culture cannot come into its own until a certain number of its citizens (enough to affect real change in the public sphere and catalyze further change) attempt very stridently to discard most of its bigotries and irrational fears.
So should I just nod and accept a racist attitude that someone conceals from me? Is there any justification in being tolerant of intolerance, however buried it is?
Some part of me echoes what I said to Lime: that when one observes people wallowing in the rotten crap that is so obviously filling their own minds, the most important thing to do in terms of coping is to remind yourself to be thankful you’re not an asshole like that. The worst punishment in the world for some people is the misery of being that very asshole wallowing in a narrow, ugly, hateful worldview and horrid, joyless little life.
And worst, I have to admit that tiny tendency, which I try to fight, but which on tiring days when nothing goes right, and everything is uncomfortable, and the weather is punishingly hot, and when some idiot nearly hits me with his car while breaking the law in ten different ways but doesn’t even slow down… yes, I sometimes feel that urge to just write it off in a way that condemns Korea. Not exactly in a racist way, as much as a kind of condemnation of the society. I have condemned my own society (Canadian, I mean) time and time again, but this feels different, maybe because I’m not from Korea. The nasty knee-jerkishness of it, though, alarms me. It looks suspiciously like the roots of that bigotry I see in the person I described above.
Thank goodness I have people like Lime, and others, around me to remind me of how I am generalizing when I begin to feel a little that way. But how much more difficult, to be reasonable. It means one cannot simply write it all off; it means the frustrating things are just immensely widespread (which after all may be a definition of all human culturessets of immensely widespread ideas and practices). How much less satisfying on some primal level to say, “So-and-so is so sadly mediocre and so bigoted,” instead of, “This culture is messed up because so-and-so is so sadly mediocre and so bigoted.”
But, I suppose, how infinitely much more honest.
Ah well, as I told Lime: “I think everyone interesting, decent, worthwhile, and honest feels like a minority in this world. They live like Thoreau did out in the woods. You can be alone like he was, even when you’re surrounded by people like that.”
But the solitude can be productive, if you’re careful to learn the lessons offered to you by your experiences, and not to waste your time on anything less useful to you.
Speaking of which, it’s time I go read.