Often risqué, ever-thoughtful, Sarong Party Girl writes a very worthwhile entry about, well, all kinds of things, but especially “the race thing”, meaning her practice of dating men of another race (mainly foreigners, I would say from what I’ve read) in the highly-race-conscious society of Singapore. A quote that grabbed me:
And someone actually made me think about this the other day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the reasons why I like dating expats is the fact that they help me escape. I’m getting out of here soon, but in the meanwhile I have to make do. It’s nearly embarrassing I think, this constant striving to break away from the nauseating uneventful-ness that characterizes this place. I’ve no idea about why I feel this way. All the world strives from the same mundane things, economic growth, smaller waistlines, more and more material possessions. But somehow, I get the sense that all that does not characterize the existence of many other societies, as much as it seems to characterize ours. It’s the whole question of who’s living to work, and who’s working to live.
I am completely disturbed, upset, confused and betrayed by this society.
Aside from the fact that I believe all individuals should strive for completely independence on one’s self, I never criticized anyone else for the choices they make in the way they wished to live their life. And I do not see why they should criticize mine, or anyone else’s. (But this society, darling, has nothing else to do but criticize and complain).
It has always occurred to me that it is always the people who think they are completely ‘moral’ that attempt to hurt other people by insulting and condemning. But seldom the other way round.
As I’ve been thinking intensely about race and sexuality in Korean society, this is fascinating stuff, as a kind of counterpoint.
My own experience, as an expatriate, is that there is no society that is not “racist”, because humans are just always going to be aware of race, even when they’re enlightened enough to dismiss it as any kind of totalizing, defining characteristic. However, it seems that some societies have farther to go than others. Proceeding in good faith is important, I suppose, when one is an outsider in the midst of it. There are times when I am feeling just as confused and upset, just as disturbed and betrayed by this society I have come into in good faith, worked hard to adjust to, and usually preached for other foreigners to try to understand and respect as best they can (while not being blind to its problems, as some seem to think we ought to be).
How can I feel betrayed when I am a foreigner in this society? Well, it’s important to understand that the life of a person in a society is not so abstract as it sounds on paper; society is made up of people with whom we interact. Lovers (and their families), students, bandmates, people you meet on the street, people you hang out with, people who rant in the comments section of your blog.
Society is made up of other people, and once one’s enlightened beyond a certain minimal point, one sees other humans not first in terms of their race (a minimally important trait, really, even though some choose the easy route to self-definition and center their identity on itrace and nationality really is one of the least interesting, imaginative, and engaged solutions to the perennial question, “Who am I?”) but, first and foremost, on the basis of their shared humanity.
I’m going to save the rest for my someday-to-be-written book, but till then, add Sarong Party Girl to your blogroll and while you wait, read her. She’s worth the time.