"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
The fact is that I’ve never thought of myself as Chinese until I’ve acquired Western friends on Facebook. I’ve always hated Mandarin, was ashamed of my own culture (and dreaded every farcical Chinese New Year) and sought to forget my race as much as possible by my unceasing devotion and admiration of all things Western and British. I’ve always imagined that I do speak and write relatively good English (although of course never on par with my former colonial masters of old).
I have met several Americans in university, but I was never good friends with them. That is, until I friended on Facebook a white American and a white reactionary who started to introduce me to the concept of race. We discuss in great depth and detail the difference between Asian and Western cultures, mindsets and civilisations. For the first time I was forced to reckon with the fact that I am in fact very Asian when confronted with an actual Westerner. I’ve always thought of myself as relatively Western until I interacted with him. I can’t imagine, for example being forced out of the house at 17. The notion of staying with your parents as being a “loser” is incomprehensible to me where three generational households are still quite common here. Being sneered at for constantly keeping my parent’s opinions in mind was quite jarring. There is something to be said for the Asian insect-like hive mind compared to the individual Western spirit.
I guess with an actual Westerner to compare my own life to, I have to say that I am pretty Asian. They consider corporal punishment for children and criminals to be barbaric, while I think it is just plain common sense. They note with horror how subservient and nonchalant we are towards our draconian authoritarian state, I simply shrug and continue to enjoy my safe walks in the dark and my efficient public services.
I think I only realised how truly non-Western I am when I actually went to America and met up with my American friend. The first thing I couldn’t help noting is how loud, jaunty and extrovertic he was. (Good grief man, Loud Americans! How very stereotypical!) I on the other hand didn’t really have the courage to project my voice. There was one time in the carpark when I was complaining about how the service staff couldn’t hear me and my American friend suddenly screamed into face, “YOU GOTTA SPEAK UP MAN!!!”. I remember another time we wanted to have a picture of both of us taken and I hesitated for a moment and then he said, Come on man, you gotta overcome your Asian shyness and learn to talk to strangers! Of course, after listening to his voice, I can’t help noting how tonal it was compared to my very flat Singaporean accent. I was lead to the inference that our souls are truly as materialistic and flat as are our voices in comparison to the nobility of the Western spirit reflected in their voices. I remembered also when I had to buy a couple of Oakley products for my friends and had to trouble the sales assistant to lay out the different designs for me to take a picture and send it to my friend to choose while repeatedly asking for the price of different combinations. I kept cringing and apologising the whole time while the salesman was like, Hey man, it’s all right, that what I’m here for, relax man! In Hong Kong if you annoy the storekeeper they’ll lecture you instead! Although in Singapore they’ll merely look a little irritated and keep their peace. I guess for us Asians, with our commercial and materialistic attitude, business was simply business, not part of a broader social custom or culture of manners, etc.
When I returned back to Singapore I had mixed feelings about my trip. I missed terribly the lively spirit of the Americans and their jauntiness, the freedom and possibilities and options available in their vast and wide nation. On the other hand, I was also thankful that I didn’t bump into a homeless person every few steps in the street and for the safety and efficient public service of my country. I guess I was most depressed about my accent, try as I might, I can never imitate the American jauntiness and spirit and I would feel terribly fake and an utterly fraud if I tried. I was a little down for a while, thinking how I was nothing but a soulless materialistic cretin, like gnomes having met the elves.
Thus at the end of this rambling personal experience and immersion in the Western world, I realised that race and culture was a reality which I had to accept, and I was Asian whether I liked it or not. On deeper analysis here are some reflections I have today:
What one cannot say definitely is which race is objectively “superior” overall compared to the others. Too much individualism and free spirit leads to chaos and extrovertic shamelessness, too much subservience and order leads to stagnation and oppression, etc. Thus, I readily accept the epithet given to me by my white American friend that I have an essentially insect-like hive mind huddling together in the safety of our Hobbit holes, while he is more individualistic, independent minded and free spirited and all that. But even he acknowledges that there are benefits to living in a draconian state where we shove by force homeless people into one room flats, while of course I cannot deny the benefits of Western scientific rationality and the Enlightenment.
Thus, I don’t feel any resentment being “stereotyped”, that just who I am as an Asian and which I can’t get away from it. I don’t want to be treated as human, I want to be treated charitably with love, to be helped as I am in all my particular traits, including that of a cringing craven and subservient Asian, not to be forced to be flatten into a blank abstract nebulous and characterless “human being”. In this sense, I also acknowledge the Western superiority where it actually exists. I accept that we lost the Opium Wars because of the inherent weakness of our culture and race which lead to our stagnation and eventual defeat by the Western powers. I therefore fully acknowledge and bow before the superiority of Western rationality and science. But I also understand the Western weakness compared to my culture, the exaltation of individual subjectivity has lead to chaos, alienation, crass romantic sentimentalism. I would never want to live on a long term basis in America with its malfunctioning economy and public services, despite the plethora of consumer options and lifestyles available for the picking.
Theologically, I think ultimately that to be of a particular race is a curse, a divine punishment to which our bodily lives are bound. Originally we were of one race and one tribe and one tongue. But after the Fall and especially after Babel when God scattered all of mankind to the four corners as punishment for our hubris, my speculation is that the different traits of mankind “fractured” as well and dispersed in different proportions among the different races and tribes. When we were one race, order and freedom, the individual and the collective existed in harmonious proportions. But after Babel, in some races one traits will predominate, in other races other traits will predominate.
Thus, to be Chinese is really a curse from God, a divine punishment, a splitting off from the original wholeness of when mankind was of one race. But if race is truly tied to our bodily life or biology, then we can only be healed at the Resurrection, when our fallen body shall at last dissolve to dust and crumble, when we shall be risen again with a new spiritual body, and all of us would be healed once more in wholeness as one human race, and then there would literally be neither Jew nor Greek, Chinese or Caucasian, for God will exterminate all races and racial traits at the General Resurrection, and we shall cease to be Asian or Western, but we shall have one Lord and Father of all, after the image of the New Adam, Jesus Christ.
But in the mean time I guess, we shall have to learn to cooperate and pool our resources as best we can, supporting our weaker traits with another stronger racial trait, etc.