Getting to be “at home” in a place needn’t mean that you accept everything, but maybe will make you wish that others understood better what you see in that place. Democracy, freedom of speech, Asian oddities and Western failure to understand – there are enough issues of note here. There is also enough to like and cherish.
Whether in China or Europe, whether about Japan or the USA, it seems pretty apparent, though, that you become known best when you act as an asshole.
Attention, it is often said, is the new currency. Now, while I don’t think that you can buy anything from attention alone, and not every awareness of your brand is good (think scandals), being rough to be noticed definitely seems to have its perks: attention, fame (or notoriety), possibly even money.
(Hell, Tim Ferriss says that he gets a sufficient income from Amazon affiliate links on his website/blog alone – the issue of “teachers” is a diferent one, though.)
Let me illustrate, starting directly “at home,” with an issue about this university:
My predecessor here, still beloved by some (as a “true German studies scholar”), published a podcast while he was here – “In China da essen sie Hunde” (They eat dogs in China). He riffed about China being just about the worst place imaginable, the students ignorant, the situation just abominable, all the bad stereotypes duly being fulfilled.
Now, I’ll complain about enough problems as well (and I think we are of the same opinion that foreign teachers are faculty and therefore, not here to dance and sing in any “culture festival”).
My problem is that he was talking shit all too often, even in ways that show that he didn’t have much of a clue about Chinese culture – and then you find him writing (having been asked to write?) from the great fount of his experience with China…
I have a long-standing interest in Japan, as well, and was just recently pointed to Az’s writings on Japan, some of which I think I read way back when. Now, here’s a guy who went to Japan to teach English, has been living there for six years (if I read that right), has a wife and kid now – and what’s the main thing he writes about? How crazy the Japanese are, particularly when it comes to sex..
I’m happy to see he has a sense of morals, at least he sounds like he’s taking his marriage seriously – but does an “other’s” crazyness, presented in strong language and with a broad brush (in which you and all you do is normal, even when you “smash your way through Japan,” as the very blog description states), have to be your overarching theme?
Sometimes, it seriously makes me wonder if I’m doing things wrong when I try to present balanced perspectives, understand things from both sides. If I have to be mean, though, I’ll rather make enemies on both sides, showing that they can both be seen as equally whack – and that life is most certainly more complex than it appears on the surface.
I hate quoting famous people, it’s such a cliché, but this is a good one:
Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Of course, populism is once again rife, so maybe I’m limiting my audience. I’d rather talk to people who want to learn something than those who just want their preconceptions validated, however.