Sunday, March 05, 2006

experience of two years ago part 1: the stares! -- pointless loquaciousness -- stalinist propoganda

[Note--I am officially disowning this post and those that follow. I am blaming their creation entirely on Pablo, who actually did a very good job]

The sensation of being an animal in a zoo was not brought about as much by the staring as it was by the feeling of disinterested curiosity that lay beneath; yes, you were a source of interest and yes, no matter where you went the majority of eyes would be focused firmly on your non-chinese features, but generally when your gaze met theirs you could never pick up on any level of intellectual intrigue nor any sign that either of you shared a kind of common humanity. As a foreigner out on the street were there, you were different, and that was the extent of your significance. And yet . . . it was this very capability of the stares to make you feel insignificant which belied a somehow deeper and more menacing attitude. The failure to achieve a sense of common humanity attested not just to the great cultural gap between you and them, but also to a kind of xenophobia and ethnocentrism that underlied (and underlies) much of the relationship between China and the West.
It was rare, however, for these attitudes to leave the sub-conscious behind and significantly affect daily interactions. To be sure there was always something different about how you were treated: most conversations reflected that odd dichotomy in the Chinese attitude towards the West, regressing into either outright fawning or hostile, grudging communication. But there was rarely anything that itself could punctuate the general humdrum of your daily existence in that society, nothing that would stand out and cause you to think: here I am and I am alone and there is hostility everywhere.


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