Posted in American culture, culture, history, identity, society, taboo, women, tagged activism, alternative, anger, angry, assimilation, Barbie, belief, belief system, Berkeley, Boy Scouts, boycotts, Brady Bunch, childhood, children, countercultural, counterculture, Dialogue2010, Elmira Bayrasli, Facebook, Free Speech Movement, Girl Scouts, immigrant, integrity, lifestyle, marijuana, McDonald's, military, mindset, nostalgia, nuclear proliferation, passion, PC, politically-correct, righteous, righteousness, self actualization, status quo, Turkish, un-PC, United Farm Workers, upbringing, weed, whitebread on March 22, 2010|
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Passion fuels the lives we envision for ourselves better than discipline or elbow grease alone.
However, a little bit of passion’s dark side — anger — may be the best defense of our identity, and a future that looks like us.
This week Dialogue2010 participant Elmira Bayraslı shared the anger that keeps her hybrid. Rather than assimilate or choose one social group to belong to, the daughter of Turkish immigrants in New York ferociously defends her hard-won ability to switch to independent American woman — and back again.
As an expat I know this righteousness-to-be-hybrid. A defense mechanism not only kicks in but is kept in place by a low level anger about external pressures to live and be a certain way. It’s been a cornerstone of my survival, and for many people living between worlds.
Today I was reminded exactly how homegrown this righteousness is by a Facebook group of one-line jokes about Berkeley upbringings. How counterculture taboos affected childhood is dizzying:
- boycotts of table grapes and iceberg lettuce make kids anxious when visiting un-PC families,
- a sneaked McDonald’s meal draws punishment while smoking weed does not,
- the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are off-limits (pseudo-military!),
- while the whitebread Brady Bunch and misogynistic Barbie are what’s wrong with the world.
Free Speech protests witnessed from baby strollers make this group a veritable Red Diaper Baby playdate.
Also glimpsed: the realization that much of what characterized a Berkeley childhood thirty or forty years ago — that is, the lifestyle and belief system of an alternative community, the anger that separated it from the rest of the nation — has now become mainstream in America.
So, my righteous sisters and brothers, what are you going to keep being angry about when it comes to who you are?
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Posted in culture, history, identity, taboo, tagged British, camphor, colonial, Cool Arts South Sea, empire, expat, foreigner, headhunters, jungle, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, LinkedIn, Malacca Straits, Malaysia, memento, monsoon, mosquitoes, Newly Industrialized Country, Pacific Northwest, Penang, pirates, politically-correct, sandalwood, silk, South China Sea, Southeast Asia, souvenir, spices, steamship, Straits Settlements, temples, tourism, trade route, travel, treasure, tropics on September 10, 2009|
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The fresh perspective of an outsider-on-the-inside releases energy from all directions. What strikes us about a place — and may entice our fellow country-people – often does not resonate to the same degree with the average native.
I was pleased to meet an expat woman entrepreneur on LinkedIn last week who was once a director at the American-Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. She now advises the Malaysian Tourism Ministry, sourcing products developed by foreigners so I’ve been revisiting a feverish amusement from a decade ago when I lived in Kuala Lumpur.
To enjoy the Newly Industrialized Country where hand-woven palm frond baskets were fast being replaced by pink plastic bags, I conceived a signature line of Southeast Asian travel mementoes, and a database of purveyors of exotic experiences like this on the island of Langkawi, on the island of Penang, and outside Kuala Lumpur. I called the venture first Cool Arts South Sea and then Flaming East.
Cool Arts South Sea self-image
Inspired by history but not tethered to it, my Flaming East concept embraced the original wonder of the region’s watery crossroads, from the Renaissance’s Age of Discovery (with its empire-building and search for trade-routes) to the steamer trunks-and-servants Golden Age of Travel. All spiked with the delirium only a good bout of malaria could provide….
By the 1990s we were missing the boat, I moaned in my business proposal:
“The part of the world that lies around the South China Sea,” as one European narrator so circuitously referred to it, was once immersed in an illustrious mystique. Pirates and monsoons held sway on the seas while headhunters and mosquitoes did their part in the interior. Yet for several centuries an international set of adventurers, traders, colonizing industrialists and pleasure travelers risked the tropical hazards. Along with Asiatic goods and unimaginable riches, fanciful tales filtered home: of ancient races, shining temples and blue, impenetrable jungle. Even the air was different here, the east wind apparently laden with the aroma of silks, sandalwood, spices and camphor. Well, no longer.”
To be honest, Southeast Asia’s enveloping assault on the senses continued. But colorful naiveté and uncensored awe were in short supply where I came from. Writing about the past of the place caused my politically-correct, Pacific Northwest spellchecker to protest. I was flaming the East! Didn’t I really mean “cinnamon” when I typed “Chinaman”?
Have you envisioned a tourism campaign, service or product for a locale where you’re the outsider-on-the-inside? What does it show about the place, and you?
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