A few years ago a friend gave me a book that was outraged at westerner’s treatment of easterners. Apparently anyone who isn’t one of them is one of us or one of those and we don’t get to notice it. Or we have to notice it. Or something like that. I think it was complaining about the way North Americans and Europeans portray people who form certain portions of the middle east. Either we were not recognising their cultural differences and we should, or we were recognising their cultural differences and we shouldn’t – in any case it boiled down to the western readers were wrong and the eastern writer was right. Oddly attractive premise, that…if you are an eastern writer. The really interesting thing was the idea of East. East of what? I live at once both east and west of the writer…we all do.
Well, I’ve been wrong on both an amateur and professional basis for 40 years so I feel perfectly at home with the business. I am wrong culturally, ethnically, scientifically, and artistically. I have two coats of hard-baked wrong over an undercoat – my wrongness is durable. I’ve got wrongness going back three generations…
And yet I still survive. Isn’t it terrible? I wear plaid garments that indicate Scottish culture when none of my family has ever been Scottish. I take pictures of belly dancers who have been no closer to Cairo, Ankara, or Mecca than Fremantle and am not ashamed of it. I eat Chinese food from the Bull Creek Chinese restaurant and the closest to that we have ever got is Singapore…
At the same time I am so weak and degenerate that I allow other people to appropriate my culture. Every day they use electricity, antibiotics, and automobiles with no respect for the deeply religious nature of the rituals involved. They even use my language…horrors…( To be fair, they don’t use ALL of my language. A lot of the syllables and participles and some of the adjectives are untouched…)
I don’t know where to start. The business of barring people from the country seems to be in the hands of others, and their choices are somewhat arbitrary. Barring foreigners’ strange ideas is equally difficult, given that we have so many odd ones of our own. I think we have pretty well put our foot down against cannibalism and barn-burning, but ritual slaughter of inconvenient relatives still seems to be on the books, and the death of anyone who opposes the historical leader or the current leadership is perfectly okay. I do not know what the ruling about ice cream is.
To safeguard my reputation and moral integrity I have decided to adopt the three following principles:
- To eat no animals that have been killed at the actual dinner table.
- To never take the name an prophet, deity, current religious leader, or committee of religious correction in vain.
- To refrain from doing the dance of the Wapiti.
In addition, I shall exercise some discretion and respect when in the presence of real estate agents, button merchants, and sequin sellers conducting their trade. Some things are sacred.