---------- CONTENTS ----------


Previous Next


            ALTHOUGH WE DO NOT have eight tentacles, like an octopus, or many arms, like a Hindu deity, all around us , we constantly touch people in many ways, and are likewise touched by them. Life is a subtle and unsubtle give-and-take, because we do not live alone, simply because it is impossible to do so.

            Someone recently asked me what I thought of kids of different ethnic groups speaking their native languages in school, and I responded that if their English is sufficiently good to express themselves adequately in, it is best to speak in that language, for to speak in a minority language when we know the language of the country we live in would be to deliberately exclude others from what we are saying, and, since no one likes to have this done to them, it is an activity pregnant with problems and ill feelings; it is also considered by many people ― understandably enough ― as very rude. This applies in any country, and not just in a country where English is the lingua franca.

            If we learn how to put ourselves into others' positions, it can obviate many misunderstandings and problems, for just like you and I, everyone else has their legitimate feelings, and if we wish others to respect our feelings, we must respect theirs; it is not a one way street.

            I am definitely not advocating undifferentiated conformity, but to deliberately stand out as different is to invite trouble, and I have often thought it improper and unwise for people to speak loudly in public in languages that people around them don't understand. For not only is it unnecessary, but it attracts attention to them, and sometimes resentment. American tourists have long had an unenviable reputation for this, and though people are happy to relieve them of their greenbacks, they otherwise do not respect them very much. Many people have an inborn xenophobia ― fear, dislike, or even hatred of strangers and foreigners ― that they have not been able to overcome, or might not even want to, and therefore, they need little excuse to say or do something unpleasant, or worse. Not only because we know there are such people in the world, but more out of respect and consideration for others, we should walk lightly through life, causing as little disturbance as possible as we pass by.

            Most of us are familiar with the word 'scapegoat,' but its origin is not so well known, so it might help to give a short explanation here. When Moses led the biblical Israelites out of Egypt (and most people will have seen the very entertaining movie "The Ten Commandments"), they wandered around in the desert, it is said, for forty years. It is never explained, and seldom queried, where they obtained such things as wood, which the account has them using in abundance, along with lots of other improbable things; it also has them being miraculously supplied with 'manna from heaven' and water which sprang from a rock. Anyway, in the book of Leviticus (the third book of the Bible), is an interminable list of rules and regulations about what the people should and should not do, and how to do/not do it, and if anyone has the time, interest, and patience to read that book, he/she will probably feel appalled at the blood thirsty and petty nature of the god who could demand unquestioning obedience of such silly things therein recorded. In chapter 16, he/it gives instructions for a goat to be selected from the flock, and the sins of the people to be symbolically laid upon it in 'vicarious atonement,' before releasing it into the desert. What utter b.s.! But at least the goat would still be alive, unlike many of its fellows that were dragged off to be ritually sacrificed to placate the vengeful deity. Now, goats are pretty resourceful at surviving in arid conditions; therefore, that particular goat might be considered lucky to escape from being used as a burnt offering!

            Today, however, there is generally no element of luck attached to the concept of scapegoats; anyone who becomes, or is used as a scapegoat, is considered unlucky. And, in times of economic hardship, such as the present in many countries, with about one million people out of work in Australia (and other countries undergoing similar unemployment), some people look around for scapegoats ― someone to blame and vent their anger and frustration on. It is not uncommon for minority groups or people of different ethnic origins than the majority in a society ― especially if the minority are hard working and prosperous ― to feel the brunt of such frustration.

            We might complain about harassment and infringement of our lawful rights, but lots of people are deaf when they choose to be. It is better, therefore, as a member of an ethnic group in a host country, to take care to do nothing that might attract unwanted attention to oneself, or to antagonize others. This is not to say that one should walk in fear, but rather with dignity, and concern for others; prevention is always better than cure.

            During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong had little trouble in turning the populace against the Americans and their pro-American governments in Saigon, as the Americans were strangers and aliens there, and most of them understood little of the language and culture of the Vietnamese, and perhaps cared even less. And, because it was the American bombs and chemical defoliants that brought death and destruction from the skies to young and old, male and female, friend and foe alike, it was easy for the VC to portray them as enemies of the people, invaders from a foreign land and culture; patriotism is a force more powerful than understanding. The Americans had little going for them, and were defeated more by the propaganda of the VC than by their arms, and it was only after Saigon fell in 1975 that many people realized they had backed the wrong horse; but by then it was too late, of course.

            With crime rates continuing to soar, and no decline in sight, it is foolish to parade one's wealth before the eyes of those who need little temptation to steal. Part of the blame for theft lies with those who thoughtlessly walk around draped in gold and jewels; it inspires envy and greed in others.

            Elephants and rhinoceroses are now in danger of extinction because their appendages are valued by men. Yet their tusks and horns serve no essential purpose, and they could still live without them. Would it not be an act of compassion, therefore, and in the vital interests of the animals themselves, if they were to be rounded up and their tusks and horns surgically amputated, thus depriving poachers of their main, if not only, reason for killing them? If I were an elephant, I think I would not object too much to this sacrifice, for if the elephants are killed, they lose everything, and not just their tusks!

            Tall and straight trees are singled out for their usefulness, and soon cut down, but gnarled and twisted trees are rejected and left standing. Sometimes, beauty and usefulness are their own enemies, while ugliness and uselessness serve as protection against aggressors. As Lao Tsu said: "The Sage wears rough clothing, and holds the jewel in his heart." That is, he is not ostentatious, and does not make a show, preferring to hide and disguise his attainments rather than display them.

Previous Next


Access to this site: Hit Counter

Last Updated on:  03/02/2001 05:25 AM