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I have been back in New York for almost a week now, but my mind has been going over the last two months I have spent in China. It is inevitable; between the Olympics, Mitt Romney’s ridiculous campaign platform and the article on China that I have been working on, I have been forced to reflect on my perspective and seek some sort of reconciliation which is at this point elusive.
I have great faith in China’s potential and I am not afraid to say that I am so profoundly proud of the distance it has traveled. Of course, my background is a de facto bias on that front, but at the same time this faith in China’s future in no way detracts from my love for the great US of A.
I complain a lot about Americans, their wanton arrogance, their shameless stupidity and the endless slew of other defects, but ultimately, it is both a privilege and luxury to be American sometimes. There’s a reason why so many before us has come to this country and there are still reasons for the millions who risk much to touch American soil today.
I have written before about the jarring contrast of poverty in other cities around the world. Nowhere is that more evident than Shanghai, where panhandlers languish as untreated and unidentified illnesses leave their limps rotten, swollen or deformed, laid out in front of immaculate office buildings on the mile long stretch of sidewalk that janitors are to mop each morning. They are left ignored as luxury cars pull in and out of the driveways each morning providing dramatic contrast. This is the world in which I contemplated a future.
In my more ideal and romantic moments, I liken my own growth to that of China. From a naive child limited by circumstance, I have become a person who has managed to chart a course in life beyond boundaries that I could not even have previously conceived. I am proud of myself just as I am proud of China’s progress. Do you know how far China has come? Without going so far as the Revolution, let’s just talk about my childhood. The entire Pudong skyline was constructed within a span of a little less than 10 years; it has damn near emerged from the dark ages to the dynamic society it is today. Say what you want about the censorship and uniformity, there are at least organic perspectives in China rather than the recycled drivel that gets shoved down the throat as the cloak of democracy is falling apart at every seam. What’s worse, really? And maybe that’s why I can be so indignant and defiant of these assertions. It has not been an easy climb to endeavor yet so easily dismissed.
This summer, I found myself somewhere between where I started, amongst locals 老百姓 whose struggles are a distant memory, and where I may hope to reach, amongst the successful [mostly] expats I have met whose lifestyles I can’t help but seek. Both are humbling; both push me to go further.
And this is where I am on China: she has come a long way but there is still so much for her to achieve. I hope that she can overcome the setbacks and reach a height that has yet to be conceived. Thus, it is not surprising that there can be so many conflicting takes on China. China itself is grappling with its still present past and its future.
“Daisey’s fiction was predicated on the notion that China is essentially unknowable, that reporters never go to factory gates, that highways exit to nowhere.” – Evan Osnos
And that is the state of America’s xenophobia. It goes beyond a mea culpa that cripples any interactions with China. The most dangerous aspect of ignorance is the strength of the conviction. It’s a conviction that drove Daisey to contrive a story to corroborate his assumptions. The most disheartening aspect of the story is that so many of us fell for it. It’s like the moment in French class when I realized that Diderot’s Bougainville doesn’t tell us about any “real” exoticisms of the island people, but that it does tell everything about the distorted prejudices of the very French narrator.
I can’t help but draw a parallel between the Daisey story and Steven of “Seeking Asian Female” (or, Single Asian Females’ worst nightmare). Stereotypes do not waver in the face of actual interactions; however unsubstantiated those stereotypes end up being – it could always be written off as an exception. As if reality can always make concessions to fit a picture painted in broad strokes.
It is particularly disheartening, because this kind of noise and theatrics will almost always drown out sincere attempts at dialogue and truth seeking. The sources for that are out there, but Americans love propaganda more than any socialist do. You’d better believe that shit.
Carrie Bradshaw, at least, had the benefit of existing in circumstances that were unreal and being redeemed by a wardrobe that is even more fantastical. Her inane attempts at conclusive generalizations on dating had the distance of being theoretical. Then I read this, or, two pages of it anyway, because my god, girlfriend spent 2 pages just trying to justify her existence. I can’t even, this invites all kinds of mockery. Is this really supposed to be symptomatic of “New York women”? The best man she’s dated was her high school boyfriend, that is more telling than anything else she has to say.
Related to the last post on the banality of “getting to know someone”, the thing is, it’s at once
interesting exciting and banal. on the one hand, everything you say and ask feels like something that’s been done before, but then there’s this completely new person that changes the equation a bit. Still, I’ve done it often enough that I almost expect a certain set of answers from people. Contrary to personal beliefs, topical interests rarely vary from the standardized 20 something urbanite answers. And while these topical interests may forge a common language to begin a conversation, people absurdly try to assert it as some sort of identity fortification. No, just no. As much as someone tries to distinguish themselves with some zeitgeist musical/movie/whatever taste, all of it is generic. I mean, people’s taste interests me in a way; but at the same time, it’s utter ennui especially when people curate this persona of varied interests but there’s nothing underneath it. You know? I mean, what does it matter if you know all these indie bands that don’t exist yet if you are a boring bag of generic peas? Music taste per se does not make you interesting. Or maybe people get off on talking about topic interests, because that is the only scope they’re comfortable with. Maybe I just want to overshare.
I think I’m feeling a little jaded at the moment. My attitude can be at such polarity sometimes – for awhile I was a fiend for meeting new people; now everything is settling a bit and I almost have (rigid) expectations for how human relationships develop. Everyone knows exactly what game the other is playing. The strategic timing and content of texts. All of it bores me. It is especially disheartening when you still have to do that months into it, but such is the dynamic of the “non relationship”. Please, je suis fatiguee. All of that get in the way of having any sort of actual meaning, which, depending on who you are, could be preferable or not. It’s such a restless state of being – to move through life without some sort of anchor. It’s doable, and not really difficult or painful or anything negative, but it’s as much of a lull as some people would see in a relationship. Sidebar: why are non platonic opposite sex relationships so necessarily more complicated than regular friendships? Remove the sexual expectations, you are still trying to learn a new person, no? Or is the lack of interest in the latter the real complication? Feigning interest in order to hit it in the morning? Is that why I find dating extra banal? It reminds me of absurd theater. Everyone’s at it like it’s a rehearsal over and over again that after awhile it doesn’t even require thought. Where is the humanity in that? Everyone becomes a…role. Am I the only person who find it absurd that you can decide to bypass some serious requisites (in other human interactions), decency for example, in people you are doing the most with? This is perhaps why my heart can’t catch a boner. Whatever happened to the idea of the dating dance being an extended session of foreplay? I mean, really, dim lighting and awkward conversations, is anyone really ever aroused by that? Or do you have sex in lieu of having that? (I get the biology and physicality of it, but there’s got to be more, right?) There’s no dignity in it. At the same time, I understand you can’t force these things, so it’s just frustrating.
Is it wrong that I preempt endings with men way before anything happens? And I mean, I talked about this with a friend last week. This basically causes me to act like an asshole – when there is really no reason to – just in case.
But on the bright side there are the rare connection and mutual empathy that almost feel like physical weight; so much so that it’s perpetually present even when you’re alone. You know? It’s amazing.
MP: The process of a date, I think, is terrible. Horrible. Because everything is banal and predicted.
GQ: The problem with dates is that they’re programmed seduction—you have to show up and try to seduce the person. Right? And life isn’t like that. Life is about the accidental, unscheduled seduction.
MP: Seduction is a matter of feelings and people opening themselves. I don’t think it’s something tricky—it’s being human. And everybody is seduced by something different.
Tell me about dates and dating. Is it true what you read in magazines—that there is the thing you have to do on the first date and the thing you have to do on the second date, and then by the third date you can get—what do you say, carried over?
GQ: You mean, have sex? In New York, yes. That’s how it goes, usually.
MP: Yes? New York really must be terrible.
GQ: You know that show Sex and the City?
MP: Embarrassing! I was thinking New York is like that. I have the impression that the people are like that—the women, the bitchiness.
MP: Yes, of course. They don’t listen. With women, the more unhappy they are, the more undressed they are. This is true. Dignity’s another very important part of this. Sex and the City is the opposite of dignity. You have to have dignity for your body—this is with men and women. You need to have dignity towards how you are, how you dress, how you behave.
You know, the older I get, the more I prefer to talk to old people. Old people or kids, because what they say is more spontaneous.
via: The Essential Man from GQ
Excellent read via @zhcheekybastard. If you can look past the particular brand of French male gender perspective, there are some gems in there:
H. W. – ‘Love is always reciprocal’ said Lacan. Is this still true in the current context? What does that mean?
J.-A. M. – This sentence gets repeated over and over without being understood, or it gets understood the wrong way round. It doesn’t mean that it’s enough to love someone for him to love you back. That would be absurd. It means: ‘If I love you, it’s because you’re loveable. I’m the one that loves, but you’re also mixed up in this, because there’s something in you that makes me love you. It’s reciprocal because there’s a to and fro: the love I have for you is the return effect of the cause of love that you are for me. So, you’re implicated. My love for you isn’t just my affair, it’s yours too. My love says something about you that maybe you yourself don’t know.’ This doesn’t guarantee in the least that the love of one will be responded to by the love of the other: when that happens it’s always of the order of a miracle, it’s not calculable in advance.
There’s what Freud called Liebesbedingung, the condition for love, the cause of desire. It’s a particular trait – or a set of traits – that have a decisive function in a person for the choice of the loved one. This totally escapes the neurosciences, because it’s unique to each person, it’s down to their singular, intimate history.
No, between any man and any woman, nothing is written in advance, there’s no compass, no pre-established relationship. Their encounter isn’t programmed like it is between the spermatozoon and the ovum; it’s got nothing to do with our genes either. Men and women speak, they live in a world of discourse, that’s what’s decisive. The modalities of love are extremely sensitive to the surrounding culture. Each civilisation stands out for the way it structures the relation between the sexes. Now, it so happens that in the West, in our societies which are liberal, market and juridical, the ‘multiple’ is well on the way to dethroning the ‘one’. The ideal model of ‘great lifelong love’ is slowly losing ground faced with speed dating, speed loving, and a whole flotilla of alternative, successive, even simultaneous amorous scenarios.
Balzac said, ‘Any passion that isn’t eternal is hideous.’ But can the bond hold out for life within the register of passion? The more a man devotes himself to just one woman, the more she tends to take on a maternal signification for him: more sublime and untouchable than loved. Married homosexuals develop this cult of the woman best: Aragon sings his love for Elsa; as soon as she dies, it’s hello boys! And when a woman clings on to one man, she castrates him. So, the path is narrow. The best destiny of conjugal love is friendship, that’s essentially what Aristotle said.
Word to Aristotle.