Yesterday I ended a conversation with an English girl. I had met her online through a shared interest in Eastern thought. I suggested a book she read and that she could buy it from The American Book Center in Amsterdam. She responded by saying that Americans don't know how to speak English. We started play arguing until she thought it got out of hand. I asked her if I wasn't able to speak English that how were we communicating? She took it the wrong way and terminated the conversation. Shouldn't bring a knife to a gunfight.
On friday an acquaintance of mine reminded me of my fat and ignorant country. We were drinking and had met an annoying prick from California. How nice of my acquaintance to remind me that we were all like that. I almost punched him till I decided it was better just to walk away. This played out not once, but twice that same night.
Last week a colleague of mine told me the reason why another colleague of ours was disorganized was because he was American. He prefaced this amazing discovery by telling me that it would probably piss me off. So atleast he was right about one thing.
About a month ago I terminated a short lived relationship with a Dutch girl. Previously we had walked through my neighborhood and seen some black people hanging out on the street. Her ironic comment, "What a great neighborhood." She openly expressed her frustration that she couldn't 'bring up' her problems with Americans or Polish to me. I just didn't want to hear it.
Three months ago someone asked me if I missed anything about America. I told him I missed the food. He asked me with a completely straight face how could I miss the food if there were McDonalds in Holland. Isn't that the height of American cuisine? I was too embarrassed to ask him if he was genuinely ignorant or actually trying to insult me. I'm pretty sure it was both.
Four years ago I was invited to visit the parents of a Dutch girl I was seeing. They weren't going to let their daughter see some stupid American boy without meeting him. So we got into a discussion of Dutch history, The Dutch East India Company and the spice trade. Yes, I know it used to be called New Amsterdam but I bet you don't know who Peter Stuyvesant was. He didn't. In fact he didn't know as much about Holland's history as I did. Did I win? Did I finally convince people that all Americans aren't stupid, fat and lazy imperialists. No. All I did was stop seeing that girl.
Last time I went home a customs official at JFK asked me 'What THEY thought of US over there?' I was caught off guard by the question and didn't know what to say. He wanted the 10 second canned answer that I just didn't have for him. The right answer would have been something like: Some of THEM can see past nationalities and others cannot. Some of THEM can see people and not governments. Some of THEM get it while others are ignorant and trapped. Some of THEM are like US.
An Iraqi friend of mine once got fired from a job because he had a beard. He was working there for a couple of days till the owner came and said he had to go home because of his beard. I asked him if he thought that would have happened had he been white. It was the wrong question because we both knew the answer was, 'No'. It didn't need to be said.
A friend of mine once asked me if I would ever hire an Arab. I said sure. He said he might, '..but not one that looked like he just came from the mosque.'
When I first moved to Holland I used to laugh with all my European friends as we sat around and talked trash about each other's countries. We were a very international crowd and it was a way to blow off steam and have a laugh. I remember when one of these friends told me not to talk trash about my own country since there would always be others doing that for me. Since then I have realized the extent of Nationalism underlying much of European mindspace. It was like the time I realized the jokes I heard about black people on the school bus were more than just jokes.
America is to Racism as Europe is to Nationalism
Like a figment of language that masks how we group individuals. The first rule of General Semantics states, "The map is not the territory." What this means is that the language we use to describe our experience is not the experience. This can be extrapolated to mean the language we use to group people is not the group of people. We deploy language so as to express meaning to others. But the act of deploying that language does not cause the subject to become the description.
We have to group people and apply modifiers in order to more easily express ourselves. We apply modifiers to individuals so that we can more easily talk about them and communicate meaning to others. We put them in groups and then we put those groups in groups. Then we apply modifiers to those groups. The problem comes when we start thinking that those modifiers of the group apply to everyone in the group equally. Sometimes they do. And sometimes we end up creating a prototypical person that represents the most common facets of everyone in that group. It is then wrong to expect everyone in that group to mimic that prototype.
I get told all the time that I'm the American that's different from other Americans. Or I get told that I'm not actually American but have now become Dutch because I can speak the language and some Dutch people like me. What do these statements mean? Am I now Dutch because Dutch people can relate to me easier? Am I not American because I'm friendly, likeable, intelligent and skinny?
Many Americans tell me they are proud of me being an example of a good American. They are proud of me for giving people an example that not all Americans are the prototypical fat, lazy and stupid people that they are often portrayed as. But I didn't ask for a job convincing bigots of my ethical purity. If someone is too ignorant to understand that their prototypical model of a nation's people might not be representative than fuck 'em. I don't have time for it and these people aren't worth convincing.
Many Americans felt bad when Bush was elected president and now feel proud that Obama is in office. I don't. Feeling pride or guilt based on who is in charge of your country of origin is admitting that this nationalistic grouping makes sense. It's confirmation that a prototypical person derived from a nationalist grouping exists and represents Americans. As if Bush or Obama forms the corporeal prototypical person that we should all be judged by. It's an admission that bigots have a right to judge other members of this group based on that prototypical person. And they don't.
My Satirical Plan for the Future
The concept of the modern nation state is as dead as eugenics and victorian anthropology. We now live in the age of globalized industry. Nation states no longer determine the direction of the people living in their borders through democratic means. So we shouldn't be still using nationalist language to group people prior to deploying prototypical generalizations. Maybe instead we should form up around brand names and generalize based on product usage.
- "Those Coke people are always so irrational. Pepsis are more Direct."
- "I love Sony food. But you just can't trust them."
- "I don't have anything against people who wear Levi's. But I'll be damned if I let my daughter marry one of THEM."
Bigots need to catch up to the present and start hating based on brand names. They would be more hip and relevant to a younger audience more susceptible to indoctrination. They would be more relevant to a globalised world. If we can get bigotry from nation states and skin color transferred onto brand names things will start getting more interesting. FIFA is already off to a good start with the World Cup. We now need to work on removing the countries from World Cup uniforms and replacing them with sponsors' names. Then after a few years without country names mix up all the brand names between countries. That way fans won't know which team to support and will only have brands to go on. Then soon enough we'll have World War III.