The title of the previous chapter was "The Things People Say" and I concluded it by saying that if the realities of life have a funny edge to them, then why can't we enjoy them and have a good laugh? I want to commence this chapter with 3 jokes that might offend some readers. If you are the type of person who offends easily then please don't be a hypocrite by reading this chapter and then claiming that you are offended.
No 1: Alleged to have had most of the state of Michigan laughing for 2 days, I read about a female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn't, turned to the weatherman and asked: "So Bob, where's that 8 inches you promised me last night?" The weatherman and half the crew had to leave the studio. Whilst some moralistic people might be offended by the blooper, it does demonstrate that sometimes there is a discordance between how people perceive us our words and actions, and how we meant our words and actions to be received. (The Pompous and Arrogant R.P. Bendedek )
It's very easy for us to accuse others of saying, thinking or meaning something that they never intended, because we actually filter what we hear and read through the lens of our feelings, experiences and worldview. We've all been guilty at times of being offended with people who never meant to offend us. I can think of one particular example in my own life when I lost a friendship because of how that friend interpreted what I said to another person. When I was asked why on that particular visit to Australia that I did not first stay with family as was my custom, I replied that I had had no choice because several family members were in hospital for treatment. The friend with whom I was staying interpreted the statement to mean something that was not intended.
I think it fair to say that we are usually on our guard against people who are likely to offend us but that most emotional damage results from being offended by people we least expected to hurt us. Some people never get over such hurts and carry their 'emotional baggage' for the rest of their lives. When you care about someone who has 'unintentionally' hurt you, the healthiest thing to do is sit down and talk with them about it. There are of course those horrible people who want to hurt you and do go out of their way to do so. You can't change such people and eventually you just have to turn your back on them and walk away. The important thing is that you don't walk away with your 'emotional baggage.'
When it comes to politically correct people who 'claim' to be offended to the very depths of their being by some thoughtless, careless or accidental and certainly 'unintended' remark that someone has made, I just have to wonder if that person is just a self-centered, self-important and self-righteous so-and-so waiting for an opportunity to be offended, or whether they just don't have the humanity, decency, sensitivity and intelligence to recognize the error for what it was and 'forgive' the offender. As I said in chapter 8, "fundamentally, political correctness is little more than the Biblical injunction to 'Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you', but that it probably does not include the biblical injunction to 'turn the other cheek'". Decent people recognize that we all make mistakes and are willing to simply accept an honest apology. Political ideologues on the other hand are interested only in their ideology, point scoring, and winning arguments. There is a saying in my country made famous by Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson; 'if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck'. When PC people act and sound intolerant and disrespectful of others, then "they are intolerant and disrespectful people" and political correctness is allegedly about 'tolerance and respect'.
No 2: A young monk arrives at the monastery and is assigned to copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices that monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript and so goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. The head monk tells him that he has made a good point and decides that he himself should go to the dark caves underneath the monastery to check the original manuscripts which haven't been opened for hundreds of years. When he doesn't return the young monk gets worried and goes to look for him and finds him banging his head against the wall and wailing. "What's wrong, father?" the young monk asks. "We missed the "R", we missed the "R"; replies the abbot. "What do you mean?' he asks. The old abbot replies, "The word was CELEBRATE!"
There are two lessons to be learned in this joke. The first is that you don't have to change too much, to find that the inner 'joy of life' is replaced with 'inner struggle'. The second lesson is that no matter how faithful to the cause you think you might be, and no matter how dedicated you are to 'promoting that cause', sometimes it transpires that you are misguided and have missed the most important aspect of it.
Although called propaganda by westerners, in China, everything in the media is designed to promote a safe, peaceful, and harmonious society dedicated to preserving and promoting the values of Chinese culture and socialist agenda. Everyone knows that China 'controls the press', but the most important regulation concerns the percentage ratio of good to bad news. Only 20% of total content is allowed to relate to 'negative' reporting or images. Everything in Chinese society is geared toward harmony, and once you have lived here awhile you begin to appreciate it. The easiest way to realize just how much you appreciate it is to return to your home country and watch the news. It is sickening.
Political Correctness philosophy is a wonderful thing that should be taught and promoted so as to better society. Properly applied it is supposed to foster harmony in society. Instead, it has turned into a weapon to be used by ideologues against anyone they do not like or appreciate, or just downright hate. Political correctness when used by 'thought police' is a weapon wielded to garner status, power and control. At no time in the last hundred years has this been better demonstrated than during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
No 3: There is a joke I found on Harry Leichter's Jewish Humor site, which goes: During the first day of Hanukah, two elderly Jewish men were sitting in a wonderful deli frequented almost exclusively by Jews in New York City. They were talking amongst themselves in Yiddish - the colorful language of Jews who came over from Eastern Europe. A Chinese waiter, only one year in New York, came up and in fluent impeccable Yiddish asked them if everything was okay and if they were enjoying the holiday. The Jewish men were dumbfounded. "Where did he ever learn such perfect Yiddish?" they both thought. After they paid the bill they asked the restaurant manager, an old friend of theirs, "Where did our waiter learn such fabulous Yiddish?" The manager looked around and leaned in so no one else will hear and said... "Shhhh. He thinks we're teaching him English."
This joke firstly teaches us that whilst we may think we can trust people to lead us where we want to go, often times we cannot. It's hard to know who to trust. The second thing it teaches us is that although we may have mastered some type of learning in our lives, what we have mastered may not only have limited appeal, but we may not have realized that what we mastered was not what we intended to.
The Religion called Political Correctness
It never ceases to amaze me that many who claim to be 'learning to be like Jesus', more resemble Pharisees than Jesus. Instead of kicking over the money changer's table, they strive harder to collect more money. Instead of weeping for the 'rich man' who turned away from Jesus and whom Jesus let go, they condemn to the fires of hell anyone who rejects their message. Instead of shining their light to light the way for the lost, they cause many to close their eyes and ears. Instead of demonstrating the 'love of Christ' in their daily lives, what they end up demonstrating is their own self-righteous superiority. They do after all have a first class admittance ticket into Heaven. I find the PC thought police to be no different. The point I have tried to make via the jokes listed above, is that people often get so caught up in themselves and their cause, that they don't take the time to see life from any other perspective, especially the perspectives of 'different' people. People are so busy pushing their cause, mastering their craft, and letting no one get in the way of their success, that they forget to be human. They forget that they too cause offense.
People can become so insulated in their own particular ideological or social world that they fail to realize that that world contains only a small percentage of the whole world's population. They get so busy with their social and ideological duties, activities and responsibilities that they lose sight of the actual joy of living. While they may be dedicated to reaching their goal, many people never take the time out to enjoy the details of their journey.
In times past I regularly watched 'Dialogue', an English language program on China's CCTV 9. On one occasion, the host, Yang Rui, was interviewing Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar of Harvard University about his book: "Six Tips for Happiness Advice". After just a few minutes I grabbed pen and paper and wrote down some of the things Dr. Ben-Shahar was saying. I remember that he said that no matter what your philosophy in life (religious or secular), every human being has a need to have a purpose. He pointed out that many people who strive and struggle to 'arrive' at their destination, often do so, only to find that they are not happy. They failed to understand that happiness lies within a person, and comes from their daily living experiences. Happiness is not something that we import. (Of course I always say that if you must be unhappy, then at least be rich, it is easier to cope with).
Dr. Ben-Shahar said that people need to understand that it is from the journey itself that we derive pleasure, not the destination, and that in order to find balance in life, people must stop and take time out to look at the day's events, and see the joy that was in it. Far too often we only reflect on flaws and failures, rather than on joys and successes. True happiness is found in the many small moments in our lives, and we have to remind ourselves daily of all the things we are grateful for and appreciate. Here are some of the things I have learned to appreciate during my time in China:
I love the countryside in Hong Hu.
I love the country 'feel' to my life in Suzhou.
I love being made welcome in the local neighborhood
I love all the fabulous sights in China.
I love being able to fill a need in Chinese Society
I love my students
I love my job
I love the money they pay me
I love not having to bite my tongue all the time
I love not being a sexist, just because I am a male
I love not being a racist, just because I am white
I love not feeling anxious around my children
I love feeling that my life has purpose
I love the way the Chinese take pride in their culture
I love the ordinary Chinese man's dedication to building a better society
I love the fact that most of the time I am smiling
I love being able to write about my travels
I love having people ask me for advice
I love being greeted by people's smiles
I love the little ones who get excited at talking to the foreigner
I love it when ditch diggers grin from ear to ear when I greet them in Chinese
I love being seen, and seeing those who see me.
I love having a peaceful life without the 'thought police' constantly carrying on.
I love watching the news on TV without the 'bloody images'.
I love listening to discussions and debates without all the name calling and accusations.
I love being able to go anywhere at any time and feeling safe.
I love being able to jump on my bike night or day and riding without headlights and helmet.
I love not hearing people whine and complain
I love not having to listen to everyone blaming everyone else for everything
I love not having to bear everyone blaming me for their unhappiness
I love being loved by Chinese friends even when I have upset them
I love my Chinese friends
I love being accepted into the lives of their own Chinese families
I love being loved for just being me!
I love being me!
When Yang Rui pointed out that there is a high rate of suicide amongst poets and philosophers, Dr. Ben-Shahar pointed out that such people tend to wrap themselves up in the 'examination of life', rather than in life itself, and so pay a high price.
I stated in the beginning of the book that before I came to China, I felt that I had lost both my past and my future. In fact, it felt like I had gone to sleep one night when I was 18 years old and woke up 30 years later to discover that I was 'out of sync' with the rest of the world. My life fell into complete depression because I lacked any joy or happiness. Moreover, in examining what life had to offer, I found little in which I was interested. During his interview, the good Doctor made reference to Confucius who said something like: To order the State aright, you first have to order the city right. To put the city in order, you have to put the family in order. But before you can put your family in order, there is a more important task: To put yourself in order. These years in China have been for me a time of putting my own life in order.
This chapter was first published in 2010 at Magic City Morning Star News, and on August 21, 2013, it was rewritten. About 2 hours prior to that I woke from a dream during my midday siesta; feeling extremely anxious. I only remember the last part of the dream as I woke up. I was showing a foreigner a mountain or something into which had been carved images of the Buddha which had been painted in Shiny copper colored paint. When the foreigner said to me that China is a beautiful place, I started to cry because I love China and don't want to leave. The thought of leaving worries me.
In 2011, after three invitations to return to work in my current school, I moved back to Suzhou to discover that they want me to remain here until I am 65 years old. In June of this year (2013) I turned 60. With the recent changes in the hierarchy in this school, I do not know if the school still has the same agenda, but irrespective of when I must return to live permanently in Australia, my greatest fear is that I will fall into depression. I cannot imagine living anywhere other than China and when it comes time to leave, I feel positive that I will become incredibly homesick and suffer anxiety through separation from my Chinese friends.
My children were already adults when I came to China and as I stated in the beginning of the book, I really didn't have an emotionally fulfilling relationship with them. Although my relationship with them has improved over the years, it is not the relationship that I always wanted and thought I would have. As I said earlier, the three boys in Hong Hu were like children, brothers and friends and we have remained in contact throughout the years. When I moved to Wuhan in 2005, I began making new friends, some of which I still get to see from time to time.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
2013 Social Commentary Articles
Giving the Finger to Comrade GOOGLE's brand of Communism
By Comrade R.P. BenDedek
August 26, 2013
I have come to the decision that the only thing I can do is take a page out of Comrade Google's 'Little Red Book' and say: 'Screw You!' Comrade Google didn't like the way the Communist Government of China kept changing the rules. Comrade Google would not submit to a 'totalitarian authority'. Comrade Google decided to pull up stakes and leave. Is there a lesson to be learned in that?
Get rid of your Baggage People
Aug 21, 2013
Einstein is purported to have said: 'Insanity is when you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result'. The 'pastors' I mentioned above, were real people; people who did their best to get me to believe and do as they did. In each of those cases 'prior to being caught out in their sins', each of those pastors spoke ill of me, slandered me and did their best to control and manipulate people I knew. They did me a lot of injury and caused me a lot of grief.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls