A pottery studio in St Civran, France
Welcome to this blog about the quiet rural life in the Berry Province of France where I have tried to open a pottery studio to hobby potters.
Your comments will be appreciated.
19 October 2012
62. US AND THEM
Why can't I just be nodding to what people say? Can't I just shut up and be quiet? No, I can't. So... once again I'll come up with my own view on 'things' and I shall try to put it into words here.
It's not about pottery. It's about travelling and travellers and tourists. I'm a member of a travel-bloggers network called TravelBlog.org and as such I follow a few blogs published there by travellers, backpackers or well-off tourists, all English speaking and mostly from anglo-saxon countries. On TravelBlog.org a few bloggers write in other languages, I've read some in French and in German and seen some in Dutch. The various topics on the forum are all in English. I think I'm going to start a thread called "Us and them" on the forum actually. Apart from being a pacifist song by Pink Floyd, it is also a subject study in psychology regarding identity. For me it is a subject study in Anthropology as well.
Anyway, I wish to start such a debate because I found myself reacting quite aggressively to something I read on various blogs in TravelBlog.org... I can link this reaction of aggression and/or anger to a few occurrences on similar grounds in my lifetime.
1) In 2010 an Australian woman from north-west Queensland visited me in my native village, here in France. She was coming as a Helper of the HelpExchange network, i.e. to help me with my work thus 'exchanging' a few hours of work against full board. On the phone she had insisted heavily that she wanted to come and help me. She had also said something that shocked me,i.e. that the French don't speak English and that she was happy I spoke very well (you do too, I replied!) so that she wouldn't have to drop her jaw when people talked to her. Then when she was with me, she kept complaining I was taking her everywhere and showing no interest in the area. As she mentioned she liked antiques and garage sales I took her with an English friend of mine to a local 'brocante'. She didn't show any appreciation, kept saying she wanted to find an old type of hat to bring back to a friend in Australia who was collecting hats. She kept looking at my son's French navy hat with a red pompom hinting she'd like to have that. She showed no interest in what I was doing or cooking, reading her book sitting next to me in my loft. I tried to connect with her by asking her to tell me the story of her book but she showed some reluctance to that too. In fact she behaved as if she had arrived at some holiday resort, one of those English speaking places where everything is organised for you and you don't have to bother with the 'natives'. One day I had set the table outside in my garden in the sun. She didn't help me get all the stuff down from the loft where we lived to the garden, spoke to my English friend on subjects of her interest, and again, I repeat myself, showing no interest in anything French or in anything about me. As I arrived in the garden loaded with 2 baskets of cutlery, plates and food dishes, I blew up in anger and aggressively pulled away the sun shade they had put over the table... and then she said she had eye problems and that she couldn't be exposed to the full sun. My aggression level went up to full blast, I could have hit her! I didn't, but writing this down to-day 2 years later I still feel the anger invade me.
2) The other instance I can give here goes back to 1997 when I was living as a crew member on various yachts sailing across the Pacific ocean. I was crew to a nice kiwi guy. He was nice, helpful and, without realising it, somewhat condescending. Sure he was an ingeneer but he only spoke English whereas I was an ethnologist and I spoke more than 3 languages! But never mind that, he was kind and would tell me stories of his long lifetime... without showing any interest in my ways, my nationality, my stories. I got so mad at him that I just left him in Vanuatu to sail on single handed back to New Zealand. That day I surprised myself with the huge amount of aggression and anger that came out of me.
I have other similar instances but those 2 will be enough to illustrate what I'm getting at. Reading blogs on TravelBlog.org I found one fellow saying he was sorry a Chinese general didn't speak English otherwise he could have talked to him, rather than mentioning his lack of ability to speak Chinese instead, and also another fellow showing the photo of a 'native' he had hit in the crutch because he was charging too much for whatever service. I went mad again. It was nothing to do with me but it was that same 'attitude' of total ignorance or lack of interest in the natives 'otherness', difference, alien ways for their own reasons.
So, I'm coming to my title: US AND THEM, with the aim to point out that we are all different and that our differences are to be taken into account, especially when we travel. It has to do with our identity and their identity. Failing to acknowledge other people's identity does lead to aggression and hatred. It's not the idea, of course. When you travel you have some ideal aim to partake of some world citizenship but you are who you are, and they are who they are. Being 'mate' with everyone is culturally signed, you're either an Australian or an American! Speaking loud English wherever you are is also culturally signed, you're British or American. Speaking loud French too... I'm not out of this!
I guess by writing all this I'm not going to make many friends. Never mind. I have at least aired my anger and aggressivity!