November 06, 2004

Selected entry 6/11/2004

Writing about web page http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=boazman

Do you believe in essentialism?

It means there are some 'essence' that are fixed somewhat in our psyche or biology. For example, greed is a 'human nature' or Chinese are all cunny. Clearly, not a single sensible liberal can agree to that.

Yet we can still see same groups of people display, broadly speaking, similar characteristics which are less shared by other groups.

Working class gives us bluntness

Middle class gives us hypocrisy and rhetoric

Upper class gives us arrogance and ignorance (of 'real' life)

Feminity gives us hysteria and freaky presupposition

Masculinity gives us egoistic, ruthless and sexist mental wanker

Wait a minute, you say, aren't all these merely stereotypes?

Indeed, but there is a certain degree of common sensual value in them. It doesn't matter whether these differences are 'real', whether men are really more egoistic and female more neurotic in nature. What matters is that people accept them to be true, and more importantly, accept them as the norm and desirable values. Hypocrisy is, after all, just another word for politeness.

In such way the seemingly false stereotypes are made real, as different groups pick up their own label and work hard to fit into it. It is important to note that, however, they are not deterministic. I am not just talking about exceptional case, which of course they exists, but that there are no necessary relationship between one's objective existence with the values she/he aspires to. A man located in lower part of social hierarchy may aspire middle class values simply because he wants to be one, imaginary or in his later life course. A man may aspire some feminine value simply because they find them important.

[Note: it is sometime difficult to understand why people aspire to some values, even if such values are not favourable to them. For example, Hong Kong people accept racism casually despite it puts them into a subordinate position among the racial hierarchy. Sectional interests in promoting particular discourse or ideology may be the issue we need to look into.]

Of course, your self identity may not, and ususally don't correspond to what others identify you with. Someone may define himself as Islamic but other may simply say he is a terrorist; someone might identify himself as Black Amercian but people just say niggers. Race is simply not an identity to be pick up from supermarket's shelf. As the Woody Allen's joke goes, you just can't become a black by studying in black studies. [in his film Bananas, 1971] Such disparity are often the source of conflicts and prejudices.

A short Xanga entry turns out to become a reflection on SO330 (i.e. one of my module)...not too bad though.


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