We are the tolerant generation (and it’s intolerable)

Has it ever occurred to you that you are probably a hypocrite?

Quite recently, there was a highly publicized debacle surrounding the University of Ottawa for cancelling a campus yoga class because they felt it was ‘culturally offensive’. The argument, as I understand it, is that yoga is a spiritual practice as well as physical, and that everyone got their knickers in a twist because non-Hindus leading yoga classes is culturally insensitive, and gross “misappropriation”. Basically, if you’re not Hindu, you just can’t engage in this part of the culture because you’re ignorant to the meaning behind it, and that would just be insulting.

And yet, I bet half or more of the people who felt that way go for sushi every week, only to rub their chopsticks together to remove splinters, spear their food with one chopstick (because they can’t be bothered to learn how to use them properly), pile ginger on top of their sushi, mix wasabi in their soy sauce, drown said sushi in said soy sauce, and then leave their chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice.

Congratulations, you’re considered insulting and rude to the Japanese for sullying a centuries-old practice used to honour the dead.

But it’s okay, the whole sushi restaurant heard you talking loudly to your friends (two of whom have Chinese characters tattooed on them, one of whom is sporting an Ankh because it looks cool), about how you made sure the school didn’t continue facilitating such a culturally offensive activity, and how sensitive you are to all the cultures of the world, blah blah blah. Do us a favour and take your self-righteous yapping to the elders of these communities and ask them how they feel about it. I can almost guarantee that they will look at you in genuine confusion, and be half-tempted to ask how old you are, because you’re displaying the maturity of an eight-year old.

We are the tolerant generation. We are so tolerant, its becoming intolerable. Why is the community elder looking at you in confusion? Because he can’t understand why you care so much about something so trivial; why you are causing an uproar over an issue that no one knew existed until now. The problem is this: either you abandon eating sushi like any North American would, or you continue eating it while simultaneously preaching your “sensitivity” garbage, which makes you a hypocrite. (Note: this is an extremely general comparison, using the examples I have already provided for clarity.)

The point to be made here is that if we continue to treat people from different cultures and religions like they might explode if you say the wrong thing, we will eventually devolve into saying nothing at all. And we are pretty much already there. Any discussion surrounding Syrian refugees and Islamic culture (I use this topic because it is relevant now, and particularly poignant), has been largely self-censored to the point where the only acceptable opinion is the one that pats everyone on the head equally. When everyone is saying the same thing, we might as well all say nothing at all. There is so little (intelligent) dissent to be found in these conversations because those who observe any issues in the situation do not bring their concerns forward, out of fear of being called a racist and a xenophobe. What kind of one-sided conversations are we so used to having now that this is acceptable? Frankly, I find it both boring and ignorant.

(And luckily, there’s a term for this kind of behaviour [so ha, I’m not just a ranting lunatic]; it’s called groupthink, and it is toxic to any team of people that ever want to get something done. This is because when people are pressured into keeping their dissenting opinions to themselves, we lose that point of view in the discussion. It could be nothing in the end, but it could also address a huge hole in the boat they’re trying to build that no one spotted yet, and would never have spotted if it wasn’t brought up.)

I think we are tolerant because its popular. It’s cool to stand up for cultures other than your own, and don’t get me wrong, it is. But stop creating ideas of oppression where none exist simply because you want to be seen being a social justice warrior.

Because even though you managed to take down the big, bad, offensive yoga class at your school, you will never be able to stem the tide of LuluLemon, Starbucks, and neon-bright yoga mats. And you shouldn’t. These people are just doing something they like, and no one except you thought about how offensive it could be to a culture you don’t even belong to.

Stash your white guilt elsewhere, and stop ruining fun things for regular people.

Insufferably,

WildeAboutWords

Italians: a Study in Hypocrisy (Part II)

As the title implies, there is a Part I to this topic that has already been published. Do begin there.


2) Let me begin with a list: air conditioners, dog training, clothing dryers, screens, high-speed internet, adequate-speed internet, bike lanes, two-way streets, available parking, turn signals, window screens, modern deadbolt locks, reasonable store hours, immigration laws, a maximum number of political parties, and normal tax rates.*

Italy has almost none of all of these things. I dare you to find a dryer for your clothes in any home in the country. Likewise, I dare you to find a trained dog that won’t bark at every passing fly in the yard as if it were a flamboyant homosexual that interrupted a Westboro Baptist Church “mass”, or brain-cell destruction ceremony, whatever you like to call it.
This country is full to the brim with inefficency, in all aspects of life. And as Italian law states, there must be obnoxious complaints and arguments about such things, accompanied by little-to-no action. (<— Hypocrisy. See what I was saying?)

For example, Italians don’t believe in air conditioners because they are highly superstitious. And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, good.

The best way to explain the lack of air conditioning in a country with 40 degree weather and 70% humidity would be to tell you that the people here are afraid of the air. A light breeze coming through the window will cause many to clutch their necks in horror, utter an expletive, and demand that they trade seats with someone, so as not to “catch the air.” Truly, the doctors here see this as a treatable malady; in fact, it is one among many other maladies to which any doctor in North America would roll their eyes at, tell you to go home, and stop being dramatic. And yet, the “aria” is a real condition here in Italy – any sneeze, sniffle, throat tickle, fever, headache, general bone ache, knee problem, itchy eye, grumpy mood, or cough is explainable as being caused by the “air” he caught. And he knows exactly where he caught it, too. You see, he was standing in line at the bank, and suddenly he felt the slight, normally welcome draft of cool air from the air conditioner. This was when he realized with dread that he would be forced to wait in the line for at least another ten minutes before he could hurry himself to the exit, and out of the line of air-fire. About three minutes in, despite his best efforts to turn away from the air, and use other’s bodies as shields, he knew he had caught the air. Or rather, the air had malevolently found him. That evening over dinner, he coughed once, and proclaimed vehemently to all who would listen that he simply knew it had been the air in the bank. He had felt it immediately, he said. He then cleared his throat dramatically, and promptly resumed eating his dinner: a dish made with exceptionally spicy pepperoncini flakes.

Now, I will choose one more topic to broach in the list above, because if I were to address them all it would require at least a week’s worth of my time, an endless amount of espresso (with grappa), and probably some psychotherapy to work out the level of crazy it would drive me to.

July 7th, 1868 was a historic day, and one that goes overlooked now. On this day, a U.S. patent number 79541 was filed by Bayley and McCluskey for what is now a standard in the construction of homes and buildings in North America: we know it as “the window screen.” Groundbreaking, I know. You see, someone decided that bugs carried diseases and were gross, but they still liked fresh air in the house, so they invented this handy little mesh contraption, easily installed, and that is now available to fit almost any window type imaginable.

But the Italians have none.

I will tell you what they do have, though. They have massive black flies, horse flies, tropical insects, a million-and-one kinds of spiders, mosquitoes, and in the last thirty or so years, an invasion of what is known as “tiger mosquitoes.” If the term “tiger mosquito” doesn’t frighten you, you clearly haven’t been bitten by one. They are massive, striped (hence the name), they leave welts, and they attack during any of the twenty-four hours in a day, not just dawn and dusk. On my first night here a few years ago, I was yet unaware of these loathsome creatures, and woke up covered in 43 bites. I counted.

Now, this would naturally lead many people to complain about the sheer number of pests that enter the house. Women clean cobwebs down from the corners daily, shoo flies away from the fresh fruit on the counter every five minutes, and swear and gesticulate enthusiastically at every mosquito bite received. But if you suggest installing a screen to them, they will only wave their hands at you, as if to dispel such a ridiculous idea, and move to adjust the (highly effective) window shutters.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. Call me a wimp, but spiders terrify me. In addition, I am exceptionally sensitive to mosquito bites, and receive large welts that are anywhere from the diameter of a golf ball, to ones that exceed the size of my iPhone. And before bed every night, I have securely closed my door and window, despite an average of 27 degrees, and aggressively hunted any mosquitos that may have snuck in during my daily absence. Of which there are usually at least three.

And to think, this could all be remedied with a ten-minute trip to the hardware store; but here in Italy, I have discovered that it is much simpler, much easier, and truly the people’s zest of life, to just complain about it all.

But for the sake of my family and friends when I return home, I hope this condition of hypocrisy hasn’t been as contagious as “the air” can be.

Insufferably,

 

WildeAboutWords

 

*A separate post has been published concerning the politics and the tax rates, because as items they are far too expansive and inefficient to incorporate here. See: “Kicking and Screaming: A Guide to Italian Politics” if you want to read a bunch of simultaneously entertaining and frustrating factoids about this nation’s government policy.

The Importance of Not Being Earnest

Don’t tell me you’re in love.  I’m not impressed by it.  If anything, I feel a little worried for you, and depending on how well I know you, I’m slightly worried for myself.  Because at some point, I’m either going to receive a wedding invitation, or a leading text that turns into a night of strong alcohol, a loaded-up charcuterie board,* and a repetitive chorus of choked sobs — but let’s be honest, I’ll probably get both within a two-year period.

Now, this is probably my own fault, as my general demeanour somehow seems to beguile my acquaintances, and often the general public, into thinking that I am an apt and willing recipient for their bullshit.  The reality is that I am probably the least useful person to profess your strifes to, because in my head, you’re being illogical.  Or perhaps the better way of stating it is that I think you were illogical, past tense being the focus here.

The way I see it, you fell for it.  Not for love, no; you can’t fall for that because it isn’t a trap.  Love is [insert archaic/poetic excerpt here], and I don’t think you silly or superficial for having it.  However, what you’ve fallen for, and what I will openly lambaste you on, is an inability to separate this love from literally any important portion of your life.  For clarity, here’s an analogy:

After hacking through dense thorns and brambles, dodging fire swamps and ROUS, you find a person you’d like to annoy for quite a long period of time in the future.  Then, as the momentary feelings of euphoria pass, the other person eventually mentions that they’d like to escape this underbrush, and wouldn’t mind doing it without you.  And this is where you realize that you’ve been clinging to them so voraciously that you physically couldn’t hold on to the tools that brought you here in the first place.  Now, not only will the other person continue on their journey with their own tools, but they will leave you standing amidst dead leaves, cobwebs, and oddly alluring, neon-bright fungi that seem far too tempting to be safe to eat.  And you have no tools.  You lost them, you see.  Forgot about them.  Let them dissolve and disintegrate unceremoniously into the forest floor at your feet.  So what now?  You have two choices.  You can wait for someone else to come along while you wither in this dead place; or you can get creative and forge a new set of tools.  But be warned: this option takes an excessive amount of both time and effort.  The point is, had you never dropped your tools in the first place, you wouldn’t be trapped in the doom-and-gloom woods for nearly as long as you will be now.

Alright, so that probably provided little-to-no clarity.  Let me try again.  One sentence this time:

Love is neat and everything, but it isn’t everything.

Outside of this other person, keep your life.  Your hobbies, your passions, your friends, and perhaps most importantly, your values.  If you discard these in favour of filling yourself almost entirely with another person, you will invariably feel an emptiness.  If they suddenly feel unfulfilled with themselves, the chain reaction dictates that you will feel this just as intensely as they do, placing you in a relatively useless position where being of help is concerned.  And if they suddenly leave, whether by choice or fate, the expanse that they occupied in your existence will now be characterized by a gaping void that you will have to laboriously re-establish using existing, scarce materials.  It’s like trying to rebuild a burnt house using leftover wood that was salvaged from the rubble.

The alternative is to be a catalyst in your relationship.  Speed up the reactions, excite the chemicals; but avoid being entirely used up in the process.  Do not be so earnest in your advances that you forgo pieces of your world in exchange for someone else’s.  They won’t satisfy you, and when you’re willingly abandoning the instruments that compose you, the person that loves you back may not even have the ability to bind you together.  Do not accidentally rip yourself into fragments, only to notice when the reason you’ve done so has left, and then subsequently blame him or her for making you feel this lost.  Be fair to each other.  Be respectful of yourself.

Learn to be alone.  It really is quite lovely.  It’s a chance to expound upon the inner workings of your soul.  Tinker with your thoughts, examine your opinions, engage in a little introspection.  You might really like what you find, and realize its worth hanging on to.  It will inevitably give you further insights about the person you love, and help you appreciate what you offer to each other instead of focusing on how you rely on one another.  Reliance is a dangerous word, so I’ll say it again: learn to be alone.

So, you’ve fallen in love.  Remind me to pat the person on the back who has managed not to repulse you in some way.  But for the love of [insert applicable deity of worship here], please keep your head on straight after the part where you feel like rainbow, marshmallow fluff has subsided.

And with all that said, do be earnest sometimes; it can be quite endearing.

Jack: “Gwendolen, wait here for me.”
Gwendolen: “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”

I am,

Insufferably,

WildeAboutWords

*Ice-cream is cold, and melty, and sugary to the point of tooth-ache.  It is the anti-Christ of true comfort food, and so in this case, I present my savoury, comfort alternative that is simple to prepare for all you non-cooks out there.