|RANT "N" RAVE|
Awright, let's get this whole
"smile when you see a foreigner" dilemma settled once and for all. I'm sooooo
tired of listening to rookie-just-off-the-boat ex-pats whining about how "they hate
" and how they are just so bloody magnanimous with their own good cheer
as to smile to all and any foreigner that crosses their path. Well, I don't smile. When I
see a foreigner I avert my eyes. Why? Lots of reasons.
First, it's a matter of self-respect. Yukio Mishima once said that prostitution was
detestable, not because it was morally reprehensible but for the simple reason that a
prostitute "loved" his or her clients equally regardless of whether they were
the Second Coming or the lowest form of vermin on the planet. In the same manner, a
foreigner doesn't smile at another foreigner because he sees something special in the
other person. It's only because he sees another foreigner. So excuse me for having an iota
of self-respect. I'm not interested in selling my own good cheer so cheaply.
Okay, so now all you Christians out there are probably moaning and groaning about
"The Brotherhood of Man" and how everybody deserves a smile, and who am I to
judge blah blah blah. Well, if you really believed in all that then why aren't you smiling
at every Japanese person you come in contact with? Besides, it's MY face. They're MY lips.
IT'S MY CHOICE.
And there's always the existential stance. When I'm walking down the street in Japan I am
completely and comfortably within myself. The fact that I'm a foreigner affords me the
luxury of being outside the periphery of all referents linking me to the surroundings. I'm
like a peeper at the peephole, enjoying the delicious privacy of cultural invisibility.
Then along comes some foreigner. Suddenly the privacy is shattered, and I'm forced to look
into the mirror of a face that belongs to a world of referents similar to mine. I'm forced
to see myself outside of myself as exactly that which "the other" is - a
foreigner. Stranger in a strange land. He is the rain on my parade! Spotlight on my
foreignness! SO OF COURSE I'M NOT GONNA SMILE!!! WHY THE HELL SHOULD I?!?
So excuse me if I avert my eyes when you pass. You may be a wonderful person. You may be a
complete knob. But you know what? I don't know you from a hole in the ground. If I did
know you, I'd probably smile and say "Hi!"
Many thanks to Sean Callaghan for this Rant.