Every time I get diagnosed with a minor health affliction (impacted wisdom tooth, cavity, kidney infection, strep throat, etc.) easily resolved by a few antibiotic pills or a small drill accompanied by massive amounts of topical painkillers, I wonder about the consequences of these small ailments in another context.
For example - prior to the invention of modern dentistry, did people just die from cavities and impacted wisdom teeth? (SUCK. Also suck: dying from a cold, childbirth, a cut.) Or did they just down a bottle of Boone’s while some dentist with pliers removed them? Or did most people just die before they reached the age where wisdom teeth mattered? Or were they too busy combating things like syphilis, the bubonic plague, smallpox, marauding Huns, the persistent threat of starvation to care?
The other day I took my cat to the vet (a really stupid move, actually, as she doesn’t even live with me any more, but I relented because my parents would never in a million years deem a cat worthy of its own doctor) and after the usual screaming (from the cat) and tut-ting (from the vet assistants - it took 4 and a towel over her head to clip her nails) the vet told me that the cat should get its teeth cleaned next year. A cat dental treatment requires complete anesthesia which carries its own risk, but apparently it is of utmost importance that any cat dental problems be prevented with a thorough cleaning.
When I told my parents, they laughed in my face. Predictably.
So, the question becomes more absurd - prior to the invention of modern cat-dentistry, what did felines around the world do?
Every three months, like clockwork, some editor of a NYMag-esque publication geared at the liberal-arts college educated masses throws some trollish piece out to generate page views. (Because really, a race to the bottom - complete with kitten pix and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo gifts - is inevitable when the entire media business model depends on ADD page-views, but I digress.) Usually when said troll-piece involves race, it usually involves some kind of racial phenomenon *cough stereotype* dujour that white people are obsessed with. Like, black women and their bodies. Or, Asian men and their general beta-state. Or Asian women and why they steal white men. The editor then casts a net far and wide to dredge up (and yes, I really do mean dredge) the Bill Cosbies of every shape and color to ‘explain’ away. O, U Mad Bro?
Yes, by all means do. Please tell me why I only date white guys! Wow, I totally understand - it’s because I’m racist? Oh, okay. I have to say, I feel so good that something like this is out there in the world to damage my little Asian brother’s psyche further. The one that said to me a few weeks ago, “I’m glad I’m gay, because I think if I were straight, I’d have a hard time dating girls.” This is coming from an objectively handsome, 5’11 awesome specimen of a human being on his way to a pre-med Yale degree with an ill sneaker collection and a knowledge of the best real estate in the Hamptons.
Of course, I promptly yelled at him and told him that everything he thinks about himself is a prime example of something called internalized racism - that builds up over time with insidious articles like this, with insidious editors in the media world who only want to generate controversy and pander to the deep, ugly racist corners of the American mind. Because at the root of it all, you have to wonder, with all that’s going on in the world and all the things that the media can shed light on (ongoing environmental destruction, the permanent contraction of the American economy, why TLC is still called ‘The Learning Channel’ and other pressing issues I’d like to hear about) - why exactly is everyone so damn curious about why black women are fat - ? I suspect that the answer is that simply, they already think so. And why DO they wonder why Asian men are beta? Again, because already they think so. And why DO they wonder about why Asian women are harpies with their claws in white men? Yep, already think so - but it’d be great if they could find a real live minority to explain away, as that helps them avoid the issue of actually having to interact with one. (No, watching The Help and Gangam Style doesn’t count.)
Suppose I step back and reconsider this phenomenon with ethnic writers willing to Cosby out with the most optimistic mind. Suppose I consider the argument that these writings are not attention-seeking posts meant to generate empathy and unwitting feed into the propaganda of minority inferiority. Suppose that these writers want to generate real talk and discussions on some issues they feel are causing drama within the community. I suppose the inclination to discuss some of these things are here, but I have to wonder: then why NYMag, why XOJane, why Gawker, etc.? Why shout from the mountaintops to an audience predominantly NOT aimed at your brethren, but at the external? And why preach to a choir that’s already convinced of what you have to say before you even open your mouth?
PS. On a more shallow note (because I’m a catty bitch), why is it that Asian chicks that look like that are always mouthing off about their dating life? Most women I know, myself included, have averaged meeting about three people of the opposite sex in the past 10 years that they didn’t want to automatically spray mace on. Now, that’s a phenomenon I want to talk about - call me, editors.
I recently discovered Huang Qingjun’s series of photographs on Chinese family possessions. Not the newest itineration of this type of art - it was brilliantly covered in the 2009 MoMA installation “Waste Not” by Song Dong - but moving nonetheless. There’s a few things that mark a Chinese household - for one, the red washbin thing seems to be ubiquitous across all socio-economic levels from Queens to San Francisco, to Great Neck to Dallas. I also remember in China the daily tear-off calendars with the big green dates. And of course a big, rusty electric fan probably made in 1952 still in use. Huang’s photographs are touching and do a good job of capturing the frugality of most Chinese households.
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles - is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already - it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” - the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Once, during a vacation, we forgot to refrigerate the doggie bag from dinner, and it sat in the warm hotel room overnight. Someone’s move to place the funky bag in the garbage the next morning set off my father’s immigrant mentality inner-motion detector. He wouldn’t listen to our pleading — we were sure he’d be dead of ptomaine poisoning by noon — as he ingested the entire contents of the carton. Annoyed, he chided us kids for our snobbish tastes, called us wasteful.
I can only imagine what he would have had to say about a presidential candidate so heedless he eats only the top off a muffin. No matter how loyal a Republican, my father would likely have declared Mr. Romney a very silly, profligate man — not the kind of man to be trusted with his precious tax money.
Truth by Alexander - obsessed with this song. I’m not eighteen any more so I don’t do song lyrics, but these are good: I’ve seen a million numbered doors on the horizon/Now which is the future you choosen before you gone dying./I’ll tell you ‘bout a secret I’ve been underminding/Every little lie in this world come from dividing
“Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory. It dispensed with all those bothersome little acts of daily courage; it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward; it justified the past while amortizing the future.”