I remembered, after my last post, a conversation I once had with a friend.
“My teachers told me I was stupid.”
I looked at him. “They did what?”
“They told me I was stupid.”
“That’s terrible! Why would your teachers say that?”
“I don’t know. My grades were bad.” He looked out the window. The sun was sparkling on the water. It was a surprisingly clear Hong Kong day.
“Your grades were bad because you didn’t study, not because you’re stupid.”
“The education system is messed up.” He glanced back at me and then down at the table. There was a checker board there, in case we’d brought pieces to play.
“Well, if . . .”
“No one ever told me why I needed to learn, I just had to. So I didn’t care.”
“You didn’t think English was important?”
“The teachers didn’t know English! Only rich kids who go to international schools know good English.”
I waited. “That’s not true. Listen to you.”
His dark eyes flashed. “They were wrong.”
I ended my last post with these words: “Oh we westerners and our dreams.”
I have realized, due to personal reflection and a very astute comment, that I was WRONG.
“The last line of your post, it kinda struck a nerve. I know you are probably not trying to compare Asians to Westerners, but trying to compare poverty-stricken and ‘well off’ people.
There are many Asians who have the luxury of dreaming, and ways of fulfilling them, too—rich kids who are sent to international boarding schools, or even just ordinary kids that just graduated from HKU.
At the same time, there are many Westerners who don’t have the chance to dream—people brought up in poor families who are now working in Walmart or cleaning school bathrooms . . . and can’t for the life of them find better jobs.
I was born in Hong Kong. When I was three, I went to Singapore for five years and then moved to Vancouver, where I have lived ever since. I am one of the “privileged Asians.” I was taught by my parents (Asian to the core, completely alien to western culture) to dream big, and do big.
There is an agesaying that describes Asian parents’ desire for their children to reach for the stars: (translated) They “hope their children will become Dragons.” In , dragons symbolize royalty, luxury, and power; in ancient times, the “biggest” dragons were the emperors of their respective dynasties . . .
This isn’t about Westerners and Asians, it’s about different classes of people, the rich and the poor, the dreams and the lingering thoughts of when one’s next meal will be.”
And here is my response:
“You know, you make a really good point. A really, REALLY good point. I completely agree, and I suppose I shouldn’t have said it like I did. It’s just . . . I guess here in Ben Carson rising from poverty to reach a potential no one would have ever imagined possible. You don’t hear of those stories nearly as often in other countries. BUT . . . You are right to say that those stories are few and far between . . .people tend to have more opportunity to rise in social status than many people in other countries. There are numerous stories of people like
Culture is so complex. It’s hard to generalize. Obviouslytend to be more family-oriented while here in the States we are considered individualistic. Even in rich circles in Hong Kong, for example, kids are often pushed to excel in doing something of their parents’ choosing rather than what they themselves truly love . . . But even that is a generalization.
Your comment is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. I will try to be more careful in future posts not to make such remarks.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!”
Thank you, Mike. I mean it.
Image credit: Pinterest
- success, or something like it (jesscy.com)
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