October 16, 2007

What do “English teachers” get up to in Thailand?

Filed under: asia,culture,Thailand — Kim @ 12:48 pm

My heart sank a little when I read that the identity of the notorious paedophile “Vico” has been discovered and that he has been revealed as Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old Canadian and – yes – an English teacher.

And – worse – he is on the run in Thailand.

This will confirm an lot of gossipy prejudice about both “English teachers” and Thailand. Having been an English teacher all my working life, I am used by now to the occasional patronising comments: “Ah, teaching English are you? That sounds fun…and when do you think you’ll get a proper job?”,”That sounds like a good way to travel”, “Ah, so you couldn’t find a job at home then?” etc. And I don’t let it get to me because I like what I do and because most of the people who say things like this aren’t worth arguing with anyway.

Expat English teachers also have a reputation for being alcoholics, fruitcakes, and/or sexpats. Well, there is indeed no smoke without fire and, admittedly, a few of the colleagues I’ve had over the years have been a little eccentric and fond of a drink.

And I lived in Thailand for a couple of years and am forced to say that in some ways Bangkok deserves its reputation.

However, I could go on at much much greater length about how the overwhelming majority of my English teacher colleagues over the years have been decent, clued-in people and how most of the guys I met working in Bangkok were no more sex-crazed than men anywhere else…but that would be less interesting, although much more fair and accurate.

The point is that for whatever reason even educated and intellectually scrupulous people can let themselves lapse into massive generalisations about a group of people based on the behaviour of a minority of them.

There are gradations of course and I think that comments like “the Russians like a drink” is probably only unfair on about half of the Russian population. But what about stuff like “Catholic priests are kiddy-fiddlers” or “Muslims are terrorists”?

I guess we’ll never get rid of lazy thinking like this.

Some of these comments are meant as jokey/harmless/throwaway and I know it can come across as a bit pompous to call people on them too often. But most of the time it’s just annoying and encourages sloppy thinking and contributes to building up harmful and unfair stereotypes.

I guess the next time I get pissed off with Chinese telling me that “laowai can’t use chopsticks” or “western food has no taste”, I will remind myself how many similar comments get spouted in “the west” too. (Though I’ll also tell them what nonsense they are talking.)

October 8, 2007

Mr Squeaky Creepy Clean

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kim @ 5:32 am

I’ve been reading the Guardian Online a lot during the last few weeks and it’s amazing how much they cover China these days. And a bit odd there’s so little on India.

More on that later perhaps, but first of all just a snippet from the Guardian’s coverage of the American election process. What do you make of this guy, I wonder?

Mr Clean

Unlike his main rivals for the Republican leadership who are on their second – or in Mr Giuliani’s case, third – wives, Mr Romney’s family life seems impossibly wholesome. He and his wife, Ann, have been together since their first date – which was to see The Sound of Music – and have brought up five sons, who are all now married themselves.

“Bring forth men-children only. For thy undaunted mettle should compose nothing but males.” Macbeth

I have never heard him speak, and it could well be that if I met him I would find him charming and a man of genuine integrity….but just from that snippet I found him deeply creepy and he set my “cynic’s sixth sense warning alert” ablaring.

Why is that I should distrust a man who married young, stayed faithful, looks good, seems sound, and is rich and successful…forgetting for a moment the fact that he’s a Mormon?

I think it is due to having seen “The Dead Zone” at an impressionable age. This guy even looks like Martin Sheen! And so it is that some stubborn part of me suspects that that if he gets into power he will bring about a nuclear apocalypse in order to hasten the second coming of Joseph (Jesus) Smith and usher in a paradise of chisel-jawed white men with several rosy-cheeked submissive wives. Hallelujah!

The position of President of the US is by far and away the most important in the world. If we had had Gore instead of Bush for the last 8 years I am completely sure the world would be a much better and safer place. And America would still have broad international respect, rather than the resentment and mistrust engendered by Bush.

Let’s hope the next one is a sensible (Democrat) humanist and not a religious (Republican) nutter. Please Buddha, let it be.