Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Irreversibly Shocked

In a few weeks, we will have been home for six months. I haven't been keeping up with blog posts because I have been feeling completely uninspired. While the first month or so at home felt...tolerable (I won't say it was fine because it wasn't even that), I've been growing more and more unhappy about my life here, feeling more and more out of place. Yes, I have a raging case of reverse culture shock.

The first and most obvious change was my physical environment and surrounding. Life in an American suburb is mind-numbing, to say the least. It lacks any kind of culture and stimulation. This kind of environment can zap anyone of life. Add to that the impending winter, the bitter cold, shorter days, and weak sunlight. During the warmer months, there is at least color in the trees and flowers. Now, everything is gray or brown. Adjusting to the cold also has been torturous. I get cold easily and do not warm up easily. I hate the restrictions and feeling of confinement from all the layers we need to put on and from having to be inside just to keep from freezing. And the need to hunker down for an entire season...I can't even. People rush around in their layers in order to get to somewhere warm. They don't stop to talk (not that they normally do anyway), make eye contact, or even acknowledge others' presence. Winter is an isolating season.

But what's been far worse has been the people's mentality and attitude. Americans may pride themselves in their individuality, but, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The younger people are so intent on being different and standing out that everyone becomes the same in their differences. And from this mindset of individuality comes a sense of entitlement, rudeness, and selfishness. Everyone thinks they are so different and special, deserving of whatever it is they think they've earned.

Even in everyday life, entitlement rears its ugly head -- people grow impatient waiting in lines and cut ahead in traffic. They think they are more important than everyone else and their time is more precious. Everywhere I turn to, people are unkind to each other. Nothing is sacred; there is no respect for anything, especially from the teenagers.

As for selfishness -- well, it permeates our culture. Everyone is looking out for only Number One and not for anyone else. They are judgmental about who "deserves" help and who doesn't. There's no human connection and a dearth of empathy for fellow human beings. One morning, a few weeks ago, as I was walking out of the metro train station, a woman in front of me suddenly slipped on something and fell. Only two of us stopped to make sure she was okay; everyone else -- in a train station full of people at the height of rush hour -- didn't even acknowledge that something had happened! They just rushed by in a hurry as if they didn't just see a person fall. This incident, to me, epitomizes the current state of humanity in our society. We've stopped seeing each other as human beings that need our support.

As for the people's mentality -- well, you've seen what's been going on. It has now become acceptable to openly make discriminatory statements against minority groups and advocate for the ban of certain minority groups from this country, all based on generalizations and stereotypes (which, of course, don't apply to the American people at all!). It's a slippery slope because once we allow discrimination for one group, it will soon become acceptable for other groups as well. It's been disheartening and scary to see how many people are still so prejudiced in their thinking and actions. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On a more personal level, people have continued to amaze me with their ignorance, confusing Thailand with Taiwan, Thai with Taiwanese. They are ignorant of the culture and politics of other countries, and have no desire to learn. On the contrary, almost everyone I've ever met in Asia, including un(der)-educated taxi drivers and housekeepers, is very knowledgeable about other countries. Some of them know more about the U.S. and our government than most Americans do. People here also don't see the need to learn about other cultures or learn other languages. I am tired of the willful ignorance of the people here. For such an expansive country, Americans are really very insulated and narrow-minded.

As you can see, it's been a challenging few months. It feels like it's been over a year, and has been emotionally draining and exhausting. I hope things get easier, but at the same time, I hope they don't so I don't get complacent. The way things are going here, I do not want to stay and have my son grow up in such a hostile environment.

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