Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's about to get heavy again

since I'm in major endorphin free-fall, I washed my mp3 player (long time readers may recall the times I washed my wallet, twice, and washed a cell phone) and found a cockroach in my refrigerator. It's been that kind of day.

So for those who have been keeping track, an Asian American gunned down 32 people, slightly before that, an Indian exchange student stabbed his prof , an Asian American with Asperger's made an ass of himself on TV and in the newspaper. Before that, I remember a spate of Asian fathers killing their families and then killing themselves. In addition, I remember earlier statistics which tell me that Asian American women quite likely to kill themselves. Clearly the state of Denmark is not entirely sound.

It reminds me of something a friend of mine said. We were talking about families, and how both of ours were pretty passive-aggressive, and she said "I think most Asian families are." It kind of clicked for me then. Living in Taiwan, I've noticed most people tend to deal with things fairly passive aggressively. It's better, I think, than getting angry loudly and causing everyone to lose face. At the time it was something of a revelation, passive-aggression is generally seen as fairly negative, and immature behavior in the States. I guess I had never thought that it could actually be a cultural difference. So how does this relate to the stuff I mentioned above? I guess perhaps subjective proof that Asian people, even Asian Americans react to situations in a different way than white people. Both my friend and I come from pretty Americanized families, her mom is 1.5, her dad is 2nd generation, both of my parents are 3rd. However, looking at things now, I can see how we deal with things in a different way.

In poking around on the internet, I found that the model minority stereotype is blamed for Asian American depression, as well as isolation for immigrants. This might be true for some people. I guess personally, I never found this to be so. I never got depressed because I thought everyone thought I was perfect. The idea that I would be depressed because people thought of me as Madame Butterfly is laughable. I'm pretty sure most Asian American women aren't thinking about that, although you never know. (How many Asian Americans listen to Puccini anyway?)

I've been trying to think about why, I myself, once, and ever so occasionally these days, wanted to do bad crazy things to myself. And I guess I came up with an answer. It's not The Answer, however, I suspect it's a lot closer than the Madame Butterfly thing. It's comparing yourself to other people and finding yourself wanting. Comparison is both internal and external. Parents and relatives like to compare you to your siblings, cousins, family friends, or whoever. Furthermore, I suspect there's a certain amount of perfectionism in the way we're raised sometimes. Anything less than 100% is evidence that there is room for improvement. Failings, academic or social are also evidence that improvement is needed. If other children surpass you, you're not good enough. Comparison is then becomes internal. (Incidentally this is probably why I think Magnetic North are the most Asian American of Asian American rappers, they rap about being depressed and not feeling good enough.) Perfectionism, whether imposed or internalized, can lead to a variety of bad things, of course.

One solution for this, of course, is if our parents would just stop comparing us to other people's kids. That would be nice.

The other thing I think is the fact that mental health isn't really set up for Asian people, or I suspect, not set up for any sort of person who is not white. I don't know what can be done about that. Particularly since the Asian thing to do generally seems to be to just deal with it as best you can and not talk it publicly, or at all. This approach is actually pretty good if you just have problems. It does become a problem if what you have is not a problem but a sickness.

Getting back to the passive-aggressive thing, part of the reason I suspect that it wouldn't work is that many Asian families, that I know anyway, communicate about things fairly indirectly. While this communication style can often be described as unhealthy or somewhat unproductive, it's worked for billions of people for millions of years, so something about it works anyway. It seems to work well enough when everyone's playing by the same rules. It becomes more complicated when your family operates on different wavelength than the mainstream culture.

Honestly, in Asia, I have met many more Asian children and parents who are satisfied with their (or their children's) mediocrity on various levels. Perhaps the drive to have your children succeed means something different. I mean, most Americans want their children to be successful too, but perhaps we get a little more complacent, since American-born people grew up within the American social system and know it through and through. Foreign born Americans, being less familiar with the whole set up, might get more anxious, and therefore push their kids harder. That still doesn't explain my family though, or my friend's either. Dammit, I give up.


magniloquence said...

Ooh, deep. Lemme chew on this and see if I come up with anything to add.

*pats* I can sympathize with the washing of important stuff. It's possible that it will still be okay, if you give it a while to dry out completely before (re)charging it and turning it on. Even if it works, you'll probably lose whatever was on it... but you might still have music.

lovelesscynic said...

unfortunately it remained rather irrevocably dead. Fortunately due to things like this happening, I no longer buy myself expensive electronics, so replacing it is ok.

Nien said...

proof that im white washed: i hate passive agressiveness.

Anonymous said...

recent immigrants (usually) have a fair amount of achievement pressure anyway. Think about Cho's parents. Poor background, hard working, "American Dream" (aka Get-Rich-In-America) type folks. Most immigrant families tend to have big motivations to be successful, and expect that their children do also.