Sunday, May 18, 2008

Backtalk: What Do You Want From Us?

Backtalk: What Do You Want From Us?
May 18, 2008

This advertisement for soap uses the theme of the White Man's Burden, encouraging white people to teach cleanliness to members of other races
-- Wikipedia

Almost on cue, almost as if to prove the very point made in the widely circulated article, "What Do You Want From Us?" a number of Bearers of the White Man's Burden have condescended to set the poor, benighted Chinese people straight on the World As It Really Is.

One of them posted a long-winded "rebuttal" to my article here:

The Only Redhead in Taiwan [sic!] yet another predictable "China is bad" blog by yet another expat Taiwan independence fellow traveler

You read that right. He really did name his blog "The Only Redhead in Taiwan."

Try not to laugh too hard. I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself.

But I really can't blame you. These 21st century versions of pith helmeted 19th century Bearers of the White Man's Burden really are full of themselves, aren't they?

Note how he chose to define himself in relation to the public on Taiwan? Remember, he chose to define himself in this manner, not me.

He seems utterly oblivious of his own colossal presumption. He actually believes his narcissistic view of himself as some sort of sharp-eyed, worldly wise, infinitely patient observer of the human folly swirling around him.

For these Bearers of the White Man's Burden, everything is about them. They are the leading men in the human drama unfolding on this planet. They are the Masters of the Universe. They are the final arbiters of Eternal Verity.

The "little brown brothers" are quaint extras, local colour, to be lifted up out of backwardness by these White Knights in Shining Armor.


I considered taking some time out to rebut his "rebuttal" line by line, point by point. As readers of the China Desk know, I've done that with Taipei Times editorials often in the past. But that would have been a few hours taken away from learning a new aria or show tune.

Would it be worthwhile?

Not really.

Besides, readers are smart enough to make up their own minds, not on debating skill, but on objective merits.

Read "What Do You Want From Us?" Watch the video versions of "What Do You Want from Us?" posted at YouTube.

Then read the "rebuttal" by the aforementioned Bearer of the White Man's Burden, whereby he magnanimously removes the blinders from our eyes.

Ask yourself if he didn't unwittingly demonstrate precisely the point he was attempting to deny, that he and his ilk are determined to "make China wrong" and that he and his ilk "just don't get it?"

Upton Sinclair once quipped that "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Permit me to paraphrase Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his self-image depends upon his not understanding it."


  1. Anonymous12:20 AM

    Wonderful post! A very good observation about expats. Their entire self-image centers around "not getting it" and if they were to open up and acknowledge someone else's postion would mean they have to re-consider their belief in own superiority.

  2. Thank you.

    Some, not all western expats on Taiwan are heavily invested in a presumption of cultural and even "racial" superiority.

    I put "racial" in quotes because scientifically race is a fiction, a non-concept.

    Some of these Bearers of the White Man's Burden are "FILTH," i.e., "Failed in London, Try Hongkong." Or Taipei. It doesn't really matter.

    These failures have to weave some sort of narrative that affirms their self worth.

    So they vilify "uppity" Chinese who "don't know their place" and adopt Taiwan independence Quislings as pets.

  3. Great stuff, Bevin!

    So, as it stands now, I've not attacked you once personally, only noting my disagreements with you. Never once claiming to be more intelligent or more informed than you. Simply as having a different perspective than you, and trying to start a healthy debate.

    I have done so using your quotes and showing where I disagree with you (and where I agree with you).

    Yet, you chose to resort to superficial attacks for what I named my site (as though that has anything to do with the content or reveals my narcissism) rather than addressing even one thing that I said.

    I know you're a smart guy. I can tell from reading this site that you know your stuff, and that's why I chose to try to start a discussion with you, hoping that you would point out where I was wrong, where I had been misled (aside from simply being a white man in a country that I will simply never understand and just should try to).

    In the end, it appears, I must have been wrong. You're not interested in bringing people over to your side or getting people to see from your perspective. Rather, you've made up your mind, and you're out to rally those who already agree with you.

    I understand. Good luck. Thanks for the compliments.

  4. No need to beat a dead horse.

    Readers should go over his remarks and mine then make up their own minds.

    I the long run, and I mean looong, the truth will out.


  5. Anonymous7:47 PM

    I would've liked to see an intelligent critique of Robert's point of view. Though I mostly disagree with what Robert writes, he writes thoughtfully. There is a lack of blue-leaning posts in the Taiwan English blogoshpere. You've done nothing to improve that dearth with this inane post.

    Instead you've made a giant, stoopid inference based on the title of his blog. Yeah, I think "The Only Redhead in Taiwan" is kitschy, but where you make the jump to all of a sudden he's essentially a white supremacist is utterly ridiculous.

    Why didn't you read his About Me?

    How about you delete this entire post and write "white people are racist because white people are racist." That would basically get the point across.

    You've taken a very legitimate issue - the way white people view the "rest" of the world and projected onto one man's blog title.


  6. I trust readers to read "anonymous'" remarks, compare them to mine, and make up their own minds.

  7. Anonymous3:00 AM

    " I would've liked to see an intelligent critique of Robert's point of view. Though I mostly disagree with what Robert writes, he writes thoughtfully. There is a lack of blue-leaning posts in the Taiwan English blogoshpere. You've done nothing to improve that dearth with this inane post. "

    I am neither pro-Blue nor pro-Green. But I am "white". And I humbly would like second what anonymous wrote in his/her first paragraph, except for the insulting (enough of that, no?) "inane". And I sign:

    Johan Gijsen

  8. Dear Johan,

    Thanks for sharing. You've raised an important point, one worth commenting on.

    Please note that I am not beginning a debate on this. I am merely making an isolated response.

    I noticed you put "white" in quotes. You are quite right to do so. Terms such as "race" should be put in quotes.

    I often put "race" in quotes, because scientifically, "race" does not exist.

    I wrote an article explaining my views on "race" some time ago:

    The title "Race is an Illusion, Racism is Not" says it all.

    Interestingly enough, although there is no such thing as "race," there is such a thing as racism.

    Many people, both racists and anti-racists alike, may scratch their heads when they read what I wrote.

    Many racists will say, under their breath, "Of course races exist. And we all know that some races are inferior to others, specifically, to mine."

    Many anti-racists will say, "Of course races exist. But all races are equal, and must treat each other with respect."

    Both are wrong.

    Races do not exist. Race is a conceptually meaningless, hence unscientific term. There is only one race, the human race.

    Racism exists, and racists exist, not because "race" exists, objectively speaking.

    Racism exists and racists exist only because "race" has been "reified," i.e., given a subjective existence, within the bigoted minds of racists. Racists have made racism real by thinking in such terms.

    This is all a very long-winded and roundabout way of reaffirming the ancient Chinese concept of "tian xia wei gong, shi jie da tong."

    Very loosely translated, it means, "The earth is our common heritage, all men are brothers."

    Covert racists such as Robert, who defines himself by "race," who chose to name his blog "The Only Redhead in Taiwan," are free to peddle their covert racism on their blogs.

    I will rebut them only at my own discretion, according to my own judgment, when I feel a rebuttal would be worth my time and effort. I will not dance to their tune, merely because they demanded that I do so.

    They may throw hissy fits, but sorry, that is my natural right as a sovereign individual.

    This is no longer the 19th Century. The heyday of colonialism and imperialism is long past.

    Colonialist, imperialist racists who mentally classify Chinese as "members of an inferior race," who must be "enlightened" by themselves had better get used to the Post-Colonialist, Post-Imperialist new era.


  9. I can't help but laugh at how similar my beliefs on race are until you start projecting qualities onto me.

    If it's any help. I started my blog as a way for my family and friends to see what I was up to. The first week I was here, I rarely ever saw another foreigner. When I needed to name the site, that's the first thing that came to mind. The only redhead. It's quite striking for someone who comes to Taiwan from America, seeing how most people have more or less the exact same hair color. Being a redhead, I was already in the minority in the US, in Taiwan, more so.

    I've hated the title ever since (obviously not for any of the far-fetched reasons you've dreamed up), but changing it would require getting everyone to go to another site, and many of my friends are just not that tech-savvy.

    You can continue to paint your sinister picture of me. I don't care. If you took a moment to talk to me, and not just about me, you might find that we agree on more than you think.

    But, then again, I'm sure I'm mistaken, because there are just certain things that my racist western mind will never be able to comprehend.

    All the best,

  10. Dear Robert,

    The title of your blog is hardly the sole cause for skepticism about your underlying mindset.

    But leave aside my skepticism for the moment. After all, what difference does it make?

    You have your blog. I have mine. What's the problem? Don't you believe in free speech?

    I trust that in the long run, the very long run, people will read what I wrote, read what you wrote, and figure out for themselves what they believe.

    Do you?

    If you do, then you really don't need to keep coming after me, trying desperately to get in the last word, trying desperately to prove that I am "wrong" and "bad."

    If you do, then you will simply go on writing your blog, and allow me to write mine, confident that the truth will out.


  11. Free speech?

    Nowhere should you have gotten the impression that I don't want you to say what you say. I just want you to show me the least possible dignity by citing examples of my alleged faults when you're insulting me. That's all.

    I'm not demanding it of you. I'm simply asking the minimal courtesy of pointing my faults out to me, giving me something to think about.

    Thus far, you've drawn baseless conclusions from the stupid title of my site without even touching one thing that I've said.

    In the end, you're right: I have my site, and you have yours. I was just trying to reach out to someone who disagrees with me and have a respectful conversation. I was trying to learn something, which I did, just not what I expected.

    Anyhow, hope you had a good weekend,

  12. Bevin,

    Also note that I'm not beginning a debate on 'race'. However,as for your view; it is the classic, still most widely accepted view of race. It unfortunately also eludes the field of science and enters the world of politics.

    Thank you for the link. Here are my links for you:
    Or this much more scientific (but thought-provoking) article:

    I'm not into physics or natural selection. But I am convinced that, until DNA research has developed further, we should at least leave open the possibility that people like Stephen Hsu (Berkeley) Steven Pinker (MIT) and Richard Dawkins (Oxford) do have a point: the "jury is still out" on the race-question.