The following isn’t meant to be inflammatory, just an expression of what I’ve experienced and a possible way forward. My opinion is just that, only my opinion, and open to change in the light of fresh information and cogently-argued thought. (And so I think I have learnt something from the exchanges in MsInvisFem’s blog.) So if you don’t like what I say here, comment here or privately and I’ll try to listen and act on what you say.
I’ve very rarely experienced anti-English racism in Scotland (and laughed like a drain at the example in Trainspotting. However, if needed, I could speak about the bullying and oppression I experienced at school. That hurt a lot at the time (a vibram-soled boot planted at speed on my back may have been the cause of on-going weakness in my middle vertebrae) and may have contributed to some of the nastier sides of my character. Certain people who may read this blog have seen far too much of these sides. With the exception of where I was attempting (and usually failing) to protect myself, there is always a tacit apology on my lips.
I still don’t like labels that divide humans from each other, whether perpetrated by majorities or minorities, oppressors or oppressed, even to draw attention to oppression.* It’s too easy for these labels to be a stepping-stone to ‘negation as people’.
*When oppressed or minorities use such labels to describe themselves, it can be seen to imply that they’re accepted or even desired by the oppressed or minority in question. Then even well-meaning but ignorant members of majorities or non-oppressed groups may well perpetuate such labels and the divisions and oppressions that go with them.
However strict avoidance would prevent me from saying things such things as
- ‘I’m from Worcester.’
- ‘My father is australian, my mother is austrian, I live in Scotland and drink irish whiskey and czech lager and eat indian and latin-american-style food. Now try to tell me my nationality!’
- ‘He/she/they /are (i.e. describe themselves as) brahmins.’
- ‘He is the “village-king” of this tribal village.’
- ‘Men do this while women do that.’
In this blog, such phrases are only intended to clarify who I’m talking about or state what I’ve observed*. They’re certainly not intended to mean that any group of people is worse than any other. We’re all human, and we all have our own particular mixes of faults and foibles.
*with the usual caveats about observation and narratives being far from the whole story
As far as I’m concerned (and with no intention to discount what others have experienced: if something hurts, it hurts and nothing I can say or do will undo this experience), the biggest issue is a person’s financial status. If minorities, etc, had the financial wherewithal, they could simply laugh off racist/oppressive comments, safe in their luxury apartments. However, this is currently pie-in-the-sky: often groups of related* people live together in terrible conditions which are an utter disgrace to our common humanity. One function of this blog is to report on the examples I’ve seen here and invite readers’ thoughts and action.
*This seems almost inevitable: if they can’t afford brick walls, how on earth are they going to afford transport to get to form relationships with other, better-off people?
I should add that this part of Kerala is probably nowhere near as bad as other areas of the globe: there are plenty of posh-looking villas on the way from Nedumkandam to Kattappana, for example. The fertility of this area is beautiful and stands in stark contrast to the dust-bowls and abject misery of north-eastern Africa (for example) that’s been on my TV since the early 1980s. There’s also plenty of luxury hotels* if you want to come and see for yourself. However, the best way would be to make contact with a family such as Ajeesh’s: you’re almost guaranteed a lovely time along with your practical lessons.
*The link is to the Edassery hotel in Munnar. However there’s an Edassery hotel in Kattappana and it looks very posh from the outside.