Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Me and My Big Mouth

Sometimes people say all kinds of crap without thinking about it too much.

This blog is a case in point.  I just speak my mind, when I should just sit quietly.

Usually, when someone mentions something about my surprisingly good chopsticking skillz, I fall back on my tried and true scripted response.  Occasionally though, some will make some inane pseudo scientific comment, and the scripted response goes out the window.  Today it was about how Asians are more genetically inclined to chopstick better. The standard narrative is how this explains why Asians in general are better at tasks that require small implements or machinery, especially related to genetic engineering.

It was at lunch when Ms. Sohn ventured into this typical small talk venue: Wow Mr. Waeg! You chopstick so well!  waaaaa~~! Wow you do use your chopticks differently! I did not know that about chopsticks! So amaze!  You know, Koreans chopstick very well, it is in our blood!

Usually any salty waeg can easily negotiate this scenario, yet when she went on about the inherent genetic aspect of chopsticking I felt my eye twitch. Before I could stop myself I said:

Ah yes, the genetic chestnut!   Did you know, Ms. Son, that the first person to advocate that theory was a Japanese scientist trying to explain why a Japanese team had been able to successfully reproduce an experiment that had eluded the scientific community for some time?  He basically said that because Japanese had a genetic affinity with chopsticks, only they were able to replicate the results.  Still, you can't help but think this is part of the Japanese national narrative to mitigate the loss in WWII: we Japanese are better at this than westerners!  Westerners can't know this, since it isn't in their culture or their blood!  Instead of looking at what rational explanations may exist for the failed experiments, he chose to instead say it was due to genetics and culture, feelings.  It was actually quit trendy about 20-25 years back for Japanese scientific researchers to add a little extra to their presentations, saying that they had succeeded at negotiating this very difficult task that required manipulating small instruments since the Japanese had genetically enhanced chopstick skills.  Really? You didn't know?  Oh yes!  There were even articles bemoaning the loss of chopstick skills in the face of ever encroaching western imperialism, since the love of all things western meant an end to pure chopstick expertise, or the end of something truly unique and beneficial to Asian cultures in general.

Things around our corner of the table got a bit awkward until someone brought up sports, and then balance was restored in the universe. But I'm sure Ms. Sohn is butthurt.  She wouldn't look at me and is obviously stewing.  She was simply trying to make small talk and be nice, and instead of just playing nice I became asshole incarnate.  Who knows, maybe as Koreans negotiate their love of all things western they'll realize that the exotic is just that, and that Koreans aren't the only ones who have thought a particular group was cool, suave, prestigious, simply because they were different. . .maybe they'll learn one day that Americans used to think the French were awesome for example, and that Koreans aren't as unique and special as they think they are.

Now, I do believe that stupidity is a universal constant, and I'm hoping she won't hold a grudge against me and that her panties aren't in a knot about it.  Still, I'm sure it'll be some time before Ms. Sohn attempts to engage me in conversation. From experience, these types of conversation never end well, and it's best to just smile.  When will I ever learn?

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