Your own private assholery, Joel Stein

July 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Oh, the internet. Don’t you love it? Here’s why I do. You read something fuck-witted as the now infamous Joel Stein piece in TIME magazine titled “My Own Private India” and before you’ve even had a chance to sit down and carefully-formulate your thoughts, every other eloquent non fuck-wit has already blogged or tweeted about it. And while you’re hysterically coming up arguments with Joel Stein in your head, ranting and gesturing wildly towards the empty space beside your desk, they’ve gone all articulate and poised and written such lovely, sophisticated, logical responses to the fuckwit that is Joel Stein. While you’re still gesturing madly towards the empty space.

Which is not to say I’m frustrated. No. All I need to do now is link to those lovely, eloquent and (in the case of Kuzhali Manickavel, HILARIOUS) responses and my job is done. I don’t even have to write anything!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Lesson 1 of Lazy Blogging. Enjoy!

  • Kuzhali Manickavel’s response. It contains these words:

I read this and could not help thinking that many years ago, in my own one number country, the same thing happened. White people began popping up all over the place and before we knew what was happening, we were the new fuckdoll for the British Empire. And they were here for a very long time. In many ways, they are still here and they will never leave.

So if you don’t read it, you’re pretty silly. Sorry, it is something that must be said.

But before I leave you with those eloquent folks (no, I’m not frustrated), may I just offer you a few words of my own?

Joel Stein reminds me a little of me. Do you gasp in shock? Yes, gasp away. He reminds me a little of me… but a Me from the Past, it must be said. When I first returned to Malaysia after living in Canada for about four years, I remember going to the mamak one day and losing it. The mamak is a Malaysian institution; it is sacred. (Imagine me saying that in the voice of Gemma Atterton in Prince of Persia; breathy and whispery – “It is sacred” and you’ll understand the importance of mamak to the Malaysian psyche.)

Anyhow, at the mamak, four years after being away, I ranted to a friend, “Why does the mamak not look like the Malaysia I remember?” And indeed, it did not. The influx of people from places as diverse as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Indonesia (to name a few countries) meant that the good old capitalist practice of hiring foreign labour for shit wages was alive and well in Malaysia, particularly in the mamak.  Therefore, while the mamak is Malaysian insofar as it served calorie-laden Malaysian food cooked by Malaysian hands served by Malaysian people, this new mamak was showing me a new Malaysia – and making me question, at the same time, just what the hell does the term Malaysian mean. Why am I upset that people from other countries are making a decent living working at the mamak because it ruins my long-cherished idea of what a mamak in Malaysia should be?

I was ashamed, and still am, for that knee-jerk reaction – so uncomfortably close to the “Who are these people and why are they in my country?” reaction by nationalistic fundie-wundies (that’s fundamentalists, to you) the world over. Racism isn’t beyond me; and it isn’t beyond you, either. But I’d like to think that I differ from Joel Stein because I’m ashamed by my thoughts and reactions that have potentially racist roots – I’m not proud of them; and nor will I write 2,000 words on it or whatever and have it published in a magazine that is distributed all over the world and has enjoyed “stature” since it first saw light of day in 1923. It’s the fact that white people – white men – can get away with writing bullshit like this that’s and try to pass it off as “edgy, black humour”, or “satire” or whatever the hell – when it’s clearly RACIST DRIVEL MASQUERADING AS TONGUE-IN-CHEEK HEE HEE HEE – that makes me really mad. What gives you the right to be arrogant and presumptuous in your racist or sexist or classist beliefs? How is it that some of us are ashamed for having those thoughts while the rest of you can proudly wear it as a badge of honour?

It makes me really mad that a fuckwit like Joel Stein has now been paid more attention than he ever deserves, and will continue to increase his million-over Twitter follower count because people will be proud of him for “telling it like it is” and “upholding what America stands for,” and he will never, ever feel ashamed for feeling and thinking as he does or writing what he wrote, and he, in all likelihood, will never sit down and reflect on why the fuck he thinks the way he fucking thinks. Will he ever wonder how much of a role white, masculine privilege has played in making him Joel Stein? I doubt it.

But then I suppose I’m directing all my anger towards the wrong target. Why be mad at Joel Stein when he has an institution like TIME to support his bigotry and give him a space to air it?


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