Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to bully someone into a favour and make them feel bad about it.

(A lesson in discourse analysis)
Every afternoon she teaches a boy under a gazeebo at a guest house. One day she arrived and some Farang was doing work there, so she set up the lesson on another table which was more public, but she didn't care, the Gazeebo was anyones. She began the lesson and after a few minutes, a man came over and said, (let's say John?) "John's just clearing off his stuff so you can have the gazeebo, because it's important to teach this little guy." 
"Oh, ok? It's ok, we've already started."
"No, no, you usually do it there, he's already started packing up."
"I didn't ask him to." She thinks, as she packs up the lesson to move it. 
While she's packing up her stuff he adds, "He usually does his work there in the afternoons, because he doesn't like being near the TV and all the guests coming and going, but he's going to move so you can use it."
Why did he feel he needed to add that? It feels like she's accepting a favour at gun point, as though she's burdoning someone without saying a word. Were they trying to participate in her good deed? Or did they feel shamed by some guilt that has nothing to do with her and are somehow blaming her for making them feel it?John is still packing up when they reach the gazeebo.  
"I'm sorry I just get so absorbed in my work I completely lose track of time and become completely oblivious to everything around me. Just, when you see me on here, just come and tell me and I'll move.OK?" 
"It's no big deal, I can teach him over there."
"No, no, this is a good spot to teach him. We're just going to the house over there, so when Pam turns up, tell her to go over there because I have the key, don't let her go down to the other house because she won't be able to get in. Ok?"
"Uh, OK." Which translates to, "I didn't ask for any of this, why are you making me do things? I don't even know you.

The next day John's working there again, and the little boy she teaches is asleep on the bench beside him. She sneaks up and taps the boy on the shoulder and with her finger to her lips, she whispers, "Let's go over there.", pointing to the table they had started at the day before. A few minutes into the lesson, John appears at the table saying, "You didn't do what I told you!" And for a moment, she gets a glimpse into the frustration which indigenous cultures feel towards white people, who seem to have this compulsion to help even when they're not needed, or especiallywhen they're not needed, which just goes further towards dominating and alienating and destroying. Just stop interfering!

And after this point of epiphany, a strange coincidence later converges on her, as she overhears John, and his plastic, Floridian tanned wife, talking loudly and obnoxiously to a Burmese monk, who had walked from Bangkok to Mae Sot to spread the message of Burma. They wanted their photo taken with him so they can tell everyone about him "back home". "We just think the Burmese cause is such a good one, we want to do everything we can to help."
"What about the Native Americans?" She asks. "What are you doing to help them? Do you even think about them? Did you realise they're still occupied? That they have no self governance? That they are still resisting like the monk is? Did you realise that they are resisting you?!" The words don't come out, they swarm in a maelstrom inside her head, because she knows they'll never understand.
Stupid white man.


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