Saturday, March 18, 2006

My Liberal White Brethren

I just returned home from a screening of the film "Water" by Deepa Mehta at the museum I just quit. The theme of the movie was to let your concience and compassion win when it conflicts with your faith. It also demonstrated the way people use faith to benefit themselves. The movie took place in India in 1938, it had very tragic elements to it, but it was easier to swallow since there have been 60+ years for things to improve. The director was there for the screening, which was a nice surprise. At the end she took questions.

As soon as I got there I felt uncomfortable right away. People have SUCH attitude there. I saw the ushers telling other people to go to the other door, so as I approached the door I looked at my ticket to see if my seats were at this entrance or the other. I cant explain it, but I just hated the way the ushers were. They, like so many people there, just acted SO self-important. I found Emma (yes! my old roomate Emma) and sat down, looking at the group I was surrounded by. I felt like I was floating on an ocean of egos.

During the film you could hear huffs and groans at the appropriate parts, as if people were announcing "I am aware that that was a tragic moment." I overheard a woman whispering to her friend "I already knew what was going to happen" a feat that was not spectacular enough to announce. When the Director was answering questions, heads nodded furiously, so they could properly display that they knew and aggreed with what she was saying.

The most embarrassing of them all was, to me, the announcer. The over-defferencial way she addressed the director, to me, seemed condescending. She tried so hard with her questions, with one she went on and on about a young actress, when the appropriate thing, in my opinion, would have been to ASK about the actress, and let the director rave about her.

In the end, I think the Director came out on top. Someone asked a weird question, like (paraphrasing) "What other issues are there in India?" she basically said (very politely) "how about instead, focusing on the problems in your own back yard" to which a Hindi speaking audience member followed with Bolly-Bolly (or Bali-Bali) whatever that means.

I felt so embarrassed about the behavior of my people, the white liberals. Geez, you don't get to be celebrated for being not-ignorant. I am hopeful that what I was witnessing was the attitudes of my parent's generation. Perhaps they are the next step of progress from their parent's generation. The 60's was a big step, but we still have a way to go, and my generation is just another step forward.

In the end it will be hard to remove American whites' feeling that they are somehow more special than anyone else. Why? Because take away that specialness, that feeling that we have our shit together and the rest of the world (including other Americans) just can't get it together, thats why things are as they are, we have nothing. When the Europeans came to America they were told to throw away their culture, that their identity was now "American" nothing else, so now all that whites have is our consumer culture, and that intoxicating feeling that we are special. And, just in case the people around us arent aware of that specialness, we will nod our heads vigorously to let them know.

mood: special

1 comment:

Jay said...

What you described is so real and so pervasive it kind of made me sad to realize it all over again.