"I do not need Europe" she said, shaking her shining black hair. "I've been to Korea, where my parents are from, twice, and I've been to China. What I need in my life, is to eat rice every day. I must have rice. I do not need Europe."
It was the second time I'd heard something like that from an Asian American girl. The first time was at the university when I was studying English history. A girl, walking my desk, said "oh, wow! So many books and all about one little period of time in European history! And I thought Europe didn't have any history at all!"
Some black people in Los Angeles have the same attitude. There is an ideology that says the first civilizations developed in Africa, and so their civilization is more ancient and better than the others. There is a small problem with factuality there, because they are referring to the civilization of Egypt, and those people were not black (at least not according to the definition of blackness developed in the twentieth century; I am aware that constructions of race change content every now and then), but if you say that they call you a 'white imperialist liar'. And they put little boys, dressed in expensive suits, on street corners to sell newspapers expressing their theories about their civilization.
The same attitude exists in Greece. People here consider their own history and their own culture to be the highest in the world, perhaps the only important one. This makes discussion next to impossible, because unless you agree with them, there is a wall between you. Not that I don't appreciate Greek culture. On the contrary, I think it's wonderful. But there are so many things in the world, and we learn so much more when we compare than when we ignore. To compare, for example, the Norse god Thor with the Yoruba god Ogun. Do they have things in common? To compare historical development in England with that in Holland or in Greece. I would like to discuss these and other interesting things with people who are different from me, to see if we could find a common spiritual area to understand each other better.
But today's global culture runs on envy. "My civilization" they tell us "is better than yours. I also wear better clothes than you. My hair is shinier, and my work is more glamourous. I don't need anything from you. And so we all work to show we're better than the rest. And we all work in the dark. Isn't that poverty? No one is interested in culture itself, but only in their own. And so we all stay behind our own walls.
© Margaret Wesseling, 2/3/06