Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Comments galore

For the past few days, I've written about posting blogs and comments, and received more comments than I am truly worthy of. Thanks to all of you. As a way of showing my appreciation, I've started--as you may have already noticed--a Comment of the day box to the right, where I highlite the comment that caught my fancy. But yesterday, there were so many interesting comments: zettonv's "i bit my tongue and it hurts", bane_vixen's "women comment on my page faithfully. the men are fickle"; crotchety_old_man "i guess im just a man of few words..."; iiSoNySoUnDii's "I'm a regular. (^_^)"; Piratechan's "I leave comments when my brain can think of one, but sadly my brain has been MIA on me lately. It's the cliched 'it's not you, it's me' excuse." But SammyStorm's giri-commento really caught my attention. For those of you who don't know, giri-choco is, in Japan, the Valentine's Day chocolate that female employees give to their superiors at work out of obligation, and to a certain extent, the chocolate that men give to these women in return on White Day. (What's White Day? Ha! That's another entry). So with giri-commento, Sammy effectively merged Jap culture and the thoughts many of us have as we savor, indulge--some would say wallow--in our Xanga addiction. And he did it all in one short phrase! Speaking of which...

What's in your Culture?
Culture through Film class started last week as I wrote, uh... last week. And I introduced the course content and screened the first half of Seven Samurai.On Tuesday night, I started lecturing, but before going into my spiel of what Japanese culture is, I asked the class what they thought culture was. Very few hands went up... So instead, I asked: "If someone came up to you and asked you what was American culture, how would you respond? Keep your answer short." Still no hands. One student said that it isn't possible to give a short answer on what American culture is. Why? Too diverse. So I fine tuned it even more. "What might be a characteristic that most Americans seem to manifest?" The responses were somewhat predictable: The American Dream. Individualism.

So how do these characteristics affect a culture? Well, in a number of ways, I think The idea that we act as individuals, that we are responsible as individuals evokes a sense of empowerment in each of us, doesn't it? We sense that we can accomplish things, not because we everyone does it, or because we do it as a group. Instead, we accomplish things--or Dream we can accomplish them--because of this sense of individuality, that it is up to one's own self to get things done. None of this waiting for someone to do it for us.

And to a greater or lesser extent, this idea of individualism allows us to forge a cultural identity, and this is especially crucial for many of us Asian Americans, or at least for me as a Japanese American. Growing up as a JA, I had learned the concept of group consiousness from an early age at school--I went to an all JA elementary school in LA. But I always tried to wade into main stream society, to be a part of what I always saw on TV or in movies. While I couldn't identify physically with the Americans I saw--remember I look like Jackie Chan not John Wayne--but I was always drawn to the concepts conveyed in the media. Individual strength, individual accomplishment, individual responsibility. And so I am a hybrid of sorts, combining what I believe to be the better parts of both my identities: the idea that the group is an important aspect of society, that I should strive to support and complement the group; but I should also not rely totally on the group, that as an individual I had my own responsibilities and goals.

I consider this unique and special. I have been given a gift. In this society that celebrates diversity--at least ideally (sorry, had to throw that in)--I have a life that can channel two different cultures, providing me the opportunity to cull the best from both worlds and forging an identity that is distinctly my own. And ultimately, this is my definition of American culture: one that celebrates--indeed encourages--the freedom of distinct individuals to contribute to the larger culture. This is, of course, the ideal and we often find ourselves in situations that are far from it. But by the same token I have found myself contributing, and that, to me, is something that I relish. Indeed, that is why I teach: To reach out and touch as many people as I can. (Crap, I didn't mean to sound like an old AT&T commercial.) Sometimes I feel very fortunate...

Do you feel fortunate?

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