Saturday, 7 April 2012
BBC Identity: Chinese pride?
This will be the first of a series will explore and present some indepth thoughts on the British Chinese identity.
I've recently made a comment on one of BBC Zeitgeist's post and the point that brought forward was how proud are we of our Chinese heritage. This is a something that often concern many Chinese who are born and bred in Western countries. We live in a prominently Western cultural environment where it is quite different to the values of our parents, we constantly have to deal with the clash of two different cultures. We need to adapt to Western culture in order to survive but doing so we risk sacrificing our cultural heritage that's been passed on from our parents. The BBC identity is almost like being the rope in a tug of war. But as oversea born Chinese how should we approach cultural pride?
In BBC Zeitgeist's controversial blog the author believed that being a proud Chinese means we need to carry some sort ethnocentric ideals. Although he never said it like that but that's the kind of sentiment you get from his writings. So that means keeping our cultural practice alive, marry Chinese only, watch Chinese TV and films, limit ourselves from Western/white influences, condemn others for being white washed and selling out (but at the same time having a go at new immigrants for making BBCs look bad). However is this really what being a proud Chinese/BBC is all about? For me there's a whole lot deeper and complex meaning to pride.
Dignity and self-esteem
Being proud of your own identity is more than just living by a set of superficial criteria because any non-Chinese are capable of practicing Chinese culture. Or just like people who boast about pride like some flag waving patriotic morons, it's missing real substance behind the action. Forcing Chinese customs on your kids in the Western environment just doesn't work and sometimes can have the opposite effect. For me there are two primary elements we need to consider; dignity (尊嚴) and self-esteem (自尊). These two emotional factors are important in the development of any young persons. Racism will have a negative impact on many young BBCs' self esteem and also creating the feeling of low self-worth. This can have various effects; some will turn to self-loathing whilst others may become resentful and full of hatred.
Generally East Asian children in the West seem to have lower self esteem than their white counterpart for various reasons, which also includes racism. Also sometimes BBCs who are brought up in a traditional family (or by 'tiger mothers') are most suspect to this. When faced with racist bullies we were taught to ignore them and keep our heads down and study hard. As in the Confucius values we aught to keep things in harmony and not to cause a ruckus. This will ruin our personal development and confidence. It's important to encourage them to stand up for themselves and not see yourself to be lesser than others, that is having dignity. All-in-all parents have the responsibility to make sure the kids grow up with good self esteem thus developing a positive perception of themselves. At the same time reinforce this with teaching of Chinese culture of course.
Of course there's also a darkside to ethnic or cultural pride. This when people turn pride into ethnocentric-ism and supremacy. Yes, this usually mean resorting to racist ideas. They also think they are the true champion representative of their own ethnic identity and any one from their own group who disagrees are deemed to be traitors or 'sellouts'. I'm all for safeguarding your own culture but when you do it with resentment and chauvinism I feel that it's very facile and it's nothing more than just arrogance. With mentality like this it's hard to hold any balance or rational way of thinking. In Chinese these people would be called fenqing (愤青) aka angry youths.
For many young people who felt rejected or outcasted from society it's a very easy emotion state to fall into. Turning to resentment and extremism is the easiest way to find a sense of mental consolation and to superficially rectify your own emotional weakness, low self esteem and insecurity. It's also a way to vent your frustrations and bitterness. This is a very unhealthy and even dangerous mentality that may even lead to tragedy. However it is unlikely that BBCs would resort to this sort of radicalism, as there isn't really an environment for us to cultivate such thing. But this may also be one of the reasons why we're very apolitical as a group. Even though BBC Zeitgeist's views are controversial it's hardly the extremism that one should fear. Nonetheless I hope that more people should recognise that self esteem is the most fundamental and positive substance of one's pride.
On the positive side I feel the younger generations of BBC are having it better as the younger parents are much more 'liberal' and not the old school 'feather duster regime' we used to have. Thanks to better telecommunications and greater presence of the community it have helped young BBCs to be more in touch with their heritage. In conclusion to be prideful of your identity is more than just having cutural and historical understanding of your heritage, though these are vital too. Also it's not merely about following certain customs or lifestyle just for the sake of it, whether you're too Westerinsed or not Chinese enough is beside the point. It's important that you develop a healthy mental consciousness as a foundation first and foremost. If you can embrace your identity with high esteem and confidence, then eventually you'll follow and appreciate Chinese culture with real meaning and genuine passion.