Nono, I’m not coming out of the closet. I, in fact, don’t have a closet. But even if I did… that’s not what this post is about. The title for the post simply comes from something Karen’s boyfriend Sky aparently often says as a joke and it’s caught on a bit with me – though I really have no idea what it means.
Anyway, to the point. I was talking to Mandy last night and we got on the topic of one of the biggest cultural differences between the West and China. Namely, sense of community. What is taught in China is that Western people look out for themselves a lot more and are more selfish, whereas Chinese people have a stronger sense of relationships with people and care about each other more.
So, where Chinese say Western people are self-centred and Chinese are communal, in the West we learn that we are individuals and that the Chinese have a hive mentality. It means the same thing, but the context changes depending on where the value is put.
I was looking for a way to illustrate this difference and coming home from work today I saw it. Two men on a bike. It is very common here for one person to drive the bike and the other person to sit on the little rack perched above the back tire. The man on the back of the bike had his arm unself-consciously wrapped around the other man’s torso. You just wouldn’t see this back home, really for any number of reasons, but mainly because male-male touching is a bit taboo. However, here it is the norm. It is completely common to see two men (or women) walking down the street arm in arm, with their arms around each other, or holding hands. Back home, this would be a sure sign that the men find safety in rainbows.
In Canada, and many Western countries, gay rights are a standard – and I, of course, completely agree that they should be. I was raised in a Western culture that teaches individuality over commonality. However, if gay rights ever take off in China (they’ve got a long way to go) I think it will do a lot to destroy this comfort men have here in being close to each other. Suddenly if their buddy puts their arm around them, the jesture will be suspect, just as it has become back home.
Now, I’m not really illustrating any of this to pass opinions of what’s right or what’s not. I personally think that it’d be nice if all people could be comfortable enough with each other to just relax and do whatever and not worry about what the other person’s sexuality is. But, I’m afraid, that’s just not the way it is.
So… what’s better, a society where the individual is encouraged to do what they want, but hypocritically judged harshly by the general population for their actions (even if only in a passive sense), or a society where the alternative lifestyles of the individual are supressed and the community is comfortable being close to each other?