Insights on Friday, 17 December 2004 as they arrived

1) A woman walks out of a religious paraphernalia shop. I see she’s pregnant. I look at her face and reckon there and then she does not look too “academic”. I think: one option for a man who has his own ideas about life and who is not eager to water down his values and principles is to hook up with a woman he does not regard as his equal.

The condition for success in such a relationship is that he must be wealthy. He should be the “boss” in the traditional sense where the man is the head of the household, and also in the modern sense in which the person with the most money has the most say in how things are run. The woman in this case does not have to “know her place” as was the case in some communities fifty or hundred years ago; she does not have to stand around barefoot in the kitchen the whole day; and when she says she has borne enough children, the man will accept it without reservation. But he will be the “boss” in the sense that the household will generally be managed according to his ideas and opinions.

The other extreme – for the sake of getting to a more ideal middle ground – is exactly the opposite: a woman who is this man’s intellectual superior, his mentor, his provider …

In the middle is a woman he would consider as his intellectual equal; a woman with whom he can have meaningful arguments and with whom he will share equal responsibility and authority in the management of their household; a woman whose personal agenda and life philosophy will be consistent with his own; a woman whose emotional, physical and spiritual needs he will regard as his concern, just like she will regard his.

2) During class, a few minutes later, I am trying to teach the English names of a dozen vegetables to a group of five-year-olds. I ask a child – a new pupil – something in Chinese, and I reckon he doesn’t seem too surprised that a Westerner, not one of “his people”, can speak Chinese. I also think, “[to be continued]”

* * *

New insight! Is there such a thing as “Satisfied Given Self”? I believe it is a matter of degree of satisfaction, on a spectrum ranging from “absolute self-contempt, danger to self and society” to “convinced she is an incarnation of one or more gods”. (Interesting that in both cases the person has a good chance of being locked up in a mental institution.)

In the middle you get … shall we say, 99% of the adult population? The formula, Confront (accept, change), Define, and Become is therefore valid for more than nine out of every ten people!

Question: Information, options and possibilities still come from a particular source. What is this source? Mostly the Given Source, and in the case of a minority, from More Than Just Given Source.

Another question: What is your Given Source?

Last question: What is given? (Compile a list …)

* * *

(Back to the previous note)

So I thought: It is quite possible that this child expects that all adults can speak (at least) Chinese, for it is his given language, and so far he has had no reason to question the phenomenon of Chinese as absolute language.

When will he question the absolute value of the Chinese language? When he is confronted with, or when he finds himself in an environment where a different language such as English or Japanese or Spanish is considered by most members of the community as the dominant language.

It is at this moment, when it becomes clear what was previously regarded as absolute is not the only option that the sparks start flying on the work table of identity.

[Another example that can be mentioned is that of a young person who spent his or her formative years in relative isolation, who regards not only particular language but also particular religious frame of reference as absolute. What happens when this young person is thrust into an environment where a different language and other religious symbols are regarded as standard or dominant? Of course, personality and particular situation will play a significant role, but chances are that this person will then start to ask questions of people they regard as authority figures, and will ultimately develop a different identity than would have been the case if their lives continued to be played out in relative isolation.]

3) Next class I thought about some linguists who reckon children shouldn’t be taught a “foreign” language at a too early age, as in the case of English in Taiwan.

I thought, if English is offered from an early age as a given especially at home – the main source of givenness, it will not be questioned but wholly absorbed along with all other given data.

I then wondered what information parents – as primary givers of data – do in fact give their children, not only in terms of language, but in terms of moral values, behaviour, and especially for later use, possibilities for an adult life. Of course, a thousand voices will go up in a hundred different languages all giving different answers, or similar ones, with different details. My point, however, is this: change what is given, and you fundamentally affect the end result. (And do parents know what they give?)

Finally, I realised I did not receive all these informative snippets of data lying in bed or sitting at the computer. I got them in classrooms filled with noisy children, and out in the street on the way to the classrooms.

Conclusion? Outside appearances do serve a purpose, and in many cases act as stimuli for new views and insights.