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Sunday, April 18, 2021

What Happens When a Point of View Threatens Your Life?

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In a healthy democracy, citizens are encouraged to develop a point of view. Often forged out of the pain and pleasure of their life experiences, this point of view is a critical template for one’s identity. It’s your ATM card to access your other ideas as you engage with others. But in a dented democracy or tyrannical regime, a point of view can threaten your life.

As a kid, I would laugh when I saw the portly Queen of Hearts constantly yell “Off with their head!” in my bootleg copy of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. (Sorry Disney+, I promise to make up for it by getting a subscription.) The twisted lines of the ragged VHS tape only made it more comical and unreal. As a young adult, I could see more real-life Queen of Hearts in the American workplace. Thankfully, they were somewhat constrained by the system or by other people who just ‘weren’t having it’. But after moving to Korea, I could see Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Jokers of all Suits have access to an entire social, political and economic system where they could just tap on their phone “Off with his head” and it would be done.

The result is chilling.

Americans like to characterize Asians as conformist because they are docile or communal (code word: weak). Let’s not even get to the problems with the blanket term of Asian and focus on why this characterization is so off the mark. The conformity comes from self-preservation because having your own f*cking thoughts can be weaponized against you. Let’s. be. clear. There are plenty of non-docile “Asians” here in Korea who will eat you for a snack just for having an opinion.

So for every 100 ‘docile’ people of Asian descent, I guarantee you there are at least 50 aggressive Asians who will be making sure you don’t threaten their self-constructed view of the world. Often these same people will overlap, moving from docile status to predator all in a day’s work. You see how it is when you always have to play the game in an unjust power structure.

Or perhaps you don’t. That’s what I find so fascinating about relaying experiences about Korea in a cross-cultural context. About one-third of people will say, ‘That’s exactly like America.’ Another one-third will say, ‘That’s crazy how can that happen.’ And another one-third will be like, ‘Huh? What did you say?’

The point is no matter where in the world you live, if you live in an all-encompassing system where injustice and corruption are the only ways to get ahead, you will look to find stability in an unstable system by leaving your thoughts in your dreams. You go with what the dictator wants at all times. And in our rapidly changing world, good luck with entrusting your future to the brain of one AI-less man. As the French King Louis XIV reportedly said (if you trust the amazing TV show Versailles as a historical reference) “No one man can rule a nation. He will drown in it.”

No one man can rule a nation. he will drown in it.

What’s my point in all this? If you’re not worried about what’s going on right now in the United States with dictator Trump, then it’s because you can’t feel it yet. You shouldn’t be able to feel it (thank goodness for checks and balances) unless you have been in pockets of injustice already in America. But what Trump is bringing to the table is pervasive injustice that you can’t escape. An all-encompassing threat to your liberty that race, class and wealth cannot surpass. And one example of how that manifests? You don’t get to have your own point of view. And if there’s one thing that Americans, and excuse me for saying so, especially European Americans absolutely love to have is their Point. Of. View. If you don’t want to say goodbye to it, then please tell this dictator to go back to his deluxe apartment.

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