Everything is set for Taiwan, just have to buy the ticket and make my way there. I wonder about what I am doing sometimes, if it’s the best path for me. Teaching is a good way to get around, and being able to work teenagers and children is valuable skill in any profession I may want. I want to do field research, and even if I’m not working with children directly, they will still be around.
A lot of my students in Mexico asked about taboos in the US, what do we reject as a culture. There really aren’t many that span the whole of our culture. Drugs, sex, marriage, family, religion, sports, age, none of it matters to everyone. There are only two that I found which are nearly always true. You never ask someone how much they make, and men aren’t allowed to be around children alone.
The first is about keeping what we have, if someone wants to know your salary it’s because they want to ask for money. In other places that number is just for status, but for us it’s suspicious. We use education, employment, possessions, and a number of other things to compare ourselves to others, but to put a number on it never goes well.
The second is tied to the problem of sexual assault, especially toward women and children, in the US. The number of rapes and abuse is staggering, and anyone who targets children needs to be removed from any opportunity to do so. The problem is that it spills over to every male in America. I’ve read articles about men being blocked from volunteering, from group activities, and it’s hard to say the reaction is unjustified.
In Mexico, the children are allowed to run free, usually still in sight of the parents, but with nowhere near the paranoia in the States. I was teaching a 9 year old girl once, and it occurred to me that I would never be allowed to teach her on my own in the States. The fear of men has become something powerful, but still not entirely mainstream. Men rarely fear other men, and since we hold most of the power it’s not an easy thing to change.
To change something into a social problem takes more than a taboo. Some things are accepted by society long before they are spoken about. To be a social problem means that we begin to involve culture and law in solving the problem, usually long after the damage has become accepted by the majority as something that just happens.
That is the nightmare of our culture, that we fight so hard to keep things the way they are, pretending to believe that things are fine, that nothing needs to change, that it’s not our problem. Then we complain when the backlash hits, when all men are treated as potential rapists, all men are dangerous to be alone around, when all men are monsters.
What do we do when we’re judged, change or complain? Usually complain, confused by the pain that others have felt for generations. The question is, what do we do to change the world, do we change it or do we change ourselves? As a Buddhist, I have seen that changing myself has an effect on the world around me, but is it fast enough to change the world? Doing good works in the world can go far, but are they good if we are insane or monstrous? I wonder if it’s possible to do both, if it depends on your personality. No one answer applies to anyone.
I wonder what our taboos say about our culture, the importance of what we refuse to say and do. The pain of going against society, the struggle of what we are told to be. The smaller taboos of subcultures, of what we do to fit in. Wearing a uniform to make others accept us tell us as much about the culture as they do about the people who conform.
Looking ahead I wonder what else I will see in the culture I was born into, the damage we never discuss. I always remember my conversation with the Russian, that what she found back home was how much she had lost over how much she had gained. I am seeing more of that these days, finding that I no longer really want to be in this society. It’s not hatred, or fear, but submission. I still obey the unspoken rules and all the bad habits I had lost in Mexico.
I’m not strong enough to be here, not yet. I’m not strong enough to fight against what I have always been. Looking ahead, I can only hope that I will become more.