Racism is caused by our failure to connect.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 11.59.42 PM

We’re in Melbourne, Australia. It is cool but warming up by the day here. Today we enjoyed a gentle breeze and a clear sky, a perfect early summer day. After many months in warm humid weather it’s actually a bit of a relief for us to wear a light jacket.

Yesterday,  as we were approaching a grocery store, we experienced a rather blatant display of racism against us. There was hate in his eyes as he snarled at us and my immediate reaction was equally angered and hateful. These occurrences can immediately conjure up the past, like the open disdain displayed by the immigration lady during our passport check at the airport, the stories related to us by a Tibetan woman about blatant prejudice at her by an all white workplace in Melbourne or the group of Australian women we met in Singapore who, if you can believe it, contemptuously blurted out “we’re surrounded by Asians on all sides” and hurried off in embarrassment after hearing my daughter’s fluent American accent. It conjured up many instances of the past that caused me pain and anger. However a few moments later a smile from a little child in the cereal lane quickly disconnected me from this frustration and the compassionate lenses kicked in again. It’s not a refined process to get to this state but I’m working on it.

The night came and I drifted off to sleep quickly. I was awakened early morning by my restlessness kids who were having difficulty sleeping due to our time change. So I massaged both of them to sleep and during this I thought about writing on this issue for the blog.

As I laid awake at night I was able to reflect back to my own mental journey on the issue of racism. As children we are all born free of racism. I was fortunate to go to a diverse school in India where we bonded at a young age with kids of many different backgrounds. As we grew up we began to learn about racism but it was very difficult to grasp. I remember memorizing the definition of “prejudice” because I could not understand it as we studied Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. India has its share of dysfunctionality – class systems, religious groups and great economic divides but race wasn’t that big of a factor for me as I grew up there.

In 1990 I went to America and spent a year in Alabama. I remember thinking about prejudice in a whole new light. My own reactions to racist experiences have been varied, in some situations I became angry, defiant and aggressive and in other situations I felt self pity, demoralized and lacked confidence. I was flexible..in situations where I felt genuine friendship I gave people my love and in situations where I felt hostility I was an aggressive and angry man. Once at a Guns and Roses concert in Alabama these three big white guys shouted “Pig!” as they looked at me. Before I knew it we were in a fist fight and I ended up with quite a bloody face. A good feeling came upon me that I stood my ground but it also gave me a sense of hopelessness. The experiences continued as would be expected in a society dominated by one race.

My daughter has also approached me on racist experiences she had at her school. I wonder if some of my anger may have rubbed on her perspective. My son on the other hand is not at all aware of this issue.

There is another part of racism that is seldom talked about and that is by the people who feel victimized. They too hate in retaliation. It is an equal and opposite reaction. It might not cause as much damage to the other person but it is equal in terms of hate. Look at all the recent incidents in USA, both sides are at fault yet both sides only see the fault in others.

Racism is acquired as a part of the process of growing up in society. We all grow up to be racists. As I see it, racism comes from our inability to compassionately connect with each other without first noticing our differences. Why is that? Why is it that we notice each other’s skin colors or our societal differences as a first response when we meet people. We didn’t do that as children. Why do we fail to connect? Why doesn’t the educational process try to eliminate this great incompetency? Why can’t we all have an astronaut’s frame of reference as they look back on earth, they only see one race – the human race. Yuri Gagarin’s initial reactions when he looked back at earth was the silliness he found in his identity as a communist Russian, to him all the boundaries we have on earth seemed ridiculous-there is not boundary line visible from space, all he saw was one beautiful earth.

Racism is just a small branch of our inability to connect to each other as humans-there are plenty of other reasons why we fail to connect. We have acquired this incompetency to connect through our religions, our education, our passports, our languages, the politicians, the media, our cultures, our economic status, our social status, our inability to observe our egos, our styles, our music interests, our families and our total lack of maturity as human beings. We’re all culturally incompetent human beings. We do not know how to connect.

As we travel we are trying to develop this skill in making connections. As a family we are learning to approach people with a genuine wish to make a connection, to emulate with our speech and body language that we are genuinely interested in making a connection. We have to try and emulate a compassionate nature in which we try to listen and provide something of value to the people we meet. I don’t mean value in a materialistic sense but of providing a valuable human exchange. We are mostly observers so this makes it easy, we have in many ways escaped societal pressures and obligations. We are just drifting and observing. We have met some great people along the way. They come from various backgrounds but I can frankly say I do not remember them by the color of their skin but mostly by the way we felt a genuine bond. These people have provided me a great insight into our human experience and it is the best part of our travel story.

So in my past life of ignorance I dealt with racism in anger and hate. Needless to say, it was a wasted effort. Now I try to bring up my compassionate lenses, and I see the other person as a simple human being who is unaware that he or she has been taught to hate. The compassionate reaction is many times delayed but it is a worthy objective to have. We are still working on the ways to bring this as our innate nature but for now, it is good enough to have this awareness.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has provided a great travel advice and it would be of great value to anyone who seeks to connect with our fellow human beings. He said: “When I meet people in different parts of the world, I am always reminded that we are all basically alike: we are all human beings. Maybe we have different clothes, our skin is of a different color, or we speak different languages. That is on the surface. But basically, we are the same human beings. That is what binds us to each other. That is what makes it possible for us to understand each other and to develop friendship and closeness.”

image1

Vanakam!

Vanakam! Vanga Vanga! We’re in Kuala Lumpur for a short time and we’re only 1/2 a block away from Vishalatchi Food and Catering restaurant-we hit this spot again after 4 months. The food is eaten with your hands and the Kesari desert was heavenly. Malaysia has about 2.5 million people with South Indian heritage so its now Malaysian heritage too. Check out Mike Mein’s (http://migrationology.com/2012/11/south-indian-food-kuala-lumpur-vishalatchi/) review of the food:

image1

Kesari – Tamil Halwa

 

 

Empower yourself by understanding the big economic machine

I encourage you to share this with your family, your parents, your children, with people who need to empower themselves by taking better care of their finances.

We’re all looking at our daily actions or transactions with magnifying glasses, up to close. All our emotions are drawn from looking up too close. It is important to understand our selves from a further perspective and notice how our actions are many times a response to where we are in an economic cycle. Ray Dalio, investor supreme (he never looses) has put together this video to enhance our collective understanding of our existence, at least in the material sense. I think his motivation is to allow people to better manage their finances so they don’t fall into the traps of a recession or crazy debt. You can plan your finances accordingly and recognize what is occurring during the good times and bad.

If you understand his theory you will be able to see how each of your actions, whether you buy that big screen TV that you can’t afford, an investment, starting a business, a big house, a trip across the globe or an effort to save money, as a tiny microbe in a massive organism of transactions that are swinging in short term and long term economic cycles. You will also understand why we experience economic cycles. You’ve heard it before, what goes up must come down and vice versa, but here’s a fantastic description of why?

Throw away those travel books, travel on your terms

We are coming to a quick conclusion that to enjoy travel you must do it on your terms. That means you don’t necessarily have to follow the books, or follow the tours, or pay for every package, or fight the crowds or shed those tears of boredom visiting monuments that really don’t mean anything to you. Travel needs awareness, it helps to be aware of who you are and what it is that you want to accomplish for the day. You could be lazy or one of those freaks(nothing but respect) that gets up at 4AM and needs to accomplish 50 things by the end of the day. What is it that interests you and what is it that is feasible within your budget. Are your plans solely for a future slide show? Or are you really inquisitive about the plan for the day. Do you want to be surprised or do you know exactly what to expect? Are you really interested in standing in those long lines?

IMG_6031

Much of history is sad and the monuments which may be architecturally fantastic bring nothing but sad emotions. Yet why do we keep visiting them? We did that just the other day-the Korean War Memorial in Seoul which is a monument to the horrors of war, we were saddened by the history but to be frank our mood was great because the kids ran around the tanks and planes and had a great time playing. Why should I set them into a somber mood? Why not have them just play? Why not just do things on our own individual terms.

Our time in Seoul is hardly a Korean experience but we have found great richness in being comfortable with the idea of just staying at one spot. We got to experience life like the locals, we were treated like family and we have inherently expanded our family of friends. We didn’t visit many of the tourist sites-our travel within the city was prioritized by what’s easily accessible, is there room for our children to run about, will we get a good feel of different Korean demographics, will there be good and genuine local food and was it low cost or free? Our budget constraints had us avoid many fee based theme centers but we managed to make the most of the local parks, street vendors, a walk to a stadium, watching the para olympics, intentionally getting lost a few times and just following the locals get around their daily lives. We did this on our terms and the result was that we are very satisfied.

Here are some considerations when reading a travel guide. It helps to be aware of who exactly wrote the book? Is it written by someone who is paid to fill out the pages with destination guides and just shares the result of spending an inordinate amount of time visiting mostly historical sites whether they like it or not. They seldom put in their emotional responses to these places. That’s just left to travelers to find out the hard way. And I don’t care how fantastic a monument maybe, if I suffered during the process it always leaves a bad taste.

I am finding that blogs by locals are a much better way to go. Why is it that in every city you don’t see many of the locals enjoying their day at the tourist spots? Or the historical monuments? Do you do that in your own town or city? The locals are usually hanging out with each other in fun neighborhoods, going about their business of daily living but also trying to enjoy a good quality life. Why not just follow the locals around? We like it. 

Enjoy your travels and if you can, try to do it on your own terms and talk to the locals. I promise you will have a much better time. 

IMG_4628

Express yourself

In support of the umbrella

 
 
“Repress anything and it becomes valuable. Repress more, and it becomes more valuable. Don’t repress and it loses all value. Express it, it evaporates.” – Osho

Indonesia Summer 2014

IMG_2114We enjoyed a month in Bali and the city of Jakarta but due to a motorcycle accident we were immobile for about 10 days towards the end of the trip. The climate in Bali is wonderful however the island is now packed with tourists and its a zoo in many areas.

 

%d bloggers like this: