Day 283: When did I become *that* guy?

Day 283: When did I become *that* guy?

Day 283: When did I become *that* guy?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Today, Senator Penny Wong retweeted the musings of a young writer named Mabel Kwong who wrote about what it means for her to be an Asian Australian.

This took my interest for two reasons:

  1. There are very few Asian leaders in Australia, fewer still that I’m receptive to and would follow. Despite whatever misgivings I may have with Senator Wong’s politics, I respect what she has to say and am willing to listen.
  2. On scanning through the blog, I realised that Mabel Kwong is quite literally the only person I’ve seen besides myself use the word “diaspora” to describe the Asian Australian experience. Maybe I haven’t spoken to enough Asians, maybe it’s a sign of a generational change; but in the 16 years I’ve spent in the media, I was happy just to be able to trade a few words in my native tongue.

I ended up reading every entry. I was captivated by her enthusiasm and wonder, with her eagerness to see things through a different prism. I saw a younger version of myself.

I also found myself disagreeing with most of what she had to say. Where she saw hope, I saw pain. Where she saw barriers, I saw opportunities to build. All the places she wants to explore in her quest to discover her cultural identity are places I’ve been and done, and have the shitty t-shirts to prove it.

None of these are reasons to write her off: it is her journey to make. But part of me wonders when I made the transition from a starry-eyed idealist to a jaded naysayer, despite probably vowing not to in one of those foolish graduate tirades.

Ideals are so named (and thus often derided) because they must be fought for. When she wrote about the difficulties of not being accepted by either white Australians (for her physical appearance) or by Asians (because she wasn’t raised with her mother tongue), I remembered the moment I made a conscious decision not to pick a side, but rather embrace both.

It’s a little frustrating now that great thinkers like Tim Soutphommasane are no longer as active as they once were. Tim is, incidentally, pursuing loftier goals as Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner; but still, there doesn’t appear to be anyone left to lead the discussion. As much as I’d like to help steer Mabel Kwong in the right direction, I’m not the right person to do it, since my own journey is far from done.

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One thought on “Day 283: When did I become *that* guy?

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Kevin. And thanks for the kind words, I am very flattered. You’re right in that life is a journey, especially so for Asian Australians who always seem to be struggling to find their identity. Each one of us has a different journey in finding ourselves; no path is wrong and yes, no journey ever ends as people – and perspectives and our surroundings – change over time. I think as long as we are always eagerly willing to learn, we’ll always be young at heart.

    I don’t hear the word “diaspora” being used too much in everyday conversation. I picked up this word when I was reading academic papers and it has stuck with me ever since.

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