About McPherson's Rant


McPherson’s Rant is an old Scots Folk Song about a Robin Hood Type Character who was hanged.

There is no connection, unless you count the “rant” part.  The world’s a strange place and sometimes a “rant” at absurdity and unfairness is just what’s required.

Here you can expect to find examples of stupidity, irony and idiocy , especially relating to Hong Kong, and with particular attention to the SCMP, and its’ letters page. A common problem with many blogs is their failure to find something new to say, I find the SCMP, and it’s letters page, provides plenty of ammunition on a daily basis and will reference them frequently. If you have your own letter not getting published, put it on our comments section.





Racism; a critique

Please note, I did in fact write this article for a magazine, many many years ago. I have resisted the urge to edit it, preferring to leave it in the words of that younger individual rather than temper it to my more aged, if not mature self. I do realise that I have gone off on one over the last few days on issues of race, so I hope this article can draw a line under it, and of course I must emphasise, Hong Kong is full of wonderful individuals who have no issues with race, although I couldn’t in all honesty, say the same about government here. Apologies for the length, it was a magazine after all.

Growing up in Scotland, there were many confusing terms one had to deal with given the peculiar regional dialects, the Nordic influence and the teuchters – those from the highlands, who were a bit different, and we believed a bit slow. But the phrases that really confused me were the ones relating to colour or race.  The first time I was ever accused of playing a Chinese snooker, I failed to see the relevance.  How could a ball have black hair and a Mongolian slant?  Further confusion was wrought by the cricketing term bowling a Chinaman – I knew the Chinese were supposedly small but bowling them is a bit of a liberty.  As I got older I began to understand that these declarations were, in some way, analogous, and in fact I was being exhorted not to be sneaky, to play up, play the game.

Slowly I began to realise that there were metaphors and similes that directly related to race and how we perceived each other.  I, in fact, used many of these terms.  The only problem was, up until secondary school I’d never met anyone that wasn’t white and even then the first two non-white people I met were both half coloured.  No inscrutable Chinese for me to eye carefully for evidence of nefarious intent.

Did my use of these terms make me racist?  I don’t think so.  How could I be racist – I had never met anyone not like me, but in my ignorance I used terms that are now perceived as racist but were merely learned behavior, behavior, that is, learned from my peers, my family and more importantly, the media.  Now of course, all of these terms are no longer socially acceptable in much the same way as nigger, and no doubt any child using any similar terminology in the playground would be severely reprimanded.  I suppose we should note here that nigger is still acceptable, not for white people but for some people.

That these terms are no longer used in the West is of course a positive thing, as using racist terms, in however innocent a fashion helps to reinforce prevailing prejudice.

However this newfound Western-awareness does not seem equally applicable and therein lies the rub.  While Caucasians and the West in general have made every effort to expunge the type of racism that was once commonplace the same cannot be said of other, mostly non-white countries.  Is it only pale-faced, “roonieks” that can be accused of racism?

Amongst the major industrialized countries, Japan is one of the most ethnically homogenous, they have a insular society with an manufactured distrust of all things foreign, a society where only 3% of the population is of non-Japanese decent and the government through legislation, while not banning the notion of naturalization, actively discourages it through archaic rules and stringent regulations. Of course there is no real offence intended by those signs outside bathhouses saying “no foreigners.”  I’d love to see the UK or the US even attempt to emulate this degree of homogeneity: just to hear the strident screams of outrage and indignity from those whose perspective is predicated on dislike for all Caucasians and their belief that the West can never apologise enough for historical injustices, both perceived and wholly legitimate.

Up until recently the Chinese would only grant a Chinese passport on the basis of Chinese ethnicity – I tried to find out if this is still the case but no one would actually tell me – so assume – they will attempt to dissuade you.  Additionally, try asking your Chinese friends how they can still seek accommodation with the legacy of Mao and you’ll be told the West does not understand: “We Chinese”, “We are different!” And don’t forget the much vaunted Asian Values, or in America “Asian Pride” – google them – if they were white they’d be called Aryan Nation or White Brotherhood.

In a book called ‘Songlines’ by Bruce Chatwin, an aborigine explained that the dialect word for ‘meat’ is the same as that for white man, literally meaning that you can live off of both.  Not in the sense of veal for dinner, but that he will provide.  Of course this is a result of pathetic but well-meaning efforts to turn indigenous people with a singularly different approach to living, into good little white men.  It still remains a racist statement, and a statement that has echoes throughout Africa today.
Is it only white people that can be racist?  Why do I have to bear this burden when I see extreme racism about me every day around the world and in Hong Kong?

There are a number of interpretations of what exactly racism means, for the sake of this article, here is one:

“Racism refers to a system of oppression that is based on the idea that one race is superior to other races. A system to discriminate against and/or marginalize a class of people who share a common racial designation. The term “racism” is usually applied to the dominant group in a society, because it is that group which has the means to oppress others, but readily applies to any individual or group(s), regardless of social status or dominance.”

Reading this definition makes me worry about the rise of Chinese nationalism. Which has as it’s predominant characteristic, a belief that China or more specifically, the Chinese race is once again approaching its superior place in the world, and it’s just a hop skip and a jump before we have to find out the Chinese word for Blitzkrieg. Why?  Because nationalism and racism are intimately aquatinted with each other and always end up sharing a bed.   The term “We Chinese” implies a racial set of characteristics, as does “Asian Values,” this coupled with feelings of superiority is an exact definition of racism no different than when the British believed that God was an Englishman.  The irony  is of course, that the West is becoming so corpulent, lazy and obsessed with leisure time that I do indeed see the day when the Morlocks change places with the Eloi, but then that’s what empires do – collapse.

If we can talk about Hong Kong for a moment, it represents a reasonable empirical study for my contention.  Hong Kong is a society made up of many different nationalities, some of whom have been here for generations.  Longer in fact that most of the ethnic Chinese – yet these people are treated appallingly and have the worst jobs.  I was not aware until I came to Hong Kong that all Indians smelled.  I did not know that women from the Philippines are all ignorant and only fit for servants.  I did not know that black people are monkeys; I did not know that I was a “stupid gweilo,” and although I don’t mind this one – it is still racist.  I did not know that people on the mainland were backward and not very smart, in short, I did not realize just how wonderful the local Chinese are, how superior and how well educated.  Hong Kong maintains that it is not racist therefore no anti-racism legislation is required, leaving aside the issue of legislating against human nature which should never be condoned, the letters page of the SCMP proves our racism every day. Our community is for the most part fragmented and divided along racial lines.  Witness the never-ending debate about wages for helpers and see the “line in the sand clearly drawn”.  Further, one can’t help but conclude, locals firmly believe that helpers should be thankful for what they get and this attitude is made manifest in the callous way many of them are treated.  Or on the environment, study the names that advocate sustainable issues and then look at the silence on the other side.  Or look at some of the letters from local Chinese who seem to be implying: “ If you don’t like it Johnny foreigner – then go home. Yet these very same people fail to realise that this is home for all of us.  Hong Kong is not Chinese; Hong Kong is one giant refugee camp, although the Chinese have the numbers – they are the dominant group – Oh where did I read about dominant groups practicing racism.  I love the failure of the local Chinese to see the irony in looking down on Mainlanders, most of these locals escaped here less then 50 years ago – they won the colonial equivalent of the lottery.  Here is a not so very extreme example of racism I pulled from a blog:

“Typical overbearing gweilo mentality, thinking the whole world revolves around you. In reality, the vast majority of local 
Chinese population in HK sees most issues quite different than 
you do.

God was an Englishman in the good old days. But it’s always 
true, at least to a certain extent that whoever has the gold 
makes the rules. England just doesn’t have much of anything 
these days.

Sad as it is, you live in this tiny, dwindling, and socially 
separated (from the native Chinese) community here like a whole 
bunch of frogs watching a round patch of sky from the bottom of 
a well — as a group, isolated from power, no longer have any 
meaningful economic or political influence, not to mention your 
ignorance and unwillingness to understand the hearts and minds 
of the majority Chinese natives. Now resort to call the local 
Chinese racists when things don’t go your way.

The people who have the political power to affect your life here 
one way or another are not reading the Standard or the SCMP. 
For your information, they read the local Chinese papers in our 
native language.”

Xi Hu. (http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/125064.php)

Leaving aside the poor English, the clichéd philosophy and the historical inaccuracies, it is clear to see that the correspondent is suffering from a severe case “go home gweilo”, however, I do agree with him that the vast majority of locals see things differently, it’s just that some of them see so many of them in terms of race and are blinded by their hatred of colonialism.  If you need any more examples, google the name Pierce Lam and find out how much this guy hates white people and specifically the English Schools Foundation.

We live in one of the most racist countries I have ever been in, but it is not even discussed.  It is not there.

I am not racist. But have been described as a misanthropist, not to be confused with a misogynist although I’ve frequently been assailed by females who are not sure of the distinction.  A misanthropist is not really that fond of his fellow man, or woman, in general, regardless of skin tone and so I’ve been heard to cry: “I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally.”  In fact I reserve my special ire for stupid people – but George Bush and Regina Ip can wait till next issue.

As a misanthropist, I have little concern over the truth about racism.  But it’s important that if there is a truth then that truth be universally recognized, the West and specifically those of us who won the pigmentation lottery are being asked to accept a universal double standard – I mean for fucks sake, last year a white university professor in the US was hounded out of his senior position because he used the word niggardly – this has no etymological root to nigger but the accusers were too dumb to know that.

History abounds with racism, in the past the white man was the main culprit but has been apologizing with what appears to be genuine remorse for a long time – well listen up folks – some of us have nothing to apologise for – Some of us were not there and revisionist history is about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.  And do I hear the Jews apologizing for being isolationist and discouraging mixing with other races, or what about arranged marriages, or the Muslim Council for Great Britain calling for a Muslim assembly. These instances might appear to be cultural but the suspicion remains that it’s about race and racial purity.

If multi-culturalism is our goal then we should all be playing by the same rules. The West is not perfect, and has a long way to go – but the point is – the West recognized a problem and has made inroads in addressing it.  Every Hong Kong taxi driver, and I like these guys,  will insist he is not racist – but see if he’ll stop in the pissing rain for a ‘gweilo’ if there is a ‘local’ further on.

So in light of the previous definition, here’s my contention, we are all innately racist – whether you act racist is up to you but denying it exists merely creates uncertainty, confusion and double standards.  Fear of people who are different is normal behaviour, probably stemming from Neolithic mans fight or flight responses.  Racist terminology is learned behaviour and as such can be unlearned – but not if you don’t think you are guilty.

We are all racist – black, white, yellow and those of indeterminate colour – accept it.  Accept it as a fact. An innate biological response to people who are different. And having accepted it.  Then get on with assessing your reactions, reassessing them and adopting modified behaviour – it is not natural to “love thy neighbour” but it can become second nature – you just gotta work at it.  However if we blithely maintain our perfections and pay lip service to equality then the games a bogey and there’ll be fighting in the play-ground forever more.


One Comment

  1. Posted August 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi great article, I actually did read it all – and yes it is very long :-)

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