Friday, July 17, 2009

Refugee stuff: Michael J. Fox is a brain-damaged moron.

Michael J. Fox has no Elvis in him. (Which, as all truly cool people know, was a line from a Mojo Nixon song in the '80s) And, besides, he's stupid.

And, yes, I know he has a disease that is melting his brain, and therefore normally we might even excuse a certain amount of unplanned poorly thought out behaviors, but even if this is the case, then his friends, loved ones and handlers need to develop a way to reign him in so that he not embarrass himself and inflict ignorantly dangerous ideas on others. And Michael J. Fox has inflicted a truly stupid misunderstanding on the world.

Recently, Michael J. Fox aired a show on optimism. In this show he described Bhutan as a "nation extraordinarily devoted to the happiness of its citizens."

For details see here and here.

By contrast, for many people in the world, including people whose families have lived in Nepal since the sixteenth century, Nepal is known for tragedy and sorrow, not happiness.

For details you can start here.

Yes, many, many Nepali-Bhutanese come to the USA as refugees. They do this because the government of Bhutan has adopted a policy of "one nation -one people" and thus is engaging in ethnic cleansing. Therefore they drive out their Nepalese minorities, they then flee to Nepal where they are put in camps and, essentially, warehoused for years, sometimes decades and live on meager handouts and through working illegally.

Actually, just for the record, I have had very little personal contact with Nepali-
Bhutanese. I don't remember any in my English classes when I was a volunteer and when I worked at the refugee center, I never was able to get any to help me with the things I needed to get done. In fact, at least one consciously avoided doing so when the secretary asked him to, sneaking out the backdoor after committing to help. Therefore, my most memorable encounter with Nepali-Bhutanese was when one interrupted what I was doing and rudely demand that I give them material goods that I neither had nor felt any moral obligation to give them should I have had them.

(Which I mention in part because it touches on an important issue for running a refugee center. The refugees should, whenever possible, understand both the services that the center can and cannot give them, as well as where they can go instead to get those services or goods that they need that the center cannot offer. When I worked for the center, this was not the case. In fact, I carried around with me flyers and maps for the city mission which did give out the goods that we did not and, I think, did so quite well and was within a reasonable distance of the center. I tried to get the center to put up a multilingual sign stating where refugees could go, i.e. the city mission, for such things as winter coats but was never able to get that to come to pass although I did manage to set up a better system for getting rid of much of the clothing that we did occasionally receive. Just to clarify we were under no legal obligation to distribute clothing nor did we have the space or organizational ability to do so.)

Nothing is more irritating to be working your tooshie off doing unpaid overtime trying to get things in place so people will get what they need and have some shrill-voiced, prune-skinned, dirty single-mother harpie interrupting you, stopping you in the hallway as your quickly dash to complete an errand, demanding a coat right now and in the same sentence accusing me of preference for, of all groups, the Africans -as by chance I'd given a coat to an African the week before as I'd had a coat that fit her at the time and she'd needed one at the time and it was part of my job to distribute what I had. I shocked a volunteer by yelling back at her. Perhaps I should have been more patient but my job was to get people chairs not to tolerate this sort of nonsense, much less interrupt my work for it. And, it's pretty good rule of cross cultural contact that you should not reward behaviors that you don't wish to see repeated.

I tried to go back and apologize later, explaining as nicely as possible that I handled furniture distribution and not clothing but before I could finish she then demanded that if that was the case I immediately give her a table.

I exploded a second time and went back to sorting the furniture, my blood pressure now through the roof.

When I have the time, and not when I'm trying to sort furniture on unpaid overtime under impossible conditions, I have and will do my best to be more patient with damaged people. Still, it's important to remember, that not only am I from Schenectady and thus have interacted with countless badly damaged people, on occasion exchanging insults and threats with them too, therefore making this nothing special, but I also went to the University at Albany, a University known for hardness and no-nonsense. I did not chase these people out Bhutan, and, besides, I had no coats, and, furthermore, I don't let people talk to me that way unless it's part of my job description (i.e. working for the ambulance or concert security) and I'm paid to deal with it. I'm most certainly not going to reward it. If I did word would get around and it would never stop.

By contrast, I've enjoyed my time with the Nepali-Burmese refugees, even the selfish ones, make of that what you will. (And had a Nepalese friend in graduate school, too.)

Besides, there's a church in the area that has made a mission out of being nice to Nepalese, including the Bhutanese-Nepalese, so they already get special attention from a group of dedicated people (although, from what I've heard, they also get a lot of pressure on them to attend a church and hopefully convert when most are Hindus. Actually, the truth is most people who deal with refugees, be they Christians of whatever flavor or hemp-wearing, granola-eating hippie-poets do their darnedest to push their values on them. Of course, I do it too every time I try to help a refugee become independent and get a job, so who am I to preach? I mean, really, who wants to live with someone unless you share at least some core values with them and we did invite these people to live here. Therefore, of course, we are going to push our core values on them. To do otherwise, would be insane.

Trite multi-culturalism is, indeed, one of my peeves and I think most people who advocate multiculturalism the hardest are doing so under the ethnocentric delusion that people from other cultures actually either do or ultimately will share their values, a delusion that even the mildest foray into history and anthropology should soon correct. I mean, I lived in Asia for four years, and, guess what? I think American values are pretty good. Do you think Genghis Khan and the Mongol horde gave much thought to multiculturalism as they conquered most of Eurasia decimating large numbers of people in the process?

Perhaps some day we'll take all these refugees who've come to our great and dear land and turn them into that greatest of all American things, volunteer firefighters! I can only dream of such a day. In the meantime, I do what I can to help a small portion of them get where they should be and try to give them the knowledge they need to succeed here. But I do it in the hopes that one day they will join their local volunteer fire department, make no mistake.

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