Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Christine Jordis- Myanmar Through Very Jaundiced Eyes

This is my second Christine Jordis. The cover looked inviting. The title, Promenades en terre bouddhiste. Birmanieeven more so.

Alas, a brief saunter through the pages left me feeling far from any Buddhist serenity. Flipping to the end in case I was too hasty in my judgement, I continued to want to punch the author silly. 

Rangoon, 2003, mostly describes train journeys. A couple of pages are devoted to a young man from the military who is lounging (Christine finds this abominable) on a berth. A young woman with a cute baby enters the compartment. It is his wife. She lets loose a tantrum. The sequence ends with the youth lying near his wife and looking up at her and his child. Our prurient Jordis finds that there is a lack of modesty in this "joute érotique". What the White blather rafting?! 

Grabbing a good handful of my store of Buddhist Samata, I took a deep breath and delved into the book at random. Counting to ten didn’t help. Ma Hnin Khin, une femme independente, is a chapter lovingly devoted to the demonising of a myanmarese lady. This poor woman has a malicious smile, her very entry into the author's life is imp-like, and, horror of horrors, she speaks at least three languages (French, English and German)! How in the name of every colonial god can such base creatures dare to possess any skills?! It's a chapter where the author's full blown paranoia takes on gargantuan dimensions.

Christine Jordis epitomises what a good many “white” folk do. I’m often told by some of the latter that they are not personally responsible for the misdeeds of their forefathers. Fair enough. Yet a few laws making certain terms politically incorrect seem only to have thrown the onus on the victims. Thus, Indians beat themselves up about being racist. Rather unfair, what!

To return to my White bête noire, Ms Jordis has the unfortunate gift of despoiling every Asian land that she visits. Her book about Indonesia, Bali, Java in my dreams, painted a very depressing portrait of a people and a culture I found entirely enchanting. 

And Myanmar being a country my husband has visited and raved about, I blindly picked up Promenades en terre bouddhiste since it purported to be about Birmanie.

Damn but the woman just loves to hate us Asians! All the women in her Promenades en terre bouddhiste are depicted as malicious slant eyed sluts. Actually, if one just takes an anthropological stand, one could say that this presents a fascinating insight into human female behavior. The young women of Myanmar seen through my husband’s camera lens looked so innocent and pretty that I did feel a qualm. Could it be that Jordis’ journeys through these lands left her feeling insecure?  

I have observed that, often, “White” men and women visiting the Far East and other such “exotic” destinations, end up making money out of these jaunts.  A book about some art form or aspect of culture, and, nowadays, a website where an Indian can even learn how to tie a sari. An almost obsession to co-opt anything that seems worthwhile. “You may have done all this but, by writing about it, I display a superior claim to it”. And so they teach you Yoga, how to play the sitar and, even, how to cook your own dishes.

What is wrong with such cultural give and take, you ask? Nothing. Save that when an Asian or other such does anything of the sort, cries of “plagiarism”, monkey see monkey do and similar expressions of mocking outrage stream out at us. Also, give and take takes on a very nasty flavor if one converts it to take and give. Remember how cloth was taken and clothes were given? Geographies were taken and readymade enemy nations were given?

Jordis is in direct lineage of those who once claimed that there was scientific evidence to prove that some races are inferior. She travels and writes for the primary purpose of showing down the peoples she visits. She is, in short, a rather unpleasant visitation.

With her connections she gets away with published books in inviting covers. A fulsome over ornate style serves to voice her mourning of neglected colonial architecture and, if such an appetite moves you, her books might enlighten you about various authors from the colonial times. 
Post a Comment