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E-mails Japan - 日本 Việt Nam

E-mail to Dad 7.2.2004

Good Morning Dad,

I’m glad you like the books.  I’ve been reading a lot lately about space and
where exactly we are.  Living abroad has done so much more for me than
simply language.  I’m able to understand people, their influences and
mentality much better now.  Getting out of one’s normal environment really
makes one expand their mind and see life from a completely different
perspective. 

So I’ve been asking myself lately the age old philosophical
questions about exactly where we are and what our purpose is.  I see so many
people who simply drift through life with their main goal being money,
getting a certain position or providing for others and ask myself; is this
our purpose here?  So I’ve turned to space since humanity has made so much
amazing progress lately such as sending the rovers to mars and putting
telescopes such as Chandra http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/ out in space
that can take pictures of the farthest reaches of the universe and am
astounded. 

Then I turned to Hawking since no known person has the mental
capacity to understand our environment like him.  A good primer on Hawking
is on his simple website which has some of his (easy to read) lectures
posted on the internet. http://www.hawking.org.uk/home/hindex.html .

Throughout my childhood most people explained the not-yet-understood
variables of this life by using God.  Then throughout history, man has
slowly been able to remove the culpability from God to natural factors.
Through my reading of history, religious teachings and new discoveries, I’ve
started to put more of my stock in science then the naive explanations of
religious leaders who throughout time have punished people for not accepting
their teachings.  If the Church was a company there is no way I would invest
due to their constant retracting from the established teaching.  If they are
supposed to be the guardians of the “supreme truth” then they should have
had everything right the first time.  Enough of this nonsense of
“interpretation” which can be used to constantly change their views due to
new discoveries.  Anyway, being the intellectual you are, I thought these
books might interest you or at least make a good addition to the library.  I
hear that “A brief History of the Universe” is easier reading than “A brief
History of Time,” and may be the one to start with first.

Enough of that rambling, I’m writing most of these thoughts down in a book
that will not be completed until I’m at least in my mid thirties.  I’ve
posted it online and most of it is still unorganized and in need of
revision.  I usually have a thought and write it down quickly before it
slips away and then return to revise later.  If you have a chance, please
take a look.  It’s posted in the “academics” section of my website.

I agree with your advice about the job.  Since I now have until October,
I’ve slowed the job search a little.  Once the semester is finished and I’m
not swamped with homework, I’ll be able to concentrate most of my energies
on the search.  The name of the tobacco company I’m working at is called
“Intercontinental Trading Corporation.”  Their main competitor is the much
larger “Japan Tobacco,” but they are able to import many special products
such as Cuban cigars, Gualoise Cigarettes from France and American Spirit
Cigarettes from the States.  The reason I’m apprehensive about the job is
that in Japanese society it would become my life, and the employees like my
family.  I would be put into “their group,” and it would seem much more
“permanent” than what we are used to in the States.  They have not offered me
the position yet, but the manager has said (reliant on my Japanese skill)
that I’m the best candidate for the job because of my language skills.  The
job has not been offered nor filled at this point and I’m their official
English teacher at least until October 1st.  The employees really like me,
and I create a great atmosphere for them.  They all really enjoy the lessons
I provide and I’ve managed to motivate the entire staff to learn.  It’s a
pretty good feeling to be able to do that.

As for the job search, there is such a feeling of excitement and opportunity
here in Asia (especially China) that is lacking in the rest of the world.
Vietnam is slowly transferring power from the war generation to the new young
generation of entrepreneurs.  Due to the Vietnam (or American war) your
generation was mostly wiped out and the country is mostly young.  They are
opening up their markets from the communist grasp, and the young people are
starting their own businesses.  My friend Phuong, was able with the support
of his other young friends to establish his own computer company and even
became a congressman.  When I’m in HCMC (Saigon) I feel that these young
people are establishing the new order and in the future will be the big dogs
of Vietnam, unless they are crushed by foreign powerhouses.  They are weak
compared to the mammoths of US companies and it remains to be seen if they
will survive once Vietnam joins the WTO.  Either way, if I’m lucky enough to
secure a job there, I think I would be protected due to the fact that I am
an American, who understands and glides easily through cultures.  I simply
just need to get my foot in the door and due to the confidence I’ve gained
through the opportunities you’ve provided me, I’m positive that I’ll be
successful.  I just need to get that damn foot in the door.

I’ve written a novel so I’ll end here.  I promise I’ll make it back sometime
this year so we can get out and get that beer at which time I hope that I’ll
be able to give you a run for your money intellectually.

Thanks again for everything,

Categories
Japan - 日本 Journal

We are too arrogant

We are too arrogant.  We believe we know what is needed to be known, yet we wallow in our ignorance refusing to admit to ourselves that we are insignificant beings with a barely a fraction of all knowledge that there is to be learned or discovered.

I cannot know without being shown or taught.  Until know, my brain has never spontaneously generated the answers I seek.  I had to read it from a book or be taught.  Like many, I have been taught many false teachings and read many lies.  It took the comparison of vast amounts of information and deep reflection to realize these first teachings were the sloppy strokes of an ignorant painter.

 I did not know there was a Japan until someone told me there was a country called Japan.  I did not know that my country was America until I was told.  And I still do not know where I am, who I am, or why I am.  Why do I not know this extremely important fact.  It is like awaking in the middle of a journey, with no recollection of how I got here or where I am going.  There are prophets, laymen, and fools along the road all trying to give me the answer in different tongues, and with different beginnings and endings.  Why should I believe the one who called to me first when the second, third, or even fourth may be just as correct.  Perhaps none of them are correct, and just as a traveler must rely on his own sound judgment and instinct, I too must tread carefully and choose wisely to whom I will listen. 

Finally, I do not know my place in the world, or what this environment is that surrounds me. Where am I know, where was I before, and where will I go? 

Religion is candy for the adult.  Religion assumes that the human cannot behave himself by his own will, and therefore must spread the fear of everlasting punishment to keep these animals in line.  The Christian does not do good because it is inherent to him.  No, he does good in order to gain a reward after death. 

The true kind man gives without hope of reward.  In fact he believes that he will get no reward yet, gains satisfaction in simply helping others for the sake of seeing their smile.  He does not know what will happen after he dies and he worries little.  He knows that he has the time in his hands now to do what he will and it is his own personal choice,, without the bribe of heaven or the fear of hell that he helps others.  The Christian must be bribed. 

The Christian rituals are absurd.

IF there is a supreme being of the universe,, why should they care if we do without a certain food, or abstain from a certain drink during a specific time of the year.  We place entirely too much importance on ourselves,, and how arrogant we are to think that a Supreme being would care so much about us.  How silly is the idea that if we successfully abstained from our favorite food that the ultimate being is going to look down on us and give us some sort of point and add it to our tally of good and evil deeds.  This is ridiculous, yet it is what I have been taught my entire life. 

WAKE UP,, AWAKEN,, throw out what you have learned and learn again with a clear conscious.  AWAKE!

THE MENTALITY OF THE PEOPLE.

How would we know if Jesus came back or not?  It would take him coming down on a cloud,, but even then the population would consider it a hoax.  Jesus could go to the Vatican and the Vatican would probably have him killed or jailed since he would be a threat and an end to their power. 

What would it take for the true Jesus to convince the people?  He would have to make day turn into night, be killed and come out of his casket,,,, and even then , the people would doubt.  How frustrated Jesus would become in our society!  The best he could hope for it to be invited on a talk show and then abused by the host for our entertainment.  

Categories
Japan - 日本 Journal

The Expatriate

I am, therefore I think. 

I think I have grown tired of these walls, so I walk out on the veranda to a fresh view. 

The walls are gone.  My perspective has changed.  My protection shed. 

The hair on my body dances from the breath of the gentle breeze.

 I did not know they could dance.

 I see the sun orange and red calling me.  But in what land does it lay to rest? 

I know you, my neighbor.  You enter a castle, but by simply entering are not made king.  You have told me what is there, but have not become.  I have so many neighbors.   Do you understand?

Who am I now? 

Where was I before?  I seem so far away. 

I want to become.  I want to know.   

The firm earth will turn to sand.  It blows here and there.  Can you catch a grain?

My friends become enemies overnight and would cut my throat with a word. 

It’s lonely. 

How can the beautiful blue sky turn dark and dreadful so quickly? 

The sun is so beautiful orange and red when it’s on the horizon. 

I want to touch.  I want to know.

Goodbye

Categories
International Japan - 日本 Journal

Tokyo – Looking in from the Outside

 

 As time passes our experiences shape our lives and character.  Many are content to follow the current of life and are swept downstream never challenging themselves or trying to change the tide.  They become complacent and live in a world where uncertainty and that which is unfamiliar is quite frightening and thus avoided.  Then there are those who refuse and fight against this stream and thus forge their own futures leading to an overwhelming realization that they do not know everything, and things they once held as truths are overturned and discarded.  This enlightenment does not come by sitting idly by and letting things pass as they may, but by gaining the courage to explore, keeping an open mind to new thoughts and ways of life.  Sometimes it is quite painful to leave the familiar and safe, but once the threshold has been crossed they come to realize that there is no going back and therefore must forge ahead and continue upon the path they have chosen. 

    For many, the door to escape the familiar never comes and thus they remain in their own safe little worlds regarding all things foreign as strange or just plain wrong.  Take the metaphor of a famous philosopher as an example. There are people sitting watching images on a wall inside a dark cave.  One day, someone decides to get up and venture outside the cave.  What he sees are birds singing, wind blowing through the trees, and the sun shining.  He then run back in the cave and tells the others of this wonderful discovery only to be ridiculed by the others as a fool and dreamer.  In this example, the one venturing outside is regarded as a philosopher and the others are the masses.  I believe this adventurer can also be someone who has traveled and lived in other cultures and has a difficult time explaining their experiences to those that stayed behind.  This is my dilemma.

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio there was never a point in my life when I thought that I didn’t know everything and was quite wise.  When I was young, I thought that all the adults knew everything about the world and all I had to do was ask one.  As I grew and went to college I found many of the answers given in the past were quite incorrect, yet they who gave the previous answers were not trying to deceive.  It was simply that they didn’t have the knowledge or experiences and were stuck in the dark like people in the cave.  This habit of thinking we understand the world only gets stronger with age as our beliefs harden and we have no one to challenge us or show us that their might be other alternatives or possibilities to be examined. 

  The door to escape my own little world in Columbus, Ohio came when I had the fortune to study in Spain, Mexico and France.  These countries opened up an entirely knew world of thoughts, ideas, and ways of behavior to me.  For the first time in my life I was treated to a bit of light shining upon the way to become more knowledgeable not only about myself, but the world around me.  I realized that I did not know everything and what I once had held as true was no longer valid. I believe that this realization made me wiser and that the true intelligent man is he who understands that he knows very little of the world and thus continually thirsts for more knowledge. 

  When I returned, I was treated to my first case of reverse culture shock.  I realized that I didn’t have to wear a ball cap to be considered a man or that certain methods of behavior were the only way to gain acceptance by others.  I had shed my former shell and changed.  I was ready to accept foreign ways of thinking as normal and feel that I had become a better person.  I listened to people ask me about tacos in Spain when there are no tacos inSpain.  People asked if the Spaniards are like Mexicans when the difference is like that of Americans to the English only more so.  People seemed more aggressive and really did not know much about other countries.  Trying to explain life in Spain was like that of the philosopher describing the outside world to the people who had stayed within the cave.  People told me that certain aspects of Spanish, Mexican and French life were backward, un-American and just plain wrong.  It’s only gotten worse as the path to discovery has let me to many different countries and experiences. 

   I currently live in Tokyo, Japan.  In Tokyo many different languages are spoken and although the population is rather homogeneous, other cultures and ideas are accepted.  There are times when we will go out and four different languages are spoken in the course of an evening.  People will try to guess where others are from, speak to them in their native language and ask about their home country.  I have learned more in one evening here, than I had in an entire month during my schooldays in America.  To be in a culture so unique and foreign is a profound experience and one that everyone should try firsthand. 

  I have come back to Columbus, Ohio for a two week stay.  I am again experiencing culture shock and my first night here ran into trouble.  I went to a popular Columbus nightclub and at the entrance was a lovely young Asian woman.  She appeared to be Chinese, Vietnamese or possibly Cambodian.  Without thinking I said “Nihou,” to her which means “Hello” in Chinese just as the Japanese might say “Hello” or “Bonjour” to me upon first encounter.  Her reply to me was rather shocking and I was left stammering trying to understand why I had made me so angry.  She had just called me an “ignorant M***** F*****.”  I was then escorted from the bar while still trying to understand what I had done and how I could possibly have insulted her to such an extreme degree. 

   The only possible conclusion is that she is hurting inside and on the extreme defensive.  Perhaps it was that she is ashamed of her background due to not feeling at home here. Or perhaps she thought I was degrading her based on her heritage. I questioned my Chinese friend about it over the internet and she offered the possibility that the young lady had grown up in the USA and had misunderstood.  I still did not understand how saying “hello” in another language could possibly solicit such a response.  Then, I began thinking about how touchy people are in this country due to misunderstandings, ignorance of ethnic cultures and the need to fit in.  I used to think that Columbus was a very hospitable place to live for foreigners, but I know understand that there is a snake in the grass. 

    Earlier in the evening I was having a discussion in Spanish with a few of my Latino friends.  They informed me that they are often mistreated for being from another country and made to feel like they don’t belong.  They often get pulled over for no offense whatsoever and at times given poor service.  While we were at the bar we kindly asked for another round of beers and told numerous times that we were to go to the bar if we wanted another but then they informed us that they would get it anyway but that it was quite the hassle.  In Japan, if the server cannot accommodate the guest they will offer numerous apologies and do what they can to correct the situation.  It’s strange that what I once thought was acceptable behavior, such as that of the waiter, is no longer the case. 

  I realize that different countries have different ways of behavior and thinking but it’s strange to come back home and feel so out of place.  I am not an advocate of whining and I truly believe that one should adapt to the host country, but not at the expense of completely abandoning their native cultures.  I think English should be spoken here yet we Ohioans should make an honest attempt to learn a bit of the language and culture from our new residents for the sake of making them feel welcome.  Everyone must face challenges in their lives but that of a foreigner in a strange land is
especially difficult.  I truly believe that Ohioans are hospitable people and willing to accept foreigners in this land.  I also think that we need to make more of an effort to learn from our new countrymen and women if we wish to become an even greater nation.  It is clear to me now that there are people of different backgrounds that do not feel at home here and have put up extreme defenses lest they feel threatened.

     I know Columbus is a good place and the people here are more kind than many other places in the country.  At the bar downtown however, I opened a wound that has not healed in this country due to lack of understanding.  Nobody should get so angry over the word “hello” regardless of the language in which it is spoken.  To have that word taken as a putdown shows that there is something wrong here and needs to be corrected.  I ask that my fellow Ohioans reach out to those that do not feel welcome here and to show them that they really are a valued asset to our great state.  I have spent a lot of time telling people in other countries that Ohio is a great place but now I see that there is much more work that needs to be done.  I also understand that it takes time for people to change their attitudes and to accept new ideas from foreign peoples.  I still believe that we are on the right path but sometimes it takes the observations of someone looking in from the outside to give a little nudge in the right direction.       

Categories
International Japan - 日本 Journal

A Practical Guide to Understanding Your Children

 

How to understand our young is a question that has plagued the older generations for centuries.  In the common mentality that pervades the thought within a generation, it seems that the young simply get worse every preceding age group.  For them, morals and accepted methods of social interaction are tossed on their head, and the young simply refuse to conform to their peaceful and established world. 

Not so many years ago, I was having lunch with my father and the company lawyer at the Hayatt outdoor café in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  After discussing the usual topics of what I’m studying and what I think of my internship at the mutual fund department of the local investment company our conversation turned to the problems of my generation.  I took a beating for the first five minutes as they pummeled me with examples of how my generation is lost and the source of all parental headaches.  I retorted with the fact that their parents said the same about them as they are currently saying about my generation.

“You do not have a cause like we did in the 60’s” they said.  “We were fighting against the Vietnam War and had a reason for our civil disobedience” 

 I searched my arsenal of reasons to counter them, and came up with, “Taking drugs, and having sex in the park during a Grateful Dead concert is hardly a way to protest a war is it not?”

They responded that those are insignificant side issues which do not detract from the noble reason of fighting against the war which was the main cause of their rebellion and that my generation did not have a cause.  I searched my thoughts diligently but being only 20 years of age, could not come up with a suitable counterargument.  It was then that I was miraculously saved by one whose view could not be countered nor scoffed at.  This miraculous savoir happened to be a woman of about 65 who had overheard our conversation.

“Don’t listen to them” she told me.  “They were a difficult and troublesome generation.” she said with the smile of a mother who even though her children are unruly, still cares for and loves them very much.  Then being the gentlemen they are, my father and the lawyer both gave a subdued smile and we all knew that this particular topic had come to a close. 

The question remains however, especially in this age of unprecedented violence, promiscuity and materialism, how can we understand the younger generation?  There must be some standard manual which is required reading for every soon to be parent right?  I am quite aware of the many books written by the professionals on such topics and award them their due respect.  They spend their lives studying children and trying to help people become better adults, which is extremely admirable.  Not being an ‘expert’ I am rather hesitant to challenge their views since I am well aware that learning like a brilliant light bulb illuminating an attic chases away the ignorance of our former views and opinions.  I have learned that certain thoughts and ideas I formerly held as true and absolute, were in retrospect wrong, or muddled at best.  Thus, before reading further, I wish to state clearly that I do not wish to contradict the opinions of our professionals.  I simply wish to add one more view to our current store of knowledge on this subject.

Therefore, as much respect as I give our experts, it must be pointed out that they spent their lives studying the young.  It’s been quite some time since they actually WERE the young.  Through their intensive study, many have learned or observed, how children behave, but have forgotten what it is like to actually be one and the complexities that are involved.  Further, their childhood experiences, try as they might to form their views scientifically and without bias, remain a tremendous influence on their current thoughts, and behavior.  It is well known that experiences during youth still have quite an influence throughout the adult life and influence adult behavior. 

 I am taking the step to be the first one to provide a manual on raising a child properly while I am still relatively close to their youth.   I am unaware of a book written about youth who still can be considered young; yet articulate enough to express their thoughts clearly and precisely.  I am quite sure however that if a book like this has been written, it was regarded as amateurish, and unheeded.  The reason is that we as a society will usually only listen to people and take their opinions seriously if they are regarded as “experts,” or have studied the topic strenuously.  I put the question to you the reader however, that wouldn’t it be better to listen to the young and get their opinions in order to form an opinion about the young?  For example, if you wish to study Russian culture, wouldn’t it be better to ask a Russian instead of an outsider who simply studied them?  I am aware that this could be a double edged question since a Russian might not be able to reflect upon his own culture since it is native to him and thus his opinion would be skewed towards a Russian point of view.  However, the reverse would also have to hold true in that an American would have naturally lean towards an American point of view with respect to Russian culture. Yet, wouldn’t it be better to have both opinions in order to form a more complete opinion and form our views after taking both points into consideration? 

My second point about flaws with experts is that they are a product of their respective schools of thought. I can send you thousands of intelligent, articulate scholars with degrees that will tell you Communism is the best form of government, or that we should still be a class based society.  My point is that we know only what we have been taught.  For example, I am a product of a capitalist society, and a liberal school.  It wasn’t until I not only traveled, but lived in other parts of the globe that I was able to learn new thoughts and ideas and truly examine the ones I had been taught and held as true.  Yet another important point, is when in our lives have we thought ourselves ignorant?  I thought I had everything figured out in the 8th grade and continued with this belief all throughout university.  It was in university that people looked at me as educated since I was learning the modern business practices and could comment on subjects they might have difficulty with.  After university, I thought myself enlightened and proceeded to parrot these ideas I had been taught in every business or political debate that came up.  I was not yet thinking for myself, but regurgitating the views I had been taught.

Now that I have set down the reasons for the validity of my ideas, it is time to get to the core issue of understanding our young.  As I have clearly stated above, I am not an expert.  Yet I am someone who is relatively young and remember quite clearly the experiences and influences I had as a young adult.  I believe that revealing the experience of my youth to you the reader, you may gain a fuller understanding of what goes on in the minds of our young.  I do wish to offer one caveat however.  The mass mentality of the young changes every five to ten years, and like the economy, we can only truly understand what was really going on in retrospect.  Further, these are the experiences of only one individual, and to understand the young completely, it would take thousands of books like these written by the young to gain a clear picture. 

 

Parents as a Role Model

  

Saying the word “Role Model,” makes me want to put up a barrier and stop listening.  Young adults have the amazing ability to hear, and record what you say but not actually process it.  We record it in case you ask us to repeat what you’ve just said and are able to do so and not get into trouble.  However, we don’t really process it into our minds and make it part of us.  Instead, it’s treated just l
ike a stale piece of bread that is left out too long.  It will become stale and discarded within a period of weeks if not days.  The words “Role Model,” make us automatically think that some brilliant piece of parental advice is about to follow and they are going to tell us again what we are doing wrong again.  For me, when adults told me I needed a Role Model, the part that was actually heard “processed” is that I am not good how I am and would be better off copying someone else’s method of behavior and acting.  I felt like I was not a good person.  Now, as I read what I write, some part of me gives me a warning saying that if an adult heard,,, they would say I had a “bad attitude.”  Therefore, it would be best to put the youth in contact with a role model instead of saying “Here is your Role Model and you should copy his/her behavior.”  In this way, the actions and behavior of our chosen Role Model would stealthily be absorbed into the behavior patters of the youth without them consciously being aware that they were being influenced. 

It is well known that parents are the best Role Models for their children.  But how can parents be role models, relate and earn the respect of their children?  Here are some simple guidelines to follow.

1.  Be honest with your children about your mistakes.  Don’t tell them not to do something because that translates into “If it looks fun then experiencing it is ok since my parent did it, just don’t get caught.” 

2.  You should spend time with your young adult.  However, do not force them if they don’t want to.  Forcing the young to spend time with you will be no fun for them, even if it actually is fun.  The premise in their thinking is that it is something they are forced to do so they will not like it even if it actually is enjoyable.  So how can you get them to spend time with you?  This can be complex or simple depending on your ability to adapt.  You should find something they enjoy doing and learn to become good or even better than them at it.  Many youth like video games for example.  Even if you hate video games you should learn to play their favorite one and beat them at it.  Then challenge them and they will spend time with you until they can beat you at their favorite game.  They could in principle still not like you but through simply spending time together, you have opened a door that could possibly lead to better relations.  My current favorite is golf.  It is a sport I enjoy and if my dad were to take me golfing and pay for it, I would accept his offer every time

3.  Listen to your child’s opinions and talk with them about complex subjects.  Listen to what they say and sincerely consider their point of view.  This is difficult for about 90% of the population.  To understand my point clearly think of a point of view you strongly disagree with and play devil’s advocate with your own point of view.  Let’s take the strongest example I can currently think of: abortion.  Now that I have simply stated its name, you have most likely already become passionate for your side and come up with 1000 reasons why your view is right.  The thing that separates truly intelligent people from the masses is that intelligent people will most likely have a very difficult time coming to a firm conclusion on the issue for either side of the debate.  They are able to throw out the bias and sincerely consider both sides of the debate.  After meticulously and deeply thinking about both points, will reach a logical conclusion that could be reversed if more information or higher thinking were to come to light.  They throw out passion and bias and reach their conclusions logically.  Now, let’s try this with a much simpler example about something of minimal importance.

The computer I’m typing on is a Dell Inspiron 8000 and its color is black.  Say, someone comes and tells me its color is really white even though I can clearly see it’s black.  Instead of correcting him and calling him color blind I should seriously consider the reasons for them calling it white.  Perhaps, through their learning and upbringing, they have learned that the color I call black is for them called white.  In this case, we both share the same point of view but have different ways of expressing it.  Thus, instead of engaging in an unproductive argument I can quickly find a path to agreement so long as they continue to call the color “black”, “white” and are thus consistent.  If they do not, then perhaps they are simply rebelling against me which I should realize being the more mature and ask them to help me understand the color system all over again.  Most youth, will not engage in this erratic pattern for long, if you sincerely ask for their help in determining color so that you may see things from their point of view.  Most will be delighted if you can find some way to agree with them on issues, or at least understand why they may think this way.  This is a rather simple example but the point I am trying to make, is that you must find a way to drop the automatic defense that pops up when someone challenges your firmly held beliefs.  I truly think that we as humans can become so firmly set in our beliefs and ideas that for the majority of the population, opening our minds to this point is unachievable.  Many of you will say how stupid of an example this is since the friggin computer is black and that’s that.  But I challenge you dear reader to consider just for a minute that this argument may in fact hold water with the following example.

I currently live in Japan.  The entire country believes it is better to conform to that status quo, and their culture puts emphasis on being polite instead of opening up their feelings and opinions which could bring trouble for the entire group.  We as Americans, value the individual over the group.  So when I go to the same dry cleaning lady on a weekly basis and treated with the same sterile politeness instead of a genuine gratitude since I’m giving her steady business, am I to say her method of behavior is wrong?  I would simply like a sincere “Hello” or “How are you,” but must realize that it’s not in her culture or upbringing.  Who am I to say her method of behavior is wrong and must be corrected? 

Now bringing the example back to our young.  We really respect people who are intelligent like this and able to see all points of view.  They don’t tell us that their views are right but rather engage in debate with us at our level without making us feel stupid or as though they are patronizing us.  I had a math teacher my sophomore year who earned our respect this way, and thus never had any problem with the students.  He was open, honest and listened to our opinions.  We could tell he was intelligent by his getting off subject once in a while to engage in a lively exchange of ideas.  I remember three examples well.  The first was him telling us about the importance of his attendance book.  We had just finished telling him that taking attendance after every single class was useless and a waste of time.  Our idea was to take attendance at most after every other class in order not to waste time.  I mean, where were we going to go in the short time interval of one period?  We can’t wander the halls due to the hall monitors, so what is the point of taking attendance during every single class? It was then that he raised arms to shoulder with about 3 feet apart before clasping his hands together so we would know that an entertaining story was about to come.  From this simple gesture we could tell he was passionate and speaking to us from the heart.  His story was about an unruly student who was often in trouble with any and all authorities.  Well one day, the police came and accused him of arson which is punishable as a felony.  The one thing that saved this student was the attendance book because our teacher from the accuracy of his attendance book could prove that the student in question was in class at the time the fire was supposedly set.