perhaps it was just a bit too close to home.
the other night i stopped by a cafe to re-read a draft of an article that i was working on. unfortunately i was not able to concentrate on my paper but found found myself drawn into listening to the conversation at the table next to me. anything else would have been impossible, given the highly audible volume level of their discussion and their clear and emphatic enunciation of their main arguments. in addition, the topic which they were discussing with their eloquent, polished, nasal voices was one that's been close to my heart for a while: southeast asia.
the two men, both with obviously above-average incomes and higher-level education were discussing "the essence" of vietnam and thailand, of the nature of the thai and the vietnamese "an sich," generalising and simplifying at every turn. in all its eloquence and intellectual aspirations, the discussion struck me as being plainly arrogant and ignorant, with the two snooty young well-heeled european men being convinced of their economic, cultural and intellectual superiority vis-a-vis the south-east asian locals and other westerners, lacking all empathy for those who they felt were below them - which was pretty much everyone.
walking home i wondered what it had been about the pair had irritated me so badly. perhaps, i thought, it just really had been too close to home: the two were engaging in what i do so often, in fact, in what i do for a living: generalising and simplifying, talking eloquently on behalf of south-east asians instead of really listening to, let alone creating space for their own voices, placing myself into the position of the all-mighty western know-it-all and getting paid for it. its not always nice to look into the mirror.