Sunday, July 17, 2005

Disagreement meme

BerlinBear tagged me with a meme, a while ago, which I have been very slack in responding to. In this meme, I am supposed to name three people with whom I tend to disagree a lot and say something nice about them. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I have finally come up with my three. Well, actually I've come up with two, and I'm hoping the third will come to me as I write.

The first person I disagree with is my boss at one of the universities I work at. He is unusual here in that he is a foreigner who has tenure and actual power in the organization of the university, although I don't know how much power he really has and how much of it is in his head. He must have some, though, because he sometimes gets what he wants (and sometimes even what we want).

Almost every time this man opens his mouth I disagree with him. His teaching methods are horrible, so that when he gives me advice about my classes I either end up having an argument with him or nodding and keeping my mouth firmly closed. (I have heard him teach.) I suspect his 'power' within the organization comes from being louder and more aggressive than any of the Japanese, and that is why his 'understanding' of Japanese culture works to get what he wants. He is loud and obnoxious, silly and vain, thinks we all need to hear his pronouncements on Japanese culture because he has an inside track and understands it better than us. He has to be the centre of attention of any room he is in, and is generally a pain in the arse.

However, he is not all bad. He tolerates disagreement (although he is louder at defending his views than anybody else cares to be). He may be a pain in the arse for us to work with, but I have no doubt he is a much greater pain in the arse for his Japanese tenured colleagues to work with, and this is a good thing. He fights for our program and often gets what he wants, which is also (on the whole) what we want. When we are slandered by Japanese tenured staff he finds out the truth behind the situation, whatever it is, and defends us. He keeps us in touch with what is going on, and tells us things about the workings of the universities that part-timers rarely get to hear about. He is on our side. On the whole, this makes him a good boss.

The second person I disagree with is my mother. I disagree with my mother profoundly about practically everything important. She belongs to a cult that kicked her out (along with her husband) ripping her family apart, doing untold damage and causing her endless grief. Then almost as soon my father died she went back to the cult, having never questioned or doubted that they were the sole repository of the only true Christian religion. She sees blind faith as a virtue. She has had almost no contact with me or her other children outside the cult for nearly twenty years. She believes as she has been told to believe: that we have been corrupted and she has to separate herself from us, although she is too kind to say so. In fact she blames herself for this situation. She is very good at inducing guilt.

However, it is not hard to say something nice about my mother. She is one of the most lovable people I know. Nobody who meets her can hate her. In the brief period while she was out of the cult, she met one of my ex-boyfriends (he was ex at the time, but we were still friends) and because he was the first male friend of mine she had met I was worried about how she would react, and about what he would think of her. I need not have worried. I went for a walk, and when I came back they were sitting on the verandah talking and drinking tea and looking happy. I went for another walk and when I came back they were still sitting on the verandah talking and drinking tea and looking happy. I went inside and they stayed out on the verandah, talking, laughing, and having long companionable silences. Steve LOVED my mother. He wanted to adopt her. She is funny and intelligent (except about religion) and compassionate and wise (except about religion) and generally a wonderful person to talk to (except about religion). She makes people feel comfortable in their skin, as long as they are not talking about religion, in which case she turns into somebody else. But she doesn't talk about religion much. She just accepts the hogwash and follows the rules, because she is 'only a woman' and therefore not qualified to judge.

(There has been a slight relaxation in the rules of the cult recently, and last year I was able to meet my mother. She is still wonderful. These rules may have changed again, but I don't know. Along with my mother I had to meet a whole bunch of other people I didn't want to meet. I had to see her through them. Communication with the others, which was becoming insistent, was too much for me and I told them to back off. I had not heard from her at all except through them so this means communication has been cut off again. I will go to see her unannounced the next time I am in NZ, and I guess at that time I'll discover whether or not she's allowed to talk to me still.)

The third person I disagree with is... er... anybody who goes on about the wonderful Japanese education system. The Japanese education does not teach students how to think, and there is very little wonderful about students who know how to memorise but cannot apply what they have memorised. (And the university system is a joke, but that's not generally what they are talking about.)

As for saying something nice about these people, well, these are people who are looking for something good. They have ideals, and are wanting to improve the quality of education in their own countries. This is a good thing. It is just a shame they are looking in the wrong place.

I am supposed to tag three people, but I think I'll leave it up to you. Leave a comment and tag yourself. Go on, I dare you. It's not an easy meme, but it is an interesting one.

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