August 8, 2010

Loves from Afar are Loves of Fools

Amores de Lejos, Amores de Pendejos?

This famous Spanish proverb literally translates as “Loves from Afar are Loves of Fools”- that is basically that long distance relationships do not work. I beg to disagree. Of course, relationships with people near you are far better, but sometimes you can’t help but be separated. You can get drafted into the army, or be sent somewhere by a company, or meet someone online that is in a faraway land. There are millions of reasons for long distance relationships to occur. In the old times, with expensive phone calls and letters that would take weeks, it was no surprise that such relationships would often fail as people would get sick and tired of being drawn so much apart and the uncertainty that it brought with it. Truly, love from afar was fools’ love not so long ago.

Not anymore. We now have instant SMS, chatting in real time and very inexpensive phone providers that allow you to make calls across the world for pennies. We now have web cams and your lover can come online and chat with you. Granted you cannot touch him/her physically, but the technology that we have now sure beats those long waits for letters by the mailbox, and once a month phone calls.

Also with a much better social acceptance of personal ads than before these are no longer just for the most desperate. And with hundreds of thousands of people in poorer countries looking for a mate in richer ones, it is becoming more and more commonplace year after year. Now, many relationships begin as long distance ones and become “short-distance” after some time. Many dates now begin in cyber space and end in real life situations.

The used to tell us that one should not look for love but let it land on his/her shoulders like a white dove because if you look for it, it will allegedly run away from you. Well, a lot of people look for it and yes, it does not come; then they stop looking for it and again, it does not come. So what’s the deal? Then, people stopped taking chances with the white dove theory and they now trust the law of averages/probabilities much more. Many get online, meet lots of people electronically from all over the world and, then, they go ahead and meet them physically thus creating their own destiny and not waiting for things to happen.

Long distance love today is doing quite well and almost as good (if not better) than the short distance love, especially if one plays international and not just domestic markets. And you should see some gorgeous people that one can meet.

Long Distance Loves are not Fools’ Loves anymore. They are, actually, smart people’s loves.


Labor Laws, Dental Self-Treatment, Financial Free Fall

Get Out of My Office! You are Fired!

In some countries labor laws are so strict that firing someone is a difficult, lengthy and expensive proposition. However, many expats, both the managers and employees are not aware of those. Hence, western managers brought into the country fire people for the reasons that they would fire them at home for (many of which are trivial). In the US one can fire people for being late five minutes or for simply not liking them. However, “You are fired! Get out of my office!” will not fly in many societies where you cannot do those things by law, and where unions and labor boards are so strong that their protection for employees seems to be absolute.

So, a British company in Kuwait, for example, is subject to Kuwaiti labor laws, and when in Japan, the Japanese labor code kicks in. Hence, a sadistic foreign henchman who thrives on power can no longer exercise his prerogative for kicking people out at will the way he/she could often do at home.

Even if an employee’s contract is not renewed, some countries will still see it as firing and local laws to protect the worker will apply.

I remember when a British employee did not have his contract renewed in Kuwait for no apparent reason except some complaints by customers. He was let go along with five more members of staff by a British manager who saw that as a sufficient reason to not renew their contracts. Most fired people just left it at that, but one decided to hire an attorney and fight them in court. He was surprised to see that the Kuwaiti laws favored him and he was awarded a fat settlement to compensate him for the trauma. It took him a bit of time, but not only he was awarded a tidy sum for his humiliation but the tyrannical manager was fired instead. Sorry, it is not the UK here. You can’t do those things.

I personally was once told in Japan by a British administrator that my contract for the next year was not to be renewed. The reason? Being late on several occasions. However, I contacted the labor union, and it turned out that in Japan, you cannot fire people for being late. You can dock their pay and reprimand them, but it is not a “fireable” offense. After the union got involved, the company had to either reinstate me or pay me money for the months that I had missed while the case was disputed. “You did not renew a person’s contract for being late? Ridiculous!” I pocketed the money. The company that initially was unwilling to re-hire me also had to pay other costs pertaining to the ‘trial’.

So, expat employees – study the labor law in your host country and know your rights! Don’t just walk away with the “ Oh, well…” if a livid-faced, saliva-spitting Western boss is firing you. Check if your offense is trivial or not by local codes. Contact an attorney, and if you find out your rights have been violated, fight! You can get big money from the company. And you, arrogant Western managers-tyrants! Beware! You are not on your home turf anymore. Wait till you are faced with the devil himself- the labor regulations of your new country. You can and will get burnt big time. Ouch!


Dental Self-Treatment

An unforeseen consequence of cheap dental care overseas can be that when you get home (wherever your home is), the pain can persist or complications develop. I had three dental bridges put in the Philippines, two teeth pulled, several cavities filled and a crown put in all for the paltry sum of USD1000. However, I had no time to wait for the thing to heal and left the country immediately after. When I arrived to my temporary home in the Middle East, I realized that not all was well. The pain from six ‘reduced’ teeth upon which the bridges were resting was unbearable. It was so intense that I was howling during the day and crying all through the nights. Work became impossibility. What could I do? Fly back to the Philippines to have the teeth re-fitted? Miss work and pay huge airline fares? Go to a local hospital and have everything fixed there? Would they know exactly what the Philippine dentist had done? As I was hesitating, the pain would not let up.

So, I decided to cure myself. I went to the local pharmacy and bought antibiotics. Then I bought the most potent pain killers they had. Many things can be purchased over the counter without a prescription where I am at. I put myself on a strict antibiotics/painkiller regime. After 10 days the pain subsided a bit, after another 10 days, it got even better and after about two weeks more, it was completely gone. This is how I dealt with the problem on site while I had to work. I am not recommending this as a solution for all such ills but it has worked for me.


Financial Free Fall

When you go from a rich country like Saudi Arabia to a poorer one like Indonesia with pockets full of hard currency, your financial state can be compared to a weightless free fall. You just keep falling down the money space- the chute of dimensions in which you can now move freely without thinking for a relatively long time about how long it will take for you to land on earth and awaken with a jolt. Just like in a free fall where there is sufficient distance for you to enjoy your complete freedom of movement without any restraints. Oh what a feeling to enjoy for a month or two!


Instead of trying to learn a conventional and well-known language or culture, it will be very rewarding if you learn a more remote language and devote yourself to a more exotic culture. Why not learn Telugu or say, a minority language such as Cebuano. You will be worshipped by the natives if you dedicate yourself to integrating into a society that is not main-stream.


Christian Fundamentalist Propaganda and Public Ignorance

Some two decades ago, I was watching a famous preacher on TV. The topic for that day’s sermon was “India“. According to the preacher, India was poor because it was not Christian, and he was inviting people to go there and teach Christianity. At the end of the speech, he raised his voice and shouted something like: “Jesus will take that country out of poverty!”, “Jesus will make India advance!” The people in the audience were nodding with meaningful expressions on their faces- “That’s right! Amen! Jesus will help India!”

“Wait a minute“, I said to myself- “doesn’t the audience know that there are many countries that are even poorer than India and that are Christian, to boot? Don’t they remember that just some time ago, there was a huge drive on TV to gather food and medical supplies to be sent to starving Ethiopians most of whom were Christians?" Were the people, enthralled by the charisma of the evangelist, so uninformed and with such a short memory as to not have been aware of such important details?

On another occasion, I was reading a publication by a very radical Christian organization in which there was an article that said that the Jews had suffered the Holocaust because they would not accept Jesus. Ha! You mean, if the Jews had converted to Christianity, the Holocaust would not have happened? Dream on! Don’t they know that the Nazis were very busy asking foreign governments to give them the names of converted Jews ( which they duly received) so that they could send them to the gas chambers along with the non-converted ones? Don’t they know of so many devoted Christians who had ended up in Auschwitz along with the Jews? The authors were probably not aware of such niceties of history or thought the readers were not aware of these small details, either. Is ignorance really such bliss when they can mislead you by having you believe such worthless statements?

And if the Holocaust was the punishment for not becoming Christians, what did those who were, in fact, Christians, suffer for when genocides were carried against them? I mean, the Armenians, for one. At the beginning of the 20th century as many as 1.5million very Christian Armenians were annihilated by the Ottoman Turks. What was that for? That shouldn’t have happened- they had accepted Jesus and thus, they should have been protected. Why did they perish? And, one also forgets the massacres of the Huguenots in France when Protestants were being killed in broad daylight by the hundreds of thousands. What was that for? For not accepting Jesus, either? Hmm. Who do these fundamentalists think I am? Some kind of dodo?

Two decades after that speech, India is doing very well. The reason for the economic progress of the country is the move from a very staid socialism to a more dynamic, market -driven economy and the relaxation of restrictions on foreign investment. That, coupled with a strong IT base, has moved the country out of poverty. And the country is still predominantly Hindu with a strong Muslim minority.

And Japan, a Shinto-Buddhist country, may have suffered a setback in the 1990ies, but it was then and still is the world’s second largest economy. How come that preacher did not mention that in his sermon, and why didn’t anyone in the audience question him about that?

Today, many African and Latin American countries who are devoutly Christian- Guatemala, El Salvador, Kenya, etc. are still mired in poverty and corruption. And the long suffering regions of Sudan where so many people have been dying of starvation - did you see the horrid pictures of people eating leaves from the trees?-are mostly Christian. So, what gives, preacher?

I respect, and see good in any religion, and if there is Heaven, I believe that good and upright people will go there regardless of what they believe in. I also believe that people who work hard and are honest in their dealings with others will prosper, no matter what their religion is. And that misfortune can befall any group regardless of their faith. However, those Christian fanatics who claim that the sufferings- political, economic or otherwise, of others are due to the fact that they did not convert to these preachers' particular religion make me mad. Not only they are totally disrespectful of the distress of others, but they display morbid ignorance of world history and politics.

However, the thing that angers me the most is that they take me, or any reader or listener, for a fool because those who can actually fall for their outrageous claims must be, in fact, complete fools.


August 1, 2010

8 reasons why Asian men have a better social life in Russia than America (a letter to Winston Wu)

 A letter to my friend Winston Wu:


If you still have not figured it out, do not rack your brains over it. It is several reasons, not one- so it
is a combination of factors that lead to the different results you are experiencing. Here they are one by one:

1) East Orthodox Slavic culture vs. Anglo-Celto-Germanic. Communal and friendly vs. individualistic-cliqueish one.

Russians are generally friendlier people when it comes to strangers because of their communal past- even long before Communism. They are used to including strange people into their group. Anglos on the other hand like to be alone, do not like people they don't know, and prefer being in cliques. If you want to know why Americans behave a certain way look at their ancestors- go to London and any other English town. See how cliqueish the people are and how difficult it is to make friends. There is no eye contact, the people just seem to be absorbed into their own world and their own clique. But Anglos are very friendly inside of the clique and act as normal humans when they are in it. It is just that getting into the clique is the problem.

2) Your worth on the love market in both countries. Who and what are you as far as the context of the
market you are in.

Take (mentally) all the men in the US, line them up and put yourself amongst them. How would you rate in terms of looks, height, money, etc? Probably not high. Put yourself in a line-up with Russian men and see how and where you would rate. Probably quite high.

Mostly because Russians do not on the average have as much money and/or international lifestyle that you can offer. You are making ten times to twenty times more money than they do. If you look at it within the US context, it is as if you were a man making $20,000-$40,000 a month.

3) America is divided along racial lines and five categories of people- Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Indians.

Each group has its assigned role and image within the US. In that system Asian men and Asian people in general are not seen as something popular or powerful. Within the context of the US culture, an Asian man is seen based on American stereotypes and you are familiar with them.

Russia is not divided so much by racial lines but more along the lines of ethnic Russians vs. non-Russians and foreigners. Kind of like China or Japan where it is not Blacks vs. Whites, etc, but Chu-Guo-Ren (Middle Country Person) vs. Wai-Gwo-Ren (Out of Country Person) or Ni-Hon-Jin (Japan Person)vs. Gai-Jin (Outside Person) . Foreigners in Asia especially richer ones are seen with curiosity, positive or negative. They are unusual and people are curious about them. They want to help them, invite them to their homes, talk to them. There aren't many of them., so people want to meet them and hear what they have to say. On the other hand, Americans being descendants of foreigners who left bad conditions in their homeland have been conditioned not to look back or be interested in bad countries that their ancestors came from. So, a foreigner evokes a yawn in the US and is seen as a dorky and clumsy person. Someone who has not yet learned to behave and act as a normal, American person.

4) The US is a land of plenty. People (think that they) have seen everything, experienced everything,
done everything and that everything is available.

Especially women see it that way. Russia has not been a land of plenty. People there are not cloyed with benefits of life. Things are hard to find. Good people are also hard to find. So, you are appreciated more within that market. People's lives there can be quite drab so you seem to be like a breath of fresh air to them. There are not that many foreigners there, either. So, when they see you, it means a new experience, something better and more exciting.

5) There are too many available handsome men in the US.

There are oodles and oodles of men with money, cars, houses, careers. Women can have the pick of the day every day. So they are stuck up as they can get any man they want. Even ugly and fat women in the US can get the guy. That is why you see horrid-looking women, ill-dressed women, women without make-up everywhere parading around like they are Miss Universes. Not so in Russia. Too many men were decimated by wars and too many drunk and irresponsible men are around. Finding a good guy is hard. Finding a rich foreigner is even harder. Women need to look their best, be nice, and try hard to find a good man.

Women everywhere want to improve their species. That is human instinct. that is what love and dating is all about. In the US the people believe that the species is already highly improved. So improving your species yet means dating Donald Trump or someone like that. In Russia the male species is quite poor and less numerous than in the US and also less well-behaved. So, on that background you stand out quite well. As you can see, context determines everything in society. In a land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.

6)  The US TV and culture in general glorifies men that look like Steven Seagal, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, etc.

Now, how would you rate compared to those paragons of manhood?  Russia does not have those paragons. If you listen to songs in Russia it is usually a woman singing about how a man abandoned her for another. If you listen to a love song in the US, you will usually hear a sweet voice of a man courting a woman. Or a man whining about a lost love. The markets are different. Male-female ratios are different.

7) Russian people are used to Asians.

They have been seeing them since the 13th century. They have been dealing with them and even marrying them for a long time. It does not mean that as an Asian you are seen as "popular", it is just that you are part of the landscape. You do not evoke much negativism and it is not much of an issue. In the US, Asians are seen as fresh off-the-boat immigrants. poor and dorky, that is. People are still not used to them. There are many stereotypes of Asian men that work against them socially in the US. In Russia, there are stereotypes but not of the same nature.

A local Siberian Asian in Russia is not the most flattering thing to be, either. They will call him –a deer herder, "Churka"- the Russian word for the non-Russian colonial subjects- the equivalent of the British word "Wog", and treat him as a dorky hick.

This would not concern you as it is not so with a Japanese, Taiwanese or a US Asian. But try dressing
like a Russian and acting like those Siberian Asians. You will feel the difference.

8) The word "foreigner" in Russia ("inostranets") is not a negative word.

It immediately evokes mental associations of- "cultured- successful- richer than me-smarter than me- more exciting than me". So, when people in Russia see you as a foreigner, those associations spring to mind. And the people act accordingly.

In the US people see you and say- "Oh, another Asian man"- and the associations while not exactly hostile, are not flattering, either-" poor immigrant making noodles, maybe a martial arts freak-cannot speak English properly-a clutzy and clumsy Japanese student-short-has small dick-computer nerd." Or- "Pearl Harbor- Korean War- or Jackie Chan"- a clown. Hardly positive or respectful associations.

The word "foreigner" in the US is a negative word. It is used to designate a non-American- someone who is either an enemy of the US or someone who is poor and just came and is not assimilated. That is why even the phrase "foreign student" had to be changed to ”international student".

These are the main reasons why you have a better social life in Russia.”


July 24, 2010

How to Stop Sasha Cohen from Making Fun of Kazakhstan

The government of Kazakhstan is up in arms. A man in remote England is making fun of them by posing as a Kazakh journalist. He has set up a site in broken English, and is ridiculing the country and its people right and left. They feel insulted and are trying everything possible to stop him, but to no avail.

You see, Kazakhstan is a newly independent country that most Britons know very little about. Britain had never colonized it, so there is no large Kazakh community in the UK or anywhere in the English-speaking world to protest the mockery that the nation has had to endure because of Mr. Cohen’s nefarious activities. And what’s more, just to show you how ignorant the British public can be, he is now filming a movie about Kazakhstan in Romania of all places. Don’t the Brits know that Romanians look nothing like Kazakhs? Kazakhs are relatives of Mongolians, and Romanians are arguably related to Italians. They obviously do not know such a simple detail because there has been, in fact, another British movie about Kazakhstan that I saw on TV once although I can’t remember its name. It portrayed a British commando who went to that country to help them overthrow a despotic government and to set up a new pro-Western democracy. The movie was filmed in Bulgaria of all places. Why didn’t they go to Mongolia to film it? It would have looked more credible then. Bulgarians look nothing like Kazakhs, but Mongolians do. But the movie created no uproar even from the most educated and liberally minded Brits who would be fuming if someone showed, say, an African country- by filming a movie about it in Cambodia. There would be angry comments in the press and the studio would be pelted with eggs. So, why is there no outcry about pseudo- journalistic antics of the new anti-Kazakh burletta?

I will tell you why. Because very few people outside of that area- especially those in Britain- know where the country is, what the people there look like and how things there are. There is little trade between the two countries so damage from a Kazakh boycott of British goods is not likely to be significant. Too bad for the poor Kazakhstanis! They are now a laughing stock of the entire world. With total impunity on the part of the perpetrator- the witty and caustic Sasha Cohen, a.k.a. Mr. Borat. A person who is building a career out of disparaging someone’s beloved motherland.

The Kazakh government is not amused at all. Their culture, political system and way of life are being poked fun of in the most shameless and disrespectful fashion. They are lodging protests in all possible places and expressing their indignation to the international organs of the media, political bodies, and governments, but to no avail. They can’t fight the freedom of speech in Western countries even if it is being abused to make them look like backwater savages from some remote desert kingdom.

However, there is a sure way to stop this slander even though they still have not figured it out. The Freedom of Speech in the West has limits that the Kazakhs still don’t know about. All you have to do is use the modern political correct weaponry to silence Mr. Cohen. Namely: just call him a bigot. You may have, undoubtedly, noticed that Cohen is not making a show about Pakistan or India or China. He would be taken off the air in about five minutes if he ever tried to do so. And his show would be called discriminatory, bigoted, and most of all, racist. And once that nasty word creeps into the collection of adjectives that people use to describe you, there is no arguing back. If you are ‘white’ and you make fun of a protected country that is ‘not white’, even if you have a reason to poke fun of their politics, you get called “a racist”. And it is just like calling someone a heretic in the 16th century- how can you argue with that? Once you are a witch, you are done for! You get burned big time.

Yup, if he started posing as a Pakistani journalist, that would be the end of the show and his career. And I would not be surprised if his very life would not be threatened after that, and he would not be afraid to step out of his house and onto the street. But he was smart- he has chosen someone far more removed from the Western life and is now picking on the weak guy- the jumping off country of Kazakhstan. Now where on earth would that be?

I am sure that very few Brits know it, but Kazakhstan is, in fact, an Asian country whose native population is about as Asian as one can get. Sure, there are some 120 other ethnicities there, but the true Kazakhs are of the pure central Asian stock. And Mr. Cohen is, in modern Western terms, a Caucasian, a white man, making fun of Asians. This makes him what? That’s right! A racist! So, the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan as well as all its organs that are unhappy about the continuing harlequinade, had better learn how to scream “Racist!, Racist!”, so that they could keep up with the rest of the world. Send a few thousands of letters to the studio and hire some sandwich men to stand outside it with the placards “Racist Show!” “Down With Racist Bigots!” hanging from their necks. Claim openly that he is being racist towards Asian people. You will see how quickly Borat’s Show will collapse and he will go the way Benny Hill went when he was accused of being sexist and insulting to women.

Too bad the Kazakhs are too innocent to ever have heard of political correctness the same way as most Brits do not even know what Kazakhstan is. Someone had better contact the Kazakh authorities and quickly recommend they follow that route. I mean, they need to do it pronto! They will be surprised how swiftly and effectively they will be able to deal with the issue and how soon Borat’s show will meet its demise. It is just like spraying DDT upon a worm. It curls up and dies. So, spray some PC DDT upon Sasha. Call him a racist, please! Do it quickly before it’s too late and the reputation of the country is totally ruined.

Kazakhs have the Baikonur cosmodrome, and have been launching rockets into space for decades. If they are such good rocket scientists, surely launching a PC rocket straight into Borat’s Show should be a breeze for them.


July 9, 2010

Free Speech vs. Common Decency

As the government of Kazakhstan is hating Borat more and more for making a movie and TV series in which their country is shown to be a backward East European backwater and a poor Third World jumping off place, and in the aftermath of the cartoon riots, many Muslims around the world are steel reeling under the weight of the controversy, many Western media leaders are citing the right of free speech in their defense.

Many are saying that a movie is not real life, and a cartoon is just a cartoon. However, how do you know about the effects that such movies or cartoons will have on people in real lives? People’s reputations can be ruined. They can be mocked. They can be refused jobs and apartments. They will be shut out of social lives. It’s been known to happen. Who is reading such newspapers or watching such movies? It is mostly working-class people the majority of whom aren’t that sophisticated and who, while realizing that a movie was made at a studio, will still form harmful subliminal associations in their minds which in the future will only increase bigotry and discrimination against various groups. So, while free speech is allowing you to make funny movies and caricatures, keep in mind that you are harming many people’s lives in the process.

I keep hearing things like- well, most people know it is really nothing serious, just a parody. But most people, even in the West are not necessarily open-minded, international, politically correct PhD holders with majors in Intercultural Communications. Landlords and employers are watching such movies and seeing such cartoons. And next time a Muslim or a Kazakh comes to apply for a job or to rent living space, they stand a bigger chance of being rejected than before such things have been put into the organs of the media. In social situations people will be ridiculed- "Hey, I saw a show about Kazakhstan- it looks like a very poor, third world dung hole (Kazakhstan is an oil rich country that is almost on par with Brazil in GDP. A normal middle-income country, that's what it is.) I have even seen comments on the Internet stating that Kazakhstan was a “small” Third World country- hey, when was the last time you looked at the world map-the country is about the size of the entire Western Europe!

Such irresponsible journalism and movie making is creating a very harmful effect. Think about one thing, for example: it is called "word association". People are asked to give the first other word that comes to mind when a certain word is uttered. Teachers in classrooms would give an exercise to students quite often when I was younger. Say the first word that comes to mind if I say “Italy”, for example. What are you going to say if you have been seeing movies on TV that show Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo? You will probably say “Art”. If you always see articles about Italian food, you will think of spaghetti and pizza.

However, if the media keep churning out one movie about Mafia after another, you will associate Italy with Mafia. So, next time an Italian applies for a job, even if you are an open minded person, such an association will flash through your mind. Now, what will happen if you are not an open-minded person but just an average Joe? Most probably you will transfer these associations into your dealings with that person. You may, if angry, call him names and defame him. He may even be passed for a promotion and refused various social interactions.

In such a way, organs of the media are, with total impunity, sowing seeds of poison by planning one negative stereotype after another in the common people’s minds.

Granted, Italians are now quite well accepted in America, or other “Anglo-Saxon” countries, but the media, under the umbrella of “free speech” still keeps slandering other groups while arguing that they have the right to do it, and “it is just a movie”. However, by constantly portraying other groups in a negative or ludicrous light they besmirch the reputation of such groups and destroy their right to live with dignity and self-respect. This way, a Kazakh will become associated with a “poor, third world fool” and a Muslim with terrorism. Then, people will start reporting more cases of work-place harassment, losses of friendship and rejections of all kinds in society. Or most noticeably, as a member of such groups, one will simply not be respected.

Sure, there will be some very cosmopolitan individuals who will not form such stereotypes, but how about store owners? Hotel owners? Supervisors at work? Friends? Neighbors? Who are they going to treat members of such groups after the nearly hypnotic associations of such groups with various contemptful and negative things have been inserted into people’s minds?

Media should not take the very sacred right of free speech as a license to slander entire groups and, in process, virtually ruin their lives. Free speech is there to expose true evil, not sow tribal scorn and hatred. So, please have some decency, media people. We cannot legislate decency, only suggest it to you. Think about all those who may be affected by your gross and false generalizations and by the associations you are repeatedly inserting into the minds of the common working public worldwide in the name of 'free speech' and the Almighty Dollar.


White Bums in Sydney- the End of the Western Civilization?

I am in the middle of Sydney, Australia. It is a cool, wintry day in August. The skyscrapers around and above me are filled with light , and a huge moon hangs over the city as the lazy puffs of vapor, coming out of the chimneys and exhaust outlets, rise into the crisp, southern skies.

I look around me and I see what I did not quite expect to see in Australia ( maybe because I had been watching too many re-runs of Crocodile Dundee)- I see many people jostling around, but they do not look like Paul Hogan; most of them have Asian faces, that is. They appear well dressed and happy, their clothes are crisp and stylish, the expressions on their smiling faces seem to show deep satisfaction with their lives. Around me, there are stores and restaurants selling mostly Chinese and Korean foods. They are all full, and there is no place to sit. There is only one word to describe downtown Sydney- prosperity, and it is Asian prosperity. I, in fact, feel that I am in Seoul or Hong Kong. Except that here I do not see nervous people or hustlers. They all look relaxed and rich, or at least, very comfortable.

A young Asian couple, hand in hand, a pretty girl and a bespectacled young man, stroll purposefully past me. They have that successful and confident-of-their-future look as they animatedly gaze at, and discuss various expensive items in display windows. I watch them go into a store. I walk in after them and check out the prices. A silk tie is Au$175?! That is about $140 US. For a tie? In many places in Asia you can by a similar tie for just a few bucks! Most customers, who are Asian, look enthusiastic, and I see no shock on their faces as they carry shopping bags full of the outrageously priced items out the doors of these ultra expensive, glitzy stores. I am a traveler on a $100 a day budget which includes my small hostel room, so I watch those shoppers with envy, and sigh at my own small expense account as I walk down to the rail station, since I think it would be too expensive for me to take a taxi.

All of a sudden, I hear a voice with a Crocodile Dundee accent - “G’d evenin’ mate, ( “mate” is pronounced as ‘mite’) woudj’u by aynee chance be ible t’spare two dollars? “ and I see my first Caucasian face in a long time. He looks like a typical Outback Aussie, with a weathered countenance and a shuck of gray hair. I‘d say he is in his early sixties. His clothes are old and worn, and the expression on his face is wistful- the same that I would see on the visages of poor Bangladeshis working in the Middle East. He looks at me sheepishly, while laughing Asian passer-bys give him a wide birth. “Jis’ two bloody dollars, please, mite” he looks at me again, while crouching as if expecting me to hit him.

The Australian $2 coin is one of the smallest, so, I guess, local beggars prefer to ask for those rather than for the one-dollar ones. If in the US, they ask you for a quarter; here, there are no quarters, only 20c coins. Everything is rather expensive, too, and the 20c and one dollar denominations are larger in size, plus their purchasing power is not that great. Thus, the beggars have discovered that the $2 coins were the easiest and the most sensible ones to try to get from the people they ask for money.

I give him $2, he thanks me and walks away feebly into the throngs of briskly walking East Asian pedestrians who, upon seeing him, shun away again and speed up as if they saw cholera. As I myself walk away, I hear more “Good evenin’ mite‘s” being uttered by the hobo towards the smooth flowing torrents of gallant and well -groomed Asian shoppers. “ Wou’j’yah spare two dollars, mite? I need t’ get t’ Canberra!” Eventually, his piteous figure disappears into the dynamic and wealthy-looking sea of the Asian pedestrians.

“It’s pathetic!“ ,I mumble to myself and decide to postpone my return to the hostel. I take another look around. At the corner, I see another “Paul Hogan“, sitting on the asphalt of the street corner, with cardboard signs around him asking for small sums of money. A relatively short distance away, there is yet another one- this one looks like one of those Scottish warriors from the movie “Braveheart“. He is looking up at the affluent Asian crowds above him with the wet eyes of a puppy asking to be petted. As he is ignored, he lowers his gaze in the shame and resignation of defeat. I throw him a coin and he gives me a look of unbelieving gratitude. “Thanks, mite!”

It does look like the precursor of things to come- the “Caucasian race” turning into sorry-looking beggars as vibrant Asians stride confidently towards the future of material comfort, professional success and happiness, leaving the pitiful Caucasians behind to beg on the streets of Sydney, Auckland, and many other “formerly” Western cities. Is this the end of the Western civilization as we know it?

It may sure look like it in Sydney, and if I were an Australian who does not travel, I would probably get that same impression. However, I am a traveler, plus I do read the news and do quite a bit of research on the Web. This is an illusion. The thing is, the Australian government does not want poor or uneducated, unskilled Asian people in the country. Or any other poor and unskilled people there for that matter. The only Asians ( or non-Asians) that are allowed to move or travel to Oz are the ones who are either wealthy or professional. Or tourists with money. No bums, Asian or otherwise, from other countries are allowed in, as a rule. Hence, the only beggars there can be the poor, bummed out locals, and these end up in the downtown areas because that is where the crowds are. Downtown locales are popular with tourists and recent immigrants, but not so much with the natives or those who have been in the country for a while, for these have long ago moved on to the wealthier, and more comfortable, suburbs.

But even in Blacktown, a largely immigrant suburban enclave on the outskirts of Sydney, bristling with vivacious and enthusiastic crowds of Indians, Filipinos, Sudanese, Fijians and Samoans, all briskly going about their business with self-assured expressions of purpose and gusto on their faces, I eventually come upon a pale face of a young Caucasian beggar who comes out at me from the shadows of the bushes near the station.
“Couj’yah spare two dollars, mite? I need t’get t’ Sydney”.

I guess they all stake out places where there are the biggest crowds no matter what their ethnic composition is. Those beggars are something else! And the impression they make on the visitor to Australia is both comical and tragic. But most of all, they do give you the wrong impression of the demise of the Western world which may be exploited by quite of few propagandists for dubious purposes. I do, therefore, wish the Australians would import a few beggars from Asia just to be fair.