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Social Resistance and You: How to Handle Unsupportive Surroundings

April 24, 2013
By

We’ve all run into it at some point in our lives. That “something”[1] out there which people question why you have or have not done it. Or better yet, they crack on you or even berate you for something you’ve done or not done that goes against what they believe to be right. The most readily available example I have is movies.

How many times has someone asked you, “Hey, have you seen that new [insert movie title that apparently everyone has seen but you][2] movie yet?” You then answer with a “No”, which is then followed by one of the following responses:

  • A contorted, confused facial expression resembling that of a baby who just ate an orange peel.
  • Gasping in surprise
  • An elongated “Whaaaat?” or “Why noooot?”
  • “Do you live in a cave?” [3]
  • All of the above (incidentally, always the right answer, except for when it’s C).

Doesn’t it ever make you wonder why people react this way? It’s almost as if shame is cast down upon you for not having seen the movie. I mean, come on. How dare you. We all know you purposely didn’t see it just to be a rebel[4]. Like someone stepped on their rubber ducky. When you stop and think about it, it’s pretty strange that the typical response is like this. Why is it normal for people to downplay something they don’t understand or agree with?

It goes back to humans hating change by nature. It’s because we hate and/or fear what we don’t understand. It’s also because we don’t like confrontation[5]. I mean, if things are fine, then why mess them up, right? People also hate to be proven wrong. All of these things are just in our nature, or so we’re told.

My personal thought on this is that it’s taught behavior. From when we are small, we are taught not to talk to strangers, finish all the food on your plate and to do things the way our parents do them (or more infamously, “Do as I say, not as I do”). We’re taught that conforming to society leads to success. But, success in who’s opinion? Society’s or yours? Aside from the obvious correct, legitimate reasons behind teachings like this, there are so many more reasons that are just plain wrong. Doing something because “society” deems it “normal” doesn’t make it right. Eating all the food on your plate when you’re full isn’t what’s right. In fact, it can have very negative consequences.

Take for example someone getting the crap kicked out of them on a busy city street. The “normal” reaction (that is, the action taken by most) is inaction, or to not get involved – it’s what we are taught from when we are small. Don’t get involved in someone else’s business. In this example, the normal thing to do isn’t the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to intervene, even if that’s only calling the police. Perhaps that was not the cleanest example I could have used, but it does illustrate the point to just do something. We all know that if we were the guy getting beaten up, we’d want someone to do the same for us.

In many cases, the same applies to Japanese (at least for me – I’m sure there are many who can relate, though). Some people get legitimately confused (even offended(!) for some reason) when I tell them I am learning Japanese. I had one person ask me 5 times why I wanted to learn such a “hard” language, and “what’s the point?”. It really struck me as odd to begin with, especially since I gave entirely legitimate reasons each time she asked. I gave answers like “Because the culture fascinates me”,”because I’ve wanted to for years” and “because someday I’d like to be an interpreter and translator”.

Interestingly, none of these answers were good enough. After the 5th time of being asked, it became clear to me that the person was looking not for the literal answer to the question, but instead was trying (weather they realized it or now) to play down learning Japanese and get me to agree with them on it. They were trying to bring my efforts down, labeling them as “pointless” because “there’s so much here (in the U.S. of A) to learn and discover”. But, being brutally honest, they didn’t like my learning Japanese because it’s different.

They were essentially telling me that learning Japanese was wrong because it is “foreign”. In frustration, I spouted out the answer that I wished I’d thought of long ago:

“Why not learn Japanese?”

And what do you know – I couldn’t get a valid answer from that person. Befuddlement, however, was plentiful.

I realize this comes off as a bit of a rant (and it is on some level), but I wanted to express an epiphany I had during this conversation.

Why do I care what this person’s views on learning Japanese are if they aren’t supportive? What possible positive effect could it have on my Japanese to listen to this train of doubt and questioning? How is an isolationist attitude about “learning Chinese”[6] going to help? More importantly, how are the above items going to hurt my Japanese if I allow it to continue?

If someone you know is being “anti-Japanese” (not like racism, more like against your learning of the Japanese language for whatever reason), ask them to explain themselves in detail – then prove them wrong. Work your Japanese skills to the point where you can show them why it’s useful, enjoyable and awesome.

Prove them wrong by doing more. As my wife pointed out in an argument we had – saying you’re going to do something and then not do it is worse than saying nothing at all[7]. Trying to prove a point about learning Japanese is pointless[8] if you aren’t going to actually do it.

Secondly, tune that sort of negativity out – completely and indiscriminately. Put on headphones and listen to Japanese music or radio. Do SRS reps. Use the energy they spend trying to bring you down to boost your drive to do better. Get more comfortable with Japanese.

About my point above: the great thing about movies is that they will always be there – maybe even in Japanese one day. 🙂 When they do come out in Japanese, see them then. Otherwise, keep your focus on the attainable goals you set and keep on truckin’, you bad mother trucker.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. You know, that movie everyone wants you to see but you know is going to be lame.
  2. Really, everyone?
  3. Alright, not all people who live in caves are uncivilized hermits, people – like whoever lives here.
  4. Or a hermit, or a recluse or whatever else people come up with. Why do I keep going back to hermits?
  5. Well, most of us.
  6. Yes, this person went there – apparently they are the same language to some o.O
  7. See, honey? I listen! <3  
  8. See what I did there? Point? Pointless? 😀

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