Pasola, Participation & Why We Stand By What We Write

In the island of Sumba in eastern Indonesia, there is a yearly fertility ritual performed in the western territory called Pasola. In no means do we try to grossly oversimplify or pretend to understand this ritual, but the basic idea is that upon watching the frenzied mating ritual of the nyale seaworms around February or March, it is a sign. There are different messages for flood, famine, or fertility based on the mating of the worms, but whatever those messages are, Pasola will commence soon. Men ride atop horses and throw wooden spears at each other, as the crowds watch, waiting for the moment blood has struck the earth. People get seriously injured and have even died, but when blood strikes the earth, it is believed that there will be a good harvest. Celebrations commence, and it becomes the talk of the island.

Even as late as July all the way on the eastern side of Sumba, people still talk about the ritual, hearing from friends who went or from watching it, and various remarks are made about how “he could have fought better” and “he doesn’t know what he’s doing” or “I could do it better than him”. This is example of a universal affliction known as “bystander syndrome” in which people talk, but never take action.
Bystander syndrome is what killed Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964.

By extension, you can see anonymous posts from people who talk about how articles here “could be better researched” or focus on insults rather than following our rules of conduct for comments, yet for some reason do not use the opportunity we provide to everyone to contribute guest posts in order to better reflect the diversity of opinions here. Instead, we are stuck with fatuous comments focused on cut and paste wit, rattling sabres, and pointing the ignorant stick at people.

Ignorance, according to the current popular definition on the Internet, is “anyone whose opinion runs contrary to yours and deserves to be ridiculed for it.” There are indeed people who follow the classic original definition of ignorance, but what we’re getting at here is that if you have a problem, this is one of the few sites where you can write a guest post to better reflect the demographic of Asian America.

As for myself and a recent guest writer Daniel, we are not the majority population of Asian America. We are what you call Third Culture Kids, and because of our birthplaces, we are also Asian Americans, and I jokingly and affectionately call us “Accidental Asian Americans.” In a sense, yes, we are outsiders, because we can put a more global context besides the American one, and we have also had our own similar challenges as Asians in America. Our identities and confusion as TCKs doesn’t need to be elaborated here, because the point is, we have a different opinion, and we just happen to be critical. Unfortunately, people have often confused us to be Anti-American, some even say we aren’t “real” Asian Americans because of our international upbringings, that we are men who do not deserve the passport privileges we have. Is this any different from Asians who grew up in America but as illegals or as green card holders? A passport document doesn’t account for much, we admit while holding ours and its travel privileges with gratitude, but we do have our own experience with repatriation that runs parallel to the diversity of experiences in Asian American canon. Oftentimes, this discrimination is from fellow Asian Americans, saying ludicrous statements such as “You’re not a real Filipino, you grew up in a rich community” or “You’re whitewashed and really brainwashed by colonial mentality, you don’t know what real people in Asia are like!”

So admittedly, it’s hard to define in concrete terms what is the Asian American experience, but we have a general understanding that should at least allow for occurrences outside of the patterns, yes? Apparently not, according to the fatuous comments and morbid drivel that has been heaped upon us in many comments. This is but one perspective, but this is one statement where I speak for 8asians when I say that we all have our own opinions and even disagree with one another, but it’s a place to make our own voices and experiences heard, whether or not you agree with or enjoy them.

That I and everyone else here at 8asians will put our names in front of articles posted here is a hubris that indicates we stand by what we say, enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Sure, we can be wrong at times when reporting based on present information that changes as more facts are clarified or released, but when you get on a horse and throw spears at one another, someone is going to bleed. If nobody does that, then there is no Pasola. It is something to talk about and criticize, but without our participation, you’ve got the choice to either get on a horse and throw a few spears knowing you may bleed, or you get nothing. So in other words, before you throw any more bile our way (towards anyone at 8asians or any guest post authors), ask yourself if you’re willing to stand by your comments with your real name instead of an anonymous avatar, and then ask yourself if you would be willing to do a better-written, better-researched, better-representative, better-reflected post than any of us here. Then actually go and do that. Or, you can continue flinging your feces at us like monkeys chained to a desk attempting to pound out masterpiece on a typewriter.

There are plenty of times I just want to say “To hell with it all!” and delete all of the bookmarks to anything related to Asian America on my browser, push out all of the history I read about in college, and live in the moment and look forward to meeting other backpackers who care more about eating good food and traveling, and don’t give a black damn about what passport I hold or my ethnicity. It’s very easy to forget about Asian America because I no longer live in the U.S.; my ties are only through my friends there and reading news blogs about Asian America. Those “screw it” moments are especially frequent when I’m at Asian American film festivals in L.A. and San Diego where I’m surrounded by some talentless, two-faced YouTube hacks and their adoring teeny-bopper fans idolizing them, who make claims about “pursuing your passions” and “being yourself” but when I try to shake their hands they turn around and talk to someone else who only looks like he might give them a chance at mainstream (which they won’t find in a niche group). I could totally give them the finger and not go to those events, but then I’d miss out on seeing a few friends and watching great festival submissions. So shit on them, I don’t care if they think I’m nobody in mainstream or a regular in the community and its cupcake-whoring, pimply-faced, flat-chested bitches singing and dancing on YouTube, I participate for me, not for them. Shining moment: one of those pompous photographers running another Asian American blog ignored me and pretended I didn’t exist in L.A.; six months later, I wear the press badge at the San Diego Film Festival and it’s suddenly “Hey, do you remember me?” I wouldn’t have had that if I didn’t keep participating in spite of the bullshit meter going off every time I walk into those festivals.

Participate, otherwise you’re the fat loser on his mother’s couch who has a black belt in martial arts from watching Bruce Lee movies, yelling at the television when someone “does something stupid that you could do better” in a UFC match. We stand by what we write, and we’re not going back on our opinions just because you disagree with them. We may bleed, we may have some people cheering for us, we may have many who are completely apathetic, but we’re out there chucking spears into cyberspace so that you have something as we bleed into your thoughts and reactions, and none of us get paid for this. Participate or you have no grounds to make your asinine accusations and esoteric insults. Contribute to the discussion while respecting differences of opinion instead of heaping ad hominem attacks, write a better article instead of criticizing someone’s abilities as a researcher and writer: whatever it is that you do, get up here and participate, you lazy bitches.

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About JohnnyC

Johnny C is a self-described Accidental Asian American: born in California and raised in Hong Kong and Manila, he spends his days traveling as a freelancer for various NGOs in development and human rights. An idealist and adventurer, his travels are both for work and fun, while sharing stories through his pictures, videos, and writing. When he's not dance-walking to indie rock songs on his iPod in cities around the world, he's usually got himself engrossed in a science fiction novel traversing the portals of reality.
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