Self-introspection is the only thing I'm sure I'm good at. My folks reared me in it early on. We had our own timeout for kids that might seem abusive in the eyes of most Westerners, but it was really to teach naughty kids how to self-introspect. In my childhood days, our timeout involved unhusked rice, mongo beans, and dried corn depending on the gravity of our offense and the number of times we had done it. We knelt on them as punishment. Rice grains were itchy. Mongo beans rolled. And dried corn hurt the most. The knee pain forced us to self-introspect immediately so we could confess our faults and narrate the lesson we learned and the kneeling would be over. Even if I did no wrong, I would still self-introspect and confess whatever came to mind to not prolong the pain. Once, I said, "I just learned the truth about the existence of God; had I gone to church with Grandma, I could not have hit my brother." I still self-introspect now, but without kneeling on anything organic except when I'm in a church, where there are pews with foam-padded kneelers.
One of the things I do while I'm Online is backreading my old posts in several forums I'm a member of. For some weird reason, I find it fun and funny. It's almost like Googling my friends' names and mine. My posts always force me to self-introspect to the point where I psychoanalyze myself. Like yesterday, I backread my recent posts in two anthropology websites. I realized something: I sounded angry in almost all my posts. It baffled me since I'm not naturally an angry person with antagonistic and adversarial tendencies. I don't even consider myself hardheaded and combative. If other chefs turn down my proposal like mozzarella balloons with trapped truffle scent inside or spaghetti noodles that are half flour-half beef with tomato and basil already incorporated, I usually take it in jest. I'm good at taking rejections; I'm not at making enemies. I do, however, confront if I really have to express my pent-up emotions, but I do it with reasons and my way of reasoning that, oftentimes, sounds sarcastic and disappointed. I feel nothing but relief after saying my piece and move on.
I just could not believe that my posts in the said websites bordered between hysteria and paranoia. I sounded antagonistic and at the same time defensive. It was like I exist in the virtual space to oppose. No wonder I've been called a troll. To compare, I checked my recent posts in Asian websites. What a revelation! I sounded sympathetic, supportive, and worse, patronizing. I could not help but ask myself if I'm suffering from Oriental angst, a postcolonial strategy of the once colonized to assert their new image. Have I treated the two anthropology websites as Western spaces where I have to be offensive and defensive all the time because of the historical inferiorization of my culture perpetrated by the West and Westerners? I was convinced that indeed I have. In both anthropology websites, I used a very telling phrase, "to poke your eyes." Upon numerous reading, I found it rhetorically violent but loaded with cultural assertion-- the destruction of the Western gaze.
In my psychoanalysis, I went back to my childhood and recalled how American priests always checked on me like I was their brown pet they needed to domesticate, how Belgian nuns watched me recite a perfect "Hail Mary" and made me eat "sili" (hot pepper) for saying "putang ina' (whore mother), how white tourists recorded my every step as I was forced to perform a death ritual dance for their entertainment, and how a white missionary held and moved my jaws left-and-right and made me open my mouth as if he was a dentist all for changing my diction he said I needed to learn [ap-uhl] and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." There was always a white gaze in my childhood. Even my American uncle, who has a PhD in Physics, bombarded me with "Physics for Dummies," How The World Works," and other books I did not bother to read. The stories of the village seer about gods and demons impregnating humans, to me, were far more interesting than the biographies of Edison and Einstein.
When I was with these White people, I had the urge to perform and deliver so I would somehow satisfy their expectations. I always tried not to look and sound inferior. It was like I wanted to prove something-- a Brown can do what a White can. Now, the feeling is more of a postcolonial image makeover--I was culturally inferior then; I refuse to be intellectually inferior now. Yes, it's the opposite of inferiority complex. I was not contented with my self-psychoanalysis, I checked other forums to find out if I was alone in this diagnosis I made up. Again, I was surprised. South Asians and Africans were more offensive and defensive in the forums I considered White spaces. Some were even foul-mouthed. Is it also because of their colonial histories and cultural inferiorizations? Not long ago, an OAC member with a South Asian or Middle Eastern-sounding name expressed her ideas about Orientalism like she was ready to kill and the world was against her. I was glad I'm not alone here. I wonder if there are professors here who have international students who are, to put it mildly, intellectually combative and adversarial or really mild, assertive. Maybe the postcolonial Oriental angst does exist.