After working three days straight with TorontoALPHA’s historic Educator’s Conference 3 weekends ago, I had a lot to think about. There were a lot of thoughts roaming around inside my head regarding the events of World War II in Asia and how it is lost in most history books. A lost chapter in history it seems. So I tried to relate with the many scholars, speakers, and brilliant minds who voiced their thoughts throughout the conference, but ultimately, I couldn’t relate. Due to my lack of experience and knowledge with history and anything political, I did as I always did, I listened and admired. The only way I could relate is to connect with my own perspective and my own story. I had to see everything through the lens of a Banana. And thus, I wrote down a speech of sorts, and I voiced it in front of a camera. Enjoy.
A Dire & Personal Topic by Philbert Lui – A Banana’s “Embraced Contradiction” & TorontoALPHA:
The video is fairly long, but I hope you get something out of it. If you prefer reading, below is the written version of what I said (with slightly better grammar and sentence structure and more typos):
Hi there. I’m Philbert Lui of The Banana Times. This particular video blog is going to be a little different. Usually, traditional video blogs would have many cuts in the timeline to jump from shot to shot or scene to scene to make some kind of point. Well, that’s not happening today because of the nature of what I’m about to talk about, I feel that this has to be uncut just so my train of thought is evident.
For those of you who have been following my personal twitter account or the Banana Times twitter account, you might know that I have been working for TorontoALPHA. Now TorontoALPHA is a non-profit organization aiming to promote the education of the events of World War II in Asia. And three weekends ago, TorontoALPHA hosted a very significant conference for the educators of Canada and others; to help spread the word on this lost chapter of history.
Now, to summarize, or to attempt to summarize any of the topics and amazing speeches seen at the conference would do the entire event injustice. Due to the amount brilliant minds that congregated at the conference, me trying to relay any of it would be feeble and quite offensive. So in order to shed any light on the event, on what I learned and on what I feel, I would have to speak from my perspective. For the few people who actually read The Banana Times blog or watches our once-in-a-blue-moon video on Youtube, may have noticed that I take pride in recognizing my own bias and that I embrace the contradictions within myself.
When I say being a contradiction, I mean it on several levels. For one, I think many people who assimilate with the Banana identity, whether you think you’re completely Westernized on the inside or that you feel like you’re multicultural on the inside, sometimes unknowingly lack the understanding that you are on some level a contradiction. Now I say and mean this in the most inoffensive way I possibly can. When I say you or people, in this context, are a contradiction, it is not an insult or an attack. Rather I think it is something to be embraced, and is also what my team and I strives for in The Banana Times. Being a Banana requires a capacity to embody more than one set of cultural values and attitudes beyond your native Asian identity, thus making you a liaison between certain boundaries of society. Being a person of Asian descent and be influenced and inspired by Western cultures and societies, in its very basic, traditional and prejudice form, is a contradiction. But going back to the origins of the term “banana”, it was used by an older generation of Asians who considered themselves purely Asian, against a younger generation who have been brought up or influenced by Western cultures. In short, it’s a derogatory term. And yet today, we embrace it with pride. And with that pride comes an embraced contradiction. An acceptance that with this nation-less but global label, comes the ability to withstand conflicting forces of culture, society, politics, gender within yourself. A power to hold and contain contradiction, which otherwise have been deemed negative by many others.
Now even though I identify with this “embraced contradiction” it is only 100% guaranteed applicable to me. To say it is applicable to others is nothing less than presumptuous. With that said, I also take pride in expressing through the lens of my own bias. Everyone’s point of view, perspective or opinion is in itself a bias, and can be beneficial if embraced. Again, this is all me. I take pride in calling Craig Ferguson one of my modern day heroes because a few years back he said “I am no expert or alcoholism or anything, but I am an expert on my own story. I was there when it happened”. These two sentences stuck with me, and perhaps will continue to for as long as I live. I claim to have the ability of “embraced contradiction” and the recognition of my own bias, because this is my own story. Out of everything I will learn, or come to learn or teach in my life, I will only be an expert on one thing. Myself. And thus I take much pride in saying and indicating that I have a bias and that I walk with contradiction with whatever I express or create.
I constantly reference the “Banana” or “Banana culture” because it is a significant of my story. And being able to reflect on my own story as an expert, I discovered something. Sure, after hearing my theories on biases and inner contradictions being good things, always talking about Bananas makes a lot of sense. But this is also valid because it is a case study. Being a Banana, in my words, means you have a beneficial ability to withstand, contain, and excel with more than one set of values and attitudes within you, but this is not only applicable to Bananas. Rather, it applicable to any similar form that also has an embraced contradiction. Meaning that anyone of any race who were raised, inspired, influenced, lived in a different society or culture from their ethnic origin can have this embraced contradiction. The Banana is only a case study in which me and The Banana Times specialize in, there are many other case studies related to multicultural capacity that I would not be nearly qualified to talk about. But I urge those who are experts of their own story to explore this capacity, to embrace this contradiction, and to be proud of your own unique bias.
Now that I’ve talked a little bit about how I operate and how my mind kind of works, I’d like to return to the weekend I’ve had. TorontoALPHA held a historic and important educators conference last weekend, I believe the first of its kind since WWII, and I was lucky enough to volunteer for them as a videographer. They aim to raise global awareness on the history of WWII in Asia specifically, as many people don’t know about the atrocities that happened on that side of the world, especially those of us who grew up in the West. Many studies and books have been written about the European side of WWII with the genocide of the Jews, but there was also a similar Holocaust in Asia instigated by the Japanese Empire. And ultimately, TorontoALPHA aims to convince the Japanese government to make a sincere apology for their war crimes and admit to the atrocities they committed over 60 years ago. There were many speeches, testimonies, videos from many scholars and filmmakers, and to try to relay their knowledge would be egotistical of me.
But I would like to say this. I identify myself as a Banana. A person of Asian descent, more specifically Chinese descent, who was born in the West and have been influenced and surrounded by Western culture throughout his life, therefore creating a contradiction within myself as I said before. This contradiction is what I thrive on, and I tell stories and accounts of this contradiction through my own bias. And from this, I want to tell you something that I feel bananas are obligated to do. Learn about the events of World War II in Asia.
As members of the Banana community, we know more than one set of values and attitudes, that is our nature. But like any culture, it originates from history. The post-WWII era is a period in human history where mass-diaspora and migration increased, thus creating hybrid identities like Bananas. Not only do we need to learn about the events of WWII in Asia because of justice, but also to learn how identities such as the Banana came about. We are not only Asian or Western; we are international because of the nature of our identity. The Holocaust of Asia is not a Chinese problem, or a Japanese problem, or a Korean problem or an American problem, it is a global problem and a human problem that has yet to be resolved even after 60+ years.
Many of our grandparents were alive during WWII and without their strength and their vigor we would not be here. If there were a time where you should practice the Asian tradition of respecting your elders, this would be the time. Respect them by learning what they had to go through and what they had to endure for you to be here. Without our grandparents and their peers, Bananas would not exist. We would not exist. I would not exist.
Now what I have said comes out of the brief experience I have had with Toronto ALPHA. These are all thoughts from my own bias, and may be flawed. But if you are going to take anything way from what this contradictory, presumptuous Banana boy has said, take away this. If you believe you are a Banana, or have any other identity that enables you to have a multicultural capacity, and that you think that you have a contradiction within yourself that you can benefit and excel from, talk about it. Tell people your own story, because that’s the best tale you can tell. You are the expert of your own story. Learn more about the Holocaust in Asia and maybe that would become part of your life and part of your story as well. Banana Culture is a culture that is both local and global. If your voice is heard, it will travel far.
If you have any questions, feel free to shoot them my way – firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll be happy to answer them. I have to stress that everything I have said is only 100% applicable to me, for others it may be different. But even so, this is just a gathering of thoughts from a person who is trying to tell his own story, but I hope it connects with people in any way possible. Because what happened to our grandparents and forefathers during World War II in Asia must be heard and learned.
I wish you luck.