Monday, 26th January '04
Just back from a day of lecture's and a rather different tutorial. Completing the Research Opinion Memorandum was quite a pain, first time a pulled an all nighter to get an assignment done, even though I started reasonably early. *sigh* Hope this is not a sign of things to come. Can you believe I actually finished the writing at about noon on sunday, and spent ALL that time after that till 6am just rewriting it and cutting out words??? And I think for all that work it just got more cryptic sounding, which, trust me, isn't a good thing.
But before I go and take a well-deserved nap and subsequently plough through more homicide-related / privity of contract cases, I think I'll grant myself a really MUSING musing. See I'm actually about to ponder an issue, albeit not very coherently, but hey, I didn't sleep at all last night.
Today's topic is *drumroll* DIFFERENCES. Before I begin properly, I'd just like to add in a little disclaimer. If I sound pissed or irritated or make any offensive / derogatory / elitist sounding suggestions just ignore me. I'm using the blog to think my ideas through, and really, I don't mean any harm. If I've quoted you, I won't cite your name because it isn't important who made the statement, just that the idea has been put forward to me, and I'd like to reflect on it.
Not quite sure when this idea of differences began to occur to me, but I think a rough guess would be about that time I worked at Parkway and, I guess, for the first time in my life met a couple of really wonderful girls who showed me quite a bit about the working world / life beyond what I've known. I'm not about to hype this up to a kind of Hard Times / Oliver Twist extreme... you know, where there are people who luxuriate in all things good and then there are the kids who can't go "please sir, I want somemore" without getting a whipping. But that WAS when I actually did notice, for myself, the fact that I've been having a very different life from most.
Another time might have been a conversation with some RJ friends, in which we were lamenting our dismal grades and I recall someone saying "what the heck, why are we worrying. We should be counting ur blessings - only about 30% of each year's batch will even get to JC". I know she didn't mean it in an elitist way, she was really, sincerely, aware that we had so much going for us that some others wouldn't get to see. At the very least, we had good homes, were financially comfortable (some even more than so) and were just about as close to the top of the paper chase as we were ever going to get.
So while we always seem to be the lucky ones, the one with the scholarships, the ones with good English and too many A1s / A's / S-papers, are we really just that? Perhaps we don't speak the same way as the other non-JC kids, perhaps we have vastly different taste in clothes, music, food, hobbies (though I actually doubt that). But that's all supposed to be superficial, right? What is that thing that makes us appear different from everyone else? In a way, what makes anyone not from this circle more willing to judge us than the man on the street? Why do others have preconceived notions of what we're like before they have known us for even half a year. Perhaps they think they know what we're all about before they even meet us. Perhaps they think we don't go through all the crap that normal people do.
Let's start with something simple. (ha!) Why will I NOT tell people what schools I've come from until they force it out of me? Or more specifically, why am I trying to hide it from certain people? Let me start by saying there's probably nothing I'm prouder of that being from RJC (RGS might be slightly different, but let's just focus on one first). I'm proud to belong to a school that continually strives to be the best it can be, and that achieves it to a certain extent. I'm proud that despite that culture of excellence, we haven't become an uncaring, selfish bunch. On the contrary, the kindest, most generous (with their time, and money, and themselves) and just GOOD people I know, I met there. I'm proud of RJ's versatility, its potential to churn out President's scholars / Prime Ministers / Presidents and what have you. And yet at the same time I'm proud that we keep our human touch, that guys strip each other in the shed for fun, that we scream and cackle and sit on the floors of MRT trains like ordinary kids. That we trot down to the market for kuay zhup one day, and have our grad night in Shangrila on the next.
Well, I can tell some people my school easily. I can tell the Law folks, coz 60% of them were alumni anyway. I can tell the hall folks coz there were RJ people there before me and have left enough of a legacy so that people know we aren't idiots from a school that just happens to have a good rep coz it was named after the bloke who founded our country.Others I can't tell because I hate the way the revelation is invariably followed up by either "wooooaaaahhh" or a snort. And I hate the way the next question will somehow relate to grades, how many O-level points, how many A level subs and S-papers. It's ridiculous that once my school comes into the picture I am no longer judged on my own merit, but am held up against an often fallacious stereotype of what the typical Rafflesian is like. In a nutshell, the assumptions go something like "this fucked bitch from this JC thinks she's so flabbergastingly better than others" or "watch out, those RGS girls damn dao one" or that we're "veri narrow... were you from rj? must b". It is to be noted that these notions of arrogance, narrow-mindedness etc are COMPLETELY SEVERABLE from the school from which the subject in question came. Could one from RJ not be humble, openminded person, and yet one who has never gone to school be aloof and closed. I can't see why not. I my mean, if I've given you that impression, and you could even be right, just tell me so, attribute it my own idiocy lor. Because I honestly don't appreciate you taking it out on where I come from. If I think you're an idiot I will think YOU are a idiot. Doesn't matter if you came from Cambridge or Harvard or Ulu Pandan JC *winks at Zhihui*.
Why would such unkind comments come to pass then? I wouldn't have the nerve to say they were comments passed in fits of jealously - and indeed it would be exceedingly condescending of me to even think this was so. But it is the most oft-cited reason. Someone once told me I was being hated because I was from a certain "conglomerate of schools" and the confidence and leadership qualities that came from that kind of upbringing were off-putting, frightening, even. Upon such reasoning, maybe it is true. It's always easier to put someone down to make your own level more comparable. I should know, I'm as guilty of it as the next guy. I'm not always a happy person, I have my bouts of self-doubt, and I have one heck of an inferiority complex. Possibly also the product of being constantly surrounded by people of such high calibre I can never ever be the best at what I do, not even for the littlest while. I struggle to balance my work and my life, I worry about how I look, I care about people not liking me too.
So wherein lies the difference? Wherefore the "reverse discrimination"? There are times when I have heard comments from some friends not from school, and thought them petty and incapable of seeing the bigger picture. But that's when I'd remind myself that everyone is entitled to their own view, and really, it isn't my place to impose what I think should be the norm on everyone I meet. What gets to me is when these same people turn right around and make sweeping generalisations about me, my character and my life, which by the way, are completely unbacked by evidence. I'm not saying I'm angry about it, I'm saying that, like any other kind of discrimination, it's hurtful. Well, it was in the beginning, but 6 years have taught me that people can hate my kind and still eventually come to respect the real me.
Oh well, that's all I have time for today. If you've got this far, thanks for reading. It's not actually complete, but I guess that's all either of us are going to be able to digest for now. And if you've understood, thanks even more. So, tata now. Till the next time I get hit by a bunch of random, self-pitying thoughts...
[well, the pictures aren't going to take themselves!]