So here we are. It’s been two weeks since the end of the pre-summer exam period: I’ve had just about that time to empty my head of all termini anatomici, at least until the next set of exams start and two weeks to process those 6 weeks of exam-hell and revision stress. This process is generally very erratic, I go about my daily business, when it comes to a meaningless or mindless task, one switches off the great thinker and just goes about one’s work. Sometimes a stray thought enters the mind, a memory of the past weeks, sometimes even years breezes past the inner eye and one smiles or shakes one’s head in remembrance. So this evening, there I was, hanging up the washing to dry and suddenly this memory pops into my head. It plays out like this [author: I need to give you a bit of a backdrop, so just bare with me]:
The first half of the exam period has ended; I have one exam left to sit in August, my friend, Anne and I have just come back from collecting a signature and stamp in our index books for our psychology and sociology courses. We head back to the main building of uni to meet some of our course mates who have just finished some exams and should be sat outside sipping celebratory beers.
Two of the girls we’ve been revising with at the library are indeed sat outside, sipping a beer and grinning like Cheshire cats. They’ve apparently passed. Well at least one has, the other has just been tagging along as moral support for the past week. The usual chat ensues, regarding topics that were picked, what the examiners were like, how mutual friends did on the exam, etc.
My concentration fades and I begin eavesdropping on a conversation between a first year and another girl from my year. One specific statement particularly angers and at the same time scares me.
“You know, my grandmother she’s Polish, you know, that really old school type of people. She says things like ‘Those dirty niggers’ and stuff. [author: I want to add here that I only wrote out this derogatory term for authenticity. I abhor the use of the word] I really appreciate that kind of hate. You know, that clean hate, just pure and clean hate that those old people have.” At this point I’m staring at this first year, with all kinds “What the fuck did I just hear?” written all over my face. The second year who is apparently the second party of the dialogue uneasily glances at me. Another first year, who, judging by the black suit and tie, has apparently just come out of an exam, stands next to the offending first year shuffling nervously. His friend has by now noticed me staring but with a pause continues talking. I just turn away and shake my head.
Why does this offend me? Why shouldn’t it offend me? I am not Caucasian. My parents are Sinhalese Sri Lankans, who moved to Austria after getting married. Now, I know what you’re thinking. She’s going to go off on a rant about racism; it’s all been said and done before, so shut the hell up. I am well aware that there are a number of people who have gone and said all there is to say about racism, and how it is bad and should be punished, blah blah. Growing up in this idiot-infested country that was once (and still pretty much is) the breeding nest of all kinds of evil that brought about the Second World War I have had my share of racist remarks and imbeciles. Judging by the current state of the nation’s youth and their attitude towards education, work ethic and society, this country is well on its way downwards with the threat of an implosion looming overhead like a highly-charged raincloud. However, I think most of us have been aware of this for a long time. Seriously, don’t get me started. If anyone wants an accurate history of that, drop me a personal message, I’ll write you an essay.
No, what I would like to address at this point is not the sheer idiocy of an uneducated group of youngsters that keep voting in the openly right-wing party that advertises with slogans such as “Patriotism instead of Moroccan thieves, “Home instead of Islam” [author: I admit these sound weak, but the translations don’t rhyme as the german versions do and that pretty much takes away the bite of the message] , but the alarmingly increasing amount of people who forget the lessons that the past have taught us.
Now, this kid, who is at most 21 years old, maybe even as young as 19, has every right to admire his grandmother. If mine were still alive, I’d probably adore them for their strength of character and for how they raised my parents. It’s lovely to respect your elders and look up to them, for all the hardship and the struggles they’ve put up with. However, I draw the line at admiring them for their socially irresponsible and unacceptable views.
The racism expressed by elderly people is quite common, particularly in this part of the world, i.e. in Western and Eastern Europe. These people have survived the Second World War, possibly a couple of civil wars in their countries, have had their families displaced or at worst killed. The majority have had to build up from the bottom; therefore I can comprehend where the bitterness is coming from. I know what you’re thinking: There’s very little one can do about them, they are just too old to change their ways. Whatever, you’re probably right. I mean even my mother gets a tad suspicious around Arabs and other ethnic groups, her being a Sri Lankan. Go figure.
What angers and scares me is that this first year admires his grandmother for her behaviour instead of condoning it. Sure, it might have just been a line and I shouldn’t take it seriously. What angers me is that, this child, who grew up in Germany, a country where in your middle and high school history classes, special weight is laid on teaching children about the dangers of the National Socialist movement in Germany and Austria, where the National Socialist party was banned for a long time for fear of it re-emerging and nowadays is deemed comical, where integration of immigrants into society is viewed as a far more pressing matter than in Austria, where Austrians are viewed as the backward-thinking hick cousins, spews such racist sentiment, like an uneducated inbred arrogant hog, despite having enjoyed 13 years of education in the German primary education system and a year of secondary education in Hungary. He should and he does know better.
He is where the system fails. You can point your finger at his parents and blame them for doing a poor job at raising him. Sure, I agree to a degree, but we, particularly as sentient and legal adults in higher education, have a responsibility towards society and humanity to better ourselves so we may be of some benefit to our fellow humans rather than a dribbling mess of hypocritical nonsense with liver disease prior to even beginning practising medicine. Long gone are those days when higher education was not only seen as a path to better employment but as a way to improve oneself, to become a well-rounded asset to society. The principles of the great universities of the European continent of producing educators, scientists, doctors, lawyers, great minds, movers and thinkers have been diluted down to rushing as many students through poorly organised courses as quickly as possible, as universities are run more like businesses and less like academic institutions. Whatever, we’re not here to discuss that.
The question I would like answered is the following: Am I really that far off in thinking that I should, at least at the beginning of this degree and the start of this career, be the most morally sound and honest person I can be? My reasoning is that, as I proceed through this degree and through my career a lot of this attitude will be hacked and stripped away, so I might as well bulk up on it and see what remains. Am I naive to expect the same of my peers? I understand there are a lot of students, who are motivated by the financial security, the physical allure or the challenge of being a doctor presents. But does no one want to be a better person?
At this point, I would like to remark that my temper has simmered down considerably and I have decided to forget the warthog that inspired this rant. There may be people who disagree, saying that people like him need to be told off and warned about their attitude. I myself have given up on the current generation and can only shake my head at them. It sounds defeatist, I agree, but I would rather channel the energy I would be wasting on this twat into studying harder for a final or going out dancing with friends. Would I confront him if a similar situation occurred again? Maybe not, I might if I was particularly worked up about what he was saying, but I would probably get so emotional over it that I’d get myself in a mess of words and start bawling at him, while yelling something about slavery and the British Empire. In short, it would turn ugly.
I know what you’re thinking. She’s a hypocrite, calling out the guy who made a racist remark in a blog, but not taking action in real life. Yes, maybe I should take action and do something about it, particularly because where I live, I am an ethnic minority. I am aware that the colour of my skin is going to create difficulties for me later on in my professional life. I know that I will encounter that patient who refuses to be treated by me, because he or she doesn’t want to be touched by someone of my skin colour. While I’m sure I’d feel more than insulted, I’d probably turn away and find someone more suitable to that patient’s taste to take over. Why? Because, although I am obligated to, not only legally but also by my conscience, treat to the best of my abilities, I cannot force treatment on someone, who refuses my services. I can learn to deal with racist idiocy on the part of my patients. What I cannot deal with is when my colleague is stood next to the sick bed, cheering the patient on.
That being said, I’d like to leave you with a quote from my late father: “Kiddo, try to be pro-active, rather than re-active”. I’d rather turn my frustration into something sensible and constructive, rather than hound all the idiots in the world into one pen and yell insults at them. Teaching today’s children to see the similarities rather than the differences can have a lasting impact on what we give the world, because this trained behaviour becomes second nature and translates into an unspoken law amongst the next generation. You can try all you can to change the ways of yesterday’s children so that mistrust and suspicion are replaced by wary respect and acceptance, but the moment the pin drops fingers will be pointed and accusations will be whispered. In short, Don’t Raise Idiots!
Peace out, peeps, keep the love going round!