I wonder if it is wrong to feel some days like a banana, the slang term for someone’s who’s Westernized. Someone who’s yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Someone who’s lost touch with his heritage and roots and imagines himself to be Western and modern. Now, it seems, in the post-Modernist era (assuming we’re still this era) the prominence of histories over history and scripts over script is highlighted, even exaggerated. National pride, ethnic pride, the dizzy embracing of the cultural potpourri — some days it feels more like mashed stew — wherein lies your roots.
Nationalism seems to be on the rise again, be it in the Western Hemisphere, Middle East, or Asia. It’s a markedly different kind of nationalism from the kind that drove World War I, thankfully, but nationalism nonetheless. I deeply appreciate many aspects of it, such as the reassertion of local culture (dances, paintings, pottery, the opening of cultural museums) and the new attention given to studies on various ethnic and linguistic groups. Generally, the world has become more inclusive.
But sometimes I feel as though there’s almost an expectation for people to behave a certain way — perhaps it’s only among adolescents; I really can’t say. ometimes I see adults giving kids weird glances when they choose to eat fish-n-chips in a coffeeshop when Chinese stalls abound. Being Malaysian means speaking Manglish (mangled English or Malaysian English?), dropping “mahs” and “lahs” and “mehs” and “sias” into every other sentence — people who’d chose Penang Assam Laksa over pizza any day.
Come to think of it, I’m fairly certain this “problem” is one of language. Arrival argued the Sapir-Whorfs theory that the language you speak affects the way you think and ultimately the person you are. While I don’t believe learning an alien tongue could give us the power to see time in a non-linear fashion, there is some validity in this claim.
Being a banana has to do with a different way of thinking and a different way of communicating, a way that runs divergent from the majority of the others in your birth culture. In Malaysian context, for reference’s sake, this vague assertion means that young people are suspected of being more white than Malaysian/Chinese/Malay/Indian/whatever they are supposed to be.
Personally, I don’t see why banana tendencies need to be frowned upon. White a banana may be, but it’s still inherently Malaysian.