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  1. #11
    Sniffles
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    Does the WWII thread count?

  2. #12
    Allergic to Mornings ergophobe's Avatar
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    Blackmail, how did you ask this question?

    I don't think there are any forbidden questions relating to politics, especially between friends but I don't think it's fair to assume that people will want to discuss every question you ask of them.

    Also, there are certainly better and worse ways of phrasing the same questions. There's no way to assume how people will react to the same question - I asked about Armenians several times in Turkey and got lots of interesting and varied responses...from the death stare to some recognition of the past. I usually started with a gentle question about the Armenians living in Istanbul and their food...

    It's not fair to assume that:
    1. People have a fair introduction to their own history. It's always written with a bias and if the only introduction the person has had is through a schooling system heavily biased towards the state in which they reside, they don't necessarily have the background to view the issue evenhandedly. Attaturk's version of world history, for example, started and ended with the Turks. Everything, everywhere was connected to the Turks.
    2. People who have lived in conflict zones or have family that were affected by the conflict (however way back this goes) will have an even handed approach to the conflict. I give people a "get out of jail free" card if they've lived in a conflict zone. I wouldn't want to be good friends with them but I'm not going to debate them on an issue either which has affected their lives far more directly than my own. This usually translates into children and grandchildren/descendants having the same or worst biases (our imaginations are so much worse) than the conflict survivors.

    Sorry, dude. Maybe she's shocked by how she reacted. Give her a few days to get over it and then maybe if she is as nice of a person as you have observed, she'll come around.

  3. #13
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ergophobe View Post
    Blackmail, how did you ask this question?

    I don't think there are any forbidden questions relating to politics, especially between friends but I don't think it's fair to assume that people will want to discuss every question you ask of them.
    OK.

    Let's put this into context. I'd say it happened very innocently.

    She was preparing a research trip to Switzerland and Germany, and hence, she needed her passport. In the meantime, she showed it to us, and we compared it to French and Belgian ones (my associate teacher is Belgian).

    -You see, Greek passports are the most beautiful. On each page, you have drawings that relate to our own history! -she said

    On page 2, you had the Minoans. Later, you had the Parthenon, Delphi, Olympics, Alexander the Great... and slowly, we arrived to the XIXth century.

    -Well... After such a glorious past, that's where things starts to look complicated... -I noticed
    -How? You mean, the Independance war against the Ottomans?
    -Not only. You Greeks aren't totally innocent either, especially in Ioannina.
    -What do you mean?
    -Well... I don't know. The way your government expelled million of Turks and Albanians? But all countries from the Balkan Peninsula did behave the same way, then...


    And then suddenly it started. Just like a firework!
    My Belgian colleague and I looked bewildered. It was suddenly so extreme. We couldn't answer a single word.

    Hours after that eruption, she still looked extremely anxious and defensive, and exhibited a curious maniac behavior. For instance, she spent half an hour cleaning the stains of her office desk.
    And today, she didn't adress me a single word. She tried to ignore me as much as she can, something difficult, since her desk is only 5 meters away from mine (even if I have my own private office, while she, as a student, works in the common room).

    ---

    Maybe there is a cultural gap too. The truth is that we French or Belgians don't feel especially "proud" of our history, especially because we know it far too well. So we spend a lot of time complaining about the catalogue of crimes, hypocrisies and varied injustices it really is. For us, feeling "proud" of it just don't make any sense. History just is, and as its heirs, we didn't choose it.

    Even if here, I "play" the French guy and brag about the tremendous qualities of French culture, it's only a kind of role-playing game, just exactly when I complain about the dread Brits. I try to behave exactly the way you would expect I will. And besides, cultural stereotypes always add a kind of flavour to discussions...

    The truth is I'm rather extremely critical about my country. And so are Frenchmen: we don't love ourselves, it's a real drama. We are even wondering what it means to be French, since we are the sole true immigration country of Europe: the majority of the current French citizens don't have French ethnic background or French surname : look at our president and ministers for instance! Or if you're less snob, look at our national soccer team!
    The truth is that French are in fact a grumpy and disgruntled people. And if our nostalgic fads look so bitter, it's because we know that old times weren't necessarily better.

    ---

    It's like Israel: even if I defend this country against people who perceive it as the source of all evil (no less), frankly, there's nothing to brag about. It's not totally black, but it's very grey nonetheless. The whole Middle East is so, anyway.

    ---

    So yes, maybe there's a cultural gap.

    Also, there are certainly better and worse ways of phrasing the same questions. There's no way to assume how people will react to the same question - I asked about Armenians several times in Turkey and got lots of interesting and varied responses...from the death stare to some recognition of the past. I usually started with a gentle question about the Armenians living in Istanbul and their food...
    Well, it depends where you ask in Turkey. The man of the street may well offer you the "death stare", but with scholars and within the universitary milieu, almost everybody knows the truth and will gladly ackowledge it... once they're sure nobody is listening because they could face prison if they denounce the state-negationism that is taught in Turkish schools.

    Most of the Turkish historians and intellectuals I know do perfectly agree there really was a planned genocide. But for politicians and generals... well... that's another story.

    ---

    Again, the underlying question seems to be Identity.
    And Identity is often defined by useful unconscious lies, lies you cannot confront or dare to challenge.

    It's a defense mechanism.
    "A man who only drinks water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men" -Baudelaire

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  4. #14
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    I am so confused.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

  5. #15
    Dreaming the life onemoretime's Avatar
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    There's the problem: it wasn't necessarily the comment, it was the context of her cultural pride being expressed, and then your perceived attack of it.

    It would be like you talking about the French Resistance, and then me saying something like "I'm surprised everyone didn't just follow along with the Nazis". After you asking for a follow-up, then saying something like "yeah, you know, given the Vichy gov't, and especially in light of history like the Dreyfus affair, it's not surprising so many cooperated with the Nazis, especially regarding the Final Solution."

  6. #16
    Sniffles
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    I still remember one incident talking to a Frenchman, and Vichy was brought up and he thought I was talking about a kind of candy.

  7. #17
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    After you asking for a follow-up, then saying something like "yeah, you know, given the Vichy gov't, and especially in light of history like the Dreyfus affair, it's not surprising so many cooperated with the Nazis, especially regarding the Final Solution."
    Frankly, I would agree with you and even crack a joke about it.

    The Vichy government revealed a lot about what France really is. And it's a shame that the best historian of that period is British. That fact too, says a lot about us.
    "A man who only drinks water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men" -Baudelaire

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  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackmail! View Post
    The Vichy government revealed a lot about what France really is. And it's a shame that the best historian of that period is British. That fact too, says a lot about us.
    You're not talking about Robert Paxton are you?

  9. #19
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    You're not talking about Robert Paxton are you?
    Of course I am. But wait, he's American, not British!
    "A man who only drinks water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men" -Baudelaire

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  10. #20
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    I am going to agree with ergophobe, imagination is so much worse.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

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