In the late 1990s I studied at University in Japan when the world was fascinated by Toyota’s low car defect rates compared to every other brand on the market. It was driving the proud American, car hungry consumer insane! Their efficiency and reliability was so inexplicable, intoxicating, and seemingly unobtainably magical, they termed it ‘X-Efficiency’ and people came from the world over to study this new manufacturing witchcraft. What does this have to do with India?
I suddenly noticed my heart racing and my breath getting away from me. I looked down at the page I was writing on, one of those things I would do to amuse myself while waiting, and it was filled with illegible scribbles, and not the fully formed words I was used to putting down. The hairs on my arms were standing at full right angles to my skin, and I thought I was most likely in a cold sweat as I was freezing to touch. Holy crap! I was having a panic attack! Me. Right now. I had a friend from high school who had them, which is the only reason I knew what was happening.
Ever since the video of George Floyd’s death and the rapid amplification of the #BlackLivesMatter movement the world over, I have been pondering the privileged whiteys who don’t believe in white privilege. NEWS FLASH! Everyone is racist. Everyone is judgemental. I don’t care who you are. I have been asked about whether Australia is a racist country when I have travelled in India, the Middle East, and Asia and my answer is always the same.
I was one of the last people waiting when an older couple walked in. Wizened is a word that comes to mind as my first impression. One of the University staffers brought them over to my table. They most certainly had absolutely no English. Awesome! My Japanese was going to get really good, really fast, I thought.
“I thought Japan was supposed to be a developed country,” he said with a look of pure horror on his face. “I’m from a third world country and our conditions are better than this!” (Of course Spain is not a third world country, but Diego was prone to dramatization back then). We surveyed the situation as our translator gestured for us to come to the front counter. We then looked at each other and, in that moment, decided to roll the dice.