Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Danger of Assumptions

The short story Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes portrays an act of civil disobedience, in which Papa New Guineans speak up against Australians who are trying to colonize them. Similar to Tales of the Tikongs, Kasaipwala uses humor to criticize an injustice he sees in his world and provoke his audience to reflect on their actions that may contribute to a larger injustice in their world.
In both stories, an entire group of people being is disenfranchised by a foreign power, but in Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes, Kasaipwala uses a particular case of racism to comment on the injustice of imperialism at large. Kasaipwalova begins by writing from the perspective of a native university student who is treated unfairly by an officer. Throughout much of the story, the university student uses his country’s vernacular, which is viewed as unintelligent by the colonists. He refers to a security officer that tells them to stop chewing betel nut as a “brown puppy dog of white man” who “angried himself for nothing.”
Both the reader and the security officer assumes that he is only capable of using the broken language, so they are surprised when he addresses the injustice with well formulated arguments in perfect English. The native responds “all right white man, on what moral grounds is it unlawful for me to chew betel nut here?” His language is dramatically more eloquent and the shift makes the reader laugh because it is completely unexpected. Kasaipwalova not only uses the incongruity to evoke laughter, he uses it to remind the audience that they are guilty of stereotyping. The audience also assumes the native is unintelligent and incapable of articulating his thoughts. They neglect to realize the native may have been using his native dialect as a form of resistance in which he refuses to conform to the new regime. In this unexpected, humorous moment the audience also realizes their assumptions are often based on stereotypes and they need to be more conscious of it.
It is worth noting that the reader finds out at the same time that the security officer. Kasaipwala strategically withholds the information from the reader to remind them that they are not always given the whole story, so naturally fill in the holes with assumptions. These assumptions are natural and harmless, unless the reader accepts them as the truth and fails to question their validity. Kasaipwala is implying that his audience often fails to question their assumptions in their daily life. and he wants his audience to realize that they often don’t know someone’s full story so they accept stereotypes as the truth.

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