Loula Mackey
Valerie MacEwan

Sooooo intriguing. Also shocking. Would make a great intro to a book of these ‘Southern vignettes’. Is that the word I want? Maybe even ‘mini-vignettes’. Better than ‘anecdotes’ which sounds superficial and childish. That’s what the academic grifters call reportage based on case studies. See, ‘case studies’ is a fancy fifty-cent way of saying ‘anecdotes’ but it’s supposed to polish them up so they have a Lesson in them (they do, by the way: anecdotes are telling.) (Academics disparage them, preferring the insider-trading swindle of ‘peer-reviewed’ as though that validated anything.)

One of the first telling anecdotes I ever heard upon settling in Indonesia: father is reading the newspaper as son dashes through the room and clips a sharp edge of a table. Child falls, crying and rubbing his hurt.

Father (sternly): ‘Bad table!’

Moral: My son could never do anything so stupid. It has to be something else.

Ultimate Moral: Never take personal responsibility. Always find something else or someone else to blame. when all else fails, being deeply religious by nature (and boy are they ever), put the blame on God: ‘Yallah! How could you do this to me!’

Drives multinational corporate managers nuts when their local employees (particularly the men, who <ahem> often ‘mature very late’ (= keep acting eleven until they’re forty) act this way.

Japanese executive, to me, speaking in his language over beer: ‘Why are Indonesians so childish?’

Me (bemused): ‘Childish’?

Sugiyama-san: ‘They never want to take responsibility when something goes wrong. They’ll always try to wiggle out and blame someone else.’

Me: ‘It’s the culture. It’s how they’re brought up. Except for the rich kids who go to school overseas and learn the ropes.’

I thought Loula’s story had a nice moral to it too.