Sunday, October 25, 2009

Impending Changes

Oddly enough, this seems to have been the topic of conversation between myself and my friend Jessica as well as with my grandparents and parents. In case you're too lazy to read the article, it's about the rapid change in Manhattan's Chinatown in language of Cantonese speakers to Mandarin speakers.

This is a significant change because, not too many people know this, but Mandarin (the official dialect of China) and Cantonese (the dialect spoken most frequently in southern China and Hong Kong [as well as Macau]) are not mutually intelligible, meaning that most of the elderly population that does not speak Mandarin and only speaks Cantonese, are becoming increasingly isolated. Additionally, this comes as sort of a blow to me, albeit a much less severe blow to me, because I was raised in a Cantonese speaking household around Cantonese speaking relatives whom frequented a Cantonese speaking Chinatown.

Upon realizing and finally acknowledging the fact that Cantonese is a dying dialect, my first reaction is to fight the change. However, that's a losing battle and a pointless one at that. Those whom refuse to change with the times tend only to get swept up in them and lost. The greatest strength a human can possess is the ability to adapt and change to his or her environment. The tendency for many of us to resist change only harms us in the end. Provided, some changes are frivolous, harmful even, but that is why attention must be paid to what is being changed.

To categorize all change as either good or bad is a fool's move and one that will ultimately lead to failure, however, careful and knowledgeable discernment will allow for proper judgement when the need for change arises, or, inversely, the need to stay the same.

The point of this all being that upon reading the above article on which my friend posted on her facebook, I was reminded that some changes, even if for the better, are not changes we want to make. Personally, I hate the fact that the Cantonese speaking population in Chinatown New York, as well as elsewhere (even Hong Kong), is dwindling. If possible I would have Cantonese thrive as a dialect all over the world, because that's part of the culture in which I was raised as well as my heritage. However, that wish is not practical at all and resisting this particular change is neither going to benefit me nor is it something that will honor this piece of my cultural heritage. In actuality it does nothing to serve anyone. The best way, I believe I have realized, to keep this part of my culture alive is to pass it down, along with the changes that are occuring. Trying to keep something intangible in its original form, its original idea, is never something that can be done. The best we can do is pass it along and allow it to change how it will be changed and allow people to trace its lineage.

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