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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, September 1926

Students of Other Lands

page 14

Students of Other Lands

"But there is neither East nor West,
Border nor breed nor birth—"

I part from the poet here, with his "when two strong men stand face to face." Why "strong men"? Let any two people with common interests, speaking a common tongue, come together, and, provided they are of open mind, you will find that colour of skin and slope of eye are utterly forgotten. I have discussed things of mutual concern with students and thinkers of India, China, and Japan. With Dr. Hu Shih, the brilliant young Professor of Philosophy at the Peking National University, I tried to thrash out the question of family ties. He was bittter against the large family groupings of China—the occasion of constant bickerings, but we wondered between ourselves whether some better transition from the old groupings could not be made than by the way taken in the Western world—the class struggle. Perhaps we reached no very wise conclusions. But do you imagine we had a barrier of race between us as we conversed? You might as well imagine that your footballer, racing for the line, was conscious whether the temperature was 49 or 51. Of course, I was conscious of a difference of language when my friend Hsia Yung-yu told me, concerning Admiral Sah, "That man has no skeleton," but, after all, the phrase was quite as expressive as" no backbone."

With my Indian friend Sahay, who had travelled in intimate company with "Saint" Gandhi, I compared notes on the prison life of India and New Zealand. We rejoiced together that in both countries the imprisonment of numerous political offenders had revealed the abuses of the system and brought some little improvement of conditions for all law-breakers. Sahay was one of the non-co-operators. He had gone through two years of the medical course at a British University in India when Gandhi called the great boycott. He gave up his studies, to his own great loss and the intense disappointment of his parents. I argued with him that it was a mistake for boys to make themselves political martyrs; he listened, but had never a word save of reverential respect for Gandhi. I thought I understood.

Sahay had had to resort to trade, and was a struggling young merchant in Japan. He came often to our home and delighted the children.

The children played, too, with their Japanese neighbours, and played happily. The only trouble was that the Japanese yielded too readily when any difference arose. There was never a thought of race among them until another English child came to live near, whose parents had taught her that the Japanese were untouchable. Some day, perhaps, parents will be wise enough to allow their children to bring them up in the way they should go.

Among the Japanese I was specially fortunate, for I had learned Esperanto before I went there, and I found it a great help. Naturally, the peoples of the Orient regard English as a page 15 world-language only by conquest and domination, and the young internationalists of Japan are very keen for the simple neutral language, Esperanto. We met on an equality speaking that tongue. We had no difficulty in discussing anything, fro" peanuts to cosmic forces. I heard a little gentle "an named Sasaki tell in Esperanto of his being pinned under wreckage in the great earthquake of 1923, and of his friend calling for hi" and rescuing hi". Such quiet pathos—I was greatly drawn to the man, and we became close friends.

Of course, close friendship and understanding are often difficult to attain even with members of our own race and of our own family. And the approach is sometimes slower with people of other races, because of differences of tradition and training. I readily confess that I a" quite at a loss when an Oriental comes to me in the attitude of flattery. But many of the" drop that readily when they find no corresponding attitude of superiority on our part. I said there must be openness of mind. Some minds are closed, or almost closed, by an assumed attitude.

I often regret that students in New Zealand and Australian Universities have not the opportunities that are afforded to those in America, Britain, and other countries of meeting young "en and girls from the Orient "face to face."

—John A. Brailsford.