USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘government’
Customs

Bonding over complaints about governing body

“One of the things I learned from the previous club president was all about the body of students and staff that runs all the recreational sports teams on the USC campus called the RCC, and what I learned was that they are terrible and that they don’t do anything right, and that all of our problems can be traced back to them. What I then discovered on my own was that is not quite true, and so what I’ve passed down to other people is that the RCC does a lot of good things for us. However, one of the things is that they don’t quite know how to open doors for us properly. For as long as anybody’s been around they have not come on time to open doors. So, what we have to do is, every time we go to practice, somebody has to go at least 15 minutes early to make a phone call to the people in the Lyon Center and have them come over and open the door for us, and every time they’re surprised. There’s rarely an occasion where they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. We already knew about that.’ This happens because the staff changes so regularly over there, it seems, but if nobody was sent at 5:45, then nobody would be sent until 6:15 or whenever we called them. We learned to get out our phones and make that call, which meant a conversation every week about how terrible the RCC was and how all of our problems were their fault. It was a team bonding thing weirdly in the end, commiserating over doors. It’s a little odd.”

Background Information and Context:

The interaction between team members about the RCC’s inadequacies happens prior to almost every practice, which occurs three times a week. Usually, it will take place in the halls outside the Physical Education building, outside the South Gym or the basement exercise room that the team reserves for practice. The informant decided to start with this anecdote when he was told that he could freely speak about his experience on the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team and interesting things that an outsider wouldn’t know about it. The informant has been on the team for multiple years and served as team president for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years.

Collector’s Notes:

I have stood outside the doors of the PED basement and south gym more times than I can count, engaging in exactly what the informant described, but until we had this conversation, it never crossed my mind that this was a sort of bonding tradition. It makes sense when compared to the way citizens complain about their government. Even though the government is responsible for a lot of good things, we choose to focus on the negatives, and the act of complaining about the same experiences connects us as citizens, uniting us against those who are perceived to be separate from us because they have more power/money/influence/authority and tell us what to do.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

Spider Cooked Egg

Informant Background: The informant was born in rural parts of China called Hainan. She lived there with her grandparents where she attended elementary school. She moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She speaks both Chinese and English. She lives in Los Angeles with her mother but travels back to visit her relatives in Beijing and Hainan every year. She and her mother still practice a lot of Chinese traditions and celebrate Chinese holidays through special meals

 

in the days my grandparents told me that to get a governmental position you need to pass certain exams. The exams happened in one day and it is really hard. You can’t get a job unless you pass this test. So to get good luck for that exam day the night before your mother would have to catch a spider in your house, put the spider in the egg, and cook it. You can put the spider in by cracking open the top a little bit and then put the spider in. Then you can still boil the egg. Then you have to eat it before you take the test. This will help you pass the test.  

This is a folk-belief about how to create good luck.  The story was told to the informant by her grandparents who live in an area called Hainan. According to her this was what her great-grandmother did for her grandfather before he went to take his test.

 

I think this folk-belief is very strange. The informant herself also stated how she finds this method very strange as well. Regardless of peculiarity, this shows the family’s involvement in one individual event; that different members of the family are linked together through different objects and methods. In this case it is the mother who has to cook the egg because it is common in a Chinese household that the mother is the cook in the family. This reflects how the mother has to support her child and bring him luck even though the method seems strange. The spider also has to be found in the house. This also shows a different living arrangement situation depending on culture. In Western Culture after the child reaches a certain age he/she would leave the family house and live separately. In this case it is evident that Chinese family tends to maintain as one household.

This belief is a method of how to deal with one of life transitional period. People associate themselves through different identity, one of them is occupation. In this case, the exam is important as an official way to achieve that particular job identity and how the family helps the individual.

It also shows how the egg is eaten to enhance the individual’s belief in his own luck. This shows it is important to believe in good luck is whether or not the spider-egg has magical power or not. Similar to the placebo effect, believing is a big part into feeling lucky.

Folk Beliefs

Advice for Tap Water

Click here for video.

“My dad used to tell me, or I guess he still tells me, that when you’re using tap water, you should try to have it on the coldest setting because if its too hot it’ll dissolve minerals in the pipes and that’s bad for you to ingest. So you should always use cold tap water.”

There is a lot of mistrust towards municipal water supplies and the plumbing that carries it in the United States, as exemplified by this advice. One only needs to look at Brita water filter sales to confirm that many people in the US do not trust that the water coming out of the tap is safe to drink. I feel there is a lot of paranoia about municipal water because the subject happens to combine two very important topics: the government and water. There is a lot of distrust and ill-will towards the government. Often, it seems like there is a general consensus that the government is inept and does not care about the well being of its citizens. Whether this is actually true or not is up for debate, but when this idea of governmental bungling is applied to water, a vital resource, we seem to tend to assume that there is no way that the government could be managing such a vital resource properly.

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