Random Encounters

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. –Albert Einstein

I’ve been working for a small law office in Brooklyn for about 3 weeks now and have come across some interesting people. This morning a man (Caucasian, probably in his 40s) came in who had come in once before during my week of training. The first time he came in, he asked if he could have a poster that was up on our office window. He was really taken by the artwork and knew nothing else of the subject matter, neither did he especially care for it at the time. The poster is an advertisement for the National Popular Conference for Palestinians in the U.S.

The guy came by today just to let me know he actually looked up the artist and he was very impressed by what he found. He then picked up another poster for an upcoming event that had a photo of a little girl from Gaza with rubble in the background, and asked how can people not be moved by such an image? I said well, apparently the world doesn’t find it that moving based on the state of events. He replied how people just don’t care and it’s sad.

As disappointed as I am in people sometimes, I also find it hard to believe that most people simply don’t care, and we began to talk about the impact of the media on the public mind and how I’d rather give the world the benefit of doubt because people are probably just ignorant and unaware of the full story. He looked at me and chuckled and said “God bless you kiddo, but as you get older you become more and more cynical. The world is just selfish.” He then talked about his grandson and how he’s trying to keep him on the right track and prevent him from becoming one of those selfish types.

Despite his jaded views, talking to this man was incredibly reaffirming and just refreshing. I mean the man didn’t know much about the issue before and he did some research on his own based on a poster he happened to pass by that really spoke to him– and now he’s trying to cultivate the same beautiful spirit in his grandson. For me that’s all the reassurance I need, despite his contrary view, that there is hope for humanity yet in this troubled world.

This experience definitely makes up for another encounter I had with some crazy Daily News photojournalist, also white and in his 40s or so, who went on and on about the evil nature of Jews. He also praised Saddam Hussein and kept calling him a hero, and said how unlike the American government, the man never killed women and children. Umm, really??! He also let me in on a “secret” about how we would spiral into a deep depression and Obama would be assassinated for the purpose of inciting a race war that would distract people from the economic collapse and keep them from blaming the real culprits, who are naturally, the Jews.

What hurt me about this encounter was that he acted, and even mentioned, that he was letting me in on his thoughts because he trusted me and knew I would understand. In other words, because I am Arab, I would naturally agree with his views and what he apparently perceives to be the typical views of Arabs and Muslims. I don’t know what disturbs me more though, his views, or the possibility that he’s right in his assumptions?


  1. ojcomputer said

    This Saddam loving character’s not right. Don’t belittle your intelligence by giving credence to such a wacko’s musings.

    On the topic of people not caring versus people not knowing, I’ve had this discussion before, and since then I’ve made some amendments to my opinion.
    It’s actually a mixture of both. Earlier this year I posted the writings of Kenyan activist, Benvegnaina Wainina, with whom I agree with. His main point was that throwing images of people suffering plays on the sympathies of people and succeeds only in the short term. Sure, you show a photo of a starving child to someone for the first time and they’ll give you money out of guilt and sympathy. Show that same picture again, and they’ll say “I gave already, what more do you want me to do?”
    So now you have to go and take another picture, an even more disturbing picture of a starving child, to get that person to give money. Pretty soon people will be discouraged from giving, because their money isn’t doing anything, and they’ll simply accept the situation as unsolvable.
    In addition we’ve become a nation of violence and war mongering. From the video games we play, to the movies we watch, we’ve become desensitized to the reality of violence and death. When we see movies like SAW, or My Bloody Valentine (a horror movie in 3D for godsake), how can you expect us to care when we see limbs being blown off on the news. It’s just become as real as Mario and Luigi ducking down drainpipes to stomp on King Turtles. I’m sure in Iraq or Afghanistan we might see soldiers playing with body parts of the very people they blew up, because they’ve been trained to separate themselves from the reality of death in order to make it easier to accept.
    Of course, the argument can be made that these video games and movies are played and watched in Canada and they don’t share in the same type of emotionless response as Americans.

    I have no response to that. (DAMN!)

    But nevertheless, I truly believe that people have yet to comprehend the magnitude of the situation. People know we are at war. People know death is a part of that. They just don’t care because it does not directly pertain to their every day lives. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s just human nature. Out of sight, out of mind. If it doesn’t affect me, why should I care? Hell, I’m Arab. Because of that, I’m predisposed to knowing what’s going on in my backyard. I’m also Filipino, so I know some shits going on in the Mindenao province. But ask me about Sri Lanka, or Myanmar, or Kosovo, or Venezuela, or Cuba, and I won’t be nearly as informed because it doesn’t pertain to me. Now, I care about those situation, because they are tied to my own. What connects Americans to those situations to make them want to know more about it? And beyond that, after knowing, what connection makes Americans have the urgency to stop it? Absolutely nothing.
    So, in the end, I think it’s a mixture of people not knowing, and people not caring.

    Lastly. I’m reminded of two great scenes from the movie “Collateral” with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. (This wouldn’t be a post by me if I didn’t include a reference to a movie, now would it?)
    The first is when Tom Cruise’s character,Vincent, a cold blooded assassin throws his victim off a building onto Jamie Foxx’s (Max) car. Foxx’s character begins to panic:

    Vincent: Max, six billion people on the planet, you’re getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy.
    Max: Well, who was he?
    Vincent: What do you care? Have you ever heard of Rwanda?
    Max: Yes, I know Rwanda.
    Vincent: Well, tens of thousands killed before sundown. Nobody’s killed people that fast since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Did you bat an eye, Max?
    Max: What?
    Vincent: Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit.
    Max: Man, I don’t know any Rwandans.
    Vincent: You don’t know the guy in the trunk, either.

    The second is Tom Cruise’s character giving an example about how people stopped caring:

    Vincent: 17 million people. This has got to be the fifth biggest economy in the world and nobody knows each other. I read about this guy who gets on the MTA here, dies.
    Max: Oh.
    Vincent: Six hours he’s riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around L.A., people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices. Guy gets on the subway and dies. Think anybody’ll notice?


  2. aa1283 said

    about Wainina’s views, in that case people should understand that money is far from being the only solution, and there exist alternative ways of making a difference…we’re not completely helpless without money…and we don’t live under constant threat from our government and have the luxury to express our concerns without fear of major reprisal or political oppression…granted the FBI can be jackasses at times but we still have a lot of room for movement compared to people living in other nations…and the pressure we place on our reps has to continue long after the occasional protests that occur only when something big goes down…

    as for our culture of violence, i think we have no choice but to put away our assumptions about americans…and to look at how information in this country is controlled and operated. yes, other developed nations watch the same movies and play the same video games we do and yet it seems their humanity remains in tact. but I’m sure canadian media is not as biased or selective as ours, especially its international coverage. like einstein once said, “Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans.”

    I guess the best explanation is the fact of our detachment from the issue at hand…and it explains why that sort of apathy could reasonably exist among any population…it’s only human to be most impacted by what most impacts you. But that’s also a very primitive attitude and I guess true signs of courage and compassion are those who can rise above that and extend their sympathies and concern for people beyond their immediate world…

    That exchange between max and vincent was awesome btw…love it.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: