The Peculiar Arab Chronicles
2011 COLUMN CONTEST WINNER
Nour is an Egyptian girl in her late teens; she is an Asian-sized person with a very long tongue. This description is neither literal nor perverted; it’s an Arabic metaphor for the tendency to be a smart ass with no manners. How she is so small is one of the world’s wonders, because if food were a crime, she would most certainly get life without the possibility of parole, if not the death penalty (death by sautéing, I presume). She likes and dislikes way too many things. Oh, and she is not big on charity.
We All Suck
(At Least Partially).
The human race is narcissistic. Most of us think this beautiful palace of the world was explicitly made for us, and that the construction workers who built it, the architect who designed it, the furniture inside it, and the sky it touches; are also our property.
It’s your world. Everyone else is just living in it.
Sure, humans have opposable thumbs, can talk and walk upright, but that’s clearly as far as many of us go in terms of development, since many still believe the location of the sun, the moon and the movements of the planets at the time of their insignificant birth somehow affect their insignificant life events and personalities. Most of the 2870 gods and goddesses we invented, just so happen to fuel our notion of self-importance with stories about how special we are.
It seems as though most of the human race suffers from only-child syndrome mixed with daddy issues.
As far as humans are concerned, they have no siblings in the family (the known universe), thus they conclude that they must be the central purpose of it. A majority believe that, God the ultimate father figure, left them for reasons too complex to understand, so they’re just waiting for Him to come back, see how good they’ve been, before receiving their kindly rewards.
A good example of this unwarranted self-importance would be my father, a man who refuses to accept the fact that the universe is 14.6 billion years old because he has only been around for sixty of them. How dare anyone imply that he “missed out on most of the universe?” The only thing he found more offensive than the age of the universe was my suggestion that the mere birth of a single human is irrelevant to cosmological events.
Second to my father, Facebook and Twitter remove all doubts as to the deteriorating state of the human mind. Thanks to them, ordinary people are now reporting life’s most mundane moments, documenting every waking impulse, lest they should miss out on the potential approval of strangers and acquaintances. Before you friend or follow someone, ask yourself this; do I really want to move into this person’s diary?
Narcissism is also why world politics suck, regardless of country or political system, because who cares about world peace when you are right? Countries go to war because a) they have the right system of government and someone needs to tell the enemy that, b) because they worship the right god and someone needs to tell the enemy that, c) because they have the right skin color, and someone needs to tell the enemy that, and d) because the enemy has natural resources they want and are entitled to because of a), b) and c).
Ever watched a UN session? Representatives just sit down and feign interest when any member attempts to cure insomnia with a long pointless speech, patiently waiting for their turn to attempt to cure insomnia with their own long pointless speech. Almost every representative of every country—no matter how small, insignificant, or poor it may be—sits there like they’re Queen Elizabeth at he Diamond Jubilee.
Seriously, next time two countries verge on full-fledged war, I want their governments to just punch it out. Why should young people leave their families behind to kill young people they have never met just because their governments disagree? Governments are like wimpy kids who recruit other kids (their nations) to fight their battles for them. Just imagine how much easier it would have been if George Bush and Saddam Hussein settled it the adult way; with a bar fight.
These are the most common traits in today’s societies:
1. Dominant logic is “if X is a problem, then X doesn’t exist.”
Your society may be riddled with problems, the economy is acting Greek, or the healthcare system has dropped the “care” in the end. Yet all your government does is assure you that “solutions are underway” and preliminary steps (like waking up in the morning and going to their office) have been taken to resolve the problem by (insert next election year).
Now, say you have a really embarrassing problem, the kind that makes your government look bad in front of its friends, like human, drug, or weapons trafficking. These problems are then pushed to the “things bad people do and the media doesn’t focus on because it doesn’t fit well with the evening news” category. This is particularly true for that thing we regard as a now mythical concept that only exists in historical fiction novels; slavery.
We’ve been creative in renaming slavery, dubbing it “poor working conditions” or “underpaid labor.” It’s essentially the same thing, people who shovel coal for the devil for little or no pay and cannot just quit. Yes, that’s still a thing, or that’s what Dubai for one example, seems to think. Like all the prettiest girls Dubai is the most insecure. It is a city with a bad case of the Bedouin crisis (a psychological term I coined to describe Gulf Arab countries who, while rich in wealth and oil, have little else to show for themselves and so overcompensate with really tall buildings and “A world’s biggest” anything).
It’s a known fact that the mostly South Asian, “workers,” who built the amazing architecture the city is famous for have their passports taken upon arrival (so they won’t be able to leave) and are put to literally backbreaking work, without being provided any of the things they were promised. Though it is not too hard to spot a slave – they’re usually dark, thin, and miserable – society exercises its right to blink and look in the opposite direction.
2. The dominant value system is less consistent than Somalia’s water supply.
Your society allows for a certain group of people to do something, while scorning another certain group of people for doing the same thing. Examples: Men can smoke without judgment in Cairo, Egypt, but women can’t. Heterosexuals can marry easily in the US, but homosexuals can’t (I understand why you oppose it religiously, but your Constitution is secular, so you either change it to spite a group of people or shhh!). Men can drive in Saudi Arabia, but women can’t.
These societies have no problem with marriage, smoking or driving; the problem is they don’t like gays or women much—even if they won’t admit it.
Most societies need a group of people to hate and label the root of all evil; it brings people together and makes them feel better about themselves for being ‘fortunately normal’ and fitting in.
In Europe, it could be a Muslim with a beard, in the Middle East, a woman “who doesn’t know her place,” in North America, erm… a Muslim with a beard?
3. Everyone is both better and worse than your people.
Your society shares a unified view that the outside world is both far better and worse than it is. For instance, we Arabs think life in Israel is dandy, and consider the Jewish state to be a worthy nemesis, but at the same time we think they are a scared, weak nation that can easily be defeated in war. Also, the U.S. is the land of opportunity and freedom, and they are superior to us scientifically, but at the same time, it is the land of discrimination and inequality, and we are a lot smarter, we just need some tender love and care.
“European girls maybe hotter than us, but we’re more beautiful in our modesty”—say Egyptian women who are clearly kidding themselves.
In short, your society believes it has it worse than everyone else, but despite this it is doing and/or capable of doing better than everyone else. For instance, the U.S. owes China a bundle of cash and will soon turn over its number one spot in economic charts, but you still beat them at the Olympics and your nation is not nearly as depressed as theirs.
4. Your people are misunderstood victims.
Bad things in one society are always some other society’s fault. Your society blames foreign forces, prejudice and petty jealousy of mean countries abetted by a media conspiracy for anything and everything that’s wrong. Any scandal that breaks out in China, for example, is the result of some shady, western attempt to tarnish its image. That “Syrian revolution” thing that’s making President Bashar Al-Assad look like some kind of dictator is a western attempt to tarnish his image. Seriously, you people are sick. Next thing you’ll start saying the late Libyan leader Qaddafi was a madman.
That’s partly how the Arab-Israeli conflict has survived for so long. Every Arab president that didn’t die warm and cozy in his bed must have been assassinated by a rabbi, and any terrorist attack is purely some Israeli plot to make it seem like there are terrorist attacks. And Israel, too, gets to hang their problems on the same rack, using the actual conflict as an excuse to play deaf, mute and dumb when it comes to ‘peace talks’ aimed at resolving that very conflict.
5. Your TV sucks
Your society produces more bad films and music than good. You have at least one channel on TV which appears to be run by uneducated bigots and schmucks who get their information from some combination of anonymous Internet forums and the Magic 8 Ball. Ex: Fox News, Egyptian State TV, etc.
Your TV is lowering IQ’s further than Greece’s credit rating. You may even contemplate a conspiracy theory were some sneaky enemy (probably western, Chinese, Jew or Muslim, depending on your geographical location and inherent enemy) is making these programs and movies to dumb down the new generations, who will then be easier to kill when consumed with sexual fantasies about vampires.
Mind you, the media only sucks (at least partially) because the society sucks (at least partially) because we all suck (at least partially).
SUGGESTED READSDispatches from Post-Revolutionary Tunisia: Dispatch 1: Meet the Salafis
by Sean Carman (7/6/2011)
Dispatches from Post-Revolutionary Tunisia: Dispatch 2: “The Most Important Thing is to Break the Picture.”
by Sean Carman (7/12/2011)
Dispatches from Post-Revolutionary Tunisia: Dispatch 4: Meet the Salafists, Part II
by Sean Carman (7/28/2011)
RECENTLYAnnouncing McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’s 2015 Column Contest
by McSweeney's (8/28/2015)
Home On the Range: Abortion Control
by Robert Lawrence (8/28/2015)
Open Letters: An Open Letter to 17-Year-Old Boys Who Just Discovered The Doors
by Brad Lawrence (8/28/2015)
POPULARFirst Faculty Meeting of the Year Bingo
by Lisa Nikolidakis (8/25/2015)
“Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here”: A Shakespearean Guide to the 2016 Republican Primary
by Emily Uecker (8/6/2015)
Bay Area to Standard American English Translator
by Louis Weinstein (7/28/2015)