Aggression, Bias, death, Fear, Judgement, Palestine / Israeli Conflict, parenting, prejudice, Stereotypes

When the World is Vulgar……

Oh little child, with your eyes open wide to the world, what future do you see?

Toys and guns, cookies and blood, and a people searching for serenity?

Mama and Baba are close to protect you from harm, so close your eyes and dream my little habibi!

Play with your toys, run against the wind, and feel the sun against your face.

A two- year- old’s world, exciting and new, so much to learn about this place.

 

Oh little child, with your eyes open wide to the world, tell me what do you see?

“Mama! Mama! Shoof (look)! Look! A big steel bird is coming to see me!

How lucky am I, to see such a thing, something so different and rare! Do all good little boys get to see these?

“Ya habibi! Run with mama, somewhere to a different new place!”

Mama! Mama! Why? How come the smile is gone from your gentle face?

Oh little child, with your eyes open wide, why do you no longer see?

The world still has much to show you and how life should idealistically be!

The big shiny steel bird brought you a surprise and now you no longer see!

A two-year-old child, blankly stares out from a lifeless, charred, bloody face.

Habibi close your eyes and let your soul fly to a safer land far away from this hellish place.

 

I wrote this poem five years ago, after watching broadcast news, in which I viewed a small Palestinian boy who had been gravely wounded in an Israeli air assault being worked on by medical professionals in a hospital.  I caught myself glued to the television unable to look away from the fear and look of confusion I saw in the toddler’s face.  Even though his face was charred in places by burns, and reddened by his own blood, his beautiful cherub appearance was still visible, making the vision of his face a mixture of both heaven and hell.  As I continued to watch the live broadcast, right before my eyes, I saw the “light”, “soul”, or “life” disappear out of the little boy’s eyes.  The look of fear was replaced by a blank empty stare.  The medical professionals continued to work on the innocent child, but the moment his eyes changed, I knew he had passed on to another realm.  The efforts of the doctor were useless on the destruction that had been ravaged on this child’s small body by the air strikes.  The doctors eventually stopped administering medical treatment, and one of the men closed the child’s eyes.

I sat on the couch, holding my youngest daughter, who herself was only an infant, with tears streaming down my face, unable to talk, or articulate the feelings I had about what I had witnessed through modern technology.  My husband looked at me with confusion and said “If you don’t stop crying, I swear I am going to take all of the televisions out of the house”.  My husband has always been irritated by my emotional sensitivity and reactivity to the world around me.  As I sat and tried to compose myself, I finally stood up and walked off muttering “At least that little baby doesn’t have to exist in this fucked up world anymore”.  I walked into my home office and promptly wrote the above poem, trying to use a more productive form of expression to deal with my emotions.  Yes, I do tend to use profanity when I am distressed.  My apologies to those who I might offend, but sometimes with all the insanity and vulgarity of our world, my only release is with a response that has an equal level of vulgarity to combat my disbelief in how cold, cruel, and inhumane humans can be.  Perhaps we need to replace the word “humanity” with a more suitable term, taking the attribute of the human species out of the whole concept.

Over a year later, while visiting my sister in California, I was one of the first people on the scene of an accident in which a small child, of Hispanic ethnicity, had fallen from three stories.  As I knelt by the child and grasped his small hand, I saw that same look of confusion and fear that I saw in the Palestinian boy’s eyes.  I watched helplessly as I witnessed the “life”, “light”, “soul”, or “spirit” leave the little boy’s eyes.  Not only did I watch it, I physically felt the departure of his essence leaving his body.  The little boy was still breathing when the ambulance arrived, but  from what I understand was later taken off life support because of the absence of  brainwave activity.  I knew the little boy was gone before I received this update; I not only saw, but also felt his soul leaving his broken body on the pavement below the apartment window from which he fell.  I felt a connection with this child, even though our brief encounter and introduction to each other lasted only a few moments.  I struggled mentally and emotionally for a time after this tragic accident, coming to terms with this child’s death that occurred physically right before my own eyes.

The next day after the accident, I sat on my sister’s balcony with my mother in the upscale apartment complex at which the accident had happened.  The people living above my sister were also out on their balcony as well, who happened to be a nurse and doctor, and who had witnessed the accident the previous day.  As I sat and half-heartedly listened to the conversation between my mother and the neighbors, I concurrently was lost in my own internal world (and yes I have a tendency to do this), but a comment from the neighbors above caught my attention.  I remember the women saying “Well we didn’t go down because the family was clearly Hispanic and I am sure the accident somehow had drugs involved”.  Again, my emotional sensitivity, as well as my own personal Achilles heel of emotional reactivity took over my faculties and judgment.  I stood up and walked back into my sister’s house, but not before muttering “Racist fucking bitch”.  Again, I uttered a spontaneous emotional vulgar insult and response to a situation and worldview of another human that I saw as completely vulgar.  The realization that two trained medical professionals had forsaken offering their medical expertise and services to a child based upon their own jaded stereotype of “Hispanics” was more than I could tolerate.

It is only upon later reflection, that I can make the differences and connections between these two events and the emotional responses that the events elicited within me.  The differences between these two events are as follows:

  1. One was an accident, the other was an aggressive act by other humans.
  2. One child was Palestinian of Arab descent, the other child was American of Hispanic descent.
  3.  One event spurred suggestions of how to prevent the future loss of life, one event spurred escalating hostility.
  4. One event I could personally come to terms with because it was an accident, one event I still struggle with because it was caused by human’s evilness.

The similarities between these two events:

  1.  A child died.
  2. The child was from a marginalized group, in which some sectors of society refuse to lend help based on this.

Annually when the summer heat enters my life, my mind often drifts to the summer that I held a child’s hand as he passed over to a safer place.  This summer is no different in that I still think about his family and wonder how they have dealt with this death.  This summer is no different in that conflict and war across our world continues to take the lives of the innocent, and often this involves innocent civilians; especially children who are trying to exist and live in a world where the powerful and greedy do not recognize their rights to live in safety and security.  This summer is no different in that much of the world that is not directly affected by this conflict turn their backs on the suffering of others.  This summer is no different in that people in general fail to lend a hand, or give support to those that they view different from themselves.

My question is:  How many summers have to pass before humans quit basing their judgments and actions on who deserves help on stereotypes of the “other”?  How many summers have to pass with the continued death of children in Palestine and elsewhere in the world caused by humans’ darker side and lack of empathetic concern and action?  I wrote the poem at the beginning of this piece nearly five years ago, even more shocking, the war and conflict has raged for more than 80 years;  how much more time has to pass before no more children are casualties of this conflict?

When humans quit being vulgar in their actions, perhaps I will learn to be less vulgar in my words as well.

 

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Aggression, Humanistic Psychology, Palestine / Israeli Conflict, prejudice

Palestinian/ Israeli Conflict: What Would You Do?

As spectators, outside of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, some question the continued bloodshed that has occurred on both sides of the human constructed boundaries that divide the land and people.  Others take on the cause of one side of the people living in the region calling for continued death and destruction to the opposing side, often based on religious or ethnic affiliations.  Glancing at social media, I was hit with a barrage of gruesome images of decapitated children, mutilated bodies, and typically biased opinions of the situation.  I signed off my social media accounts, with the hopes that I would be able to close my eyes without the garish images haunting my dreams of the death and destruction that has ruled the region for almost 80 years.  Fighting that has left generations scarred with pain, hate, helplessness, and hopelessness.  Those living amidst the destruction do not have the luxury of closing their eyes to their immediate surroundings.

My own mixed cultural experiences have shown me that it is personally hard to hate another human being once you have had meaningful contact and developed an understanding of their worldview.  I reiterate with this statement that I am referring to people, and not an entity such as a government.  My experiences have also taught me that evilness does not lie in individuals based on their religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or some other human constructed social group; evilness lies in greed and the need for power and control.  Our everyday contacts with the world, as well as the pictures that are prepared and fed to us by media shape our views of how the world works.

My daughter came home the other day with her nose swollen and told me how she had been hit in the nose by another child.  The other child through the years has inflicted physical pain on my child, but it is a situation in which I have been told, “They are just children”.  In this situation, I am unable to respond, and yes, there are situations in which this can occur, because of the repercussion that can occur.  We all catch ourselves in these situations where the cost of responding to an unjust and unfair situation only makes the situation spiral out of the context far from the original conflict.  Out of frustration, I told my daughter “The next time she hits you…take her down and beat the hell out of her until she cries, she will think twice next time she decides to hurt you!”.   Moments after these words flew out of my mouth in a state of frustration because of my inability to protect my child from pain, I felt I had betrayed my own ideals and values.  I have always taught my children to play nicely, fairly, and take the pacifists route of peace, and yet I had just encouraged, and yes, instructed my 11-year-old to “beat the hell” out of another human being.

While the dilemma of my child does not have an ounce of the gravity and seriousness of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict, and by no means do I mean to equate it with childhood squabbles, it does illustrate some of the basic dynamics that have fueled the continuation of this gruesome, unjust, and humanitarian crisis.  In the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, more powerful international players have remained in silence, or justified the continued aggression and expansion of Israel against the Palestinian people.  Their silence and support has fueled the situation not only by neglecting to deal with their own actions of the past, but also the material benefits that are reaped by keeping the region destabilized.  The old cliché “Divide and then conquer” has much relevance to this situation.  The Holocaust indeed is a black period in the history of humans as millions of innocent people lost their lives under the fanatical thinking and actions of a lunatic.  Just as a child that has experienced a traumatic event should not be given free rein to hurt others because of their history, neither should a government be allowed continuously to act out aggressively to a group of people.  Making excuses and keeping silent does not fix an issue, but only escalates a situation in which the root of a problem will never be addressed.

As humans, we have both the gift and curse of memories that leave a lasting imprint in how we view our world, others, and ourselves around us.  How we interpret and remember our memories is not only a product of the event itself, but also the feelings we associate with those memories.  I recount my own reaction to my daughter’s event, of encouraging her to hurt another human being; my response was not fueled by this event alone, but a history of feeling that I had been marginalized, taken advantage of, boundaries crossed, and silenced.  The human species has the unique ability to communicate, where not only our own unique experiences become a part of our memories, but also the memories of others as they are recounted become part of our collective self.  The histories of both those that identify themselves as Muslim Arab Palestinians and Israeli Jews have experienced atrocities throughout history and into the present.  Although currently, the number of Palestinians suffering death, loss of property, freedom, and destruction in their homeland is considerably higher than that experienced by Israelis.  Although both sides, the number of Palestinians, who are mostly the innocent and vulnerable to the situation such as children, continues to mount on a daily basis.

I have heard such rhetoric as “the Palestinians lost their own land and need to deal with it”,  or “Arabs have fought with each other for thousands of years and just cannot get along with others”, or “Arabs are terrorists”, or “When Palestinians care more for their children and quit making them terrorists peace will happen”.   These superficial statements give no weight to the experiences of the people.  In the past 80 years, Palestinians have lost their lives, home, property, and ability to move freely in a land that they have inhabited for thousands of years.  It is an innate response to defend those aspects of our lives in which we are able to obtain sustenance to survive.  For example, if China decided to move into the United States and take over the homes and natural resources, limit the movement of United States citizens, and bomb the civilians, would we call the people that retaliated back with aggression “terrorists”?  No most likely they would be labeled as heroes, fighters or truth and justice, protectors, or defenders.    Who is labeled a terrorist is dependent upon the worldview of who is viewed as superior in a situation, and who should have rights and access to material goods.  Moreover, the people of Palestine, both Jews and Muslims existed peacefully until other world powers sanctioned the creation of “Israel”, disturbing the natural peaceful co-existence of the people of the region.

I admit that I am neither intelligent enough, nor arrogant enough to propose a solution to this gruesome conflict that has raged for years, but I do know that no people as a group are collectively or inherently evil by their religion, nationality, or ethnicity.  My heart aches for the people of Palestine, but it also aches for the parents of Israelis who have lost loved ones in this conflict as well.  On both sides of the boundaries, the average person, family, and community is trying to live, thrive, and love regardless of their beliefs or ethnicity.  For most humans, our motivations and behaviors are driven by the need to connect to others and have affiliation with others in which we feel accepted, loved, and nurtured.  On the darker side of human nature, we also have those that are driven by greed, power, and the need to control.  As governments and popular media outlets (which are often controlled by those who have their own agenda) leak a story to the general public, listening closely to what they report, the words they use to report, and the images that are shown generally can illustrate their self-claimed “unbiased reporting”.  Their reporting arouses feelings of hatred and anger among individuals that are typically compassionate human beings, but again, when an individual feel that they are in danger, they will collectively organize among socially constructed groups, spewing hate and violence of the “other”.

On a more positive note, I do see a glimmer of hope as individuals from both sides of the conflict have crossed over to foster human connections and support for their neighbors.  The continued marginalization, murder, and imprisonment of the people of Palestine serves no other purpose than to continue profiting those that have benefitted from the situation in terms of economics, power, and control.  These same individuals have manipulated the public through fear to resort to violence and hatred against others, using either religion or ethnicity as a base of whom “they should hate”.  While I do not condone violence, I also understand the behaviors of Palestinians who send small rockets and shells into Israel, in which they generally pay a thousand times over from the strong military force of the Israeli government.  When an individual feels threatened, manipulated, disrespected, imprisoned, and has watched as not only their history and continued existence threatened, striking back with violence is a reaction that most of us would make as well. Peace to all and may we learn to exist with our neighbors and respect our diversity, without the darker forces of human nature interfering with each individual human’s right of safety, love, and peace.

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Culture, Feminism, organizational psychology, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Saudi women driving, Women

Saudi Women Working from Home: A Productive Strategy for a Cultural Problem

abaya half face

Women in Saudi Arabia are just beginning to emerge in the workforce.  The role of women in the workforce in Saudi Arabia has been mostly limited to either careers in education or the medical profession.  Cultural factors such as gender segregation, transportation issues, and social perceptions of women working have been some of the major influences of keeping Saudi women out of fully joining the work force in full ranks, although the number of Saudi women in the Kingdom graduating with college degrees outnumbers their male counterparts.  The Ministry of Labor (2010) reported that more than 80% of female Saudi college graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree are unemployed in the Kingdom.  This number represents a significant amount of unused talent that is currently underutilized in the society.

For those unfamiliar with Saudi Arabia, the question may be asked “What is keeping women from joining the workforce?”  There is not one specific reason, but instead of culmination of different social factors that have led to the limited employment of  Saudi females in the Kingdom.  Saudi Arabia’s government rule is based on a sect of Islam called Wahhabism, a more strict interpretation of Islam, which has been interpreted in the Kingdom in the form of  gender segregation of males and females unless they are related to each other, or married.  This has forced organizations that hire females and males both to develop work environments in which males and females are segregated and have limited contact.  From a financial standpoint, one can understand the reticent behaviors of some organizations to hire women into an organization because of the special accommodations that must be given to the work environment to accommodate women in full force.

Another issue that has hampered the efforts of women to enter the workforce in full force surrounds the issue of women not being allowed to drive vehicles within the Kingdom.  A woman must rely on a male family member, a private driver, or some type of private taxi service to ensure being able to arrive at her place of employment.  Currently Saudi Arabia does not have a public transportation system, which would allows women to move freely in the cities.  While this not may not pose a problem for women from the upper socio-economic classes of Saudi, who can afford a private driver, as well as the expense of having her own car, those with limited financial resources may find it difficult to afford having a personal private driver.  In addition, even for the women who can afford the luxury of having a private driver (and this is speaking from my own experiences) there is nothing more frustrating than recruiting a driver from another country, paying the fees to have them brought to Saudi Arabia, only to have them disappear in the middle of the night to seek other employment.

The current changing economic and social factors in the Kingdom require that women be able to pursue employment.  As the growing young population of Saudi Arabia has exploded, the practice of the majority of the citizens being supported by their families, or through government “gifts” is no longer practical.  In addition, the divorce rate among Saudis has been estimated around 60%, one of the highest divorce rates in the world (Le Renard, 2013).  A possible strategy for certain job classes of women would be allowing them to work from home.   Most of the organizations within Saudi Arabia manage people that is similar to the time period of the industrial movement within the United States, where quantity produced( Greenberg, 2011), it considered superior over quality, although many of the organizations are trying to create knowledge based environment.  Digital and internet services within  Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of homes and usage of internet services of any other Arab country (Simism, 2011), making the practice of some women being able to work from home a transition that in terms of technological infrastructure, not difficult.   As positions across the world continue to transcend into a more service, instead of production oriented type of work, a phone, computer, internet service, and a place to work in the home have facilitated the process of allowing employees to transfer their workplace from office space to home space (Turcotte, 2010).

Phillips, Phillips, & Robinson (2013) showed in their case of performance of individuals working at home that it increased productivity, decreased stress for employees because of removing the stress of the commute to work, as well as reduced traffic congestion by allowing employees to work remotely.  In addition, organizations can benefit from this practice by reducing operating costs by reducing the space needed for office space, as well as increased employee performance, engagement, and reduced turnover.  This would be especially promising in terms of Saudi Arabia because of the reports of low employee performance and engagement, as well as high rates of turnover with Saudi employees (Sadi & Al-Buraey, 2009).

This is an underutilized option to employing women within the Kingdom, but setting up the management and training of people working at home would be critical in implementing practices with organizations within the Kingdom.  This option would open up careers, as well as organizations that have generally not been open to women because of the social stigma, or the reluctance of some organizations to hire women because of the issues regarding gender segregation.  In addition, this would allow women to circumnavigate the transportation issue that continues to be a hurdle for many women, through either financial strains, or the on-going problem of losing a private driver and being unable to get to their place of employment.

 

References

Alharbi, (2010). Minister of Labor: 80% of unemployment graduates women and mechanisms to

Address obstacles to women’s work within 8 weeks. Alwatan. Retrieved from

http://www.alwatan.com.sa/Local/News_Detail.aspx?ArticleID=31220&CategoryID=5

Greenberg, J.  (2011).  Behavior in organizations (10th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Le Renard, A. (2013). Young urban saudi women’s transgressions of official rules and the production of a new social group. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 9(3), 108-135.

Phillips, J., Phillips, P., & Robinson, R. (2013). A case study of ROI in organizational performance of working at home. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 25(4), 111-131.

Sadi, M.  & Al-Buraey.  (2009). A framework for the implemental process:  The case of Saudiization.  International Management Review, 5(1), 70-84.  Retrieved from http://www.usimr.org/IMR-1-2009/v5n109-art6.pdf

Simsim, M. T. (2011). Internet usage and user preferences in Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University-Engineering Sciences, 23(2), 101-107.

Turcotte, M. (2010). Working at home: An update. Canadian Social Trends, (91), 3-11.

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