Rehashing a Timeless Argument and an Epiphany

4 Mar

As I am revamping my blog, and digging through the recesses of my work, I decided to clean up one of the articles I had, and repost a piece that I think typifies my studies this year. Original post to come on that soon.

Looking back at those first few days in Madrid, the sightseeing and 2 Euro meals, I had a good time, but it was only the beginning. My experience with Burger King (They serve beer there too. I don’t understand that country) rose not out of me, but the people who I had met the evening before. They were business students from London, and typified “American” in every disgusting sense of the word. Complaining nonstop about Spanish food, living in fast food joints and bars, they were obviously not here for the experience in the same way that I was. This attitude continued in many of the English/American/Irish I met for the rest of my trip.

Before I came to Morocco, I used to shrug off ignorant comments. Who was I to talk anyway? What did I know about Morocco? But now I’ve found myself taking a much more personal offense to the ignorance. It would be unfair for me to expect comprehensive knowledge of North Africa from everyone I meet, but the glazed over looks an bigoted comments seem to always strike a nerve. Yes, they do have electricity. They do have running water. No, they don’t keep their women in harems and beat them daily.

These comments are the worst, but a second breed of comments also exists that are almost as frustrating. These are the “Oh….Africa” comments. Africa in many ways is a continent that suffers in the same way that those pulled from Africa so many centuries ago suffer. We rape a land, a people; instrumentalize them solely to exploit them, and then wonder why they struggle, why they suffer, and why they need more help than everyone else does. This walled city fear of the “low-income neighborhood” is a global dilemma that will very likely remain a base frustration for the rest of my life, but now that I have spent time studying in Africa, that frustration has only seemed to grow. The glazed looks, the “don’t get AIDS/Malaria/Disease” boil an entire continent down into a microcosm of understanding that almost makes me want to hang my head in shame, because the people who make these comments, regardless of whether I will ever want to admit it, are my people. But, at the same time, if I can take the experiences I have had and begin to chip away at the massive wall of misconception that continues to separate the Developed World from the Developing, then maybe someday the comments will stop, or people will at least ask me about what it is really like, instead of spewing ignorant misconceptions. I know none of us are perfect, but it pains me to think of the people I have encountered, and how some of them will live their entire lives believing that same 30 second sound-byte of a lie, and how dangerous such misconceptions can be.

This next piece is a timeless tidbit from when I traveled to the Saharan Desert, and something that I think many people can relate to.

But, there was a moment I had that day, that I had the day that we arrived in Zagora (Morocco) as well. Seeing kids trying to sell crafts made out of grass, and seeing a disabled child in Zagora, something similar hit me at both moments. It was the kind of epiphany that one shouldn’t have, because it should be common knowledge, but it was more the sinking in of a surface acknowledgement that floored me, and still weighs in my mind when I think about it. I know that my life has been far from easy, and I struggle with a myriad of things every day I pull myself out of bed, but I have always been able to hold in my head the idea that if I work hard, and put my heart and soul into something, “I can do anything.” But, the sinking feeling that caught me when thinking about these two incidents caught me and stuck me because it felt like I had momentarily lost that light, the tunnel no longer had a “end.” Everything was dark. What do you do when you have a disabled child but no healthcare, no support system, and no way to ease the misfortune of you or your child? How do you improve your life when you can’t procure the money to even buy a new pair of shoes. What do you invest when you can’t even eat? All these are ideas I have studied, things I have looked at in the abstract and understood, but when you stand there with that reality poking you in the side with a grass woven donkey… just hits you in the head a little harder. You want to help, but you get lost in that same hopelessness very easily.


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