August, 2007

Anti Abuse Day: Guilt


I have received through several blog rolls and groups that today, in the blogosphere, is to be Anti Abuse Day. I found it a topic worth writing about and I would certainly be pleased to bring awareness to the public about abuse and being abused.

I won’t talk about sexual abuse, about molestation, political or physical abuse. I want to talk about a very subtle form of abuse – subtle, yet chronically damaging. I want to talk about mental abuse.

We are exposed to this horrific form of abuse every single day without knowing it. I am definite that you all felt some form of it. Mental abuse attacks you when you least or when you most expect it. There is nothing you can do about it, and, regardless of your valiant attempt to challenge it, you can’t feel but assaulted.

One of the simplest form of mental abuse (and most frequent, in my opinion), is guilt. By definition, “In psychology and ordinary language, guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something one believes one should not have done (or, conversely, not having done something one believes one should have done). It gives rise to a feeling that does not go away easily, driven by conscience. Sigmund Freud described this as the result of a struggle between the ego and the superego parental imprinting. Guilt and its causes, merits, and also demerits is a common theme in psychology and psychiatry. It is often associated with depression”.

Making others feel guilty is one of the harshest forms of abuse, not because of its magnitude but because of its frequency. Guilt is unfortunately a necessary emotion that we have to endure every now and then. It is through guilt that most people of religious power preach with (although I myself find a distinction between religion and religious people). It is through guilt (crime and punishment) that parents teach kids to not be harmful of others and not to raid the fridge for candy (I certainly got a lot of the latter). It is through guilt that many people commit (on or be committed to) honor killings (in Jordan and Japan). From the article, “Some thinkers have theorized that guilt is used as a tool of social control. Since guilty people feel they are undeserving, they are less likely to assert their rights and prerogatives. Thus, those in power seek to cultivate a sense of guilt among the populace, in order to make them more tractable”.

It is saddening when people do not understand the power of their guilt-inducing words when they utter them. Of course, the assailant almost never takes into account the other person’s feelings. It is their fault anyway, right? Why feel guilty when someone else should. Here you sit, blaming others for everything going wrong in their lives and yours. Everyone is guilty of something and we all carry this burden through our lives, and wear it down with ourselves.

Don’t accuse people blindly. You may hit a wall with many nails… but when you remove the nails, the wall will remain damaged. You can’t simply repair it and assume everything is fine.

Avoiding Bride Shopping

Avoiding Bride Shopping

So mom is here.

And like all Syrian moms (and ultimately all moms from the this region), the topic of marriage opened up within minutes of arriving.

“So Kinan do you love someone now?” she said as I was still struggling with her one small bag of 700 kilograms.

“No mom,” I said, “and I am horny,” I added just to please her ears.

It was then that I discovered how to fight off the menace of being coaxed into arranged marriages and be frowned upon by your friends and other people who think you are too much of a loser to not be able to get a girl for yourself. I don’t believe it is the case always, some people really have no choice but to marry this way, and others just willingly choose to. Each to his own, and I don’t hold it against anyone.

I would rather though pick a girl of my choosing. I don’t want to marry my mom (since all moms pick someone who is a replica of them).

“OK,” she said, “we will talk about this later.”

Indeed.

No more than 5 hours later, in the comfort of our home, mom opened the topic.

“So I saw Rummanah in the summer, they told me they are living here in Sharjah!” my mom said in uttermost pleasure. I was nibbling on kibbeh at that time. Moms know when to strike. But, I now have my secret weapon.

It is funny though, mom’s family. It consists almost exclusively of females. Most of the men die at a very young age in mom’s family (not exceeding 50 years of age), so the whole family primarily consists of widows and unmarried girls/teens/young women/spinsters. As a method of survival, of some sorts, I have discovered, through observation, that these women reproduce on their own. As if the now-widowed women store their late husbands’ semen for future use. They seem to be infinitely multiplying and every time we visit them, there are just so many more of them. All the men are called by their first names because they are so few, whereas the women have to be called by their entire family tree to know which girl we are talking about.

So as you would have guessed, I had no idea which Rummanah my mom was refering to. Her cousin? Her aunt? Her second, third, fourth, twentieth cousin of some obscure named woman? Who knows.

“Wow that is great,” I told mom and she knows I don’t mean it. I always run away from those oestrogenous family gatherings.

But I can understand my mom. If I got the early death gene from her side of the family, I more or less lived half of my life by now, and I would be struggling the final 5 years with some absolutely unique kind of disease, and then be alright for a year or two and then pass away suddenly while attending a party or sleeping.

So technically, now is the best time to get married.

“Yes I know,” she said.

“Well how about you find me a good wife?” I suggested. This is the secret weapon all of us men-running-away-from-arranged-marriages should have. The key though is to appear serious.

You should wait for her reply.

Here it is! “Oh really? Great! I will do that as soon as I go back to Syria!” she said happily.

This buys me one year before the topic is opened again or before I will be rejecting some bride-shopping sprees next year (assuming of course I do get a holiday next summer).

So here it is folks. Don’t resist. Just entertain your parents’ thoughts for a while and the fuss will be over in no time.

200,000 Books

200,000 Books

“200 thousand books,” Sarah told me with lots of pride.

I wasn’t with her at all, mentally, when she said this blasphemous hypocrisy. My eyes were fixed on the librarian.

But let’s rewind a little bit.

On a random day, like all unlabeled, unnamed days when you are on holiday, Sarah and I happened to go to a local and small public library. We had earlier decided that day it would be a Day of Profound Enlightenment and there would be no better way to spend it than lounging around with an elite class of kids engaged in exhaustive reading of obsolete books ranging from pictorial to printed atrocities – the kind where the paper is so thin and the ink so thick that the sentences simply merge into a blob of blackness – and bask in the light of the enormous invisible bulbs that floated above our heads as we discovered new words and concepts that were not in the least bit pronounceable or imaginable.

I forgot the library’s name, but I am sure it contained the word Astoria, along with the district name and/or a president’s name, then generically ending with the words Public Library as a beacon to attract the underprivileged for free reading.

To be honest though, the library was of formidable size. Either that or I was unfathomably small, the only thing possibly smaller than me were Sarah the Midget and chairs specifically designed for hobbits. There were rows and rows of books, which, I think, were arranged by the color of the cover, starting oddly from yellow and ending in white and then black. Sarah explained to me that the prestigious books are always colored in maroon, black or white, and that as the colors became more vibrant, the easier they became to read and the shade of the color represented the age group – the more fluorescent the shade of color was, the more it was catered to toddlers.

Strangely, though, toddlers’ books were almost exclusively adorned with a white cover. I thought that they were indeed prestigious, for no human being other than toddlers can understand a book that contained as many words as there are pages in that book. They probably have an imagination so vivid and alien that they would effortlessly translate these unrelated words into an epic science fiction saga involving bears, chairs and other ornaments not exceeding 5 sides.

We went to the mildly colored section.

I grabbed a navy blue book, whose title contained the word Amusement Park and I just assumed it would be one of those Senior High books that everyone at school read about passionate love, break ups, menstrual cycles and occasional mishaps in locker rooms. As I opened the book, to my surprise, sprouted a large display of well arranged cartons that brought the said amusement park to life, in 3D form. The thickness of the book has finally been attributed. I shoved it back and followed Sarah around. She obviously knew what she was doing.

“I want to get a book on colonial Spain,” she said. I knew what Spain meant. I thought the first word was related to a certain person or some strange UFO sighting. “So how many books have you read till now?”

I was struck with this question. I knew Sarah was a prodigy. She started reading menus in restaurants when she was still a toddler. Her first word consisted of 18 syllables in some foreign language that sounded like Latin. Everyone in the family had been forever praising her extreme intelligence and fluency in English as well as unremarkable knowledge of Arabic obscenities. I simply could not compete with her. She would make me her laughingstock and the butt of all her jokes for generations to come.

“I don’t know,” I said, of course, as always. I never seemed to know anything, and it never contributed to my self-image. “How much did you read?”

It was then, at that very moment, that the most horrendous of all living creatures appeared before us. She was a mix of many different animals, none of which were human. She was unusually large, like a giant hippo or a small blue whale, with legs of course. Her breasts were so voluptuous they had their own gravitational pull, which clumped them together into multi layered blobs of blubber and undrunk milk enough to feed 10 generations of kids at an orphanage. Her body mass could only be seen in its entirety if she were in the far horizon or if you had eyes that can view in 180 degrees, and, even then, you would require a fish-eye effect in order to contain her within your frame of sight without having your eyes to skew sideways for a clearer view. I could only assume that she was born in this library and raised here, for there was no possible way out she could fit in any door. Her head looked like a piece of dragon, complete with scaly eyes, and for unexplained reasons she almost sprouted horns from her temples.

If I still had that book with the amusement park, I would be able to identify most of the animals in it to be presented in one form or another in this monstrosity.

“200 thousand books,” Sarah told me with lots of pride.

I wasn’t with her at all, mentally, when she said this blasphemous hypocrisy. My eyes were fixed on the librarian.

Sarah looked at me looking at the woman. From my height and the woman’s unusually large breasts, my line of sight landed on only two options.

“Kinan, Jesus Christ you are DISGUSTING. Oh My God she is a LIBRARIAN for the love of shit GET A LIFE!!!” she accused me, and ordering me to get a life in as many days as tripled of what I stayed in NY.

“I wasn’t looking WILLINGLY she occupied my WHOLE view!” I defended.

“Unbelievable. Every time I attempt to have a normal conversation with you, you end up being stupid. You never read any books did you?”

I couldn’t answer. Gravity was too intense.

We never returned there again.

Evil Rants

If you’ve been keeping a close eye on the videogame industry, or actually any other industry that can raise the least bit of controversy, you can easily then identify Jack Thompson who is an attorney avid on attacking videogames and other forms of entertainment that are psychologically damaging to children and young youth. Given all the shootings that have been happening in the schools around the States, the murders and the crimes, Thompson has been actively attacking games like DOOM and, most importantly, the phenomenal Grand Theft Auto, mostly for its notorious use of organized crime, sex with prostitutes, and beating up police officers and running over them.Though parents of juvenile gamers have been warned of such games and are usually siding with Thompson, the entire gaming community is against such claims and rather blame any violent action by children resulting from playing such games on the parents who had an active (or non active) role in raising their children such that they could not discriminate between what is real and what isn’t.

A few years ago, it was put in a great way, “When you shoot someone in real life, you cannot insert a coin and go back. It is game over”.

Psychologists have done extensive studies on how the brain functions before, during and after playing violent videogames, and most have reported increased aggression, but that is often stemmed from excitement and competitiveness and does not in a long run translate into actual organized crime or increased violence.

People like Thompson though have gone overboard, stating that any kind of violence, even Mario hitting a mushroom on the head with a hammer, can be disturbing. We gamers claimed that Thompson was, in a former life, the said mushroom.

Anyhow, controversy in games have evolved from simple mushroom bashing, to organized crime, to simulation, where recent games have taken place in real life wars like WWII and, recently, Gulf War and even the recent war on Iraq. In this regards, everyone praised the concepts since the gamers were put in the feet of American soldiers taking out the “bad guys” and so it was perfectly normal. It was briefly an issue with non-American gamers but, as gamers, we all know a game is a game, and bad influence of who is the bad guy will definitely come in other forms of media in much more abundant and destructive ways than shooting down a now-extinct sect in Europe.

So why am I babbling all this?

Gamers (and recently non gamers) have been following the Resident Evil franchise since its debut on the PS1 around a decade ago. The most recent game on sale, Resident Evil 4, featured Hispanic zombies and settings, which, strangely, did not bring up any racial or ethnic dispute. In fact, people found it amusing that finally there were non-American and non-European zombies available for the kill. But what was really disturbing about the game was that the “zombies” were not as grotesque as their American counterparts, rather (at least before they start sprouting stuff from their backs and heads) they mostly looked human and attacked you with weapons in packs, violently. And you gunned them down. It was intense and disturbing.

But no one made a racial comment. For America, it was fine to kill Hispanics. To the rest of the world, zombies knew no race.

Now, a few years later, Resident Evil 5 surfaced, offering the first Resident Evil game in high definition, and, more importantly, the zombies are Africans. They’re Black. The main character? The ever popular Chris Redfield – who is white. White guy gunning down Black people. Now THAT is something to talk about.

Or is it?

Some bloggers (and others) are raising the issue that the game is promoting the hatred of black people by pitting a white guy against a horde of the zombified beings. Personally, I found the trailer incredibly disturbing and chilling, mostly though not because of the presence of black people, but because of the very pain you can see on their faces, which I believe is true.

Regardless, the concept of black people seems to be subjective to Americans, which rubbed off through globalization on the rest of the universe, but that does not mean that all countries view the concept of racism the same. Certainly, I doubt that the creators of the game, who are Japanese, have a grudge against Hispanics or Blacks.

Like any piece of art, what people interpret is probably different from what the artist actually intended. Games are a form of art on their own, and how each person perceives a game is subjective to that person.

Gamers, in majority, do not find the concept of Africans in a RE game to be racist. In fact, they put it in a nice way for me to close this post:

“According to the statistics of racial make-up in the world, I’d actually say that whites have been unfairly discriminated against in the series, if anything, since so many of them have been enemies in RE,” said one commenter. “It only seems fair that Africans get treated equally, and with only one game full of primarily black enemies to six games full of primarily white, from a racial viewpoint I’d say that the Africans are getting off easy.”

“There is plenty of real racism alive and well in the world today and words cannot describe how disgusting it can be,” wrote another, “but it is garbage rants like this that take attention from real problems. It is absurd and insulting to everyone to suggest this game is in anyway being designed to teach anyone to hate black people.”