Thursday, December 01, 2005

The face of radical evil

Quite a few years ago, while checking into some hotel before attending meetings, friends and I were jovially discussing the safety of walking around downtown area of a large port city late at nights.

As I finished telling them that having perambulated the area many times in the past at all different ungodly hours, not once had I come to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, the wickedly witty receptionist holding my ID and giving me the room key--as if to express her dissatisfaction with our exchange--said lightheartedly, “no offense but look at this picture. You look evil!” Or something like that.

I have thought of her a few times recently because of this latest change in my scenery. As I’ve hinted, I came out for air not knowing when I would return again to the heartland of evil and it looks like I might be staying for a while. It had been some years since I last roamed a big American city.

Residing in yet another new milieu and trying to absorb new sounds, sights and smells, I now meander amongst the wanderers, drifters and vagabonds while searching for work. Mr. BP is a nomad at heart and finds it easier to adjust starting at the fringes regardless of the city, country or the continent he finds himself in.

What choice do I have…but a mere vessel?

So I could imagine how--now a bit more aged and in the middle of this endless war-- our kindly presence might evoke for some that petrifying face of radical evil. How could it not?

Yet another enemy within lurking to strike the unsuspecting everywhere, anytime-- especially since I have not as yet settled on a choice of profession.

I might end up being the one charging you for your cup of morning coffee, or the fuel you’ve just pumped in your car. Discussing your latest blood pressure medication with you, or helping you locate the book you search for; or the fellow selling you a nice Oriental rug or some other piece of furniture or drapery.

Even perhaps someone who corrupts the mind of the young best kept under surveillance or the one mowing your lawn, and delivering your morning paper or serving you food in those conferences some of you attend in order to map out strategy and tactic essential to extending civilization to the uncivilized or denying insurance to the uninsured. Or your stockbroker, banker or realtor.

And perhaps even the fellow who works with a team improving the programming on the computers that keep our lives connected or some one in a factory that manufactures the latest high-tech gadgets. And the one discussing some paintings in a gallery or sitting next to you on a bus, train or some Tchaikovsky concert.

It might get terribly traumatizing for some, I suspect.

But not to worry! Mr. BP has made empathy the cornerstone of his being in the world. I promise: no sudden movements. It’s all about learning and negotiating, I think. Gentle but firm.

I know that even in his native land, not very many people found BP likable. He is used to being undesirable and has developed a thick skin. So, a mere dislike alone won’t be held against anyone. Although, some of the more pointed rhetoric about immigrants and assimilation will be tested in practice persistently.

Hot air inevitably rises above and BP never hesitates in point to it, albeit in the most civil manner possible.

For you see, I am a firm believer in integration. When in Rome, live as the Romans, my motto here. But I won’t see myself hailing the Caesar anytime soon! Think of me as a classic poster boy for immigration control, if you must. But your friendly blogger won’t be easily deterred. Massive movement of people in search of greener pastures has been part and parcel of life since time immemorial. And I rather love and thrive in heterogeneity.

It appeals to my sensibilities, both aesthetic and intellectual. I know multi-ethnic societies can pose challenges. But to me, it is the most interesting and viable model of life long-term. It facilitates growth. And it has been under assault --especially lately.

Both militarily and paradigmatically! 9/11 was not exclusively an attack on the symbols of American power. To me, it represented the latest chapter of an ongoing saga—a methodic intensification of the process of dismantling the very fabric of life most dear to me.

From Sarajevo, to Baghdad, Mosul, Tehran, London and now Paris, multi-ethnic societies and multiculturalism has become what so many aspire to destroy. And using almost identical language to boot! Politics makes for strangest of bedfellows.

And some things are worth fighting for tooth and nail. Now, over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with many intelligent, good natured souls of different ethnic / religious backgrounds who have mostly helped guide me in understanding the virtues of multiplicity.

A most generous and patient set of companions-in-thinking who have taken upon themselves the thankless task of confronting my provincialism while putting up with those inevitable stupid, hurtful comments, as I attempted to navigate my way in an alien milieu. They patiently worked with me--educating me to comprehend why it is and how it might be that approaching an issue in certain ways might ultimately be fruitless and destructive.

Sometimes I didn’t mean what I said but had inadvertently touched some festering wounds the depth of which I’d never thought about fully before or worst yet, I meant exactly what I said and didn’t know any better.

Through their persistence, gentility and care, they thus contributed to my understanding of how imperative it is to converse—as honestly, forcefully and forthrightly as possible, and yet civilly-- about our common predicaments.

And if at all possible, to do so without hurling insults or making one’s interlocutors feel too terribly obnoxious and most importantly, without needlessly offending sensibilities or antagonizing aimlessly.

It is all about exploring, mutual learning and transformation, to me. Exciting opportunity for many eye-opening encounters, really! It can occasionally get terribly annoying and painful. But there are no easy outs in life.

And the Political as that collective endeavor to open up space for a more expansive horizon of possibilities.

On some other fronts, during the silence of the past few weeks and much to my chagrin, I have now definitively concluded that this blog is not exactly one of the central pillars holding our universe together.

The German press, as steadily as ever, contributes to the increased awareness of the difficulties of the Iranian Blogistan while kindly sending more readers my way-- thus making me feel even more atrocious about having missed opportunities to study German.

Otherwise, life has continued pretty much as it has always without much of any help from the BP.

Mr. Ahamadi Nejad is now claiming a mystical experience of sorts while at the UN. Thousands have been flocking to see a meditating boy and hoping to rediscover a reincarnated Buddha. And the Vatican has also been seeking signs of a miracle or two.

The Rapture Index for today stands at 154, a net change of -2.

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