Labor of love

Academic pursuit is a labor of love. It is demanding and at times excrutiating to stare at the blank computer screen and dig out a research proposal out of the clutter of mundane trivialities of daily routine. Yet, once one finds a puzzle and embarks on the pursuit of a solution the journey is an adventure of self discovery. I picked up crazy topics this semester. I toiled to find relevant literature and often found myself in utter confusion. I read paper upon paper, book upon book and searched online journals to the point of endagering my eyes and sanity. Nonetheless, at the end of the day there is nothing more rewarding than solving a puzzle.



I am finally done with my paper on analyzing the representation of internal others - Muslim immigrants in Netherlands - in the documentary film Fitna. The paper stretched out much longer than I wanted or anticipated. Yet, I wrote a paper that surprises me in many ways. Sometimes, I feel I am living in a psuedo-intellevctual void where everything takes on a whole new meaning in abstraction. Nothing seems tangible and there are never any real answers. Truth is so evasive. Sometimes, the more we know the farther we get from finding an answer.


It's a small world

Today within three hours I met one Afghani, one Indian. two girls from Peru and one Pakistani. The interesting thing is that I met all these people while going to and returning from my brief trip to Alexandria. While, three of these people spoke a language that is native of me, the two Peruvian girls and I communicate through smiles and gestures more than broken English.

The encounters were a fruit of sheer boredom and coincidence. I talk and I like observing people when they talk. I think I was posing as an ethnographer of communication. what graduate school does to supposedly normal beings.



I study culture. I spend my days reading and writing about culture. If there is something that gets me going it is culture studies. It makes sense to me and I am able to make sense about it. Yet, culture is beyond me when it comes to the reality of daily life. I get it but I still do not really get it. I do not see why people - educated people - refuse to look beyond the bounds of the norms and traditions they are raised with. At times, I just do not get when (if at all) we will move on from what we are conditioned in to something that makes more practical and rational sense.



I have often thought to myself that uncertainty is the most wonderful thing about life. You never know what happens next. If you did it will not be half as much fun. However, it is the very uncertainty of life that makes time stop and every moment unbearable. Hanging in limbo is no joy yet when you get through and find out what happened next it is worth the waiting.

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About Rambling

I just thought about why we ramble on and on about things that we all know. Why we talk about things that are often painfully obvious or totally banal. I ramble because I feel the need to say it out and then hear myself. I ramble because when i write words make more sense to me than they did just floating around my head.

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Denial (continued)

I just remembered that some years ago I studied the idea of the pain gate with respect to things that are too traumatic. We do not always shut things out because we decide to do so. It is a simple defense mechanism. Survival dictates we block out what can harm us. So, we block it out and survive. For better or worse, we survive, and whether it is worth it or not it still happens.

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Denial is not just knowing what you cannot handle yet refusing to handle it. It can be acknowledgment of the unbearable and shutting it out just so that you can function to make it through. There are things that I cannot change and as much as I try I cannot stop caring. So, I shut them out - at least temporarily. It gets me through the day and lets me do all the trivial things that we need to do to keep sane. What matters at the end of the day is survival.

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Learning to protest

I watched the Dutch documentary Fitna out of the same curiosity that led me to read through Satanic Verses by Rushdie. It never hurts (enough) to know what is out there whether you agree with it or not. Always know the opposition in the face of which you are to last.

I was irritated when I first watched the (excuse-for-a) documentary. I decided to watch it again and again till I could watch it without being distracted by religious association. And there it was: something to write about. Why sit alone in my room and get annoyed watching the clip on youtube. Why not write a paper tearing apart the sham of a political propaganda film the Dutch parliamentarian came out with. So, I am writing a paper about the (mis)represented 'Other' in the documentary: the other that is all over the screen yet denied the right to speak for itself. Let's speak for the other. It is time the other speaks.



The first viewing of the documentary irritated me. So, a Dutch parliamentarian picks out random Quranic verses out of context, couples them with a bunch of sermons from crazy Mullahs, throws in violent imagery and you have a documentary. Not to forget the stats on Muslim immigrants in Netherlands and Europe.

This tickled my already irritated nerves and I watched the documentary again. This is not just an anti-Islam film. This is anti-immigrant political propaganda. No coincidence that the man behind the venture is the chair of the Dutch Part for Freedom. The party slogan is 'Stop the Islamization of Netherlands'. He is against open immigration of non-Europeans to Netherlands and this certainly does well when it comes to winning over votes from (shall we say) xenophobes.

Edward Said wrote about Orientalism a few decades ago and one would think the idea would be common sense to European policy makers. No, the world is not that round yet. It is yet to reach Geert Wilders. Or may be Mr. Wilders is just not open to anything that demands he take off his tainted (racist) glasses and look at the world with a broader vision.


Life happens

I did not grow up dreaming of a graduate degree in social science. I did not grow up dreaming about marriage. I did not grow up dreaming about anything in particular at all. Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and even decades passed with a flow of their own. Interests took root and disappeared with a will of their own. Sometimes I conformed, sometimes I stuck o being a stubborn tough being. Things happened and undid themselves while I watched my life as a bystander. And then there were times when I created life out of whatever little or more came along my way.

I did not plan o-levels, fsc., undergrad, work, a scholarship, masters, marriage or anything at all. Things came up and things happened. Life happens. Whether you like it or not life happens. You can either live along or wait for life to oblige you. Both ways life happens and somewhere along the way you happen too. So, why fret? Why worry today about all the good and bad that will happen anyway.

I do not know what tomorrow has in store for me. I wish it is as promising as I want it to be but I have no way of knowing. And I do not want to know too. It will just not be worth the pursuit if I know what lies at the other end. So, I will walk my way to the end nd find out all that I can find on the way.

There is no happy ever after. Just happiness punctuated by distress or vice versa. depends on how you take it. End of the day it is just plain simple life happening and beckoning you to happen along.


Words unsaid

There are days when words flow with a volition of their own and then there are days when thought refuses to be tied down to the beat of fingertips punching away on a keyboard. This is one of those day I guess. I have a mosaic of ideas in my head but each one is more illusive than the other. It is hard to pick out any one form or hue. All are gathered together in a collage that has fuzzy edges and a distant appeal. I think no one thread to be strung out today. No particular thoughts to be penned down today.


Cinderella Man

It is common to watch a movie yet very rare to feel one. I just watched this one and strongly recommend you do the same. It is no typical fairy tale as the title proposes. And it surely is not yet another commercial venture. It is a movie to watch and cherish with all its high and low moments that capture the intensity and fragility of life itself. I will not ruin it for you by spelling out what the movie is about. So, go watch it.



This post is in response to a comment posted on one of my earlier posts about the reprinting of the Mohammad cartoons in the Danish press. The 'we' in the following comment struck me as yet another pronounced expression of how we construct and live out national myth.

'We danes are a proud people. We dont take orders from foreigners in our own country. We are one of the nations in the world,that spend most per capita in fighting poverty globalwide. Including in the muslim world. Will you boycott our support - then you just let us know...'

It points towards how we as citizens or members of a nation perceive ourselves as a whole and how we internalize criticism from others in to glory. I read an article sometime ago how the Serbs and Croats used criticism from each other as favored attributes i.e. the Serbs are not invaders or aggressors by the warrior people. I wonder why we never pause to wonder that our nation, the one we have been conditioned to think of as the greatest and best in the world, can err too. And that we too can make mistakes and there in no virtue in attempting to glory our follies. Rather there is virtue in accepting and remedying our mistakes in order to be a truly great nation worthy of pride.