Sunday, August 1, 2010

Western Lense, American Cubicle. Part 1

It is important that everybody who reads this blog knows and understands that everyone who was chosen for this UCLA GPA Fulbright program in Morocco, is absolutely amazing! We have some incredible thinkers, great educators, and positive spirits in this group.

With that said, Salaam Alikum people of good will…

When thinking about this blog and what to write, I wanted to express my thoughts on specific concepts, and those concepts are elitism, perspective and our environment. The reason for these particular concepts is mainly because of what has transpired throughout this entire trip.

Personally I feel elitism is a class issue. You can be an elitist in one of the poorest countries of the world, like for example Malawi, and it probably means you belong to the upper class of that country. By the way, I’ll leave the term ‘elitist/elitism’ undefined and invite you to define it for yourself. I feel that after you have finished reading this blog, my interpretation of it will be clearer.

During one of our lunches together, a conversation broke out about elitism based on a few generalized comments about a particular Moroccan theme. The details of the conversation are not important, but what is important was this concept of elitism. At some point I remember someone stating that ‘elitism’ tends to be an American or Western characteristic (which got me thinking). When this was said, I felt as though it was said in a way that exempted us Fulbrighters from being elitists. Nobody wants to be an elitists right? A group of progressive peeps like ourselves certainly would not enjoy being tagged as elitists.

I think the majority of us fall under the category of progressives, not elitists.
Sometimes even amongst the most progressive people, letting go of those comforts that the western world (or sometimes class privilege) has provided us with is difficult. Adapting to our environment may not come as easy to us all; after all, we are domesticated human beings (part of that privilege Ben and I have referred to in other blogs). Concepts such as elitism and perspective, can become kind of cloudy and difficult discussions when you put strangers into a foreign place, with intense culture shock and a longing for home.

Within our group we’ve had folks who dread touching the menus at restaurants because of how ‘dirty’ they might be. They consistently use hand sanitizers before every meal. Hand Sanitizer; on a microcosm level, this is the perfect product of what elitism can be; a product which is terrible for the environment, kills good bacteria, which help us Humans build immunities against the bad bacteria. If we want to keep our hands clean, I think water and soap would suffice, after all it is what most of the world uses. (Before I go on, I hope you all don’t see this as a judgment call, just think about the previous paragraph and the surrounding themes that were stated).

Complaints about begging children, “How many times do you have to say no to these kids?” My response, ONCE; once you ignore them they go away, beggars in the 3rd world are very common all over the world. There is no need to get frustrated or mad at them, plain and simple, what does anger solve anyway?

Another incident occurred with one of our waiters at one of the hotels we were staying. Maybe it was a bad day for this person, but when the line between respect and disrespect is crossed, that’s when my tolerance is breached. I’ve never been disrespectful to any waiter in the US, let alone would I do it here in a foreign place. There is no need for disrespect.

We have to remember how we are going about this experience. We are staying at very nice hotels, eating hotel food, staying away from street food, riding around with our own bus, and bus driver, who at the end of this trip will have been away from his family for a total of 5 weeks!

I’m glad that we are all on this trip because the people on this trip represent the America that considers him/herself a global citizen and who want to connect with other cultures of the world in order to build those bridges that divide us sometimes.
However it is important we distinguish and open our eyes to some of these ‘elitists’ characteristics or flaws that hold us back from really letting ourselves go…
After all, Moroccans do not use hand sanitizer, we got beggars in the US, and nobody likes to be disrespected.

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