Thursday, November 7, 2013

"BEAUTIFUL DESERTED ISLANDS" - FUNNY OR INSULTING?



Okay, I’m going to cheat today – I just finished a major research paper and instead of resting during the weekend, I will be attending a counseling conference. So I’m currently in no mood to be dealing with problems of the world, in my blog or otherwise. But a friend of mine recently sent me a very funny post, which, while multiculturally insensitive, illustrates nicely why I often believe that it’s not so much the “oppressed” women in the United States I should feel sorry for :).

I have no idea who the author is and where it came from, so I apologize that I can’t give credit when credit is due. And before you read it, please, note that it’s meant to be a JOKE. Which reminds me: Wasn’t it me who posted quite recently a passionate column about how I refuse to laugh at racist jokes?! I wonder if laughing at this piece makes me a hypocrite… Obviously, it’s not RACIST in the traditional sense (I would never do that), but yes, its humor is undoubtedly based on stereotypes about various nations. So now when I think about it, maybe today’s post is NOT just for fun – maybe we can use it to think about where is thin red line for each of us? I found the humor in it harmless, but of course, that’s just me… If I were a Greek or a Bulgarian citizen, I might look at it differently. Although I swear, it caught my attention mainly because the last part about Americans :) No offense, but it reminded me only too well of life in the American suburbia!

Ready? Okay, here it goes:



On a chain of beautiful deserted islands in the middle of the South Pacific, the following people are stranded:


*    Two Italian men and one Italian woman.

*    Two French men and one French woman.

*    Two German men and one German woman.

*    Two Greek men and one Greek woman.

*    Two British men and one British woman.

*    Two Bulgarian men and one Bulgarian woman.

*    Two Japanese men and one Japanese woman.

*    Two Chinese men and one Chinese woman.

*    Two Irish men and one Irish woman.

*    Two American men and one American woman.


One month later, on these absolutely stunning deserted islands in the middle of nowhere, the following things have occurred:


*    One Italian man killed the other Italian man for the Italian woman.

*    The two French men and the French woman are living happily together in a ménage a' trois.

*    The two German men have a strict weekly schedule of alternating visits with the German woman.

*   The two Greek men are sleeping together and the Greek woman is cooking and cleaning for them.

*    The two British men are waiting for someone to introduce them to the British woman.

*    The two Bulgarian men took one look at the Bulgarian woman and started swimming to another island.

*    The two Japanese men have faxed Tokyo and are awaiting instructions.

*   The two Chinese men have set up a pharmacy, liquor store, restaurant, and laundry, and have gotten the woman pregnant in order to supply more employees for their stores.

*   The two Irish men divided the island into north and south and set up a distillery. They do not remember if sex is in the picture because it gets somewhat foggy after a few pints of coconut whiskey. However, they are satisfied because the British are not having any fun.

*    The two American men are contemplating suicide, because the American woman will not shut up and complains relentlessly about her body, the true nature of feminism, what the sun is doing to her skin, how she can do anything they can do, the necessity of fulfillment, the equal division of household chores, how sand and palm trees make her look fat, how her last boyfriend  respected her opinion and treated her nicer than they do, and how her relationship with her mother is the root cause of all her problems, and why didn't they bring a damn cell phone so they could call 911 and get them all rescued off this forsaken deserted island in the middle of freaking nowhere so she can get her nails done and go shopping.


:)

So what do you think, dear reader? A little bit of harmless fun, or a multicultural no-no? Every opinion is welcome!

Photo was publicly accessible on Internet. Source: www.last.fm

Friday, November 1, 2013

DR. EBOO PATEL: "WOW, THAT'S COOL!"


Last Tuesday evening I was experiencing once again the good old "should I stay or should I go" dilemma. There is always something happening on campus, which, obviously, is a good thing – except that when you are not only a graduate student, but also a graduate assistant who likes to write (and very occasionally has a life) in her spare time, you need to learn how to prioritize.

My former coworker and his best friend were supposed to visit me in our small town that night and despite of looking forward to seeing both of them I ended up canceling, because I had a research paper to write. So going to a presentation really wasn’t on my agenda.

Predictably, in the end, I wasn’t able to resist. The title of the presentation, Many Beliefs, One Community, was simply too tempting. And that’s how I met Dr. Eboo Patel.

Dr. Patel is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, and organization based in Chicago that focuses on teaching youth how to “build bridges” between religions. He is probably the right person for this job based on his own background – we are talking about an Indian-American Muslim (who sends his younger son to a Catholic school), which is a very colorful combination.

I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Patel talk, even though he started the presentation by stating that from all countries in the Western part of the world the United States is probably the most religious. It’s not that I disagree with the statement; it’s just that Dr. Patel thinks that this is awesome, while I tend to think that that’s exactly the bloody problem. But other than that, Dr. Patel and I got along just fine. The point of his presentation was relatively simple: To educate his audience about how people from all religious background can get along wonderfully if they choose to. In fact, it sounds almost too simple, but if you look at the history of the humankind, you will probably notice that people seem to struggle a lot with this concept.

Dr. Patel is a charismatic, upbeat public speaker (and the fact that he is also “such a cutie,” as some of my classmates observed, didn’t hurt), so listening to him was a pleasure. What I really liked about his ideas was how he pointed out that accepting other people’s beliefs didn’t mean that one had to give up her own. This is something I very much needed to hear because I sometimes feel that my counseling program, in its quest to train “multiculturally sensitive” counselors, is putting too much pressure on us to accommodate our future clients’ beliefs and cultural practices. For example authors of one of my textbooks insisted that every counselor, with no regards to her own spiritual background, should be able to immerse herself in a prayer with her client, should the client wish so. Well, guess what? I’m not a Christian and I don’t do Christian prayer, especially when it refers to the Holy Trinity, or to being “saved” through Jesus Christ. Don’t take me wrong: I’m fully capable of accepting my Christian clients’ beliefs – but “accepting” and “actively participating in” are two very different terms, and, in my opinion, the latter seriously crosses the line between being multiculturally sensitive versus being robbed of my own spiritual identity.

Imagine my joy when Dr. Patel mentioned how participating in a prayer with people of different faith was also something he didn’t engage in!  A prayer, he said, was too personal. One had many other ways how to reach out to people of other religions. Building bridges didn’t mean destroying one’s own beliefs.

Yay!

And then there was the Q & A part when a cute 10-years-old came upfront to ask Dr. Patel what specifically SHE could do in her school to promote interfaith cooperation. Sometimes, Dr. Patel said, it’s enough to just show others that we appreciate the things they might be doing differently from us, may it be eating different food or celebrating different holidays; and we might easily accomplish this by saying “wow, that’s cool!” every time when we are facing  something new and unfamiliar that people do.

I made a mental note to remember this and use it as a tool every time when I face something new and unfamiliar. Can you imagine how great would it be if a child of a different ethnic-cultural background heard THIS kind of a response whenever he shared with his peers something that his family did differently!? So much less stress for the little tyke… And more often than not, what works for children works for adults as well, if they are willing to give it a chance.

So overall, as much as I felt bad for not even touching my research paper on Tuesday night, I was glad that I decided to go, because one can never have enough experiences that are educational, inspirational, and empowering; all in one neat little package. When it comes to Dr. Eboo Patel and his Interfaith Youth Core, all I can say is: “Wow, that’s cool!” :)

Photo was publicly accessible on Internet. Source: tmq2.wordpress.com