>2010-12-17 – Friday Whisper – A Cultural Shock!


Last Tuesday, I went with Nasawiya to Balamand University to give a workshop about self-esteem.
What I talked about was logical, made sense, and had some easy tips to follow, except… I felt it was simplistic when it comes to facing the daily challenges in Lebanon…
Self-esteem is about believing that you are worth something, you deserve the best, you can speak up for yourself, you have the ability and the will to realize your dreams, you respect yourself even when you fail, you deserve the right to be treated as a human being regardless of who you are, what you believe in and what you want, as long as you respect others….
But how can you live all this in a country where a woman faces daily sexual harassment in a cab or bus… where she is being physically, verbally and sexually abused by her husband, brother or father… where if she is insulted while walking or driving she can’t say anything otherwise she will get another insult as a bonus! Where she sees her mother beaten every now and then but can’t run to the police station to report her father or step-father…where she is harassed sexually at work without being able to report her boss or colleague and she can’t leave her job for fear of not finding another one…where there is almost no law to back her up…where she can’t even speak about it for not the humiliate her family! where she is bombarded everyday with sexist publicity billboard that tells her how slim and naked she has to be to be considered as beautiful…where she lives under constant pressure that she has to undergo a cosmetic surgery to look as young as her peers…
How can a man boost his self-esteem when he can’t achieve the basic dreams of having the job he wants regardless of what religion he comes from or whom he knows…is not able to get married because he can’t afford renting in decent areas, let alone buying a house! Where he can’t be socially recognized unless he drives the right car, goes to the right clubs, wears the right fit, be allied to one of the political parties and has the right connections to back him up for a job, a project or even a fist fight!!!
How can you boost your self-esteem where you can be despised and avoided for the mere fact that you have different sexual orientation than the majority, or you don’t look or dress up like the others or you don’t believe in neither of the two religions…
What would you tell yourself when facing all these daily challenges? Where do you get the strength to keep going?
You would tell me that not everyone is facing all this everyday; you’re right…but there are many who are, on many occasions; does it take the whole country to be living this for us to do something about it?
For sure all those challenges exist everywhere in the world…however, in many places, there are laws to insure the right of living with safety and dignity, governments to insure the execution of such laws and people to speak up when something goes wrong in the society…
When I moved to Montreal, I never lived a cultural shock…didn’t have a problem with people living together without marriage, people believing in nothing, homosexuals…I even had a homosexual boss with whom we didn’t need to have the same sexual orientation to be able to work together!!!!
But I had a cultural shock here as I felt I was disconnected from people’s daily challenges…maybe because I assumed problems we had here 10 years ago have for sure improved and we grew up to take care of bigger issues…I thought some basic human rights go without saying by now, they turned out to be privileges still!
I’m not promoting new social practices as you might be thinking by now nor am I asking you to change your beliefs; I just want us to face the reality and deal with issues that already exist whether we like it or not, because hiding our heads in the sand didn’t work well so far!
While I didn’t fully understand or agree with all the differences that I saw in Montreal, I respected the right of those people to exist and express themselves, the same way they acknowledged and respected my beliefs and way of life…
So where would this leave us? Unfortunately, I don’t have the perfect solution; but I guess it starts with speaking up whenever possible, knowing that it is a long way to get what we want, even if we are alone to start the journey, we stay assured that, with patience and persistence, many will join us on the right path, slowly but surely…
Am I being pessimistic? No, because optimism is not believing everything is fine, it is seeing the problems and believing we can solve them…
Ralph Sockman, a Christian pastor, said: “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”
Don’t wait for others to fight your battle, be the first to declare the change you want and live up to it! Don’t be a victim, be a hero!
This post is dedicated to Dr. Gillian Piggott who is sailing against the winds in our society and to every young man and woman who are facing their daily challenges with courage and persistency…
Rania Hammoud
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