Around a world of broken promises
By Mehrdad Azad
February 24, 1998
1500 years ago everyone KNEW earth was the center of the universe ... 500 years ago everyone KNEW earth was flat ... Imagine what you would KNOW tomorrow.
I guess all of us have those moments when we need to take a bit of time and reevaluate our lives. One of these periods has been this past two month for me.
I was fortunate enough to spend most of last year traveling the globe. It was December when I finally came "home" and had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. I will cherish the natural, cultural, historical, and social beauty of each country, and more importantly the people that I had the privilege to meet.
What also remains with me forever, and which you will not find in the glossy tour books is what you find when you dig a little deeper into a society. The latter is what has kept my mind in a state of melancholy for the past two months. I am not sure which one is it, but each and every one would stay with me forever.
I am not sure whether....
IT was the poor and miserable peasant farmer in China far and away from the glitz of Los Angeles-like Shanghai, or the London-like Beijing. Mao's revolution did not seem to make much of a difference in his pathetic life.The very same way that it did not seem to affect the rich living in the major cities. Somehow the communist promises did not seem to materialize for the very same people who fought for it so hard!
OR was it the Turkish family I met in Koln whom their countrymen's homes had just recently been burned and their inhabitants murdered by the Neo Nazis. Turks were allowed into Germany to fill the much needed work force but, their services are no longer needed. So, even after a few generations, not having German blood makes them unworthy of citizenship. The "humanitarian" gestures seem to be extended only when it is convenient !
OR was it the 13-year-old girl in Isfahan who was risking being stoned by selling her body for a hair dryer! Somehow the promises of free education, free electricity, free gas, free water, and justice and equality did not include her. Her universe is galaxies away from the northern Tehran sky scrapers and the affluent life-style. The very same life-style which seems to be the only thing observed by foreign correspondents and Iranian visitors who exclaim how wonderful things are in Iran.
OR was it in Amsterdam, when I witnessed the revolting apology of a Dutch minister who had "unknowingly" sent back four Iranian political asylum seekers to their death in Iran. They, among many others did not seem to be worthy of a "civilized", "humanitarian", "non-barbaric" treatment of the West. After all, as far as the "freedom loving" Western "democracies" are concerned, oil and its financial implication is the only thing that matters, everything else is formality.
OR was it the Maoist Shining Path sympathizer in Costa Rica who had lost everything in a fight to transferorm Central America -- and for that matter, the whole world -- into Mao's China. He had never been to China, but it did not matter, he knew best.
OR was it the Iranian restaurant owner in Switzerland whom despite all the Iranian artifacts in his store, was too scared or ashamed to admit that he was Iranian. I am not sure why he felt that way when, after all, the entire world shares the responsibility for whatever they are condemning Iran for. Didn't Reagan sell weapons to Iran? Didn't the French and Germans sell the chemicals that Iran might be using for alleged chemical warfare? What about the Russias, the Chinese, the North Koreans, and everybody else who's trading with Iran? Does the restaurant owner have anything to be ashamed of?
OR was it the weekly ritual of mothers gathering in Buenos Aires with the picture of their missing loved ones -- the "disappeared" whose fate probably will never be known. The U.S.-backed dictatorship that brought this horror to Argentinean citizens was not communist, and that is all that mattered.
OR was it in Chile, where years of yet another U.S.-backed dictator, General Pinochet, has transformed joyful South American attitudes into a cautious, subdued, conservative almost sad demeanor.
OR finally, was it the little three-year-old girl in a market near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Covered with flies, she still looked beautiful with her big eyes and never ending smile. It is hard to witness in real life what you are used to seeing in a TV charity ad. The never-ending parade of U.S.-backed generals did not seem to be having any positive impact on her future.
There is a common thread among all these experiences. It is about promises unfulfilled, it is about greed, it is about haves, and have nots. It is about believing in demagogues; it is about following ideologues. It is about mindlessly following religions and isms du jour. It is about having a blind faith in what is considered to be an absolute truth. It is about those of us who want everything for nothing. But most importantly, it is about being enslaved by our own ignorance.
As I am writing this, another poor soul is being manipulated by an ideology, or a real religion. It makes me wonder when the truth will triumph, when the hypocrisy ends, when hatred and racism cease to exist, when good deeds become the norm and not the exception. It would be a nice a day when all the promises of brotherhood, sisterhood, justice, and equality become more than a promise.
I am not sure why I am writhing to you, but I guess it is difficult to be a prisoner of your own mind, and like any other prisoner you want to tell someone how you feel. Few months have passed and the immediacy of many of theses experiences is fading away, but the faces attached to them will probably haunt me forever.
Wishing for better days for our tiny planet.