“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself,” (Thales, pre-Socratic Greek Philosopher). We always define people through the same criteria; gender, ethnicity, nationality, educational background, wealth, etc. Sometimes I wonder if that way of thinking is justified. Is it possible that people who have the same circumstances will end up in the same place? Or are they imitating each other to fit in?
A lot of people follow the same paths and make the same choices to end up with the same result. At first I found it astounding that two people can be so alike. But eventually I began to realize that that is impossible. No matter how alike individuals can be, there are still so many things that will make them different. But sometimes, people who want to fit into the world of their role models will do anything to be like them.
The reason I chose to talk about this is a result of different things I saw in a very respected place. It was an event where the youth was supposed to show a large audience their potential and what they can accomplish as individuals, but instead, it became more of a competition of who can look more eccentric and disturbing.
Ralph Waldo Emirson, an American lecturer and poet, once said, “Insist on yourself. Never imitate”. When we are given a chance to display something to the public, it reflects who we are and our way of thinking. But from what I’ve seen, it seemed like everyone was imitating everyone.
Is it a trend for girls to look like males? Is it a trend for girls to develop new facial features through layers and layers of make up? Is it a trend for two Arabic speakers to speak together in English? Or is it just another coincidence for them to be doing the exact same things as they see on television or see in public?
While I was researching some artists, I came across a very interesting one called ‘elSeed’. ‘elSeed’ is an Algerian artist who lived his life in France, and travelled to North America for a while. It would make perfect sense if ‘elSeed’ would do artwork related to the place where he grew up in. But instead, he chose to do Arabic calligraphy in all of his art pieces.
Why would he do that? Why would he refer to use the language of the country he barely lived in? Because he is proud of it. Because when he introduces himself to himself, he sees that part of him; that Arabic origin makes up his personality and character more than the land he lived in because of a difficult situation.
When I asked him about why Arabic calligraphy is very dominant in his work he repeated the following quote, “You can take the man from his land, but not the land from the heart of the man.”
In his artwork, elSeed always creates it in a public space. He does it to deliver a message, to share a thought, to spark that sense of curiosity in the audience, and to make them wonder whether or not they’ve had the wrong ideas about Arab stereotypes.
Isn’t it a shame to see a man who has lived away from his land among people who know nothing about his culture, work so hard to communicate who he is and what he believes in, when on the other hand we, who grew up as Arabic speakers, and were created by God as proper human beings, to reflect an ugly personality?
Some things can be considered simple mistakes and a phase that will eventually go away. But when people describe the environment you come from or live in as “repulsive”, it becomes a serious matter. It is not okay for us to display a negative public message about ourselves. And it is not okay to lose ourselves and our base because of a misguiding trend.
Plato once said, “To conquer oneself is the best and noblest victory; to be vanquished by one’s own nature is the worst and most ignoble defeat.” Communication is vital, and mingling with the world is important, but losing sight of who we are and becoming something that the human nature does not agree with is not. When young girls dress, talk, walk, and act like men in public, it’s time for us to realize that there is an issue. But seeing that and acting like it’s something very normal, that is a catastrophe.
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear,” (Socrates). If you are an Arab but speak to Arabs in English, then there is something that needs to be fixed. If you are girl but act like a guy, then there is something that needs to be fixed. Imagine that you are looking at yourself from someone else’s eye, and ask yourself, is that who you really want to be?
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.