It is around 2:32 AM and as I light my late night cigarette after a hard nights studying for an upcoming exam, hearing the tobacco crackle as I inhale, I can not help but catching myself genuinely complaining about school and how sick and tired of it I am. I inhale an extra big whiff, unconsciously hoping it will moderate my emotional state. As I exhale the toxic smoke and watch it paint the night sky, while leaning in on my balcony parapet, I remember how I earlier, during a break in the dreadful study session, found myself in the midst of articles regarding refugees.
Soon the bewailing transforms into self loathing, and I feel a wave of culpability washing over me as if someone poured a bucket of firing heat over my head. I realized that while I am standing here, consciously rendering myself liable to cancer and all kinds of bad health while being a spoiled brat, tens of thousands of children less than half my age are struggling to stay alive. Some are alone, some have lost everything and others are carrying their siblings over their little shoulders with barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other.
I would like to quote an article by Brandon Stanton in which he interviewed a man who fled to Turkey, with his two remaining children, from Syria about two years ago:
”I was overseeing a project outside the city when the missile hit my house. Nobody was around to help, so my son had to carry the pieces of his mother and sister out of the house. He was fourteen at the time. He was so smart. He was the top of his class. He is not the same. Right after it happened, he would write ”mom” in his notebook over and over. He would cry all night long. Two years have passed but he is still suffering very much. It is very hard for him to focus. He gets tired very easily. My daughter was in the house too. She still has shrapnel in her neck. We survived but we are dead psychologically. Everything ended for us that day. That was our destiny. That was our share in life.” (Istanbul, Turkey)
The man talking in this interview is a scientist from Syria who also has a PhD. He has been involved in several scientific innovations. One of them being currently used in the Istanbul metro system, and generates electricity from the moving trains. Apart from this, one of his books is being used in classes in a university in Istanbul. Despite all of the above, he is not allowed to work without a residency permit. He only makes money from selling his ideas to Turkish workers, and mentions how he makes about 1 % of what he would otherwise make if he was, in fact, a resident. The downhearted story does not stop here though; the man later reveals how he has cancer in his stomach, causing internal bleeding in his abdomen.
Now, the self-loathing is starting to turn into guilt and the words from this man are turning my gut inside out. I take another deep whiff and close my eyes to keep myself from tearing up. I feel guilty for those, such as the man above, who have done absolutely nothing to deserve the life they are given and I feel guilty for having a better one. I feel guilty towards my parents who fled the war between Iraq and Iran in the mid 80’s, giving my brother and me the great chance of being born in a peaceful country. Although the war in the middle east is not my fault, I feel guilty for being spoiled and taking my life, and the possibilities that are thrown at me each and everyday, for granted.
I am eagerly trying to ask myself why the hell I do this, and the only answer I can come up with is ignorance, or rather, as Steven Hawking puts it, the illusion of knowledge. As if ignorance is not enough, the rest of us, who think of ourselves as not ignorant, are walking around believing we are well-informed, clever and independent. Truth be told, if we are not ignorant we are probably delusional. Because, honestly, we are not as “smart” as we think, sorry people. Most of our consciousness is ruled by dogma.
It comes to me as a revelation how ignorance and the illusion of knowledge is an infectious virus working as a never-ending epidemic circulating the world. We can see this in the growing condemnation of those seeking refuge, not least in America where Donald, Mr. Smarty-pants, Trump came with the ludicrous idea to coerce Muslims into wearing ID badges. I am sorry Don, but it is not 1939 anymore. As if that was not enough, Trump even wanted to close the borders to all Muslims trying to enter the States. Well, I mean, obviously a man with a PhD in science suffering from internal bleeding due to his cancer and two children suffering from PTSD, has a hidden agenda.
However, Trump is not the stupid one here. As a matter of fact he is a genius. First off, the man has found himself an undeserving demographic portion of the American population, which mainly consists of older, white, low-income earners. Being well aware of the fact that only one mainstream candidate can win the election, Trump is searching through his pockets for “card tricks”, in order to manipulate both media and the public. Now, (ironically) the goal for Trump is not to become Mr. Prez. All he wants is just more authority and money.
He is well aware of the fact that money talks in business and it will not hurt himself, nor his trademark, by making rather stupid remarks. So basically, he has absolutely nothing to lose, now, does he? He can only benefit from it. His books are selling like wildfire and he barely spends time on campaigning since the world is doing that for him already. All he does is just sit back and collect money and power while spreading his dynasty simply by utilizing the ignorance of the people. Genius.
But, enough about Trump. Xenophobia is not only propagated in America. It is also becoming a bigger problem in Sweden, the fantastic country my parents came to in order to find peace, and other European countries. Not only do we see this in the horrific actions of Breivik, but also the similar situation occurred in Trollhättan last month, causing the death of three innocent lives.
Both events were led by xenophobic motives, and it makes me wonder what it takes for people to be so incredibly filled with hate towards other human beings that they are actually capable of killing. How can one consider himself being in righteous control of another mans life and think they have the power and license to take it away?
Again, ignorance, and the delusion of thinking that they are cognizant. No, they are not psychologically ill. These people function in the society just like you and me. The only difference is their lack of knowledge.
Simple as that: Ignorance is prejudice. Both ignorance and prejudice, then, become a part of a chain reaction, where ignorance leads to prejudice, prejudice leads to xenophobia, xenophobia leads to racism, racism leads to inequality and it all continues down a vicious circle where nothing good can come out of it.
I look up at the night sky and take a third poisonous whiff of my cigarette. As I breathe out and taste the bitterness of the smoke while glaring at the stars, I wish I could as easily blow out the bitterness from the world. I begin to sense how the guilt and self loathing starts to turn into a compelling gratitude for my life and a compassion for the less privileged people on this planet.
It is important that we realize to what extent we are dogmatized, and how incredibly illogical it is that some of us condemn those who are trying to escape from the same thing, which we are trying to protect ourselves from. We cannot stop helping those who otherwise has to live with fear of losing their mother, sister, brother or father day and night. We cannot blame the man and his two kids, who I mentioned earlier, for “ruining” western countries and for being “potential terrorists”. What we have to realise is that we were born in this part of the world by chance; it is not “ours”. We do not own it. The country of Sweden does not belong to any of us.
Most importantly we have to do whatever we can to make people feel psychologically alive again. For someone who spent 50 years building up his life and in the matter of seconds lost everything he ever lived for, our malicious attitude will only make him feel more dejected. All we have to do is reach out our hand, just like the Light committee of Lundaekonomerna and their events for refugee children, helping those in need.
It is now 2:35 and without hesitation I put out my cigarette without finishing it, shrugging my head and sigh deeply for the glaring injustice that characterizes the world we live in today. I tell myself that if not for myself, then for those who want to but can not, if not for myself, then for those who should have but never got the chance to, if not for myself then for my parents who endured war for me to be here today, if not for myself, then for those who are struggling for their lives day by day to be given the same opportunity. I would also like to thank Light committee for helping me realise the power of gratitude and compassion.