I met a Palestinian
It is not every day you meet someone from the middle east - at least not for me - and without making this too specific I wanted to relate my experience of this chance meeting with Ibrahim (not his real name) - it was so important because it made me realize there is so much pain and suffering people go through - yet what they put this down to is very significant - I mean very significant.
I really felt for this man. He had done it VERY HARD - I mean very very hard and I really felt his pain - I could feel it in the conversation that he was still fighting his pain and trying desperately to claim some respect for himself despite overwhelming feelings of humiliation.
He had applied for hundreds of jobs in his new country and despite his extremely hard work no-one had given him a job so this had contributed to him feeling more pain and humiliation. Please - let us not look at all people from middle eastern backgrounds as suspect.
His conversation was obsessive - a kind of desperation in it. He told me about the injustice of the country he was now living in - its lack of tolerance and acceptance. He felt so mistreated and he related a story of another migrant to prove his point. This other migrant had all these university degrees but would you believe it - he was cleaning toilets - the only job he could get.
It was a natural progression to conclude if you were foreign - with a foreign name and accent you couldn't get on no matter how hard you tried - you would end up doing the jobs no-one else wanted to do.
"They kept denying me - but I got to where I am" he said, "and now I'm showing them".
Ibrahim, I said - you have done an awesome thing to get to where you are today - be very proud of what you've achieved.
But you know what? In my opinion, you are not completely right about why it was so hard.
The source of your feelings of humiliation and pain did not come from the new country you are living in - not from Americans or Australians or the English culture and attitude to foreigners - it comes from how you were made to feel as a child - we carry the feelings of our childhood into adulthood and construct the world to reflect how we were treated back then.
The fighting you thought you had to do was your way of proving yourself in the face of your earlier feelings of humiliation. As another foreigner, that's how I see it. It is not the full story to say it is Western culture because, yes, without doubt, prejudice does exist and sometimes people can be cruel when they judge you on where you come from or the color of your skin.
But let me show you the other side for a minute.
As adults, we have a compulsion to go into our deepest hurts from childhood and we choose or create situations that will reflect what we knew as children and sometimes what we knew was dsyfunctional because it was not a loving environment that made us feel warm towards the world.
If we knew ridicule or humiliation for example - we will continue to confirm, invite and feel it later in life.
If we were denied - we will continue to feel denied by others later in life.
If we were over controlled - we will think the world is like this later in life or choose controlling people to be around or think others are controlling us all the time even if this is not the case.
We choose our circumstances because they are familiar so there is kind of comfort in continuing to get WHAT WE DONT WANT - denial, humiliation, submission.
Thats one of the saddest facts of life when our childhoods are not perfect - our earlier circumstances determine so much of how we will see life later.
Our earlier circumstances will lead us to impose the bad stuff on ourselves later in life and we will do it subconsciouly even - in other words without even knowing that is what we are doing!
How are we to treat people like Ibrahim?
I think we need to be respectful and acknowledge his pain and suffering and feelings of humiliation as we would with anyone who was feeling like this - it makes a person angry to be feeling like this even if the person may be missing the cause for their pain.
A simple opinion on our part could be interpreted wrongly or taken personally by someone who has been through what Ibrahim has suffered.
I think it helps our collective humanity to put ourselves out a little and put some HOPE into the lives of people who have suffered as Ibrahim and others have done.
Hopefully, this will lead to a cycle of GIVING and GIVING back and more joy for everyone!