Archive for March, 2009

Missing the glaring similarities

March 23rd, 2009

It’s sometimes surprising just how narrow the focus of some people can be, when they compare themselves, or a group they identify with, to people who aren’t them.

People will tend to expect others to see them in a much better light than they would themselves see other people placed in the same situation. Or than how they would expect other people to see other people in the same situation.

An obvious, and loaded, source for examples around here (Israel) is how many Israeli citizens see the neighbouring Arabs and Muslims. All too many times people react quite severely to bad/improper/unacceptable behaviour from them, while fully admitting they’d behave very similarly in the same situation. And they don’t see a problem, because it’s different. Somehow. In a way they can rarely articulate.

I’ll probably, laziness permitting, write a lot more about quite a few conversations like this that I had in the past. But this particular post is about a single issue, though I did talk with several different people who feel the same as the single example I’ll present here.

This one is not about any issue specific to Israel, but rather about the rise in Islam, or in the amount of Muslims, in Europe.

I was talking with this person, an Israeli Jew, and he mentioned reading about the “problem” of Muslims in Europe. He kept on for a while about how the Europeans[1] are having a problem, how it’s becoming a large issue there, and how it’s going to end in riots and violence.

So far nothing you can’t find in the headlines of a lot of newspapers, though his opinion was certainly on the anti-Muslim side.

Then he went on to explain that he completely understands why the Europeans don’t like the Muslims . It’s because they live in their own segregations, keep their own different culture and their own different customs, dress differently, and generally try to keep themselves different and unique instead of trying to completely blend in and assimilate themselves in the local culture of the country.

Funny that. Seems to be nearly identical reasons for Anti-Semitism against Jews. Let’s say circa World War II ? Separate communities? Check. Keeping their own different culture? Different religion? Different rituals, special days, behaviour codes? Check. Different cloths? Check[2].

But according to him (another reminder, this “him” is actually several people), not liking Muslims because of these reasons is fine and understandable. Not liking Jews because of these reasons, though, was/is bad, racist, and completely unjustifiable.

I was already staring incredulously while listening to this, when I was exposed to another gem. It’s not just that these Muslims keep themselves different, you see. It’s that they plot to make everyone be like them, to take control of Europe by any means necessary, and then take over the rest of the world.

Seriously? All these people, many regular everyday people, all planning together to control the world?

No, I was told. Of course it’s not all of them. But they do what their elders and religious leaders tell them to. And those, who lead them, they have a plan, and are driving towards it.

Ahem. Right. I heard about that somewhere. A while ago. I think it was a little bit different when I heard about it, though. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anyone?

After being persecuted and attacked by people believing such nonsensical hoaxes, I’m talking to Jews (some religious, some old enough to have personal experience) who have no problem believing the same things, based on the same proof (none whatsoever), because it is about some other group that they don’t like.

And no, I was told, of course it’s not the same. How isn’t it the same? Because The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are vicious lies, but these Muslim leaders really are out to control the world.

I admit that as a Jew living in Israel I’m not feeling very happy about growing percentage of Europe’s population being Muslim. Especially since the lack of love really does go both ways, and most of them are maybe being taught to hate me a lot more than I personally don’t like them. But this sort of tortured logic (or lack thereof), wild accusations, and outright hypocritical nonsense… appals me.

You don’t like people because of who they are, or what they believe? Fine, that’s your right. But be frank about it. And stop it there. For someone who has been, or whose parents have been, in the exact same situation, and thought it horrible, to now be on the complete other side? And to feel fine and justified about it? Not to notice the similarities? Not even after they’re pointed out to you, though it’s obvious enough that it shouldn’t be required? Enough to get me depressed about humanity.

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  1. Ignoring the fact that these Muslims are Europeans, and citizens of their respective countries. None of the people I talked to seemed to pay attention to this apparently minor fact.[back]
  2. In many places, though not all. Which I suppose is the same for the Muslims.[back]

Yes, that’s why you’re here

March 23rd, 2009

The head of the cleaning company in my office brought in a new worker with him today.

While she was cleaning the floor, and emptying the garbage bins, in our manufacturing room I heard her complaining to him “There is a lot of garbage here!”. With an obvious tone indicating that it’s bothering her, and prevents her from doing her work quickly and easily.

Maybe it didn’t occur to her that if we didn’t have any dirt and garbage then we wouldn’t need anyone to clean?

Pushing more impressive-sounding names

March 16th, 2009

Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, and marketers want people to feel good about their products. So it’s understandable that people will tend to present things in the most impressive and positive way possible. At some point, though, this can get too much, and too annoying.

When you want to get someone to cut your hair, you go to a barber, right? Well, wrong. Has anyone even seen a barber shop in the last few years? We have hair stylists and hairdressers, and go to them in the hair salon. Sounds much more impressive. Also longer, heavier, and (for most of them) somewhat ridiculous.

Some people have gardeners who come over occasionally to take care of their gardens, right? Wrong again. These guys are now landscape engineers, landscape artists, or landscape designers. Sounds very important, for someone who often just maws the lawn, pulls out weeds, and trims the roses, doesn’t it?

When a pipe leaks at your house, do you still call a plumber, or are you already surrounded by various sanitation engineers ?

There are plenty of occupations that get the same treatment, and the amount is growing. Someone feels that the label for their work is not prestigious enough, not impressive enough, doesn’t make them feel as important as they think they are, so instead of just getting over it they decide to do something and reinvent themselves. Except not really. Because reinventing yourself involves changing what you do, but here they just change how they call what they’re already doing.

In the case of occupations, this is somewhat aggravated by the fact that sometimes those fancy sounding names are actually used for something. As in something else, a different profession, implying a different skill-set or training. Doesn’t stop anyone, though.

And it’s not only occupations. It’s spreading to other fields, sometimes to an absurd level.

For example, ingredients. Take a look at the ingredient list on a shampoo bottle, or shower gel. These things contain a large percentage of water. Except that you won’t find water listed anywhere. It sounds mundane. Cheap. It comes out of the tap, after all, so why would anyone pay for a concoction that includes it? No, instead all these bottles proudly list aqua as the main ingredient. It sounds much more dignified. Even if it’s just the Latin term for… water.

OK, rant over. Maybe I’ll go see if there’s anything interesting on TV[1]. Oh, sorry, I meant on the Home Entertainment Centre.

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  1. Well, not really. I already know there isn’t, so why waste my time?[back]