Final Dispatch: Reflecting on the Other.
May 11, 2013
When Ms.Rima told us that we are going to be communicating thoughts with someone from America, I wasn’t exactly thrilled; I had an idea of it as being homework and something that had to be done, a slight burden. When I received my first dispatch I was surprisingly engaged in my partners work and felt like knowing more about this person that was so far away with different ideologies and thoughts about life. This was a unique experience because it’s something that I never thought of doing, it didn’t cross my mind, but Ms.Rima allowed us to write freely and in an informal way which allowed us to explore each other easily.
The topics that we covered in the dispatches made it easier, because my partner and I didn’t mind talking about terrorism or tree huggers nor about our feelings on different topics; instead we were quite intrigued to write more and more as we sometimes had separate emails concerning different issues.
I was happy that we were going to discuss terrorism because I like changing the idea that the west has of us. I also think that the dispatches helped us see that there is no “other” and that we are all the same. My dispatch partner did learn from me as I did from her, she was pretty open-minded and accepted ideas that I had to represent. Talking about tree huggers was interesting because I got to see how important it was to her, and how she really admired nature and her surroundings. It allowed me to think of ways in order to improve my surroundings and my environment.
The dispatches only prove to the world that Middle Easterners and Westerns can be indeed friends and acquaintances. We don’t have to live up to this stereotype that we are both supposed to be enemies and neglect each other. Throughout my dispatches, my partner said now I know that “ we should never judge someone unless we have walked a mile in their shoes” this always stood out to me and her showing us that we should never judge each other but learn more about one another.
Moreover, I noticed that my partner and I do have similarities and differences. We noticed that we have a lot of similarities that stem from the same background. Our ideologies for instance have the same background. The thing I loved telling my partner the most in the dispatches dealt with Lebanon, I always liked to express how much Lebanon means to me and how it is represented negatively. I assured her that Lebanon is no different than where she comes from. That we both have human rights issues, terror issues and environmental issues. Also, we both try to overcome these issues.
Previously when I think about westerners, I had a different idea of them. I didn’t necessarily care about knowing too much, the media has framed my mind completely. I think the most common way for anyone including myself to get an idea about the west roots from movies screened all around the world or even the school in which I graduated from was affiliated with the United States. The media helped shape the idea of the west into the Arab minds such as myself but I think since I am educated and have had this experience of sharing thoughts and ideas I have grown to know a different side of the Western people. Learning about cultures, ethnicities and races can really affect a person and change the outlook they have towards a certain subject. With my dispatch partner I was able to see a different and softer side of the West. Although I was just talking to one girl from the States, I was able to capture and see how her life is like and how she viewed the world and represented herself.
Sometimes my dispatch partner was hesitant about asking certain things, but I was able to comfort her and so we would ask each other questions related to various topics in which we were interested in. She once went about asking me about the women in the Arab world and particularly Beirut. I went on telling her how I live my daily life and what obstacles I face, then I told her about other Arab countries and how they live. She then came to the conclusion that the Arab world is filled with different thoughts, ideas, religions and norms. I told her that anything someone does is not normal but may be normal to them, which is why we try not to judge the people in our society.
Finally, I have learned a lot through dispatching and have seen that people can communicate from different places around the world and actually learn something rather than argue and bicker over sorrowful topics. I have learned that the West should not be seen as the others and that they shouldn’t view us as others , and that we should be all equal entities trying to survive. Furthermore, I see myself as more open-minded to foreign ideas and thoughts proposed by the West. Dispatching this way also helped me get my message through in a calm and appropriate way rather than trying to send a message with aggression.
It has been really nice getting to know you just through these brief dispatches. For any future questions or concerns you can ask me anything.
Thank you and congratulations on graduating
Because of the schools I have gone to (one a German based philosophy that attracted people of all sorts and the other an International Baccalaureate program) I have spent my life encountering people from other cultures and ethnicities. My parents have friends from all over the world, many who lead vastly different lifestyles than I am accustomed to. I think most of my knowledge – at least the knowledge that I know to be true and not propaganda – of other cultures/ethnicities comes from firsthand experience. I do not often watch or listen to the news, and I know enough people from the Middle East that I know the negative stereotypes are untrue. In general, I get information about the “other” from people I know – friends, family, professors. As a child, I learned a lot through stories that these family friends told of their travels or homelands. Having been in school for the majority of my life, I have also spent a lot of time taking classes in which we discuss other cultures, so this is another way that I have learned about places and people that are different from me. I am currently studying French, and through this I have learned a lot about not only French culture, but Cajun, Creole and African cultures as well. I am constantly learning new information from my peers here in Albion as well, because many of them come from different backgrounds than I do. Tonight was a perfect example of encountering someone from another culture – I got to meet the chief of the village in Cameroun where one of my professors was born. It was such an honor and so interesting to meet this man who lives a completely and utterly different life than I do.
This specific experience of communicating with someone across the world via email has been extremely interesting for me. I have learned a little bit about Lebanon, and a lot more about the ways in which someone my age thinks about the same issues that I do. Based on our backgrounds we approach issues in a very different way on a surface level, but fundamentally we believe in the same things – freedom, taking care of the environment, being understanding etc. This experience has been awesome in the sense that it has allowed me to discover this “other” in a more intimate way than I would have had I just done some googling or gone to the library. Having the opportunity to express my thoughts about tough and often touchy subjects without fear of judgment and to hear those of one of my peers has been freeing and interesting.
While I feel like I did not necessarily learn any new “facts” from this correspondence, I learned something even more interesting and cool and important, and it is this. Two girls, roughly the same age, living in very different countries that are allegedly supposed to hate each other based on a set of culturally ignorant, media created preconceptions have very similar beliefs when it comes to big, important topics.
While this could be surprising on some level – we come from two cultures that, on the surface, appear to be very different – it also makes perfect sense. The world has become more and more globalized in recent years, resulting in the sharing of information and ideas, primarily through the use of technology. Because the two of us both have access to the Internet and are both attending college, we also have access to not only social networks on the Internet, but physical social networks as well, which allow us to share ideas with our peers in an educated way. I think that the fact that we agree on so many fundamental and essential questions is indicative of the reaches of both technology and globalization, as well as the way that people are being educated today.
I do not think that I have ever used terrorism or the environment as topics to get to know someone, but bringing up these big issues at the beginning of this relationship has allowed us, I think, to be less censored and really get down to the meat of our ideas and thoughts. In all honesty, I was not sure what to expect from this exchange, especially on the topic of terrorism. What I received (obviously) was a well-written and thoughtful dispatch expressing essentially my own sentiments about terrorism – that it is a response to fear and anger, and is unfairly tied to the Middle East essentially through the fault of western media, creating stereotypes that are unflattering and untrue.
There is so much war in the world, so much hatred and division and unnecessary violence, but somehow it seems like the random acts of violence and terrorism have the potential to bring people together, even across cultural and geographic borders. It seems to me as though our generation is becoming more and more understanding and open, and due to our educations we are beginning to see these acts not as acts committed by a culture, but by a frightened individual. Discussing terrorism with someone who comes from a culture that is consistently and unfairly stereotyped as violent and aggressive has been such an interesting experience, because it has really made me realize just how unfounded many of the stereotypes are about the Middle East. I feel that using the topic of terrorism as starting point gave us the opportunity to talk about culture, race and identity in a way that is not always addressed between people our age. When we talked about land, and what we would do to protect our land, it made me realize that a lot of people would fight tooth and nail to protect the land with which they identify. This makes sense – protecting what you hold dear is a natural response – but it also made me realize that these cultural distinctions are not necessary. Fundamentally we are all the same – we are all human beings. And this is the most important thing to remember – that race, cultural identity and geography all play a role in who we are, but these are not the important things. What is important is to remember that we are all the same deep down, and that together we can work to protect this planet that we all call home.
I am so glad that we have been able to communicate throughout the semester, and it has been great to read your writings!