art of resistance, Pakistan

Humans of New York: Pakistan.

11227558_1041123395961760_1916040798956359579_n“When I’m bored, I call up Radio Pakistan and request a song, then I start dancing. I’ll even dance on a rainy day. It’s my way of expressing how grateful I am. I am the happiest man in Pakistan.”

I just love Brandon Stanton’s work. His latest series from Pakistan makes me so happy. Here are some of my favourite HONY Pakistan moments. Be sure to follow HONY for more.

11143463_1048123161928450_2900847522199128811_n“I take her everywhere I go.”

11212775_1042542305819869_1831513739907898347_n“I just found out we’ve been evicted. Right after you leave, I’m going to start packing up. I’ve got to find my family a new place to live by tonight. The landlady is a good woman. She’s just in a tough situation. Her disabled son lost his home. I’ll handle it. I’ve been through worse.”

11253734_1045192165554883_4561212694742836236_n“Education changed the lives of my entire family. Before education, we knew only how to work. It was always very quiet in our home. My grandfather was a laborer, but he paid to send my father to a tutor so that he could learn to read. He told my father that, if nothing else, he should begin by learning how to read and write his name. When I was born, my father taught me how to read. I started with local newspapers. I learned that our village was part of a country. Then I moved on to books. And I learned that there was an entire world around this mountain. I learned about human rights. Now I’m studying political science at the local university. I want to be a teacher.”

11800081_1044027352338031_2417244874136593443_n“We lost their mother to a heart attack recently. And their father is overseas trying to find a job. So I’m currently Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, and Dad. Luckily I have five children and eighteen grandchildren, so I’m very experienced. There’s actually one more child at home—he’s eight years old. And none of them can fall asleep unless they are lying next to me. So I have to put the oldest one to sleep first. Then I get up quietly, and lie down between the other two. The only problem is sometimes they fall asleep on top of me.”

11800584_1042810375793062_1969535597646343972_n“He’s a very respectful husband. He’s different from a lot of the men in this region. He never stops me from voicing my opinions. And if he ever notices me walking down the road, there’s always hot tea and apricot cake waiting when I arrive.”

11822683_1043936682347098_3403049766620861594_n“I was born paralyzed from the waist down. But this community is so tolerant that I never had to worry about fitting in. I only had to focus on improving myself. Everyone treated me as normal. I got everything my older brother got, including punishment. I never once escaped a spanking. I dove off cliffs. I swam. I played cricket and badminton. I climbed trees. The only thing my family told me not to do was play music, because they thought it would distract me from my studies. But eventually I got so good, they couldn’t even tell me to stop that.”

11825142_1050699768337456_5888639465022407760_n“He’s my only grandchild. Every time he does anything, I enjoy it. The other day he pulled down the TV set. I didn’t even mind.”

11825946_1045079645566135_6485553779658191350_n“My father passed away a year before I got married. I wish he could have lived to see me start my own family. After God, he was my god. There was no infrastructure here when I was growing up, so we lived through very hard times and often there was no food. But he’d do whatever he could to make us forget. One night he organized an entire musical. We couldn’t afford instruments so we pretended that we had them. Every one in the family had a role. I was the star.”

11873401_1051802934893806_7888020601027564304_n“I was never educated because I began working when I was a child. I was always envious of the boys who got to wear uniforms and go to school. This is her first month of school. She comes home and tells me exactly what happened, everyday. I love it. If I’m not home for a few days, she’ll save up all her stories, then tell them to me all at once.”

 

//all photos © Brandon Stanton/HONY//

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art of resistance, movie/tv propaganda

Why Are We Still Stuck On “Humanizing”?

In one of her interviews, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir says she’s “not one of those filmmakers who cares about humanizing Palestinians, that’s not my goal at all… I’m not interested in that dialogue with people, in showing the West that Palestinians are human beings too, because that is so basic, if somebody doesn’t know that, I’m not interested even in the beginning of a dialogue with that person.”

Unfortunately, it seems like, for a great number of audiences, humanizing is still a thing. Just going through Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York (HONY) images from the Middle East, one can notice a huge difference in reactions and comments. There are endless comments thanking him for “humanizing the people of the Middle East”, for “showing they are people too”, for “showing Iraq has shopping malls, wow”, etc. And, of course, it took a white guy from North America to provide them with the right dose of credibility.

Not to take my comment the wrong way – HONY is a truly beautiful project and I admire Stanton’s work. He deals with humanity, with those things all of us share – like parents worrying about their children, insecurity in looks and life decisions, thrill of love, importance of friends… The thing that worries me is that (looking at the reactions of the public) some people are automatically perceived as humans (which is normal and how it should be), while for others – it takes some time and effort to be perceived as such (now, that is not normal). Remember, we are talking about random, everyday people, folks you meet on the street (not political leaders or high-rank army officers). How is it that we are still in need of showing them as humans?

I am aware of the broad extent of political propaganda and the lacking representations of diversity of the Middle East, particularly in the United States, but still, something about these reactions is still shocking. If Stanton is showing them as humans, what were they before, to those who now see them as humans? Did they not even think about them, or were they just numbers, were they aliens, were they savages?

Now, if there is still a need for and a thrill over “showing as human”, we can’t move forward – to talk about the burning issues of the Middle East and our (Western) part in it. If you do not perceive someone as human, then you do not relate to that person, you do not feel compassion for what’s happening to that person. That human being is as strange and unknown as it gets. And if, let’s say, your country invades that person’s country, you just might not find it troubling at all.

Another thing is that realizing we are all human is not enough. That is not the ending point. That is the starting point, that’s the point of departure for our activism. Yes, we’re all humans, and yes – we will react when we see injustice happening to other humans, no matter where they are and who they are. We will inform ourselves and we will not satisfy ourselves with crying over an image of children in Iraq who lost everything but still find a way to laugh and play with toys they made out of junk. We will not use that image to feel better about our peaceful lives, to make ourselves appreciate everything we have. It shouldn’t be (just) like that. We should do something for those children. It’s about them, not about us, remember. It’s about responsibility and interconnections of the world.

As we are being stuck in this long phase of “humanizing”, the world is slowly deteriorating.

General, your tank is a powerful vehicle.

It smashes down forest and crushes a hundred men.

But it has one defect:

It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.

It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an

elephant.

But it has one defect:

It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.

He can fly and he can kill.

But he has one defect:

He can think.

Bertolt Brecht

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