Sunday, October 30, 2005

pragulka v chuzhikh zapogakh (a walk in someone else's shoes)

Knowing now what you know, experiencing what you have experienced, reading what you have read, whether now it amount to great things or insignificant, with your memory fresh of events like the bombings in London, the Twin Towers, and the train in Spain, would you, if encountered by suspicious events, shine or diminish? Would your world end as T.S. Eliot puts it, "not with a bang but a whimper?" If your personal fortitude strong enough to judge even-handedly, you might say yes, but quite possibly no, and either of these answers would be driven by several emotions, among them fear, unsurety, and respect for others, to name a few. Imagine now that you are sitting on a bus, and you see in front of you someone you have never seen before, who looks unlike anyone you have ever seen before. His dress is outlandish, his hair pasted and laquered and chopped. He carries with him a large black indiscrete bag, and is quietly cradling a small electronic device that is unfamiliar, you've never seen before, that infrequently beeps and vibrates. He presses buttons on it and slips it into a pocket on the bag at his feet, and then the strange man bows his head in pensive rest. And this is the point of testing. Perhaps you would sit back and wonder, even after all you've heard on the news, is it worth doing anything to risk disrupting this man's privacy, afraid to be wrong and embarass yourself, and unsure what or who this man is, but supposing he must have a purpose here and now. Or you might take all you know to heart, and from fear of death, from unsurity of the unknown factors, from respect of other people around you, many of whom you know, arrest the man and demand explanation for the electronics, the bag, the suspicious appearance. Does propriety of your actions depend on the outcome or the motive? If in the end, you are justified: the man is evil and a terrorist; are you more correct than if he was not? Or being driven from pure motives, is it right to do something, even if you are not justified in the end?

This happened to me on the bus to my village this week. But I was the suspect, and a man in my village was the hero. Although ignorance and a clouded judgement were determining factors, his motives led him to grab me by the neck because he thought I might blow up the bus. The rest of the bus was instantly in an uproar. "What are you doing?! That's the English teacher! He teaches our little children English in school! Let him go! He's from America! He works here for free and lives in our village! What are you doing? What, do you think he's a terrorist? Hahahaha!" Once he realized his mistake, and I showed him my perfectly normal (harmless) cell phone that was doing so much beeping and vibrating earlier, he apologized, although that didn't relieve much of the tenseness in the atmosphere - at least on my part. He then began asking me lots of questions, and it even progressed to the point, thanks to the sporadic input of the babushkas on the bus, that the man asked if I would meet his daughter and marry her. From terrorist to bridegroom in 15 minutes. That was an interesting ride.


At 11/15/2005 06:04:00 PM, Blogger bekah said...

WOW! What an amazing comeback... from terrorist to bridegroom in 15 minutes. It is interesting that you thought of the situatuion from the mans point of view, and how he must have felt seeing such a strange things. We are all products of our perceptions: our actions, reactions, and perhaps even our motives all stem from the way we view the world around us. How many times hae we ever really tried to step back from ourselves and our "normalcy" so that we might understand why someone did or said something? For example: you are at the airport about to claim your luggage when you see a man come and take it off the luggage claim. You immediately think he is stealing your bag. But come to find out,(after you chased him through the airport screaming for security), he was sent to claim you bag by your friend who was picking you up. Your perception and view of the events and your reaction to them is suddenly very different. We all feel justified by our actions and thoughts and words, and yet, most of the time, we only understand things from our own very limited capacity.

At 11/16/2005 11:03:00 PM, Blogger KazAch said...

I didn't immediately think of his point of view, although perhaps I should have. I wasn't upset at the man. The whole situation was rather confusing. It wasn't until I was talking to my Kolya (my host-father). He was talking about finding the guy who grabbed me, to go and tell him off. I was like, "No. No. You don't need to do that." He asked me later if I thought what the man did was a good thing or a bad thing. I said that if I were in his place and felt like I or my family or friends were in danger, I would have done the same thing. "So what he did was good," Kolya said. And I thought that it was, from a certain point of view.

P.S. I didn't ever meet his daughter. :)


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