Thursday, June 2, 2011

In minorities of my own

Photo taken by myself in NY, in 1999.


Unpublished article dating back to circa 2000

I have often wondered what it meant to be a minority or what it exactly meant to belong to one. A minority is defined as: “A part of a population differing from other groups in certain characteristics and sometimes discriminated against”. A minority is also any group of persons which is less than half.
Being part of a minority is a cool act in itself. One can always brag about it. You hold that characteristic you possess high and loud. Now imagine telling someone “Yes, there are only some 300,000 of us in the whole world!” when referring to whatever characteristic you might possess. Personally, I belong to the “Christian Maronites”, which is a religious order only found in Lebanon and to a much lesser extent, in Syria. Although we follow the Catholic church in everything we still like to think that we are a minority given our geographical presence.
When I was in New York, I was taking a walk with an Indian friend of my brother’s and there I was gasping: “See that Lincoln over there! Well it belongs to a Christian Maronite from Lebanon!”. The clue behind my statement was that the back window of the Lincoln had a sticker of St. Charbel on it, a Lebanese saint following that particular order. The owner of the Lincoln felt so proud of being part of a minority that he just had to brag about it on Manhattan’s sixth avenue.
In an interview with Q magazine, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall said “I am a true redhead, we’re only 3% of humanity, you know. That’s some sort of a minority”. Now imagine yourself a true red head saying that at some party - everyone else will drop dead! Except of course, if the party had something like one hundred guests and so the laws of probability would dictate that there would be two other true red heads in the room - but think about it this way: Making 97 people drop dead is not bad either!
One of the most obvious links minorities possess is their ethnic feature. Rosa Parks must have been a minority in that bus. A Chinese in Paris is a minority and so is a Frenchman in Peking.
It’s all relative.
I am a left handed person, and I specifically recall an incident which happened while at university: By sheer coincidence, we were three left handed students sitting side by side at a table in the library and a right handed one looking at us oddly. The remark he managed to say must have been the stupidest one I heard in my whole life: “I have been writing like that since I was a child [as referring to writing with his right hand], and no one told me that it was the wrong way to write!”.
Left handed are known to be “a minority”, as a matter of fact we have a higher incidence of death than right handed people because all instruments including scissors and the like are designed to be used by right handed people. However, on that specific instance at a university in Lebanon, left handed were a majority and the right handed person felt he was “wrong”.
Again, it’s all relative.
But it always surprised me why minorities feel they are “wrong” - to quote that right handed person at university - and majorities feel themselves “right” - to quote any skinhead - when found in specific historical, and geographical conditions.
Another point which also intrigued me is that the same person who belongs to a majority also, in some way, simultaneously belongs to a minority. In an episode of Murphy Brown, the rather tall actress Candice Bergan found herself obliged to join a club for “short” men since she seemed to have offended them in her show. The only way for her to get off the hook was to stir differences about other characteristics they might possess. And finally, a club member shouted to another - even though they were both short - “At least I am not bald!”.
Now, short and bald, is a minority within a minority.
A Lebanese proverb goes: “Me against my cousin; Me and my cousin against the stranger”. Short and bald against short and “furry”, then short against tall. Of course, it should all make sense.
Actually, a word which brings a grin to my face is the word “Average”. After all, what is an “Average person”?
He must have an “average” height, an “average” weight, an “average” number of sexual intercourse over the last 12 months, an “average” number of divorces, an “average” number of children, “average” cars per household, etc,… Now find that person! First try to look for anyone with 2,3 children. Actually, manage to find a 0,3 of a child and the proud parent will be the “average person” all of humanity is looking for.
Winning the lottery is easier than finding that person.
Klu Klux Klan was based on discriminating against African Americans, the war in Rwanda was all about minority/majority, Yugoslavia was certainly another twist of the same topic,… recounting the list of  wars, conflicts, fights which were initiated due to difference between majorities and minorities would be a tedious task even though amusing so much the causes seem futile when relocated to other time and space related parameters.
I’ve been thinking, I certainly would like to be the leader of a minority. A minority which would regroup all Christian Maronites, left handed, 5 feet 2 inches tall, 104 lbs heavy; people who are into Formula 1, pop culture, world music and graphic design; and who are formed as agriculture engineers, and subsequently as environmental economists only to work as communication consultants later.
We would have our weekly outings at the Chase restaurant - my favorite - and sometimes hike on Sundays, we would march for our rights if we had to, and have an annual convention of our own once a year - twice a year if I am in the mood. We would all have stickers on our cars signaling our membership to that specific minority. Or since I don’t have a car and don’t drive, cars would be banned.
Our flag will be anything containing the yellow color - again my favorite.
What happens if a member of the minority dislikes yellow? Well, he can still find himself another minority who would want to have a genetic mutation who dislikes yellow.
Even better, that member [former member to be more precise], can be the leader of his own minority regrouping all people who are Christian Maronite, left handed, 5 feet 2 inches tall, 104 lbs heavy; people who are into Formula 1, pop culture, world music and graphic design, and who are formed as agriculture engineers, and subsequently as environmental economists only to work as communication consultants later… and who dislike yellow.
But, seriously, what kind of people are these anyway?
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