Piece(s) & Voice(s)

>The reason this article regards a part of my exploration a “bicultural identity mosaic” is because I see myself in pieces. When I stop dwelling on the details of what schools of thought I identify with (Collectivist vs. Individualistic, wearing hijab or not, working to live or living to work), I can see the mosaic. It is colorful and there are so many small pieces, but it is a sloppy art that I find invigorating and overwhelmingly rich with density, texture and depth. Some days, however, I see them as pieces of my broken heart.

Most of the time, I see biculturalism as a puzzle, trying to focus on the details and the bigger picture all at the same time. Today, I am trying to sort out a thought, as a piece to a puzzle.

Lately, I have been trying to pick up writing again. There was a period of time that I was not writing because I could not seem to pick a few phrases or opinions I had and put them into a sentence. I felt like an idiot. I had opinions, observations – stories. I travelled a few months ago and was in the Middle East in time to experience Mubarak stepping down. I saw the celebrations in the streets of Amman, Jordan, near the Egyptian embassy, swelling into the streets and sidewalks – preventing my very tired old Aunt from getting home. Every time I plan a trip to the Middle East, people encourage me to blog on the road and in the air. I can write my thoughts in fragmented lists in a journal while I travel, but when I return to the United States, I cannot seem to express my thoughts in the a way that I want them to be understood.

Earlier today, I wanted to write desperately – I had ideas in biculturalism, the political Arab youth, feminism – to the point that I was confused and was subject-less. I couldn’t help but wonder why I would go blank, no opinion, no thought, no current events, no political analysis, no critical analysis. Its as though my mind was trained to ignore my ideas. Its like an auto-immune disease, your body attacking itself. This was a total assault to my mind, and I couldn’t help but be curious if my voice/less ideas were more than an expression of stupidity and more of a manifestation of the way I was trained to sit between two very opposite cultures. It could be a result of listening to media propaganda with the West attacking the Middle East and visa versa – simultaneously living in the reality of both societies and, while I am in each culture, exposing the absurdity of those stereotypes, questioning them and unlearning them (if I can see them).

This thought paralysis and concurrent silencing roots from a larger socialization trend that has fostered a culture of distortion and neglect as to what the Muslim, Immigrant, Refugee, Biculturalist, Female and/or Arab experience is in America. The intuition that there is a mass socialized silencing occuring does not necessarily preclude an assimilated and adapted individual that may historically identify themselves with any of the above labels (For instance, many Americans identify as an immigrant at some point in their families history). However, there is a part of the bicultural individual that is, at some point in their life, faced with the choice of picking which culture they identify more with, and therefore a silencing does occur of the other culture to help adapt the individual in their preferred culture.

I am going to end with a list of characterizations, by Michael J. Smithson regarding ignorance. He states that there are different types of ignorance, such as; nonknowledge (“I don’t know”), negative knowledge, closed ignorance (“I do not want to know”) and uncertainty (“I am not sure”). His characterizations will be explored in later posts.

“1. Ignorance is socially constructed but this realization neither necessitates relativisim nor denial of ‘real world’ influences.
2. Ignorance is not always a negative aspect of human affairs. In fact, it is an essential component in social relations, organizaitons, and cultures. People are motivated to create and maintain ignorance, often systematically.
3. Ignorance is not invariably a disadvantage for the ignoramus.
4. Ignorance is neither marginal nor aberrant in its impact. It is a pervasive and fundamental influence in human cognition, emotion, action, social relations, and culture.”

– “Ignorance and Uncertainty” by Michael J. Smithson