In the late 1980’s a classmate of mine shared with me a number of American magazines (Time, Newsweek…), and one day he said : « Look ! » At that age I was shocked. I still had a beautiful image of such American big cities as New York, Los Angelos… Several years before that an American tutor said to me : « Don’t think America is Paradise ! » But what my classmate wanted to show me in that American magazine was shocking, to say the least. Otherwise he wouldn’t even have thought of showing it me. And it was in an american magazine ! It’s serious. Waste –all imaginable waste– covering the ground between high scarpers on the streets of New York. As if that was not shocking enough, my classmate showed me in another American magazine pictures of American citizens sleeping in cardboard boxes on the streets of Washington, DC, the Capital of the United States of America. It was just unbelievable. Now, in hindsight, I would say : So what ? The neighbourhood where I grew up until age 22 was bordered with two small landfills. The whole neighbourhood has now disappeared, making way for a new residential area. The two landfills have disappeared too, and the two streets that lined the old neighbourhood are now as clean as most of the streets in the city. I don’t think that what I saw in the magazine would be seen today by passersby on that NY City street. Maybe a new skyscraper has risen in that place. So, today, I would rather look at the minds and the hands and the arms that can raise these buildings as high as the sky. I would rather look at the epic American volunteerism, I would rather look at those millions of znonymous American citizens who donate (for love) to help not only fellow citizens but many people around the world as well. I would rather look at American civil society, at american freedom of speech, without which I may have never seen such shocking images. The problem is, it takes a lot of time (and good faith) to change one’s point of view. You have to be an eagle-eyed observer to see what many other people don’t. But what would you say when you hear or read a report on women from my country who serve as prostitutes in other Arab countries ? Is that more important for you to know than the increasing numbers of Moroccan youths living in Morocco, a poor third world country, who become doctors, engineers, highly specialized technicians, experts in all fiels, designers and inventors, successful buisnessmen and women…. ? Should I look at the beautiful waterfalls as were freshly made by the French, in « the Switzerland of Morocco », or at those parts of the resort which have been littered by young Moroccan visitors with all kinds of empty cans and bottles or at the filth left behind by country people on their way to their fields ? Should I look at the wood seats as they were placed in there by the French, for future visitors to si tat, or at the food waste left by careless picnickers ? Should I look at the hut beside the palace or at the palace beside the hut ? If you were sitting at a café in N.Y. City, would you sit out there and look at women’s legs and breasts, or at the amazing diversity of the city dwellers ? If you think that what you are seeing is not good, what are waiting for to change it ?
I recently heard an interesting radio show on China Radio International. A French journalist was telling a Chinese journalist about his trip to the Chinese Wigur province. He told her, among other things, about an oasis. As soon as the Chinese journalist heard the name, she said : « Ah, it’s known for its apples ! » The French journalist agreed and said how amazed he was to see that in that small oasis, surrounded by an immense forbidding desert, people grew apples, grapes and all sorts of fruits ! He then talked of another placen in which, he said, temeratures would reach 50°C, explaining that by the fact that the place lay below sea-level. The Chinese journalist recongnized the place at once and agreed that i twas the hottest place in china. But then she was greatly surprised, as I was, when the French journalist said that no farther than 100 km away from this hellish place…it SNOWED ! what can this teach us about us humans ? First, we can’t always know what’s beyond the hellish place or what’s beyond the place where it snows –just as we don’t know whether this woman was once a prostitute or may become a prostitute in the future. Not all famines are God-made : many famines are man-made. And even when we know that this famine was man-made we should sit idly by and wait for people to die. Why did those people settle in that Wigur oasis, in the middle of the desert, and did not go to a place with milder weather, Nay, they settled in there and turned the place into a garden of apples and grapes… It’s like they turned hell into heaven. They chose to be positive people. They chose to be civilized people. They chose to be good citizens, who fed themselves and produced good fruits for their fellow citizens. That’s what God wants us to do.