avatar
VIP CULTURE


 "God damn you!" Abu Raed yells at the tenth car ahead of him for slowing down on a narrow road, and honks. "This isn’t time to look at some car accident! People have places to go!" But once Abu Raed arrives near the car accident scene, he slows down to witness the damage. Cars behind him blow their horns at him to get moving. That’s when he looks into the back mirror, waving his arms and hands gesturing an upset motion, as though to ask them all: "What the hell is wrong with you? The world isn’t going to end if I slowed down a bit!"

This duality in behavior could easily be diagnosed as schizophrenic, unless of course we dig deeper to find the roots of the problem. Psychologists tell us that young children (below five) do not have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. So for instance, you may witness a child coming up to his mom and repeatedly call for her attention, although it is apparent that she’s in the middle of a very important conversation with another adult. The kid then becomes upset when his mother doesn’t respond to him. Some parents refer to this behavior in children as "nagging," as though the kid is doing it on purpose just to annoy people around him. But that’s not the case at all. The kid, at that early stage, cannot fathom that mom and dad are also someone’s daughter and son, sister and brother, wife and husband, aunt and uncle, friend and acquaintance. They cannot see their parents in any other role in life other than being papa and mama, and their entire existence is to be there for the kid whenever he demands. 

Then kids grow up, and one way or another, they reach the level of maturity that allows them to see the world from someone else’s shoes. You’d see them, around age seven or eight, offering their only ice cream or chocolate bar to another young kid. They slowly begin to realize that there are other people around, who want the same things that they do, and feel pain and happiness just like they do. This realization "of the other" develops in them the first traits of generosity, kindness, and forgiveness. But then come along the misguided parents and other misguided adults to ruin it all.

In Jordan, a parent sees his son sharing his bag of potato chips with a classmate, then blurts out a gem – to his son – that sounds something like this: "Why do you share your food with your classmates? Don’t they have parents too? Let their parents buy their own children their snacks. Don’t be a fool, son! Don’t let others take advantage of you!" Well, soon enough, the kid begins to connect generosity with idiocy – "Only idiots would give away their allowance to others." 

Then comes the kid who had been pushed onto the ground during a football game, bruised at the knees and elbows with band aids here and there. "What happened?" the parent asks. "A boy in my class pushed me while we played soccer," he answers. The response? Another gem: "Tomorrow morning I want you to go up to that boy and hit him as hard as you can. If you don’t do this, then that boy will push you again, and other boys will turn you into a punching bag. Only weak kids become punching bags. Are you weak? No you’re not! So go ahead and take your revenge!" This kid either follows through the advice and ends up into one too many fights, spending a great part of his childhood and development in street fights, beating up others and getting beaten up; or he could refuse to follow that advice (for any number of reasons) and end up suffering emotionally for being called a wimp or a chicken, and probably still get harassed and beat up. Either way, the results are partially unhappy childhood, with loads of emotional baggage to explode later on against the wife or kids, or turn into severe depression during adulthood. The value of forgiveness, like generosity, is reduced to a synonym for weakness or foolishness.

And when a five year old kid interrupts his mom with his "nagging," a mother in Jordan could turn to her son and yell at him, cuss him out, or even slap him, followed by rhetorical questions like "can’t you see I’m busy? How dare you interrupt me!" completely oblivious to the child’s psyche. And then we wonder why our kids can’t sit still at home or in public – "they need the attention they have been deprived of."

Well what do you expect the outcome to be? An angry, violent, unforgiving, stingy, clever adult! Each looking out for himself and for his own, with utter disrespect and carelessness to other people’s preferences and needs. 

You can see it in the way we drive in the street. No driver wants to let you pass, because that would be an act of generosity (foolishness). And if you let someone pass, the drivers behind you honk and curse at you for inconveniencing them by your stupid generosity, because you slowed down their journey by exactly one second more. A driver may double park and block your car, when he can’t find a parking spot, right in front of the store he wants to go to. Why should he be inconvenienced with a one minute walk, when he could double park right in front of the store he needs to go to? So he double parks, fully knowing that the driver (or several drivers) he’s blocking will be extremely upset for not being able to move out once they get back to their cars, let alone the bottleneck he creates on the main road. He knows that but he still doesn’t bother because his personal convenience comes first. To think of others would be idiotic. We repeat proverbs and sayings like "This life is unfair, and shows no mercy" to justify our aggressive behavior. We also say "If you’re not a wolf, then wolves shall eat you" and "I shall eat you for lunch, before you can eat me for dinner." 

In simpler words, everyone in Jordan sees himself as a Very Important Person (VIP) and no one else is. Indeed, Abu Raed’s behavior can be logically explained through this perception. When Abu Raed was ten cars behind the accident, he was honking and cursing and yelling because he’s a VIP, and VIPs do not wait for ordinary people who are blocking their path and causing them inconvenience to move out of their way. And when Abu Raed was near the accident scene, he slowed down, and others had to be patient, because he was the only VIP on the road, and others obviously could not see that! 

Samir blasts the stereo music out loud with the windows rolled down at two o’clock in the morning, in a residential neighborhood, and blows the horn repeatedly to let a friend know that he’s downstairs waiting. If Samir’s friend says to him "Shh! stop honking! And lower the volume! People are sleeping!" Samir would instantly take this as a direct insult to his entire existence.Samir would let his friend know that he’s acting like a "faggot" and a "coward," and would let him know very well that whoever dares to complain about his actions shall taste the wrath of his fists, or knife, or pistol, or his friends and connections with the government. Everyone in Jordan seems to have an aunt or an uncle who are married to the daughter of the neighbor of the brother of a GID agent, who would always be ready to come to their aid once faced by justice for breaking the law. People here gladly boast about their connections with government officials and other famous people, in order to remind themselves and their audiences that they are truly VIP. 

But what Abu Raed doesn’t understand is that when everybody is VIP, then no one really is! If he was truly a VIP, then that tenth car ahead of him would not have slowed down and ruined his mood, and the car drivers behind him would not have blown their horns when he was slowing down to witness the car accident up close. So by caring only for yourself, constantly seeking revenge against those who assault you physically or emotionally, and looking upon selfless acts as stupidity, you actually end up being a VUP! 

What would it be like in a society where no one saw themselves as VIP? Well, in that society, parents would commend their kids for sharing their potato chips with their classmates, telling them: "That was very kind of you to share your food with your classmates. These are the moments you will cherish, and you’ll see how your generosity today will pay off sooner or later." Parents would also tell their bruised sons from fights or rough sports that it’s alright, and to be forgiving (and if things got worse, the parents of the bruised child would talk directly to the parents of the offender child and have matters resolved between grown-ups). With that type of guidance, these children will grow up enjoying the fruits of generosity and find pleasure in sharing a bag of chips with a friend. When a boy pushes another onto the ground during a soccer match, the offender would come back and give his hand to the injured boy and help him up to his feet, telling him that he was sorry. Both kids would feel good when violence ends with mutual respect and forgiveness. The braver kid is the one who initiates the peace!  

You would grow up realizing that it is rude and unacceptable to double-park blocking other cars, because you know how it would feel if someone double-parks and blocks your car. In such a VIP-absent society, when someone does double-park, it would be the exception, and the one who’s car is blocked would imagine that the other driver must have a very good excuse, perhaps an emergency, to park in that manner, and so would wait patiently to see the end of it. Samir would not play his music so loud after midnight with windows rolled down, and would not honk repeatedly to call his friend to come downstairs, because he would be thinking of others’ convenience and comfort, not just his. And when Abu Raed is in slow traffic, he wouldn’t curse and yell because he knows that the drivers ahead of him would not slow down the traffic on purpose. Moreover, you would clean after yourself at a public bathroom or in a restaurant, because you know you are not any more VIP than the janitor or the waiter is. You wouldn’t throw garbage in the street. You would gladly return the supermarket cart back to its place, instead of leaving it in the middle of the parking lot. You would show up on time to meetings and not let your friends wait long for you, and they wouldn’t make you wait long for them either, because neither of you see themselves as VIP. 

And what are the results? Ironically, you end up getting treated like you really are a VIP! People start showing up on time to meet you. No one dares to double-park and block your car. No one dares to blow the horn in the middle of the night to disturb you in your sleep. People share their food with you and refrain from insulting or injuring you. Whenever you are in need, dozens of people jump to help you, because they know that you would do the same for them if they were in need. So in fact, when you no longer see yourself as a VIP, you end up getting treated like one. And most importantly, you would no longer spend every second of your day upset, yelling, honking, screaming, cursing, and frowning. You’d actually find yourself smiling at people, and when you smile, you do it from the bottom of your heart.  

Leave a comment