Sunday, March 15, 2009

What I dream about

I am a big dreamer. I have fun dreaming, daydreaming, fantasizing, and visualizing. My mind is never on sleep mode. It functions like a factory in which an assembly-line producing thoughts and dreams is on constantly. Long time ago, I used to dream about what it would be like to be wealthy. I went in a meeting once with my friend who was an Amway member, and a guy was giving a presentation about success and material wealth. He was strongly advising people to have a clear plan about their future; not such vague goal as wanting to be rich, but specific objectives to have a specific amount of money, to own a particular dream car, and to picture the dream house. In order to do so, the guy recommended us to pay a visit to some luxurious car dealership so that we could feed our imagination, to drive by some upper-class neighborhood to unlock our minds, and to read some inspirational books that will help us stay focus and driven, and to just project ourselves constantly into a fantasy world of things we definitely would be better off owning. I read the books, I went in more meetings, but I could never do what they were teaching.

First of all, I could never state an amount of money that I want to have. For me, money is a mean of exchange; nothing more, nothing less. I use it to purchase whatever it is I want: food, shelter, nice handbags; however, I don’t identify with it. Having more or less does not value or lessen me.

Second, I just enjoy my life as it is. Letting my mind wander into a future world filled with material possession is like cheating on the present. I’m usually very busy living la vida reál: getting up in the morning, eating my bowl of oatmeal, taking my daughter to school, and playing with my son or scolding him for being naughty, cooking my vegetables, getting frustrated when I can’t find a taxi, getting angry at the world, or being emotional over a news story, and then at night I am so tired that I have no choice but to crash into my bed.

Also, I’ve always known that the planet’s resources were limited. If that one-size-fit-all definition of success were to apply to every human being, we would need at least 15 more earth-like planets to accommodate everybody’s desires. Therefore, saving to go to a concert gives me something to look forward to. Going jogging with my 7-year-old sneakers is a great escape. In fact, those sneakers are more than sneakers. They are Haiti, youth, love, dreams, and hope.

But the most important reason I don’t obsess about material wealth as it is defined by many is that I don’t like putting a limit on myself. Stating that I want to have 823 million dollars would be limiting my mind. I like not knowing what to expect from the next day, the next minute or the next year. I like being able to be evolving. Who knows, at forty I’ll be able to run 10 miles nonstop on the treadmill. At 45, I’ll be a chiropractor or a software designer. At 50, I’ll become a Chef. And at 70, I’ll be dancing salsa or playing tennis. And If I die tomorrow, that will suck, but I won’t have any regret. My life is too perfect as it is.

I enjoy dreaming about a more perfect world though—a world in which ever Haitian would have access to food, water, shelter, education, and health care; a world in which women and men would have the same access to opportunities and resources; a world in which the gap between the haves and the have-nots will be connected by a bridge called humanity; a world in which God is not a long-bearded man sitting somewhere in space and waiting to send us to hell or heaven, but a world in which God will be seen on every face that we meet, on every smile that is cracked, or every sound of nature. These are the dreams I usually dream about.

But the other day, as I was waiting for my daughter at school—I got there a few minutes early—I had the pleasure to watch the Arab ladies who were also waiting, with one trying to impress the other by what she wears or what car she drives or how many maids she has. I realized that I was fortunate not to be confined in that bubble of success and materiality. While it takes me two minutes to put on some old jeans and a t-shirt, to strap my son around me in his cozy baby carrier, and to get in a taxi, these women must spend the entire morning getting ready for that subtle competition that take place every day, at the same moment, in front of the same gate. Thoughts were racing in my restless mind, when I heard someone calling me. I turned my head and saw this Lebanese woman. Well-dressed. Manicured. Louis Vutton bagged.

“So you don’t drive?”

“No, I answer", hoping that will put her curiosity to rest. But as the gates sprang open and people were rushing inside, I heard her ask “Why?”

“It’s complicated. I am not from a First-World country. When you have an American/French passport, you just change your national driver’s license into a UAE license. But me I have a Haitian passport. Although I have a driver’s license from the U.S., I have to go through a long process that can take up to a year to get a UAE license…”

“I’ve just got here, and I have the license already.”

“good for you!”

“I have a Canadian passport, that’s why!.” And her smile was so big, so superior, that I had to make a big effort not to laugh out loud.

“good for you!” I muttered.

By the time I got my daughter and hopped back in the taxi, she was literally clung to her Lexus’s horns while angrily maneuvering her way through the jammed little street. I never felt more liberated in my old jeans. And later that night, as I wore a girly little black dress, decent shoes, and make-up to go on a date with my husband, I was still laughing. Thank God I am a free woman!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy International Women's Day!

I enjoy watching these commercials in which some Hollywood starlet is inviting women to buy a particular product in order to be “worth it” or to “feel like a woman”. The products advertized range from mascaras to shampoos, lipsticks and moisturizing/firming creams. What is the message? That this product will give us star power; that each woman can aim at looking like a star; that women need some pampering once in a while; that this product is our ticket into an elite club in which “worth-it” women rule…

When does a woman feel like a woman? Or when does a woman think she is “worth it”? I guess that the answers to these questions depend on whom you ask. A stay-at-home mother who is on duty 24/7 needs to pamper herself once in a while in order to feel sexy and feminine. In this case, putting on a gorgeous lipstick might be a good self-esteem booster. A career woman might need to try that shampoo for her frizzy hair. Or a teenager might think that she needs the whole line of products in order to have the Jessica Alba look. Or a 60+ woman may feel that she needs these products in order to fight the clock…But can a product alone make a woman feel like a woman?

What about the women in the Third World who don’t even wear make-up? Women whose days are an ongoing fight for survival; women who spend all day in the scorching sun selling bottled waters, juices, food, clothes because their families depend on them; single women who have never heard of such things as “child support” or “government assistance” but who manage to give the best education available to their children; Women who don’t even know how to read and write but whose children grow up to become global citizens! Thank God, these women don’t have the time or the luxury to watch these commercials. These women are the pillars of Third World. And, until their struggles (illiteracy, short life expectancy, unavailability of health care, domestic violence, discrimination, low representation in government) are faced, there won’t be any viable, sustainable development of the Third World.

To all women whose shape the dream of their surroundings, to all women whose invisible hands are working to make life better, to all women who have the courage to hope, to all women who dare, I’m wishing a happy International Women’s Day. I hope one day I’ll get to “feel like a woman”.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What about the United States?

An African-American blogger based in Brazil recently wrote a blog post entitled Why I hate the United States . In his post, Mr. Holland noted :

Having travelled through seventeen countries and lived for long periods
of time in three, I can say based on my experience that while color-aroused
ideation and emotion exist in many places, still malignant color-aroused
behavior is more pronounced, consistent and dangerous in the United States than
it is anywhere else where I have lived. The likelihood of being stopped,
profiled, shot and killed by police in the United States simply for being Black
exceeds the likelihood present in any other country that I have visited or lived
in. Meanwhile, the likelihood of experiencing a color-aroused imprisonment is
higher in the United States than in any other country I have visited.

And that's why I hate the United States. I simply hate being perceived,
thought about, felt about and then reacted to principally on the basis of my
skin color. You don't know how terribly burdensome it is until you get away from
it for a while.

I understand that discriminations based on race, ethnicity, religion, and gender are still prevalent in the United States, as they are everywhere in the world; nonetheless, I had to disagree with Mr. Holland.

I have not heard of any country in which every citizen lives freely and happily without ever encountering some type of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. If the only problem people had to care about was how they are being perceived because of their skin color, the world would be a far better place. When tons of children die every hour from starvation, and women and children are being sold as sex slaves, and malaria ripes through entire villages in Africa, and people die trying to reach the coast of U.S., Mr. Holland is a very fortunate person. The American union still needs to be perfected, for sure, and it will take a long time to reach that place where every individual is valued for his/her inner strength, but I don’t know any other industrialized nation in which Barack Obama’s story is possible.