Sunday, January 10, 2010
When life becomes frivolous -- challenges facing Palestinians in the occupation
When life becomes frivolous
By Ray Hanania
The Jerusalem Post Newspaper
I read recently that a group of Palestinians decided they were going to host the first-ever Miss Palestine contest. But it was quickly scuttled when religious and secular extremists decided it wasn't good for the country.
The argument, repeated often in interviews, held that it was somehow wrong for Palestinians to engage in such "frivolity" when there were more serious issues like the tragedy of the occupation and the suffering of the economic collapse associated with the occupation.
A similar pageant is held in Haifa, but when the idea was brought to Ramallah, the supposedly bustling cosmopolitan heart of Palestinian society, the "governor" decided to cancel it because the event "coincided with the first anniversary of the Israeli attack against Hamas in the Gaza Strip."
Other Palestinian leaders said it was canceled because it was simply inappropriate to celebrate when so many are suffering.
That kind of thinking is exactly why Palestinians have been losing over the years. They embrace the psychology of the victim rather than exercising the will of the victor.
It's simple. When you surrender to tragedy you live the life of a victim. You become the victim. You become the hostage of suffering, and your life begins to reflect a life without will.
And that explains why there is so little hope in Palestine.
I entered stand-up comedy after September 11, 2001 specifically because I know that the most powerful response to tragedy and suffering is to spit in its face, to tell tragedy, terrorism, violence and suffering that you will not simply lie down and surrender without a fight.
And the best way to fight is to be human and to exercise the power of humanity through a resistance to tragedy.
Humor, not anger, is the answer to hatred. Humor and being human is the answer to suffering and tragedy, and even to the loss of life.
The reality is that the human spirit of the Palestinians cannot surrender to the suffering of the Israeli occupation or to the continued conflict that seems never-ending. To surrender and to allow the suffering to consume our lives means that we have given up the hope of being human beings and living full lives.
IN FACT, the answer to the occupation is to not stop being human, and to do the very things that tragedy and oppression throw at you.
The Palestine beauty pageant would have been a powerful statement to the world that Palestinians will not surrender to the occupation nor allow the suffering to dictate how they live their lives.
It also would have been a powerful statement to themselves to energize their inner spirit and allow them to find strength just when strength is needed most.
At the most tragic moment, when a family member dies, sadness is the appropriate response to respect the dead. But the most appropriate response for those who survive and are left holding the tragedy of the person's death is to give the spirit a boost, to allow them to overcome the hardships of suffering. Humor is often found in the aftermath of burials and wakes because humor helps the survivors to survive.
Underlying this conflict in human survival for Palestinians is the steady rise of the religious fanatics who bring the lowest common denominator of life, subservience to zealotry, as their answer to tragedy and suffering. In reality, they want you to continue suffering because it helps them disguise their inability to be true leaders.
In fact, when a society "suffers" and embraces victimization, false prophets with little talent or leadership ability can rise more quickly to control the population.
Instead of focusing on the failings of the leaders, embracing the tragedy makes it easier for the failed leaders to avoid accountability.
The pageant would have been a declaration that Palestinians are a people who can rise above the challenges that oppress people, not just in Palestine but throughout the Middle East, where living as an oppressed victim seems to be a way of life.
And that's no joke.
The writer is a Palestinian American satirist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com.