Thursday, May 11, 2006

Food For Thought With My Breakfast

I'm sitting in New Jersey having breakfast with a friend (tea with milk as in Egypt and leftover spinach quiche...not uncommon in Egypt as well) and checking my email. I have an arrangement with Google News to send me an alert for any news stories with the word "Egypt" or "Ojai" or "avian influenza" in them. The "avian influenza" alert is obviously to keep up on the situation, although my concern for my parrots is down to nothing. The birds that died at the Cairo zoo were ducks, geese, and chickens. Egrets, parrots and other birds were untouched, and it's highly likely that it was transmitted via the common habit at the zoo of buying cheap and dubious meat for feeding animals. Likewise, it likely came to Egypt via illegal poultry smuggling as they are finding in many other parts of the world. The "Ojai" alert is to check that my brother and his family haven't been either washed away in a winter flood or burned out in a late summer wild fire in the Southern California town where I grew up.

The "Egypt" alert gets me the most news reports, most of which I don't bother to read since they number in the high hundreds daily. I especially skip the annals of the football team in New Egypt, Illinois, (sorry, guys), but sometimes there are things worth a seriious read. This morning, this article by a freelance Canadian writer for Al Jazeera Online caught my eye. Al Jazeera is definitely worth a read, even if it isn't your cup of tea, just for its thought-provoking quality. I don't like to blog politics because I think that is highly available online. But this quote really stopped me:

"The idea that all Islamic fundamentalists are bent on the destruction of the West and its decadent lifestyle, reveals more about our view of ourselves as the centre of the world than it does about the terrorists and their motivations."

He properly notes that the primary victims of terrorism are usually the local population rather than visitors, but his comment that the real target might be those in the Middle East who try to bridge gaps between cultures is interesting. I suppose that maybe I should worry, but I don't. First I feel very comfortable in my social setting in the country...hey, most terrorists would get lost trying to find my place and as soon as they started asking directions, red flags would be flying all over the neighbourhood. And second, I somehow doubt that these guys read English-language blogs.

So I promise not to go all political while on holiday here. I'm thoroughly enjoying the lack of dust here and haven't had to take ANY of my asthma medications at all. I think that by the end of ten days, my lungs will have relaxed and gone back to a normal state. Time away from dust has always been the best cure for the asthma, since the inflammation has a chance to reside. I'm off to look at a possible apartment for my daughter this afternoon, a broom closet with a bathroom and corner kitchen for $820 a month...a cheap apartment in New York. The price one must pay for urban living...I couldn't do it but she is young and really wants to attend NYU for her graduate school. I unloaded the half suitcase of Egyptian cotton tshirts at her dorm room yesterday on my arrival. The world turns and now she asks for Egyptian products since they are cheaper and of better quality material than the local American.

I'm assured by email and mobile phone messaging that my creatures are all well, though the dogs are rather miffed. Poor Tracy is bearing the brunt, but only for ten days. Hope all of you are well.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Out of Desert Poverty, a Caldron of Rage in the Sinai - New York Times

It's pretty easy to sit and wonder what on earth could turn someone into a suicide bomber if you are sitting in relative comfort. Suicide, in itself, is difficult to comprehend for most of us. Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison has written an excellent and extremely readable book on the subject called Night Falls Fast that helps a great deal. According to her, suicide is essentially an act that is an expression of utter despair and hopelessness of a nature that most of us will be most happy never to experience. This despair and hopelessness may have its roots in a biochemical imbalance, as it would with someone suffering from severe depression. These are the suicides that most people are more familiar with. On the other hand, I recall talking to a psychiatrist friend of mine not long after my husband died, when I had banks and companies chasing me with open jaws, and expressing a concern that my longterm nemesis, chronic depression had resurfaced. My friend looked at me for a while and then told me not to worry. "It isn't that you are just feeling bad right now, Maryanne. The truth is that your life is perfectly horrible. There is a difference between depression and a totally unlivable life." He offered to prescribe something that would help me to make it through the rough times and made a point of telling me that when life got better I wouldn't be needing the help.

But what do you do when life simply isn't going to get better? When every door and window is locked and you have no hope of moving to a livable situation? I hate to say it, but I think I can understand and I believe that governments all over the world need to examine their policies to see that people are not cornered in the way that those who have committed suicide bombings are cornered. It's one thing when hopeless people kill themselves, a tragedy that harms everyone who loves them, but when they are so hopeless that they go out and try to kill others, who often have little or nothing to do with the original hopelessness, it is doubly tragic.