Wednesday, January 10, 2007

7 Taxis: Examinations Into Society

The first taxi I rode was on 10:45 AM. He was mostly silent, the only conversation we had was:

"Directly to the university?"
"Yes."
....
"Mighty cold, don't you think."
"Mmm-hmm."

----------------------------------

The second taxi I rode was on 11:10 AM. He was an old man with a knack of interfering in everything. I am with my grandmother, she wants to buy something from a poor person who sells calendars at the traffic stop.

Me : "That's expensive."
Granny : "Well, he is standing on God's door." (meaning he's really poor)
Driver: "Yes. Sure there are those people who will trick you instantly upon knowning that you are Iraqi, but this guy like the hajja here says is on God's door."
Me : "Yea."
Driver: "Poor thing, he stands there all day trying to make a living, and then they come and bust him, while the real thieves in the suits and the houses, and nobody does a thing to them."
Me: "They bust him because they can..."
I explain to him the intricate crime/begging network in Iraq.
Driver: "You know, what is happening to Iraq is that, there is a lot of money and hence everybody's fighting over it, and when a guy needs support, he coaxes all angry on Palestine."
Me : "You're right." This was an allusion to Saddam, clearly. Perhaps this guy is Jordanian, cuz usually Palestinains are gung-ho Saddamists.
Driver: "While in Palestine they are poor, they have nothing, they can't do anything."
Me : "I guess." That meant he was Palestinian. Weird.
He was a nice guy, insisted on driving us all the way to the door.

I dropped off my Grandmother at the embassy and went to do some errand at 11:15 AM, The third taxi driver was brooding, he was stone-chipped and wore a traditional Jordanian headdress like he needed to tell me something bad, but the conversation wasn't going where he wanted. We were talking about money.

Me: "But you know what I found out, money can buy everyone - there's no such thing as integrity in the world anymore."
Taxi Driver: "No such thing. My friend, are you Iraqi?"
"Yeah"
"Those people you were saying are not all people, there are still people who are genuine, who will not give up their traditions." His accent was bedouin, which suggested something important about his origins.

A guy in a Land Cruiser was reversing his car nearby, the taxi driver took the chance and belted out what he really needed to say.

"Goddamm peasant thinks he's rich, those Palestinians, let me tell you about them - they shied away from their lands, sold it to the Israelis, like a bunch of faggots, and they come here coaxing like they got a lot of money. Son of a bitch - You were plowing farms all your life...you look at me son when I tell you, these people can be sold at the whim, but the genuine article (it wasn't hard to know who he was referring to by that) keeps to his pricinples and traditions. They come in here with their fake phoney modern accents 'A'ollak' wu 'Ulu' and all that, while we talk in the genuine Arab tongue, like you Iraqis."

I just nodded.

"Look at my haircut, this is how we cut, but these Palestinains, see their haircuts, all standing and i don't know what (spikey, but he doesn't know how to say it), and their women, those are the women who wear tight and can be bought while their parents don't care, but our women, they are true religious and wear Islamic dress."

"Okay, I think so."


1:00 PM, The fourth taxi driver was resilient and silent. We both listened to a religious lecture about Umm al-Mo'mineen Hafsa, followed by Quranic recitations.

1:45 PM, The fifth was almost a re-thinking of the fourth, I continued to listen to the recitiation.


3:40 PM, The sixth was a bearded guy that screamed Islam. But he was easygoing and nice, this combination reminds me of my father's old friends, who have a favourable impression on my childhood.

Me: "So what do you think about Iraq?"
Taxi: "When the fitna (tensions) spreads, it spreads, and everything in the end works for the benefit of the Americans."
Me: "That's not the real problem, if we were strong people, we wouldn't have been affected, what we need today is good examples and to lessen these tensions. these horrible tensions."
Taxi: "But what brings these tensions?"
Me: "The cruelty of the leaders."
Taxi: "Exactly."
Me: "Brtutality does not solve anything, that is an old lesson learned from the days of al-Hajjaj, isn't it? You see, most people here hate Shias, but they are still Muslims just like us. right?"
Taxi: "You are absolutely correct." This was very unusual. It was my stop.

I tipped him extra.

11:30 PM, The seventh guy kept silent in a scary way, he's ask brief questions ominously that seemed to be going badly.

"My brother is Iraqi...?"
"Yes."
..........
"Where from?"
"Baghdad."
"You're Shiite, I guess?"
"What? Why? No." This was surprising, he probably wanted to lull me into assurance, but he kinda failed as he was asking in a very unnatural, careful way.
-----
"I just hear stuff about Baghdad being Shiite."
"It will be soon."
"Yeah, Shiites took it now."
"Yeah, Shiites."
....
"So I wanna know if that guy is Shiite or not, how will I?"
"Various things, name, dress, accent...you can't know unless u'r Iraqi."
....
"So, how many Sunnis are there in Iraq?"
"about 15-20%"
.....
"Hmmm...."
I was very sick of this by now. His talk rekindled memories of the taxi drivers in Iraq.
-----
"May God curse the Shiiites, you know how I know when a guy is Shiite, when he starts telling me : There's no differnece, we're all Iraqis - we're all united."
"But you should know...err...it's somewhat....true, even if they have some mistakes, they are still Muslims, you hate..er...Shiites because you have not lived with any all your life, you think that...er...you know..err...this sort of thinking is what crippled Iraq my friend."
"Yeah." He retorted, probably thinking I'm Shiite after all.

I walked out with a bad taste in my mouth, all I wanted to do was bust his head on the windshield, but I have a nature of being prudent with taxi drivers, something one learns from Iraq. I hated myself because I could not do anything about it. I am wary of all this hate, of all this name-calling when everyone is to blame.

I promise you, that on the next taxi fare, I won't shut up.

31 comments:

Omar said...

Hey Kid, thanks for the article about the taxi drivers, I really enjoyed that.

And you are absolutely right; we are all brothers, sunnis and shia and also Christians etc. I truly hope, although I know I'm being naive here that someday all us Iraqis will start thinking this way and that the bloodshed would just stop. Even better: f*ck being sunni or shia, just be a Muslim, learn the lesson from Christianity’s Protestant vs Catholicism and all the bloodshed that it caused. Religion is meant for peace not for bloodshed and divisions are man made. It is much better to live your life well and humane without a religion than to pray 5 times a day and kill people/hate people in-between.

Even though I know I'm stating the obvious, I wish that more Iraqis would just open their eyes, that it's humanity that matter, not religion. wallah galbi yinzif dam 3ala il 3iraa8 :'(

el_mli said...

Hi there Kid,

You probably know this already, but your a very talented writer, may God bless your pen, Kid

Nice article, I enjoyed reading it, and I couldn't agree with you more on that last taxi-driver.

He curses shi-ites for simply no other reason then them being shi-ites. May God curse his likes. It's these kind of microbes that are killing society. What we need is an antidote to this mentality. Alas, you wont find the cure for this in an drugstore.

May God protect live from those wanting to destroy it..

nadia n said...

i've read so many stories about amman now i'm so positive i never ever want to go there. great post.

Anonymous said...

Hey kid, nice article that truley captures the picture of the Jordanian street in particular and the arabic street in general and also reflects how a normal arabic man would think and see the Iraqi situation. But the thing that hurts me the most is why this dark picture filled with hatred towards the shiites in Iraq, I mean I really don't know where this is all coming from. All can I say is may God forgive them all because I've had it with hate, rage and vengeance, let my wounds heal, my soul feels and my eyes see an end to this dark tunnel.
"The hatred you're carrying is a live coal in your heart - far more damaging to yourself than to them"
Lawana Blackwell.

nadia n said...

wow, that was essentialist.

Hala said...

Hey,
i really enjoyed that article,
and i agree 100% with what Omar has said in his comment...
it really irritates me how people
have issues between Islamic sects,
we are all muslims after all,
we all believe that "La Illaha Ila Allah wa Mohammed Rasoul Allah"
we all pray facing Mecca, we all fast...we're all muslims.
If there isnt unity between the muslims,
we appear weaker to the rest of the world.
The muslims who think this way(issues between sects), contradict evrything taught in Islam,
there shouldnt be any hate/killing/ bloodshed, and also as Omar said, divisions are man made and the Quran teaches us that there is only one islam.

It really hurts me to see people separating themselves and forgetting the fact that we are all iraqis, we are all muslims, and that we should all work together to make the country a better place to live in, not fight over who gets more power, whos better than the other.
Its really sad, i hope people change their mindsets soon!

Matt said...

That was interesting. It sounds like there's a gammut of opinion in the minds of Jordanian taxi drivers.

Anonymous said...

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Marshmallow26 said...

Kid,

3ala kefak yam3awad latkasir el jama mal sayara..LOL..

So are you going to retaliate? I am not worry about you, you are so smart and can do it on your own way.

God be with you

Lynnette in Minnesota said...

Kid,

Great post! Reminiscent of what Zeyad used to do.

The thing is to try to get people to stretch their minds a little. To stop looking at things only from a single viewpoint. We're all human. We have more in common than we have not.

That Shia down the road has a family just like that Sunni or Kurd. They are loved and needed by someone. It should be irrelevent whether a country is majority Shia or Sunni. Or Christian or Jewish for that matter.

beachmom1 said...

Kid -- thanks for your insight on the mentality in Jordan, and your own ideals you refuse to compromise on -- of tolerance, not hatred.

Off topic -- President Bush gave an interview that was shown last night, and I was just wondering what your reaction to it is (if you feel so inclined to give one), in particular this excerpt:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/14/60minutes/main2359119.shtml

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?


PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.


BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

Iraqi Mojo said...

Interesting. At least it seems that only a minority of Arabs outside of Iraq have low opinions of the Iraqi Shia. Thanks for another awesome post, Kid.

zmanutdz said...

Very nice and true post. I recall one taxi driver who knew I was Iraqi and started singing : Saddam batal il arab, Saddam batal il arab. He was waiting for my reaction. So I decided to join him and went on like : Saddam batal il 5ara.

His facial expression was priceless :P

Observador said...

Thanks for your post.
Its remarkable how human nature does not differ that much.
I also enjoy to chat with taxi drivers and talk about stuffs.
I remember one taxi driver that complained about the Brazilian foreigners that steal the jobs of the portuguese( I am portuguese living in portugal).
One of your taxi drivers complained about other foreigners:The palestinians.

A&Eiraqi said...

Hi
Nice blog
but, to be honest, taxi drivers are the same , in Jordan I used to argue every taxi driver about Saddam , resistance and sunni and shiites .
In Iraq ; goverment , relgion , resistance , invadors and services.
One difference; in Iraq most of taxi drivers used to insult me because I'm doctor ; they used to say all the horrible things about medical services .
Whatever the Arabs say we are Iraqis , maybe we are facing problems at the moment, yet we will be together forever like a catholic marraige .

olivebranch said...

kid great article; I can see the truth in everything you have said. I will post this to the Olivebranch Network; and I will add a link to it in the "I am Iraqi" discussion going on over at al-Iraqi forums; when I post it to the Olivebranch Network I will be sure to add a link to that forum at the bottom so you can go see what im talking about; may not be until this evening.

Keep up the great work sadeeqi, everytime I read your blog its seems you have matured since the last post. This is a great sign. Iraq needs people like you. People with a brain, a heart, and the fire in their belly to stand in the way of those who wish to divide Iraq along sectarian lines.

I am with you till the very end brother.

olivebranch said...

kid great article; I can see the truth in everything you have said. I will post this to the Olivebranch Network; and I will add a link to it in the "I am Iraqi" discussion going on over at al-Iraqi forums; when I post it to the Olivebranch Network I will be sure to add a link to that forum at the bottom so you can go see what im talking about; may not be until this evening.

Keep up the great work sadeeqi, everytime I read your blog its seems you have matured since the last post. This is a great sign. Iraq needs people like you. People with a brain, a heart, and the fire in their belly to stand in the way of those who wish to divide Iraq along sectarian lines.

I am with you till the very end brother.

the iraqi roulette said...

Hi Kid ,
Very informative indeed . Written with talent .
You know, I think the issue is not Sunni versus Shi'i or Jordanian versus Palestinian , as much as it is the will of any society in times of turmoil and despair to seek someone to lay responsibility on for the misfortunes " unjustly in most cases" . In Europe in times of economic stagnation it is always " them damn immigrants". In our case , if you recall, at the time of Saddam it used to be "them Tikrities", while everyone knows that Tikrit also paid a grave price for standing up to Saddam. Now Shias, Sunnis and Christians are paying equal prices in these dark ages , but people, - and especially Taxi drivers ha ha ha- build ideologies to explain and back their claims. The ironic thing in our case though, is that discrimination is not based on color , culture or even religion like elsewhere. We all know that the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'i is in the interpretation of some laws of Islam , thus it is rather more like a philosophical difference, that should stay in the books and not be taken to the streets. And the other ironic thing is ; I doubt any one really knows actually what these differences are.
Many times I tested people who believe that we are different . 'Ok tell me what are the differences then, if you believe that they are worth killing for ? I used to ask .; No satisfying answer whatsoever, just housewives tales , therefore it is a false difference based on IGNORANCE and nothing more .
Come visit Yemawad

Sookie Jones said...

Hey, Kid. You're right. I'm Christian, but don't we worship the same God? And even if we didn't, we're all people, which is even more important. Have you studied Shakespere? In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock was a Jew who, throughout the play, was being maltreated by his Christian neighbors. Here is a famous quote from the play.

"I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die?"

God Bless.

opit said...

It's really quite nuts.
Lessons taken from the trade of traveling salesman were incorporated into dictums to guide one when dealing with others. They seemed an ideal way of teaching people to get along and sow tolerance instead of fear and suspicion.
But people have this terrible habit of fixing on irrelevancies about how the world works and making a philosophy of strangers as friends we have not met ; into a reflection of the innate weakness which comes from a lack of trust in their place in the world.
You "let it all hang out". Sharing yourself without fear - a performer's trait - is giving you a chance to share with and receive from many. When it's done in person over a long time one cannot count one's friends : I suspect your writings are giving you a great resevoir of good will.

Glory Rose! said...

reminds me so much of how it is here in Egypt specially the days when the war just started and when they captured Saddam, during the trial and the excution... Whenever I am in a taxi with my cousin, our tongues slip and we talk in Iraqi dialect, the next thing you hear is a war against shia, coz they think they are infidels, then how Iraqis are all shit coz they let go of their beloved president... I once got into a taxi with a driver who is a neighbor of one of Saddam's lawyers and it was such a pain in the ass I told him to stop and I got off!
very annoying it is when you feel like 90% of people around you have no idea how it really is and you have absolutly no chance of making them undersatnd how it is!

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