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mercredi 30 janvier 2013


Walking along this pleasant city, I was amazed at the similarities (at least superficially) that meets a visitor to the central part of the city.
Retired moslem women from Maghreb, begging. More common in Paris.
Young Black men and Young Arab men and to a lesser extent women as well, asserting their marginalization thus guaranteeing their peripheral role in the society.
A Black person in Paris speaks French, in London speaks English, in Amsterdam speaks Dutch, in Berlin, German etc... but they are almost indistinguishable (once again superficially speaking)..I was told in more than vehemently while I was a student in London: Black People become British but not English..Black British is a common term but you dont hear people talk about Black English...Some other mixed nationalities are impossibilities, A Black Flemish? A Black Breton?

In Paris, both the young Blacks and young Arabs are trying but in a society so elitist, more tend to fall through the cracks than european French. I feel a strong affinity towards Arabs (even though my Israeli friends like to remind me that they are trying to kill us!) and feel a sense of solidarity when I see hard working, without a chip on the shoulder, young arab men and women.
Radical interpretation of Islam has made the outsiders view them with a jaundiced eye, especially when you see very young girls wearing hijabs and young men sporting religious beard. I like telling my Malaysian friends, until quiet recently Malay women and girls did not wear hijabs and cover themselves head to foot, is there another justification other than the relgion. I am told that Koran never mentions the need for a woman to covered up in hijabs, niqabs or burqas, but I am not familiar with any of the religious texts of any religion including my own.
I have been interested in the problem of cultural identity since very early on in my life I realized that my life would be, The Other who has got a name! By accepting my otherness, i have been accepted well in all the countries that I have lived in (less so in France where they are officially oblivious to otherness).
Also I began working with North American Indians soon after my graduation as an Endocrinologist and with them I shared many an idea about Cultural Identity. I never wanted to be an Indian because I am not an Indian. American Indians feel sympathetic yet critical of people who claim to be American Indian without any appreciable cultural identity. As my Kikapu informant told me many years ago: When we were living in Mexico, we did not become Mexicans but we were Kikapu and now we are living in USA but we are not American but Kikapu. All Kikapu speak their tribal language, regardless where they were/or born.
Each time I see a young black man or a woman, born in Europe, I am reminded of that, the loss of cultural identity in pursuit of something or other.
And a Meskwaki elder told me: I feel sorry for the Makada people (black), they dont even know which tribe they belong to!

Today there were also Gypsies from Eastern Europe with their distinct ways of dressing begging or harassing people but nowhere compared to Paris. A deported Gyspsy leader said to the Press: we like Paris because it is so easy to make a living begging because there are so many tourists! Roma would be the correct designation rather than Gypsies but paradoxically, American Indians prefer the term Indian to Native American (unless they are mostly white people claiming to be Indians, they prefer the term Native American)

One of the greatest gifts in my life has been my coming of age in Australia, where we were taught to think universally in a human fashion, not to be influenced by racial origin or cultural origin. At least that is the lesson I had and to this day, when I meet a person I dont categorize them in my mind, despite the fact that I am an Anthropologist and have spent months and months studying various cultures..also my good teacher Ronnie Frankenberg had taught me, Cultural does not mean Natural...A Kikapu behaves in a certain fashion because they are Kikapu and not brown skinned Mexican or American..

I did have a wonderful time wandering around this city crawling with diplomats from every country on earth. 
I could see Turks, Moroccans, Iranians, Arabs, Maghrebiens, African Blacks with varying physiognomy, an occasional Japanese, but plenty of Chinese..
Yes it is the sign of the times...
I was inside the library reading a magazine and there was a cartoon in it... (let me translate it vaguely):
The commonest surname in Flanders is Peeters and the most popular first name in Wallonia and Bruxelles is Mohammed... but I have never met a 
Mohammed Peeters!