being here doesn't give me any better of a perspective, it just gives me more of a specific kind of a perspective. there is no singular essence that I am accessing by being here. my experience of being present does not have some sort of primordial essence that usurps all other arguments. cue the dreadful anecdote: "but once my brother's friend who is from where-and-where told me that such-and-such happened to him, so this is like that." when the personal becomes projected onto the worldly, that's when you know that you've lost your sense of scale.
I keep on thinking of these issues in terms of scale, and in terms of emergent properties. there is person-level, people-level, and government-level, and every action or encounter has its own way of being evaluated within each context; emergence dictates that these things aren't reducible to singular laws. a single action operates at the level of a person, a people, and a government.
for example: rachel corrie. the second tragedy of the incident is that, fundamentally, this happened between two people, mediated by a piece of machinery -- and that this all becomes read at the level of people and a government, as if this singular event can epitomize the incident.
and so analyzed in this way, as if this is somehow exemplary. what is the lesson here? israel kills innocent people? naive americans legitimize terrorism? a person made a mistake? someone tripped?
it seems that the only solid questions left to ask are: was she seen? was it an accident, or was it deliberate? how dark is the bulletproof glass of the bulldozer? how loud is the engine? as if somewhere in the physical reality of the incident, some sort of deeper truth will be found that changes things at a people-level or a government-level.
and I come here and while it may sound snobbish I am glad that I have traveled before and that I have come here now; I feel like without any other context this place would be impermeable. at some point I would like to say: the streets are not dirty here. the traffic is not crazy here. of course there are misspelled english signs; of course there are imitation western brand stores; of course there are mcdonalds, or kfcs, or not, of course people wear jeans, of course the music videos on the television will be risque as all hell, of course there will be western cars in the street.
a perceived cultural identity -- that is, the belief in one's own cultural identity -- is not oppositional, it's not defined in opposition to another, but rather defined in opposition to the not-identity; like saying "what's the difference between malaysia and laos?" as if you were to pick and choose, or don't lament the entrance into mcdonalds into a country, or or OR OR OR
it is like a latent anger, this, I think. I think it is a frustration. things are not weird here, nor are they strange, nor are they surreal; any sort of learning will only happen when the self is denied momentarily for a sort of transparency, permeability. an opening-up. and has that happened? am I here? yes.
but only partially. I dislike analogies more and more, metaphors maybe but analogies not; no analogies to new york, to the us, to india, to south africa, to germany, to wherever. analogies are a way of grasping at straws, to condense information into an immediately graspable current that cuts off your ability to step over there, instead brings the there into here. dare I say: colonizes meaning? everything becomes related to something that you've brought here.
before I came here I looked at an arabic-lesson book purporting to teach you arabic. inside were all of these transliterated words and sentences: 'marhaba." "hawas". "kief halek." no arabic to be found anywhere. and I thought of the poor learner who would read and memorize this fully. armed with a collection of one-time-use phrases, they would pull them out at a moment's notice like playing cards from one's back pocket, only able to say phrases such as "where is the bathroom?" or "how much is this?" input => output.
the paradox of travel is that, having been here, I am the opposite of an expert on palestine, I regress more, I lose information and perspective. do you understand? I change. anecdotes become my world. palestine becomes a series of hills, towns, places, breezes on my cheek, laundry flapping in the air. squinting underneath the sun. palestine becomes this couch I am sitting on, the adhan ringing and ringing and ringing over the valley, the smell of cigar smoke in that cafe, the overenthusiastic boy who hands me some knafeh, the hellos on the street, eager throngs of kids who ask me, what's your name? and so on. I lose sight of the government-palestine, and the people-palestine, and I am looking at these persons.