Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Arab Street

On the news they will often talk about how events will be "recieved in the Arab street". Well, I'm currently living in the Arab street and it seems to me that most events are recieved with inexplicable shouting. I've never seen anything like it. My room is situated on an alley/ parking lot, and in the evenings young men will hang out there and have entire conversations by shouting across the parking lot instead of walking over to each other. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they smell.

Luckily, the shouting seems to die down around 9:00 when I go to sleep. Unfortunately, it occasionally starts up again around 2:00 am after the bars let out. I get up and go to the window to yell taissez-vous! and they're already gone. Is it wrong to assume they're unemployed. France has high unemployment; maybe as much as 8 percent of the population. The Arabs here find it especially tough to get hired by the French. So, maybe they hang out in the alley and drink and shout.

I tried for weeks to figure out what unnerves me about walking around here in the evenings. It's that 95 percent of the young people on the street are males: there are almost no women to be seen. When polled, young French Arabs complain that French culture lacks "modesty". I guess that means women; I've never heard a male called "immodest". Maybe this is why the women aren't out, but to me it reads as a "bad neighborhood". Conversely, I see the pictures of nude women all over France as a sign of "freedom" or "sophistication", while some people apparently read them as "immodest" or "immoral". Lastly, it's hard for me to escape my North American belief that work is a moral duty and that men who hang out all night are the "immoral" ones, while streets without women are "dangerous".

So, who knows... maybe we're all just getting our signals crossed here.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I was thinking about this yesterday on the bus... the idea that if people knew why people are doing whatever they're doing, we'd all be a lot more comfortable with everything. Unless, you know, we're awakened repeatedly by whatever "perfectly reasonable" thing is going on.

In that context, I have to say that the people who go through life believing that other people *do* have legitimate reasons for most of what they do probably have the lease problems with xenophobia, etc.