I Can See You, Can You See Me? by Mona Adribay

A nation that is not trying to excel is unknowingly digging its grave by its own hands. Societies undergo incessant development due to internal and external factors. The persistence of people’s growing needs is life changing. The human capital is fundamental to maintain balance and bring change.

On the one hand, the sudden eruption of firing demands and inquisitions in the MENA region is not as it seems. It is the strong will and power of individuals which has ripened on the right time. Laymen found their voices and made their silence, which has always been noisy only inside their minds and conscience, finally heard. They voiced their understanding of democracy and claimed their right to rejoice in social justice.

On the other hand, the pressure of McDonaldization on communities is a double-edged sword. People aspire to experience living under shared and global values; but such practices may be rewarding and damaging at the same time. It is important for individuals to shield their identities before embarking on being a universal citizen.

The pertinent question to be answered is how we can be global citizens in the light of all the threats facing our identity loss! It is important to start with the core dynamic constituent of a community, which are the citizens themselves. Shaping good citizens and making sure they know their duties before their rights, are accountable for their actions, respect the other, are proud of their culture and have a secure sense of belonging…the list is long… until an individual is aware of the necessary need to possess these criteria. Only then can we talk about democratic transition and social justice; but how can we plant seeds of democracy and citizenship in communities?

I would like to make a wild guess and say: Education! Well yeah!! It is through education that values can be deeply rooted in societies, talking about strong foundations of education means talking about shaping a whole new generation in terms of ideas, identity, civic values… children are the key element to establish a good-citizen-project.

Our children are the women and men of tomorrow. We should not forget that we were children once and that we had dreams. We all looked up to somebody and sought leadership in their acts. It is our turn to be good leaders for good citizens. We should encourage them and support their choices in order to help them be productive in their communities. As grown-ups, we should give younger individuals and each other ideas and instead of stuffing their minds, engage them in active experiential learning, encourage critical thinking, and help them find out what is good, desirable, and right.

Repeating mottos of wisdom and quoting inspirational change makers is as easy as a Google search click. We enjoy sharing our empathy and rivalry on social media, but we need to crack this shell of slacktivism and create a parallel world to the heroic virtual world we live in. Among us are aging artists, dancers, writers, public speakers, geeks, politicians, teachers, doctors… these people need to be seen. We should learn to converse with each other, look at each other’s eyes and share knowledge on the real ground. Sharing does not kill competition; it reinforces perseverance. It is very important to understand that we are not born to prevail and monopolize. We are like the wheels of train wagons; we all know that it is important to touch upon the intimacy that brings us all together. By being civically literate we can live in democracy, and this cannot be achieved by watching and theorizing. We need to act. And yes America, yes we can; but this time we can do it ourselves without a clenched fist.

As a grown up, I find joy in conversing with young people. I discuss serious issues with children about education, values, the future, honesty… Lately, I had a very inspiring conversation with a 17-year-old high school student. I learned that our children know this world just like us or even better.

Her name is Sahar (fascination in Arabic). She lives in Fes and she majors in Economics. The conversation started to take an interesting turn when she announced to me that she had a special day.

Me: Really! Let me guess, hmmm… you got engaged!

Sahar: Nah!

Me: You were granted a scholarship to study in the UK!

Sahar: I love your guesses but, nah!

Me: You won the lottery!

Sahar: (giggling) Nah, I spoke with people with hearing deficiency!

Me: Oh, now I am ashamed of all those shallow guesses I just made! How did you manage to do that?

Sahar: I got so emotional that it made me tear up.

Me: Tell me everything about it. How did you meet them?

Sahar: I see them all the time around the school. Last week, I saw a group of people with hearing deficiency and they were acting in a weird way. Their gestures, the way they use their hands to communicate with each other. The scene shocked me because it was something rare and they attracted passersby attention. At the time I had a class and I had to run. I simply waved my hand to them and left. To my surprise, they waved back “their way.” It was so innocent and cute. Another time, I was walking with my friend when I reached another group. Suddenly, one of them came to me and started doing gestures with his hands. I did not understand. I was just “poker face” and confused, unaware of what he was saying. Then, another person from the group joined his friend and started stuttering and uttering broken words. He was trying to tell us something, and ultimately I got his point. It was complicated. I understand that he was telling me that he could neither hear clearly nor talk. He could not communicate with other people. It was very difficult for him to say these few words and he tried very hard to express many things I could not understand.

Me: Did you ask him if he goes to school?

Sahar: Yeah, he told me that he went to school downtown. Their center exists there. He was saying things I did not understand. I really focused on trying to understand him. They come to a café near my high school.

Me: That’s great! So you guys can be friends!

Sahar: (She did not answer this question, she proceeded) Today, closer to my high school, I saw the same group talking to their teacher using sign language. The guy who talked to me last time recognized me and he excused himself from the group and came to greet me.

Me: How did you feel?

Sahar: I don’t know how to describe my feeling. I got emotional and sad to see people finding difficulty communicating. It is like they have a small planet on their own. It made me be grateful and thank God for a lot of things that I have and others don’t. Maybe no one may understand my feeling. It is something mystical.

Me: Don’t you think that maybe you should do something to get them out of their planet or simply make it bigger?

Sahar: I think all the people should try talking to them and make them feel that we are all the same, never look at them in a strange way, and give them chances to integrate in society…

Me: Do you think you could bring this change, and maybe start something?

Sahar: Well, at least I could break the loneliness they feel.

Me: Do you have ideas on how you could break their loneliness?

Sahar: Learning sign language.

Me: How? Maybe through education?

Sahar: Yes, that is a great idea. Share it on media.

Sahar experienced a life changing moment with people she had never met before, and maybe she might never see again. The lesson she got out of this is that we are all the same and we can all make change if we can favor empathy over sympathy. Sahar is only 17 and the lesson she learned made her grow many years.

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