Salı, Ağustos 07, 2007

One of Us

An Essay  by Erdogan Ahmet
(essay was written as an example and  part of  the`"thesis statement" that there cannot be "impartiality" or "objectivity" for a journalist, for the simple reason that he or she is influenced by an ideology which will somehow reflect in the final product. One can set the ground and give the intended message within a totally irrelevant story. EA)

Copy Right by Saint Martin Press

When we see a filthy man in torn clothing sleeping on a street corner, we look at him with contempt or pity. These people are called " homeless".  There are very few who worry about what these people, whose bones only meet the warmth in summer, do in winter. Although they live in a city with millions of other people, they are forsaken and lonely. Some of them talk to themselves. Others tell their thoughts and feelings with their eyes. Nobody asks them their thoughts. If they are interviewed by a reporter, he broadcasts or publishes distorted truths. And by doing so, he reinforces the prejudice of the rest of the society about the homeless people.

Once I had this prejudice, false-consciousness, and it isolated me from society. Now , I can see that it also isolated me from myself. When I first saw him, I wasn't aware of this fact. 

It was a cold winter evening. I had pulled my hat down over my ears, covered my face with a scarf, and put my overcoat. But I still felt the bitter cold. I walked down to the subway. When the train came, the crowd pushed to get inside. I knew there wouldn't be any empty seat. But I was tired, and with hope, my eyes looked for a place to sit. On my right there were seats for  at least four people. I set joyfully. Not one minute had passed when I raised my head with a feeling that all eyes were concentrated on me. I looked at my clothes, There was't anything strange about them . I soon became involved with the thoughts on my mind. This time my thoughts were broken off with a weight on my left shoulder. He was an old man. His white beard had darkened with the grime. He looked in my eyes with his own blue eyes, which hardly opened because of sleeplessness. His dark, dirty face - unwashed may be for weeks - became red for a moment. He bit his lip, which was almost lost under his mustache and beard. Then taking his head between his hands, he tried to go  back to sleep.

The crowd on the train walked off at the second stop. I was watching the old man. His shoes were worn out. He had covered his legs up to the knees with tatters. The darkened skin of his knees could be seen through a hole in his pants. With a strange feeling, I stood up from my seat and set just across from him. At his left on the seat there was a big bag which was full of remnants of food and other things. When the train stopped suddenly, he awoke and some of the food in the bag spread over the seat. The old man put the food back in the bag with special care. Then he took the remnant of a hamburger with his right hand and shoved his mustache away from his mouth with his left hand. Just as he had bitten into the hamburger, he felt me watching him. That aged, wrinkled face had become red with a childish shame. After he had barely swallowed the food in his mouth, he wiped his mustache with his hand. He tore a piece of paper, rolled it thickly like a cigarette. He took the rolled paper between two fingers, looked at it with hopeless eyes, and threw it down on the floor. And again he went back to his thoughts. I took my cigarettes and matches out of my pocket. He raised his head and started to look at my face with strange eyes. "Take uncle", I said. " I think you want to smoke. I know how difficult it is sometimes not having a cigarette." He was just looking at me strangely. " I already have decided to quit smoking. Since I don't need this anymore...." Then he smiled, took the pack, and lighted a cigarette with his shaking hands.

"Isn't it forbidden to smoke here? " I asked.
" Yes, but this is my home. If I go out, I freeze," he replied. And he continued to talk after each drag. " They call us bums. No one likes us. They look at us as we are animals though animals don't suffer in this country. They are fed with special food. Did you ever see a dog with a nice sweater on, little boots on his feet? "

He extinguished his cigarette and continued, " They say we are lazy. We are not working, not because we do not want to but because we couldn't find a job...."

His head between his hands, he just stared ahead, and continued, " You know,  my son, many years ago we didn't have this much unemployment. Then there was no fear of  being laid off..." His hands fell away from his head. It was easy to see the anger in his face. For a while he forgot my being there as he stared ahead. And probably many thoughts, memories were reflecting on his mind. " You know, my son, if there are a lot of hungry people who are willing to work even for nothing, there is no need to pay you more." While he was telling this, he closed his eyes and continued, " They didn't bring those people here to save them or to help them. On the contrary, they brought them here to make both them and us slaves for them. A new slavery. " He opened his eyes, but he couldn't bear the lights and closed them again. He raised his head heavily while starting to talk again, "The fear of being laid off makes us their slaves. But they are not contented with this. They destroyed everything, anything good."

Then he stopped his talking. That anger appeared in his face. Suddenly he opened his eyes. Sheltering his eyes with his hands, he continued to talk: " How can I take a shower? Where? If I take , I freeze. I don't have anything to put on. Look, you have a hat on your head, a coat and for sure a nest to sleep."

My face had become red. I felt this and a pain deep inside me. I wanted to say something but I couldn't move my tongue in my mouth, as if it were swollen. Then I asked in order to change the subject, "Uncle, you are always saying ' they'. Who are they?

Fearfully he looked over his left and his right shoulder. And again he took his head between his hands and stared. His lips had sealed, as if he were troubled. After a short silence he continued slowly, "You know, in many neighborhoods the apartments were set on fire, purposefully. If you take a walk through this streets, you will see hundreds of such apartments." I had already missed my station, and we had come to the last stop.

On the way back he kept on talking. He had been taken into a mental hospital. As he said, first he was happy about that but after living there a couple months he couldn't stand - in his words - " the animal trainers" and he escaped.He feeds himself with remnants of food from big hotels such as the Plaza and the Sheraton, which according to him, in one day throw away food with which thousands of homeless people could be fed. When we came back to the stop where I was to get off, he said " We lost the loving respect and trust , my son, because they wanted so, but now I am happy because I learned that there are still men who have not been robotized....." He had not finished his words, yet I got off. As the trained pulled away, he kept on talking.

On my way home and for the rest of the night, all this talk reflected on my mind. He was a man, one of us. The only difference was that he was one of the victims of "they." And the number of these victims is increasing. This means that one day I too may be a victim of "they." My mind was confused. But I had learned one thing" he and the people like him do not deserve to be blamed, to be looked down on. It should be "they." " They are the cause of this unprecedented hunger and suffering, so "they" should  be blamed, not the homeless people. 

An Essay from "In Our Own Words" text book
by R.Mlynarczyk  & S B Haber