Nadia Elkharadly: Human Respect

Nadia LogoI hate the news sometimes.  I know that probably sounds like a vapid and ignorant thing to say, but I truly do.  Purveyors of news of the current events variety strike me as fear mongerers and scandal spreaders far more often than they seem to be sharing actual pertinent information.  But maybe that sentiment is just my attempt at hoping that we live in a better world that we actually do.  Turning on a local news channel, clicking into CBC Newsworld on my blackberry, or listening to newsbreaks in the car on the way home from work; I can’t escape all the truly horrible things that are happening in this world, both near and far.

newsMurders, kidnappings, rapes, people gloating about the death of a public figure, and most recently a horrible, purposeful explosion at a sporting event – there is one common thread to all of these incidents, and it’s people.  People all over the world are committing atrocities to each other, and in my mind it all comes down to one thing: the slow dying of human respect.

I’m not trying to simplify matters at all, or solve crime worldwide or even get anyone to agree with the point I’m going to try to make here.  This is a train of thought I’ve been riding for a while now.  It all started last week, my director and another manager at my day job asked me about a television show I’d recently filmed.  It was a reality show, and I have to admit it was one of the most interesting and strangest experiences of my life, not the least part of which was watching myself on TV, portrayed as the director, editors and show runners wanted me to for the purposes of the shows plot and storyline.  Truth be told I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d said, was surprised by many of the things that made it to air, but overall aside from a little embarrassment here and there, I was fairly well pleased by how the thing turned out.  I was also Realityrelieved, and pleasantly surprised, by all the positive feedback I’d received about my little television debut.  Aside from a snide comment or two by one of my castmates on the show, some strange new twitter followers and Facebook friend requests, and watching strangers talk about me on social media in general, I came out of the experience not only unscathed but pretty much fine with how it all turned out.  This was the feedback I gave to my director as we walked back to my desk from a meeting; that I went into the experience promising to only be myself, and no matter what the outcome was that I could at least hold onto that.  Being a fairly self-confident person, I was able to deal with the minor negativity that came my way.  But, my manager brought up a fair point; a less confident, more sensitive person may have come out of the same situation feeling extremely hurt, or worse.  The act of putting yourself out there, be it on television, on social media, the internet in general, has in this day and age become synonymous with painting a bullseye on your chest, turning towards an angry, spiteful mob and asking them to loose their arrows.

rehtaeh-parsons1The conversation then turned to a recent tragic story in the news, that of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons.  The story of this young woman, who was raped not only physically, but emotionally to the point that she saw no reason to live, is all over the news, making headlines not only for the tragedy of it all, but the uproar it caused all over the world.  From Parsons’ story, to the story of BC teen Amanda Todd to the story of the young woman raped on a bus in New Delhi, to the story of yet another woman raped in Tahrir Square in Egypt, to the countless other women whose bodies and senses and self are defiled and destroyed, the discussion turned to violence against women, and how widespread the issue is.  While the prevalence of social media, and the rapidity to which an image and idea can spread using those tools may have contributed to the suicides of Parsons and Todd, social media was not what hurt them.  It wasn’t Facebook or Twitter that made those boys share those pictures of the crime the committed against those girls, or made the peers of those girls taunt and torture them.  While gender politics in India and the Middle East may make women likelier victims of sexual and physical violence, it’s not as simple as that.  Whether in the Middle East, in Asia, or right here in North America, violence against women is an unfortunate part of humanity.

At that point, my train of thought turned yet again.  You always hear the phrase “rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power”.  It’s a known truth, and to that I add: rape, and violence against women goes beyond gender, male and female power struggles. Violence, sexual and otherwise, is perpetrated against any and all members of the human race, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or religion (though those things may be driving factors).  Regardless of motivation, be it power, anger, racism, hatred, there is one thing that I believe is the common thread between all these crimes that are taking place all over the world.  When a rapist looks at his victim and decides (yes DECIDES – makes the conscious choice, it’s not about so called male lack of self-control) to violate his victim, she’s is no longer a she.  In that moment, in that choice moment of any crime on any scale, the victim ceases to be a woman, girl, man, or person.  The victim, to the criminal, ceases to be human at all.  When you can dehumanize a person in your own mind to the point that anything you do to him or her, be it rape, maiming, murdering, bombing, and even petty theft, that’s when committing such a heinous crime is possible.

When I hear/read/watch the news, all I can see is a distinct lack of empathy, of common human decency, and most of all a lack of respect for one’s fellow human being.  Empathy and respect are rapidly dwindling all over the world.  When a group of teenage boys think it’s a good idea to not only physically violate a defenseless, unconscious girl, but to document and circulate images of their crime and her humiliation, it becomes abundantly clear that she lost all humanity in their eyes.  When a group of men in Egypt can look at a woman, protesting for democracy in the country they share right beside Two Explosions Near Finish Line at Boston Marathonthem and think it’s reasonable to tear her clothes of and savagely assault her, they not only defiled her, but they dehumanized her as well.  When a person (or persons) can plant bombs at the end of a finish line at a sporting event, meant to rally people together to celebrate their training, hard work and personal accomplishment, and follow through with those actions, it’s not just the explosives, but humanity itself, that is detonated.

I don’t know why it is that humans always turn against each other, and therefore themselves.  But I do know that nothing is going to change, in any part of the world, until we, as human beings, learn to respect each other.  Respect each other’s possessions, respect each other’s bodies, and respect each other humanity.  I sincerely hope we have it in us.

Until next time,




Tyson FroeseAs I started writing this column, I was informed that my friend Tyson Froese from Rebel Hero was robbed of his beloved guitars.  A senseless theft with no consideration for his feelings and no respect for his life or his creativity; yet another example of what I’ve just written about.  Help restore my faith in humanity, and help spread the word.  Hopefully we can reunite this talented musician with his guitars.


Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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