Tag Archives: Middle East

Humans of The Middle East

If you have a Facebook, you’ve probably seen a Humans of New York (HONY) post at least once. HONY was started in the summer of 2010 by Brandon Stanton as a photography project. Stanton walks the streets of New York City and photographs the intriguing people who live there.

“Stanton has a remarkable talent for talking to complete strangers and photographing them in a way that lets you see just a glimpse of their everyday lives, including a quote by the subject.”

Stanton has a remarkable talent for talking to complete strangers and photographing them in a way that lets you see just a glimpse of their everyday lives, including a quote by the subject. Sometimes these quotes are playful and innocent, but sometimes they’re extremely personal.

For example, one post showed a young man with a Mohawk and tattoos wearing spikes and leather. In his quote, the man explained that he went to jail for threatening to kill an older man who was stalking his younger sister. Many times Stanton photographs people’s hands or feet as they confess something personal, to keep their identity hidden. But even the photos that don’t show the hardship in people’s eyes somehow manage to show emotion.

Although the photos from NYC have always touched my heart, HONY’s newest adventure has done something incredible. In August, Stanton set out on a 50-day adventure around the world to photograph a whole array of people. While on this adventure, Stanton visited the Middle East.

Since 2001, the Middle East has been depicted as a desolate land full of barbarians and terrorists. Since then, it’s been hard to humanize the Middle East. But in the 13 years since 9/11, Stanton has done something that no one else has: he somehow overcame that barrier, and humanized the Middle East in a way that is absolutely beautiful.

If you’re a faithful HONY follower, you can appreciate the conversations that Stanton has with his subjects in New York. When you compare the posts from New York and the Middle East, you can see the same issues come up. One post in particular, a college-aged girl in Jordan explains that she pushes people away because she’s afraid to get hurt. I don’t know about other girls my age, but I’ve felt that way a million times.

Some of the heavier stories include a shop owner recalling the day the Taliban ripped apart his store and killed his friend. Seeing the sadness and terror in his eyes as he recalled the event is truly amazing. We hear about these things on the news, but we brush them off. Seeing a photo of the person, and seeing the words they have said really bring it home.

Since 9/11, there’s been so much judgment and hate towards Middle Easterners. I can recall snide remarks being made about some of my high school classmates who were of Middle Eastern descent, even if they lived in the US for their entire life. What HONY has done in the Middle East may be the most beautiful art project I’ve ever seen. Reading what these people have to say and what they’ve been through is heart wrenching.

No matter what stereotypes an area has, we must remember that the stereotypes are only true for a small group. As humans, we have to open our hearts and see that there are others who have the same battles, and there are some who have seen horrors beyond our imagination. Regardless, we need to start realizing these are people, just like us.

I challenge everyone to spend just 30 minutes scrolling through HONY. It will give you an amazing new perspective on not only the Middle East, but the people you pass on the streets. You never know what amazing stories someone has.

Occupy Wall Street is changing history one city at a time

Occupy Wall Street protest. Photo from Creative Commons.

Occupy Wall Street has taken over the United States. The movement is protesting on Wall Street, as well as 180 other cities, to end our economic crisis. People of all ages paraded around with signs telling us to “Wake up!” and “Tear down this Wall St.”

This is the type of political involvement America needs. Unlike the stigma many media personalities and politicians are giving them, these are not just young, ignorant, hippie students; these are the people affected most from the economic downturn. Teachers who pay more taxes than CEOs, 80-year-olds who can’t afford to retire, college graduates who remain unemployed and single parents working multiple jobs to keep food on the table.

The protestors claim to have been inspired by the Arab Spring to try to change America’s economic course. Demonstration leaders have used social media, word of mouth and sheer manpower to expand the scope of the protests. Protesting by the youth of the nation isn’t happening in just America. Reports of protesting in England, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and several other Middle Eastern countries have been in the news regularly due to the world’s economic crisis.

But the movement has come under fire for not having a clear goal that is completely understandable. If you’re going to camp out in the streets of New York City, you should probably know what you’re fighting for. But I don’t think it’s their lack of goals, it’s their vast amount of ideals and lack of leadership.

Photo from Creative Commons.

If you read their Declaration of Occupation, there are 21 complaints made about corporate America. Each one of these complaints is legitimate if you ask me, but they’re so vague the protestors have a hard time pinpointing one cause they’re marching for. These complaints have no formal list of demands, which makes them seem disorganized and noncohesive. The movement needs a specific creed as to what they’re opposing. For critics, “corporate greed” just isn’t a good enough answer.

This is where a strong leader is needed. The Civil Rights movement had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Women’s Rights movement had Gloria Steinam and the Anti-Vietnam War movement had Bob Dylan. I believe someone needs to step up and lead these people if they are going to succeed. A hindrance of this might be that the Occupy Wall Street movement itself is supposed to be a true democratic organization with everybody contributing equally, but they need a leader with the political know-how.

Occupy Wall Street has the potential to make history. Many people are likening these protests to those of the 1960s, and I can’t describe how thrilled I am to have this happen in my lifetime. With the economic calamities and environmental impact careless and selfish politicians and corporations our generation has witnessed, it’s about time we do something about it.

Photo from Creative Commons.

There is going to be opposition, but I hope these people don’t give up. There are critics of every movement: the abolitionists were jailed, suffragists were ignored and civil rights leaders were murdered. Those downsides to change are worth it for the generations to come. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”