Voyeurs of New York

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve spent weeks mentally elaborating my answers to the usual Humans of New York questions – “What was the happiest moment of your life?”, “If you could give a piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be”, you know the drill. I felt fully prepared for a spontaneous interview, only to discover that the HONY guy disappeared to the Middle East, leaving me and my answers behind in New York.

The method behind HONY is surprisingly simple, yet effective. The questions he asks are so personal that the answers will sound tragic in most cases. Combine them with a portrait of the person not quite facing the camera, post them online and wait for the comments to pour in. People will say that the stories “really put things into perspective”, whatever these things are. It’s a publicly acceptable kind of voyeurism because it makes you realize just how freakin’ #blessed you are. I enjoy reading the posts and looking at the photos, but I usually avoid the predictably repetitive comments.

Now, Brandon is in the Middle East, posting pictures from Jordan and Iraq. Photos showing families in a refugee camp or a guy riding a donkey in the desert were just what the mainly American audience expected, but some pics “completely shattered” – as they eloquently put it – their mental images of the Middle East.

The comments reveal complete cultural ignorance and prove the stereotype that many Americans have no idea about anything that lies beyond the borders of the United States. One picture shows a young woman in Western clothing (awesome DKNY paisley pants that I’m somewhat jealous of), and some of the top comments say that “for a second, I thought you were back in New York”. Really? What if I told you that girls like her are as common a sight in Amman as they are in New York?

In another photo, we see a little girl with her arm in a cast. The caption reveals that she fell down the stairs looking at the stars. One comment reads that this would not happen to first world kids because a) they’re looking at their phones all the time and b) even if they looked up, they wouldn’t see any stars because of light pollution. Again, what if I told you kids in Jordan have smart phones too? And what if I told you Amman has its own fair share of a light-polluted orange night sky?

I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Amman. Dear New Yorkers, could you do me a favour and get off your high horse for a second? You might realize that Amman is more like New York than you first want to admit. I know it’s hard to believe for some of you, but the Middle East is more than bombs, camels, and women covered from head to toe. If you can accept that, I’ll accept that ‘murica is more than burgers and cultural ignorance.

Update: The HONY dude is in Africa now. I expect the comments to get worse. Please note that Africa is not a country.

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