It was a cool evening fall night, I just finished a live interview on the 9pm local Fox news, as a usual guest suspect I was asked to talk about the Muslim reaction to the ridiculous 14 minutes trailer/ film about the prophet. A friend called and wanted to meet for coffee at the Spyhouse Café. As I was trying to park my car in the dark crowded uptown neighborhood street . I heard someone screaming his lunge out and bounding on my car window, .. get you’re f@#$% ass out of here” he fumed. He was a white occasion (the race is important here) in his late 20’s early 30’s, he was excessively angry. I thought to myself, the situation didn’t warrant any of this, I didn’t hit any car and it is getting late, and I could reason with the angry white man, I was wrong, he was hysterical, kept on screaming .. “you hit my car, you hit my car” Where did I hit your car sir, Do you want my driving license? … I calmly asked, he kept on screaming orgy, . … why don’t you come with me Ill buy you a cup of coffee to calm you down” … I told him with earnest, it was a fatal mistake. I didn’t know what hit me as they say, all I remember after gaining my conscious, I heard a police officer asking ..“are you ok”? .. I wasn’t sure how to answer this question, in a situation like this, did he mean physically or emotionally. The young man must have struck me down with a close range below that left me with a black eye and a broken jaw. At the dark uptown ally I was trying to have a conversation with an angry white man… it was a mistake! Here in America, in a fight, you fight to win and physically eliminate your opponent no time for reasoning or negotiation.
Through history people fight for different reasons, money, girls, honor, In Chuck Palahniuk’s explosive novel , “Fight Club” the fight starts underground to help men relieve themselves of inner aggression by beating each other into unconscious conditions during secret undergrounds meetings, fight club becomes not just an obsession but a life-style. It is a far fetch cause but not by much, people in the west when they are engaged in conflict, they fight to win, and physically eliminating their opponents, it is an individual quest to triumph. The fight club had no audience no spectators, the fighters were the audience. In Arab world fighting is considered as a public spectacle. Arabs in the street for the untrained eyes, seem to be in a constant conflict and fighting all the time. But you hardily see any physical aggression, or violence; mostly a verbal and theoretical ones. Even with recent riots in the streets in Egypt, which is a political fight, conflicts between Islamists and the so called seculars oppositions, there are more screaming, banners, humors, street arts, than street violence, each faction is accusing the other of being the aggressor, flashing gruesome images of their grievances to gain public support and implicate the opposition. Everyone accuses the other of being “flole” (thugs) to discredit them and defeat them morally to turn public support against them. Saddam Hussein fight was orator fight before anything, to the rally people and crowd support. The American overwhelming response was swift and violent, they meant business they are interested in triumph not rhetoric, ignoring world audience protest and outcries. Likewise Israel disproportional response to a few rockets attack coming from Gaza or southern Lebanon is a case in point, the Arabs bluff the west blast… !
Watching a street fight in Egypt, the parties involved unlike in the west are not interested in winning the fight, as much as they are interested in winning the audience sympathy; it is a public act, a performance for a nonpaying audience, who has the final saying in deciding on who is at fault, no matter where the fight takes place, there is always enough spectators to watch the fight with a great interest to the end. The two parties involved in public fighting main purpose is to bring as many members of the audience in his side, they use all the means and skills pleading their cases to the audience. Creating more of a verbal fight than a physical one. This may involve part acting and part bluffing; hearing someone screaming “Ah Ya ainni” Oh my eye, it doesn’t mean one party was hit in the eye, it is a falls claim made against his opponent to get the audience in his side. This can be found also in sports, in soccer, where players use cunning and exaggeration of injury after a hit, to make belief and get the ref sympathy and maybe issuing a red card to the opponent player. That is why lots of Americans, soccer seems disingenuous and a dangerous sport, but football isn’t, goes figured. In American football the emphasis is on the hitting itself and not on the aftermath, and physically eliminating your opponents and gaining territories. At the dark ally in the uptown area, that cool fall night, I was fighting as an Arab, the problem was… we didn’t have any audience, just me and the angry white man.
Ahmed Tharwat / freelance writer/ pubic speaker/ host of the Arab American TV Show BelAhdan/ with open arms
Public TV Ch202, airs every Mondays at 10:30PM