And she said something a few weeks ago that had me wondering about social capital and social responsibility. A note to the wise – this is a declaration for curiosity and moving into a space of complexity and accomplishing the mighty good.
“If I showed up everyone would just get up and leave” she said.
A small piece of my heart broke. Amazed and stunned I listened on as she a Muslim woman spoke about her dislike of pubs and the abject fear she might invoke in others if she were to visit a *house of alcohol.
(*My words not hers)
At times silence and laughter are used to cover the uncomfortable. I smiled and reflected on my non pub going history. I held the notion since Uni that Pubs were not spaces I felt comfortable or safe in. Alcohol and the consumption of numerous pints were for others and not for necessarily for me. I also held the misguided notion that if I were to go to a pub much like my colleague I could be the cause of the music to stop, fights to breakout or the lively conversation to awkwardly end, and that I would be caused to leave. I hadn’t thought of people being propelled from a space I walked into due to my ethnicity, or that people may react that way to her for her faith. London Summer of 2018.
Discussing the comment a little more I could see some similar themes between my story and hers. She then said “Because of my faith we do see Muslims that do drink (alcohol) if I were to go into a pub and someone saw me (gestures to her *Khimar) it would, you know, be like a sign that it’s okay. I couldn’t take that responsibility. I wouldn’t want someone to think because I did they would too. I just don’t like pubs for me. I don’t get it really. Since I converted it’s not something I can see myself doing.”
*I had thought that a Hijab was the attire worn by some Muslim women. But an Hijab I was reliably informed is a term used for a woman that is covered.
The Greater Good
In that moment I got it. My colleague was not thinking solely about herself or the other Muslim who may, by chance see her entering a pub. I believe my colleague was speaking about the greater good. The ability to place community both seen and unseen alongside and in front of ones individual needs. A greater I, a social responsibility to other faithful Muslims. The request to ‘go to the pub’ came from someone that was leaving the organisation. An unwritten rule of going to the pub to say goodbye to their team and the organisation was the offer. Personal needs/responsibility met social capital with respect and honour – and undoubtedly won.
Awe and Humility
The altruist was observing another law. One that she chose to follow, be in awareness of and sit humbly with. A gentle observing of what unity means for her faith and community that simply outshines the tidal experiences of work alliances and friendships. What was true for her was that attending a pub went against a fundamental truth and did not bow to external pressures from the team. I am usually awed by the immense of space, by scenes of staggering beauty, deft and touching poetry, art that takes breaths away, music that opens doorways. But this, this, this was something else. It spoke of time, respect, values, integrity. It spoke of the greater WE and a love that appeared without an end. Quietly…
A Better WE
My acceptance to pub and bar life is tentative and retracts like a wave. Alcohol is a cognitive disinhibitor and a troubling agent for thinly veiled opinions and loose tongues. I am looking for a greater more un-inhibited WE outside of religion and pubs, away from schoolisms and other human trappings that control, dehumanise, limit and separate. The WE that views all as a continuum and is hungry for parity and better centuries to follow Now!
I seek what may never be found – a utopia, an ideal, a peace amongst humanity that lasts. Perhaps the need is myth and arises at these worrying and troubled times. Or as Eric Hoffer has written about we came as close to a difficult place as we could and were scared back into what we knew. Dank Dark Smelly Fear. And here we could remain until we all purposefully choose something better. My wish for her, for me, for Us is that we find other ways…
A few thought inspiring podcasts to end with.
Tim Ferris with Sam Harris
TED Talks Radio Hour Beyond Tolerance 28 uly 2017