Culture and Growing Up

When Your Age Isn’t Your Age, Growing Up Fast

David Brooks in a recent New York Times column talked about the way upper middle-class parents raise their children as opposed to the way working-class parents raise their kids. In toady’s world the life of the upper-class kid is full of scheduled piano and music lessons, organized tutoring and non-school learning, and organized sports activities. The upper-class kid has an active life and goes to bed exhausted at night after a day that is completely regimented often organized by a mother who is more Mike Ditka than June Cleaver.

Working-class kids, in the argument of Brooks, are raised by their parents in a more freewheeling way. The parents believe that life is going to be tough so the kids should have fun while they are still young and their will be plenty of time for work later. The kids are allowed to ride their bikes by themselves and just hang-out with kids in the neighborhood and have unorganized fun. They are also involved in sports; but do not have their parents send them to all the specialized camps and the like ( but the working-class, and the poor, still dominate American pro sports despite not having the benefits of these camps and special treatment).

In his argument, where Brooks is saying that culture often matters more than economics in determining the outcomes of peoples lives, a notion that I agree with and one that is rooted in the prophetic tradition and the Quran ( “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of themselves”) . So the upper-middle class are raised to inherit the position of their parents, and even more, and the working-class are raised to do the same.

Critics argue that Brooks is not taking into account the fact that working-class don’t have the money that upper-class parents do so that it is ridiculous to even critique them for not sending the kids to expensive basketball camps or to cello lessons with a Cambodian master and Brooks recognizes this. He points out that some cultures, such as the Chinese and Jews, tend to do well no matter where they are in the world and there has to be a reason for this and that is culture and I do not see how anyone can argue with this.

At a time when the masses in Brazil, Argentine, Paraguay, Uruguay and other Latin American counties were mired in poverty German immigrants came to those nations and within a few years advanced further economically than their neighbors and created successful and prosperous enclaves of German culture.

Jewish immigrants from Europe came to Palestine and did with the land, and economics of the area, more than any Arab state has been able to do in the region in centuries in just a few years. When in the middle-east I looked at the poverty and misery of the Palestinians and felt bad; but when I went to Jordan and Egypt I asked who was occupying them because they were doing just as bad if not worse? Similarly the Iranians, who have the history of a great civilization, have advanced farther scientifically, economically and culturally then their neighbors (other than the Jed Clampett oil states)

In Nigeria, and amongst the Nigerian diaspora, members of the Ibo tribe tend to do well no matter where they are and be economically more prosperous than their neighbors even though they do not control the power of the state and in Nigeria, where the Hausa tribe has dominated government, they are the poorest. In other parts of Africa Indians and Lebanese have been able to come and dominate local economies not based on conspiracy theories; but based on a tight-knit culture that produces achievers ( although limited).

If you go to Malaysia and Indonesia there is a bitter hatred for the Chinese; but without the Chinese living in those nations their economies would completly collapse and why is it that a few million Chinese can dominate hundreds of millions of Malays and Indonesians? It is culture.

In America, go to the African-American and Latino communities, and you will find that the businesses in those communities are ran by Arabs, Koreans, and generally people not of those groups. Many times, despite having economic resources, the communities do not have the culture that it takes to even handle the small-business of their own community ( and this is not because banks will not give them money or they give loans to Arabs and Koreans).

Culture matters. It is why my ancestors the Irish and other groups like the the Scots and the Scots-Irish, Italians, Poles and Slavs came to America and made up the great working-class and middle-class of this nation while the English, French, Germans, Scandinavians and Jews would come to dominate the upper-class.

It is not genetic, it is cultural; because some people in all of these groups prosper and some fail and an example of culture is this. The families that I grew up with believed that it was a great thing of their kids went to college, any college. If the kid went to the local community college it was considered a good achievement. Other families just thought it was good enough for the dad to get his son on at the plant or with a good union job when the kid got out of high school or following the family tradition into the military. Those were the goals that those families set-up for the kids as they were growing-up and those are all fine goals and they will lead to a decent and rewarding life and it is these people who form the backbone of society.

Other families I know had no goals and the families could care less about their kids education and would repeatedly tell them that when they turned 18 they were on their own. These families didn’t make sure their kids did their homework, much less help them or get them a tutor, and these kids tended to be dropouts or just barely got by in school. Of course many of these kids became criminals or teenage mothers and the like or addicted to drugs at a young age and I went to school with many who did not live to see their twentieth birthday because they were murdered or otherwise taken-out. These kids were also raised to be what their parents were; for the girls that would be multiple baby-mammas living on welfare in section 8 or public housing collecting a government check, and for the guys being thugs who spend their lives in and out of jail making fast money until they get killed or a life sentence.

The upper-class kid is expected to be an achiever and to do well on all levels. It is not good enough t go to the state college or the local public university; these kids have to go to expensive private universities. They are raised with a sense of entitlement that they will lives of ease and everything will be handed to them on a silver platter ( and that is why so many are in therapy or on drugs because they cant figure out why life isn’t working like that) and when they get out of school they then will gradually climb the economic stairs to affluency.

It is in the early twenties that all three of these groups are the same age but at vastly different stages in their lives. The working-class kid at say, 24, is working a 40 hour week, and probably putting in overtime, and may be married with kids already and is saving up to by his own home if he doesn’t have it already. He doesn’t go out and party all that much, maybe on the weekends every now and than or to sporting events, but after a hard day of work ( probably physical hard work) he comes home and drinks a few beers, watches the game, kisses the wife and babies and then goes to sleep. He is not care-free and he has financial and economic worries, he may be behind on the bills, and his job may be outsourced to China or El Salvador, so he goes to bed with a lot of shit on his mind. Many of his friends are not doing as well as he is so at least he can be thankful for what he has.

The poor male kid at age 24 has probably already been convicted of a felony or two, has done some time, is ineligible for many good jobs, has a baby or two and is behind on his child support, has had many friends murdered and sent to prison an has a shady living arrangement. If he has avoided a life of crime he is travelling on the bus an hour or two each way to work a shitty dead-end job. The female already has 1 kid, maybe 2,3 or 4, looks like she is 40 and does not go out and party anymore but when she wants to have fun sits at home and smokes a blunt while watching a DVD with friends.

At 24 the upper-class kid is out of college and has just got back from backpacking Europe and maybe Asia and Latin America. He is living in an apartment in the city with roommates and working a bullshit job just to make money to party. He eats out everyday, never cooks, parties every night, dates different women casually on both ends, and has a carefree existence and has no worries. When he wants to get serious he has a degree from a prestigious university and connections, for now he is partying at 24 like the working class and poor kids did at 15 and 16 and while they are working hard, or doing hard time, he is having the time of his life and is a yuppie living in the city.

So 24 isn’t 24 for everyone, for many 24 is like 44 and for others it is like 14.

Immigration Rallies 

Immigration Rally Sen.McCain and Tom Tancredo

It would be foolish not to mention that history was witnessed over the weekend with the Pro-Immigrant Rally in Los Angeles that attracted over 500,000 people. The media and the police, both clueless to the groundswell of support the movement was getting, expected only 10,000 to 30,000 but more than 500,000 people showed up according to the official account and with this something monumental has happened in American history; Latinos have made s statement that they are here, organizing and voting and will have a say.

On the other side of the argument you have Congressman Tom Tancredo and the Minuteman who lead the anti-immigration crowd and call for tighter borders and the deportation of undocumented workers and they too have grassroots support from white Americans who seek to preserve a white-majority in this nation and others.

With the House having passed the immigration bill, and the senate debating it, this could be one of the most divisive issues since the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam Era and could dramatically effect the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Tom ” we should bomb Mecca” Tancredo is expected to run for president on an anti-immigrant platform in the 2008 elections and this will swing the GOP to the right on that issue during the primaries. Many in the Democratic Party would like to support immigrant-rights but they know that is an unpopular stance with the American people who are worried not about overpopulation or anything else other than racial and cultural realities.

Is there a middle-ground? Maybe,and I will be attending a speech sponsored by the Legalize the Irish Campaign by Sen. John McCain in the Bronx on Friday who is calling for a middle-path and he is running for president in 2008 as well.

Inside Man

I saw Inside Man yesterday and I liked it but it wasn’t the nest work of Spike Lee and Denzel Washington. What Lee did do, as he has done in many films, is capture the spirit of New York in many nuanced ways with his characters and the camera. Why is he able to do this? Because Spike loves his New York like Woody Allen loves his different New York. The film gets a thumbs up from me and is an entertaining two hour sand personally I always love when these types of films end the way this one did; but I cant tell you how or why.

I can tell you that on the way home on the subway a Salafi brother with a super short thobe got up and started trying to sell DVD’s of Inside Man, 16 Blocks, the new Steve Harvey film and even the Chronicles of Narnia.

Muslim News

Muslim Pol in Paterson, New Gerzee claims he is “shocked” by being double-crossed by the local Dems. That is like being shocked you got a haircut at a barber shop.

The case of Adam Blake an American-Muslim, who like many traveled around the Muslim World seeking knowledge with little or no money and is now under scrutiny for it is highlighted in the Daily News.

The essays on gender-relations are going to be made into a short book and I will let readers know when it is done Insha’Allah.

Anthropology of Jews and More 

Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews
I have been reading this book by Melvin Konner and in it he makes some interesting points. While pointing out there areas were Muslims have been less than desirable in the treatment of Jews he also points out that rabid anti-Semitism is an import from the West to the Muslim World.

Konner points out that the earliest propagators of anti-Semitic myths in the Arab world were Arab Christians who had been influenced by their European Christian brethren. As an example of this he points out that during the famous Dreyfus Affair in France, where a Jewish man was falsely charged with treason, editorials in the Muslim press were favorable towards Dreyfus and accusatory towards the French.

It is in 1933 when the German Nazi regime began systematically spreading their anti-Jewish theories in the Arab World and they spent a great deal of money to popularize those beliefs that the ideas became popular. Then, twelve years later, in 1945 we see anti-Jewish pogroms in Tunisia and Egypt. Then in 1948, wit the establishment of the State of Israel, things took a turn for the worse until this day. What would have happened if the Nazis and Europeans had not planted these seeds?

Got Hired
Thank Allah ( not G_d, the two words are not interchangeable) I got a new job. When I was tested for the job along with several other young men all I could say was alhamdudilah for my education and those public school teachers who taught me how to read and write so well. Some of the other young men who were tested, who wanted jobs, failed the test. Others are having legal problems and thus another example of the crisis of young men for all of you who do not hate men.

Girls and Sex, Subway Drama and a No Show

I was in Manhattan but had to go to the Midwood section of Brooklyn in order to see a woman I was doing a job for on Thursday and had to catch the A train to the B train in order to do so.

The A was packed and I had to stand up and I end up standing next to two men who were yelling at each other because they both believed the other was standing too close. One of the men looked like he was in his forties and the other was a late teen. The older man, who you would think have better sense, started to get off the train but stood in the door as it opened and blocked it from leaving and yelled at the young men” you don’t know who you are fuckin with, I just did 15 years for a murder and Ill fuck you up bitch. Your a bitch ass nigga, come on and get off the train so I can fuck you up…come on…come on…”. At first the young man didn’t move, but then his ego got the better of him and he started to get off the train, and when he did this half the people on the screen begin screaming ” no, don’t do it, he is not worth it” and he followed their advice.

When I transferred to the B, which has to be the most polite line in NYC, everything was calm until I got to the middle-class Jewish neighborhood of Midwood. I met my client and when I left I decided to do some shopping on Kings Highway before leaving and I shopped for shoes (with no success), a belt, and a baseball cap and looked around for a nice spot to grab a bite to eat and that is when I saw a sign that read ; Kosher Pizza and Felafel. You cant get no better than that I said to myself, so I went in and like a pig ordered a slice, a felafel sandwich and some hummus.

It was while eating in the restaurant full of observant Jews that I eavesdropped on the owner having to rebut the strongarm tactics of a Hasidic businessman who was selling coffee and demanding he buy more coffee to which he replied “if I sell more coffee I will buy more coffee”; but this did not seem to matter to the coffee dealer who was pressuring him to buy more coffee than he needed.

While they were arguing I and I was trying to make out another conversation in Hebrew ( I know a little, but not much) a young girl from an observant family who was dressed like an orthodox school girl was leaving the store and when her cell phone rang The Pussycat Dolls tune played that says “don’t you wish your girl was hot like me, don’t you wish your girl was a freak like me”. Now, quite honestly that blew me away.

It is not the fact that a religious Jewish girl would be listening to that sexually charged music; it is the fact that she has it playing on her cell phone. So, I asked myself; is this girl a freak ( a freak being on oversexed girl)? I doubt it. Like many Muslim girls going to religious schools she probably feels isolated and bored by her religious surrounding and dreams of a world were all the non-religious kids are having fun. This is very common in the Muslim community I know and it appears that there are at least some who feel the same way in the observant Jewish community.

While these girls dream of wearing jeans that look painted on and having their breasts popping out of their blouses as the go to school, and look at the public schools students with envy, most seldom get out of the house for anything other than activity with their families, school and religious activities.

If they are gonna become a freak chances are they will have to find a rebellious young Jewish or Muslim boy ( and there are no shortage of those) who they can fool around with and sneak off with in a extra few minutes somewhere. This is what has brought upon the phenomenon in religious communites of young people and oral sex. It is a technicality you see that allows them to still say they are virgins.

I had been thinking a lot about women, and young women in particular, in the previous days after watching a video. The video showed a group of young men and aspiring rappers in a room with naked young girls. As the guys played with the girls pussies and smacked their asses they held conversations with one another, smoked weed, and drank with the girls remaining bent over on all fours the entire time ( later they would have sex). These girls were not prostitutes it was explained to me, but just young girls from the neighborhood having a good time and the African-American rappers specifically requested Latinas and Asian women.

For the men in the video, I know what they were thinking. They had some fine young tenders with big asses and they were just their for their pleasure and they didn’t even care to know these girls names or anything about them and as the old saying goes they were just pieces of meat. It was harder for me to understand what the girls got out of this? I mean, if they are just having sex that would be one thing, but they are sitting around and letting these guys make fun of them and talk bad to them and pass them around and give them to their friends and just treat them like garbage and it made me wonder were these girls minds are?

So, when I saw this Jewish girl, who I am sure has the phone on vibrate at home, I thought of those girls. Later that night, at the Brooklyn Public library before stoppin for Maghrib at Masjid al-Farooq on Atlantic Ave,, I saw a young girl who made me forget about the Jewish girl.

Sitting at a table reading the newspaper and waiting for a computer to open up I heard a young girl say “you know, I only like big sicks, and your dick is too little…now that nigga Ray has a big dick that I like” and when I turned to look at this girl she appeared to be about ten years old! For some reason the first words that came to my head were those of a Muslim brother and friend of mine named Muadh ( now living in Saudi Arabia) who once told me “the children of the ghettos are the ultimate victims of the sexual and cultural revolution”.

Our girls are in trouble. They were always vulnerable; but now it has changed and the dreams of horny boys have come true as girls are now acting out the dreams of the boys and writers celebrate it as a celebration of womens sexuality. Those writers and thinkers in such a celebratory mood from their penthouses with nannies taking care of their imported children will not be anywhere around as these young girls care for their children in housing projects, lay on their sick bed from HIV and spent lives on poverty based on getting a little liberated as youngsters.

The boys, of course, for the most part, don’t give a shit about any of this and the want today what high school boys and older men have always wanted and that is pussy and as much of it is they can possibly get it. Today they get to sit back and enjoy threesomes and watch fake lesbian sessions from middle school on. Going back to my school days, if it wouldn’t have been for wiser girls, I would have never went to school but would have had sex everyday and like the guys in the film I could care less what these girls names were as long as they looked decent.

What about the girls out there who don’t wanna get down like that? Are you just a square now if you don’t give out oral sex like hugs? 36 Mafia won a Grammy for a song called “Its Hard Out There Being a Pimp” somebody should make a song “Its Hard Out there for a Girl”.

St. Patricks Day Parade
The parade aint my thing. There are some things going on this weekend in the Irish community that do interest me, but being around a bunch of drunks I do not know is not fun to me so I do not attend the parade and the last time I did got into a scuffle and that was it for me.

Block Party

Any hip-hoppers out there should be looking forward to Dave Chappelle’s block party which is debuting. This film features not only the comedy of Chappelle but such hip-hop greats as Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, Freeway, Lauryn Hill, Wycleaf Jean, Big Daddy Kane, Talib Kweili, John Legend, Dead Prez and The Roots.

Violence, Norman Mailer, a What If and a Fight

A 13 year old boy in the Bronx who was a good student and just arrived from Ghana was stabbed to death for his cell phone he was talking on by two other teenagers. An Orthodox Jewish man was gunned down as he tried to move his car in Crown Heights. A high school kid in Queens was hit by a car and his leg was ripped off by a cray middle-aged female driver who had just hit someone else and was fleeing the scene from the first accident.

Violence and danger is all around us at almost all times. In prison they say that any time you fight you should be ready to fight to the death and that means being ready to kill or to be killed. Boxer Roy Jones Jr. who breeds hundreds of fighting game-cocks on his Florida ranch said ” I like them because they are like me….they are ready to fight or die at a moments notice.”

There are those who are naive and who juts do not realize how violent people can be and they walk around all day with no sense of security and are not aware of their surroundings and these people are easy victims. Or as a cop I know would say they are “volunteer victims”.

IF you have any good sense, and know anything about the world, then you should know that you should be security conscious at all times. That means amongst other things; don’t count your money in public, don’t jog or walk around listening to your ipod at night or in areas known for crime, don’t pull your razor cell phone out in front of people who look unemployed, use your venetian blinds or buy some ( don’t give the burglars a heads-up by letting them know the lay-out of your house by letting them look right in your home), and use other common sense measures.

Of course a lot of it just doesn’t matter because cowardice is so prevalent in society today. People make jokes about how big of pussies they are and then chastise guys who don’t wanna walk around wearing a purse and watching Brokeback Mountain.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) instructed the believers to fight and defend our property. That means alahamdudulah, that as a matter of faith we should not surrender our property to thieves and bandits and that is we die defending our property that we die as shahid. Many will say why should we die for property? Why should we not just let the robber get what he wants and then be gone? It is about principal; if you succumb to hm once then he knows hes got you and the next thing you know Muslims have the reputation of being easy victims and this is an important point.

In New York why are Asian owned bodegas robbed much more than Arab or Dominican owned bodegas? Because as a rule the Asians are easy victims and the Arabs and Dominicans will either fight or extract revenge letter. Why white Bobos picked for mugging and robbery all the time ass the schlep around time from the coffee shop to the boutique? They are easy victims and they do not even know how to defend themselves even if they had the will.

Norman Mailer and Son
Norman Mailer is one of my favorite writers and he is an old school writer, political activist, thinker and guy. He came from a generation where it was understood that men didn’t have to cut their balls off in order to be intellectuals or artists. That you could still talk like a man and act like a man and be progressive minded. Yesterday I heard an interview with Mailer and his 27 year old son John Buffalo on NPR. They have co-authored a book The Big Empty : Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America together ( and yea I have to admit that I started to change the channel but when I heard the word boxing in the title I decided the stay tuned). The son was OK, and he still has not fully developed, and he had very good ideas relating to how technology is changing society, but you could see the generational difference. The young Mailer still sounded like a guy, in contrast to many of today’s middle-class and upper-class males whose sisters voices are deeper than theirs; but he said that he wanted to see a day when women ruled the world. He said it had never been done and that maybe they could do things better; The elder Mailer wisely stated that women would do juts as bad a job as men. Is this the new ideology of the young left? Give the world to Suzy and Jane and maybe shell let us shine her shoes? If you look at the female worship you see in he words of many , and vilification of all things male, it makes me wonder.

What If?
What if people began having operations that made grown adults look and sound like children and then demanded to go to elementary school once again and to be called and treated like a child and to even go into the bathrooms with kids. What if after a period of time these people gained popularity and that it became politically incorrect to call them mentally-ill and that the opinion masters in Manhattan called anyone a puritanical bigot who criticized them and spoke out against them?

For anyone who enjoys a good boxing match like a do I would advise you to tune into Showtime in Saturday night to watch the American Jeff Lacy, who many see as the future of the Super Middleweight division, take on the undefeated Weslsh veteran Joe Calzaghe live from Manchester, England. If I were betting I would be putting my money on Lacy.