Saturday, August 30, 2008

The importance of being Unreasonable?

I was reading the Agenda given to us by ButterBean's school and came across the following very interesting and appropriate quote:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

-- George Bernard Shaw

How true is that? I find this particularly fitting as I am constantly adapting the world in Jordan to myself :). Well, not exactly, but I do refuse to make myself over in the image of a Jordanian wife and mom, much to the dismay of many, I am certain. And, I have known for years that I am unreasonable. So, I'll just consider myself progressive from now on, shall I?

Seriously though, I think this quote expresses exactly the quandary many people returning to Jordan after years abroad face. They are thought of as (and criticized for being) unreasonable. They are told in quite dismissive terms that the reason you do this or that and think this or that is because you just came back. As if that's a valid reason for ignoring things that need improvement and refusing to engage in self-criticism.

As an example, both El 3atal and I are pretty unreasonable about refusing to yield right of way to people driving the wrong way on one-way streets. Coming into our neighborhood is a one-way street down which many people seem ultimately comfortable driving illegally. Well, that's fine (I wish, however, they'd choose an activity likely only to kill themselves, rather than law-abiding people as well). However, when I come into the street, I drive right down the middle. And my car is not small. Not at all. Since cars are always parked on at least one side of the street, someone will have to go around. Now, personally, I don't care if the open space is on my side of the road or theirs, I don't move. If they want to drive illegally, they will simply have to make all of the effort. If cars are parked on both sides, they'll simply have to back up... I can assure you, especially the women drivers who do this get really pissed at me. Now, I see that the reasonable thing to do would be to simply be "nice" and move out of their way and such. But, then we'd see no progress, now would we. I figure every time I make it take longer for them to get out than it would have if they simply drove legally, one person will start to "get" it. In fact, I there are some folks in the area that see me coming and just give up and make the turn :). I guess they've gone up against me before.

And, I guess, as a people Americans may tend to be unreasonable. Maybe that's a national failing (or is it a virtue?). In fact, I'm quite certain it's a bit of both. We also tend to believe in the power of one little person. I really CAN change the world. I was raised believing it and still do, to this day. A reasonable person would have had this beat out of them MANY years ago. Yet, I go on believing. It reminds of that story about the starfish. You know that one? Here it is:

A man is walking along the beach and finds a girl tossing a starfish into the sea. Now, the beach is covered with, literally thousands of starfish. The man says to the girl, "Why are you doing that? With all of these starfish, you can't possibly make a difference." She replies, "Oh, but I did - to that one." Ah, and what an unreasonable viewpoint. Progress is painful, but necessary I think.

Happy unreasonableness!


At 3:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh boy, you made my day!!! THANK YOU for validating my existence in Jordan!

GOLD, gold, gold, the starfish story, it is a truth I live by.

Have to link this one, it is SO good.

I also block the road when someone comes the wrong way. If they power=play me, I'll even turn the car off, open the door and turn up the music. MUHAHAHAHA!

At 5:14 AM , Blogger Hani Obaid said...

Nice quote, but I'm too polite to be unreasonable most of the time. I like the idea of having an unreasonable friend in my company so they can be unreasonable for me.

These are my 2 favorite Shaw quotes though:

You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.

At 8:10 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinz, WHAT must they think of us. Yeah, I turn the car off, take the keys out and SHOW them I'm not moving.

Hani, I'm available for unreasonability services as needed, teehee. In fact, I do it all the time. For free. Just enjoy being unreasonable. I love both of your quotes. They are awesome. Laysh la, indeed!

At 9:35 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Excellent quote. Makes me feel better. My husband just thinks I am being unreasonable American snob sometimes. But I guess I am not the only one. What is right is right in my book and what is wrong is wrong. I have never done the key thing before, but I have been in cars when the driver has done it. Whoa. I am inspired!

At 1:14 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Uh oh, soon they'll be thinking, what's happened with those crazy American ladies! So, just share the quote with your dh, so he sees that in fact you are the only reason for progress :). Like I said, just consider yourself progressive.

At 3:40 AM , Blogger ابو عصام said...

You are not the only one to be "unreasonable" in traffic situation and in dealing with drivers who break the law. It must be easier to do it as a woman though,because the consequences could be quite dire for a man; Violent confronation may ensue.

I fail to understand your saying "I do refuse to make myself over in the image of a Jordanian wife and mom". what does this mean?

At 5:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is an American thing to believe that one person can make a differene. Every year we have a different theme for our school. This year is "Make a Difference" and the starfish story is our example story. We have little notebooks, pens, etc with the starfish story; we also have a theme song for school Masses called "Make a Difference".

At 2:55 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Mansour, It may indeed be easier for a woman to do this (especially a blond woman, we often get the "American Pass" for odd behavior. My comment about Jordanian wives and mothers is that, based on my limited observation, they tend to have the "don't make waves, never rock the boat, this is the way it's done here" approach. It's just not mine. Even if it makes waves, rocks boats (and makes me seem unreasonable), I'm still going to do it... :)

Emily, awesome approach. I really like that. I may share that idea with the TwinBeans' KG. I think that would go over very well. Thanks for the idea, girl!

At 8:30 AM , Blogger ابو عصام said...

Thank you for the clarification. Your comment about Jordanian wives and mothers makes more sense now.

At 2:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an American, I think it's wonderful that you are being unreasonable. While America has many many problems, the good that comes out of it is always from unreasonable people.

I enjoyed the starfish story. Thank you for the post!


At 8:59 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Tiffany, welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

At 6:51 PM , Blogger The Queen said...

Wow, that was just the validation I needed today. You see, I am VERY unreasonable and I refuse to be anything else. Someone has to make these people know that we do NOT have to put up with all their 'reasonableness'. I truly think that being reasonable is being lazy and selfish when there is a change that is needed. It does get tiring at times though and I live in the U.S.

At 5:24 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Queen, welcome to the blog. I'm glad I was able to give a bit of validation. Oh, and I'm JUST as unreasonable in the US as in Jordan (although my standards for expectations are higher in the US). Progress everywhere is made through unreasonable people.

At 10:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


What kills me is that it is being reasonable that is unreasonable here. Like throwing your garbage in a garbage bin, rather than the street, or the side of the road, or the floor in the hall, or whatever. I am proud to be unreasonable in Jordan, even though I am heading back to the US soon for good (insha'Allah). I guess the "reasonableness" has gotten to me.

At 7:23 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Umm Zaid, Absolutely true! You are right that both being reasonable and beng unreasonable are unreasonable here. I guess that throwing garbage into trach cans is much like driving the correct way on a one-way street (optional and too much trouble).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home