Thursday, December 22, 2005

New Albany in 2006: No more conditioned responses ... no more excuses for failure.

I recently read an article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about a sad and gruesome topic: “Honor killings,” wherein the male members of Turkish Muslim families living in Berlin – some for several decades – have taken to killing their sisters with increasing and alarming frequency, most commonly at the direction of their fathers, but sometimes on order of their mothers, for the failure of the women in their families to submit to proper tradition.

In other words, women are being murdered by their own brothers for trying to escape their own cultural and religious shackles by actively seeking to “become German” in the secular sense.

This perfectly chilling piece, with its many worrisome subtexts of secular tolerance versus fundamentalist hysteria (Muslim, Christian or otherwise), is called “The New Berlin Wall,” and is written by the noted German novelist Peter Schneider. It was published on December 4, and although it is unavailable (sans payment) on the newspaper’s web site, a transcript can be found here.

In bringing this to the attention of readers, I’m intentionally ignoring the many relevant topics of discussion that Schneider’s thoughts have engendered around the kitchen table of the NA Confidential household since we read his words.

Rather, I intend to focus on just one small excerpt, which begins by establishing that in Turkish immigrant households, forced marriages of very young girls, and arranged by their parents, are very commonplace, and that these unions often are marked by rape, violence and degradation … but if the female victims so much as attempt to escape the misery, they’re liable to marked for death or disfigurement owing to the “shame” suffered by their own families.

In short, Schneider asks: Why would a mother in such a situation, one who often had been forced to endure the same treatment, acquiesce in her daughter’s pain, and on occasion even instigate the ultimate punishment?

Necla Kelek, a Turkish-German author who has interviewed dozens of women on this topic, explained, "The mothers are looking for solidarity by demanding that their daughters submit to the same hardship and suffering." By disobeying them, the daughter calls into question her mother's life - her silent submission to the ritual of forced marriage.

The psychologists and sociologists among us can provide explanation for why human nature works in such a flawed, unproductive and plainly destructive manner.

Perhaps it has something to do with factors beyond cultural baggage, as in the phenomenon of prisoners identifying with their captors. Probably there are economists and historians able to help with this process of understanding.

But forget all that. Forget the specific details of Schneider’s story about Turkish women and their families in Berlin. Instead, think of the explanation offered for the behavior of the mothers:

“The mothers are looking for solidarity by demanding that their daughters submit to the same hardship and suffering."

It’s simply counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

Most of us accept without reservation that, at least ideally, the objective of a parent is to raise a child so that he or she will be capable of transcending the parent’s own hardships or problems.

Most of us are horrified at what we see as a neglectful attitude of harmful psychological dysfunction displayed by parents whose errant and self-destructive choices doom their innocent children to the endlessly repetitive cycles of pain and futility.

Most of us reel from the notion that a parent would seek the same deprivation, addiction and agony for their children that they were forced to experience themselves. Why?


For the past year, NA Confidential has sought to diagnose the developmental traumas and dysfunctions that have brought the city of New Albany to its currently uncertain historical juncture.

To be sure, it is a daunting task, and we’re the first to admit that there are no perfect analogies between an individual human life and that of the city in which he or she resides. Nonetheless, as a city is an aggregation of people gathered together in a geographical place for a purpose – even if that purpose isn’t always readily evident – parallels most certainly exist.

Today, using the conceptual example of the Turkish matriarchs in Berlin as a rough starting point, I contend that one underlying cause for the underachieving malaise that has traditionally held New Albany in its non-productive grip is a similar vein of (paraphrased) evangelistic masochism:

“We have worked for years and failed miserably to bring about change … and we’re not about to see anyone younger succeed without first experiencing the equivalent of the frustration that we’ve felt along the way.”

NA Confidential reader Courtney (ceece) feels the condescending sting of this attitude of institutionalized futility when she tries to participate in the discussions at SOLNA, where the demographic (judged as best we can from the available evidence, considering the anonymity that is a hallmark of SOLNA’s unique brand of inferiority complex-meets-dismissive arrogance):

I don't even know why I bother trying over there. I am constantly slaughtered for my age and being "new" to the city. I was absolutely disgusted to see the claims that nothing can be done. Then Laura comes on and berates me some more. I have never done anything of ill willed to anyone over there. I only want good things for New Albany and the people that live here. I may be young, new, naive whatever, but so what -- give me at least 10 years before you try to break my spirit.
-- ceece’s comment on NAC this morning

Again and again, the dirge-like refrain is repeated – and lest there be any misunderstanding, SOLNA’s most definitely not the only place to hear it performed around this city:

We’re just a rotten little city.
We’ve never accomplished anything.
We’re corrupt and incapable.
We’ve accepted our fate.
We’re going to be even unhappier if you prove us mistaken, you uppity outsider.

Again, it’s a ludicrously counter-intuitive argument, even if it serves as the only identifiable campaign platform of politicians like Dan Coffey and Steve Price.

But … if you’re ill, does it really matter where your doctor comes from, so long as you get better?

Do you really want your children to be afflicted with the same illness?

Or have you become so accustomed to pain that the prospect of the illness's absence fills you with a dread of the unexpected so very strong that you’ll opt for the devil you know rather than the cure?

Consider that apart from my time overseas, I’ve lived in Floyd County for all of my 45 years, and within the city limits of New Albany since 1992 … and I remain an inexperienced, unknowing outsider to some of these self-designated martyrs of numerology and its customary and complete failure to transform human existence into the predictable certitude of a spreadsheet.

Guess what? It takes more than numbers to accomplish anything. It takes clarity, organization, will, courage, a work ethic, a refusal to quit … it takes all these – and many other – human qualities to succeed. Numbers cannot explain my relationship with Mrs. Confidential, or Randy and Ann Smith’s dedication to their business, or Courtney’s love for her child.

Numbers are a tool, and nothing more. They cannot quantify any of the essential components of a human being … but they can be used as roadblocks, impediments and weapons to thwart human progress.

But I digress.

Why is it that so many of New Albany’s “long-timers” – the self-appointed arbiters of what is “true” and what isn’t about this city – so joyfully seek to inflict on an entire populated area, and on newcomers who are relatively free of the underachieving contagion of previous failures, exactly the same sort of pain, frustration and failure that they themselves wouldn’t for one instant consider inflicting on their own blessed children and grandchildren?

Or …

Are they too similar to the Turkish women in Berlin, content to pass the unjustifiable pain down to the next generation (even their own!) so as to make their own unfulfilling life experiences somehow comprehensible – in the end, are they just incapable of recognizing that with each passing year, the range of opportunities and possibilities changes, negating the conditions of last year or a decade ago, and providing us with the means to break the cycle of dysfunction if only we’d pull together to do it?

And, while we’re at it, put a halt to the nonsensical excuses for failure offered incessantly as though they were canonical writ:

You’re too young.
You don’t understand the way things work.
It’s always been like that here.
Who do you think you are (outsider; youngster, snooty book reader) trying to understand this when I still don’t after thirty years of trying?
It’s not our fault – the powers that be were against us.

In 2006, the slogan should be “New Albany: No more excuses for failure.”

Experienced? Good. Share your wisdom.

Hopeful? Even better. We need you. Get involved.

Spiteful, beaten fighting the battles of your youth? Sorry about your luck. Please trash the negativity, turn the calendar to now, and get on board. We need you, too.

Content to see this city remain third-rate? Fine … now get the hell out of the way, Mr. Huckleberry -- you're not going to like what you see here.

Future generations should not have to pay for previous failures -- yours, ours, anyone's.


Jeff Gillenwater said...


ceece said...

I dig the proposed slogan. a lot!

perhaps the books that Randy could send to the coffee get together should be dictionaries, that way people couldn't say that they don't understand what you post!?


Brandon W. Smith said...

You've hit the nail on the head, exactly. Right on.

Highwayman said...

"You don't understand the way things work" No, what I don't understand is why these folks can't see that things aren't working!

"It's always been like that here" Wrong again! Prior to the American Revolution we served at the pleasure of the King!

Prior to the Civil War, slavery was one of these "It's always been like that here" issues!

Need I go on? The engine is broken. It is time to overhaul it or our kids are going to be walking to school like their greatgrandparents did.

My one and only regret about this life thus far is this very discussion. Prior generations worked to hand a better life down to their children than the one they had handed to them.

My generation has thus far failed miserably to be able to pass on that tradition.

I have been in torment over this for the past few years. I've asked myself repeatedly, what could I have done differently then or now?

I recently found an answer and as is common, it was right there all along. It is simply taking the inititave to speak up and get involved in the process of change if by no other means than by asking questions and not accepting pat answers to those questions.

We are the government of, by and for the people! We can hold their feet to the fire and demand change! Failing that, we can replace them at the poles on election day!

Silence is not golden but it can in time, lead to a complacency that allows " The New Berlin Walls" of this world to become commonplace!

To that I say NO with a vengeance!

So let us carry the "New Albany; No more excuses for failure!" banner high!

Our children deserve nothing less of us!

oldernewalbanian said...

Roger, did you read the posts that ceece was referring to on SOLNA? I went back and read them again and I can't find anywhere that anyone was put down for their age. You can't change the truth, she is VERY young and immature.

Sorry, did not mean to dog on NA. I guess it probably depends on where you live, who your neighbors are, and how well the city takes care of that part of town. Perhaps Ceece needs to get over herself and know "it is NOT about her." Read the posts again, it has nothing to do with HER.

Anonymous said...

The Turkish story is not new. It has been going on at an alarming rate for years and in many Muslim communities. We have just chosen to ignore it in the media because it does not fit a particular agenda.

Humans are self-serving by their nature.

Survival of the fittest is the natural way and without Morals and laws, we would naturally decline to an anarchist society.

The Turkish mothers get punished for their daughter's transgression and they need to consider their own self-preservation. Deep inside they are tormented.

This is EVIL.

Our city also has individuals looking after their own self-preservation. They are unwilling to change because it does not necessarily benefit them.

This is a form of narcissism

The slogan is good. Change is needed but the "good 'ol boy" network is a huge hurdle.

The New Albanian said...

Oldernewalbanian, I must respectfully disagree as to the you assessment of the SOLNA postings.

While there may be no "smoking gun" overtly holding that people like Ceece are too young, there simply is no mistaking the dismissive tone in many SOLNA postings with respect to age and experience.

Naturally, it remains surreal for such scolding to come from people who by their own admission have failed, but come it does, from "$$$$$" and "potty police" and "confuse taxpayer" and all the rest.

I don't count you among them, Oldernewalbanian. Your considerations of age have been philosophical in the main, and I know what you've gone through.

But ceece has a point, and it's further illustration that a few anonymous apples in SOLNA ruin its potential for all.

Iamhoosier said...

Many refer to it as the "victim" mentality and/or personality. Someone or something is always holding them back, picking on them, taking from them, etc.

Over the years our business has hired a number young people for warehouse work and entry level office work. I am amazed how many of them have a lawyer. "I am going to call my lawyer about so & so and what they did to my...". It is not all just talk, they actually make the call.

Maybe there really are black helicopters flying overhead and I just can't see them!

ceece said...

wow she really doesn't like me does she? but wait-she doesn't know me, so how can that be?

Oldernewalbanian if you read this, I would be more then happy to meet and converse with you so you could really make a judgement call on my character. Then if you feel I am selfish and immautre, you would be justified in making that comment.

oldernewalbanian said...

Roger, just you acknowledging what I have been through in NA is probably the best Christmas gift I could have ever received. Thank you very much for that!

I was not raised during the entitlement era that the young peole enjoy today.

Iamhoosier: I sure know what you mean in regards to calling their lawyer. As a young person, I did not even know you could disagree with you boss or question the mayor or governor. It never crossed my mind.

Thanks for the input, Roger

I was raised at a much different time when young people did not argue with your elders, or teachers and you did not question the boss and you certainly did not call a lawyer over indiscretions.

I guess it is a new day.

ceece said...

oldernewalbanian. It is an insult for you to insinuate in anyway that I have not gotten out there and busted my butt for everything that I have. how rude, and ignorant of you.

The New Albanian said...

Well, being in the position of knowing you both, I hope you in fact can get together and talk it out.

ceece said...

thanks to whoever sent me the anonymous email clueing me into ONA's identity. Luckily, I had her email address, I sent out a note asking for a meeting of the minds. I will keep you posted.

All4Word said...

Great, ceece!

ONA is a wonderful lady with good insights. The fact that she found it necessary to depart these environs is a failure, to be sure, but no reason to stop working to make our community a place where people know their neighbors and trust them.

Her comments had been mostly of a philosophical bent and were intended (and received) as advice, not rebukes. And if they were personal to you, they were personal to me and to all of us, and I'm old enough to be your...

My critique is the forum she chose, where the anonymous Tasmanian devils of New Albany lurk and strike out with viciousness to anyone they even suspect of a progressive impulse.

Note that even some of Laura's anonymous posts are attacked by her "friends" with some regularity.

ceece said...

how about the statements made above?

oldernewalbanian said...

Ceece, as I said before, it is not about YOU. I have no opinion about who and what you are or do.

My sole purpose to post was to get information to the public and hopefully right a few things that have gone on, and continue to go on, in NA which I consider wrong and unfair.

The reason I was able to post on SOLNA was the opportunity availed itself for which I was grateful. No one was unkind to me in any way, and were encouraging and respectful.

No Ceece, I do not have any questions or problems with you. No, there is no reason to discuss anything. No, there are no misunderstandings. No tricks, Ceece, I am not hiding and most everyone in your area knows who I am.

I realize there are two sides to every story, but I am sorry, I guess I am blind I just don't see how you have put yourself in the picture. No, No, this has nothing to do with you.

Roger, thanks for the vote of confidence and your kindness to this oldernewalbanian.