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Caught between two worlds: Arabs and loneliness, a side effect of living far from home

Caught between two worlds: Arabs and loneliness, a side effect of living far from home

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Life Diversity Arab Migrants

Tuesday 18 April 202303:45 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"أتدرب على التصالح مع إحساسي المزمن بالوحدة"... أعراض جانبية للغربة


Loneliness, if prolonged, becomes too much. It is heavy on the hearts of those who feel it, its faces are many, and its pain is clear.

Loneliness and its repercussions vary from one person to another. We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives, and we'll be lonely again whenever we immerse ourselves in the city.

The city is where loneliness devours us, where human relations float to the surface and remain stuck there, where there is no chance to delve deeper or get closer to anything, but you're surrounded by many faces, faces that remain strange and foreign. It doesn't matter how many people a person meets in a day or how many people are around, since loneliness is a personal, subjective feeling that is not dissipated by abundance or the number of people around, but rather is sometimes reinforced by it. This is different from isolation, which is the objective experience of loneliness.

It doesn't matter how many people a person meets or how many people are around, since loneliness is a personal, subjective feeling that is not dissipated by the abundance of people around, but is rather sometimes reinforced by it

The city here is synonymous with modern life, where loneliness seems like an inevitable fate. This era has its own unique characteristics and challenges that humans have not faced or dealt with before throughout history. The internet, globalization, individualism, capitalism and social media have created a new image of people about themselves and the world, as well as the challenges that one must face to achieve self realization. These all make him/her lonelier at the end of the day and more melancholic.

Tayeb Salih says in his novel "Season of Migration to the North": "All of us, my son, travel alone in the end", even if someone does not doubt this final journey that we must all pass through alone. The Syrian, however, has traveled alone, carrying his wounds and memories with him, before this final journey, more than once. He left behind an entire world, a life, many loved ones and friends, and carried nothing but his bitter loneliness in his heart.

Many did not make it, didn't even reach their destination, while many others weren't able to settle down, but rather found themselves facing societies completely alien to them, especially the societies that are overly materialistic, and that seem to be increasingly pushing their members towards loneliness. How will they face the reality of loneliness when they lack the right psychological tools, coming from societies that are social in nature on the one hand, and burdened by the legacy of wars and the pain of leaving home on the other?

Writer Tayeb Salih said, "All of us, my son, travel alone in the end", but the Syrian, carrying his wounds and memories, traveled alone before this final journey, more than once. He left a life behind, carrying nothing but bitter loneliness in his heart

Are loneliness and alienation companions?

The relationship between alienation (living far from one's homeland) and loneliness is a very close and complex one, as the effects of loneliness are amplified in estrangement, and the feeling of loneliness increases the sense of alienation or the awareness of it, as if one generates the other and is the cause of it, in a vicious circle of emotions in which one spins without a safe haven or anchor. It is neither possible to return to the old person he/she once was, nor can he/she forget that old self.

"It is as if loneliness is a type of lens that the mind puts on for us, so we can see alienation through them, and only then can we understand our alienation." This is how the Syrian poet Imad Abu Ahmad describes the relationship between alienation and loneliness in his interview with Raseef22. Imad, who has been living alone in Germany since 2014, far from his family, is haunted by a constant sense of loss due to their distance from him. He tries to make up for this loss (or deficiency) that he feels by frequently visiting his brothers who live in Sweden, until he feels that he has regained part of his identity. But the irony is that after spending a little time with them, he is overwhelmed by the need to return to his home, or his "cave" as he calls it, to a place where he sees no one and no one sees him.

How will Syrians in a foreign land face the reality of loneliness when they lack the right psychological tools, coming from societies that are social in nature on the one hand, and burdened by the legacy of wars and the pain of leaving home on the other?

While Imad's view can be considered largely neutral, Hozan, a young Syrian Kurd who has lived in Germany since 2013, is more inclined to see the positive aspects of both loneliness and alienation. Loneliness has helped him discover himself and his energies and invest them in the right direction, despite the suffering he experienced at the beginning and the challenges he faced. He says, "At the beginning of my life in Germany I suffered a lot, but I discovered myself in loneliness. To face yourself, to be in an interview with yourself, and to ask it how it will face loneliness is important. That is why I decided to paint. I felt that painting is a social condition and through it I could communicate with the whole world, not just with the Germans or with the Syrians."

On the other hand, Bahr, a young Syrian who has been living in Germany for seven years, does not see positive aspects of the lonely experience that has left him battling depression and anxiety, which have negatively affected his motivation and ability to enjoy life. Bahr finds himself alone in the face of the new world and confused about what to do during holidays or free time, as he does not always have the opportunity to meet with friends due to circumstances and is unable to communicate with his family who is still in Syria. He says, "My family in Syria has very bad internet, sometimes phone calls hardly work. Video calls no longer work at all. This affects me when I have no family or relatives to share the details of my life with."

Zanaf Suleiman, a Syrian Kurd who has lived in Germany since 2016, tells Raseef22 that in her early years of living far from her homeland, alienation caused a paradigm shift in her loneliness. She likens her loneliness to having a moral and intellectual gap or wall separating her from everyone around her. But she is making a serious effort to control her feelings so that they do not lead to social isolation, "I am actually training myself to get out of my intellectual isolation and reconcile with my chronic feelings of loneliness. I have learned how to control my loneliness instead of allowing it to control me and affect my social life. I am also aware that the speed at which our life circumstances change does not bring us closer, but rather increases the motivation for us as individuals to focus on ourselves, turning our social relationships into secondary ones, which is not necessarily a negative thing."

"I am actually training myself to get out of my intellectual isolation and reconcile with my chronic feelings of loneliness. I have learned how to control my loneliness instead of allowing it to control me" – Zanaf Suleiman, a Syrian Kurd living in Germany

Fragmented between two cultures

For the Palestinian-Syrian poet and painter, Ward Zaraa, loneliness is not a feeling created by alienation and living far from home, but rather is a feeling that has always been with him since he was in Syria. Ward believes that the existing system there sought to make all people mirrors of each other, and originally mirrors of a mold it had created. That is, one must not ask, think, or deviate from the pattern, and everyone who is different from this social fabric is left alone. What alienation does is only compound this tragedy, as the refugee becomes intersectionally alone. He says, "And here is the problem because you find yourself in the middle, unable to enter the refugee community because you were a minority in this society, so now you have become a minority of the minority, unable to assimilate into the new community that avoids you in its closed circles, and here you are stuck in the middle, and the loneliness becomes doubled, loneliness squared."

The same goes for Hozan, as his feeling of loneliness in Syria was greater than what he is experiencing now, as he could not practice his hobbies or express his opinion, and he did not feel that the people closest to him were able to understand him or that he could receive support and encouragement from them. He says with some bitterness that his mother used to describe his sculptures that are made of clay in the courtyard of their country home as "dirty". He goes on to say, "Even I felt alienated there. I felt that I had to find a homeland that would take me in and contain me."

Although Hozan found in Germany an environment in which he could be himself, he lives in a state of conflict between the past and the present, tormented by good and bad memories alike. The difficulty for him does not seem to lie in the ability to talk to others and form new relationships and friendships, but rather in the hell of the Syrian memory that takes him back, back to the past, and to all the things that torment him.

"I have been living in Germany for almost seven years now, and the more time passes, the more I feel alienated even though I'm supposed to integrate more and feel less alone, and I always compare life here to my life in Syria" – Imad Abu Ahmed, Syrian poet

This oscillation between two worlds or cultures seems clear to Zanav, "On the one hand, I feel lonely and isolated in the new environment due to the absence of a common language or because of the stiffness of the language here, which still frustrates me. On the other hand, there is a widening intellectual gap between me and my community of origin, which sees me losing my roots while my ideas progress in a direction that aligns with this new place and circumstance."

Meanwhile, Imad describes these feelings more sharply and accurately, "I have been living in Germany for almost seven years now, and the more time passes, the more I feel alienated even though I am supposed to integrate more and feel less alone . But the main reason is that I always compare life here to my life in Syria." He adds, "It seems that in exile, one creates a sense of affinity and familiarity with his isolation and estrangement, as Ibn Khaldun calls this individual, 'the border man'.. That is, someone who lives on the margins between two cultures. I sometimes feel that I am torn in two between these cultures, as if part of me is Arab and part is German."


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