The danger of erasing one’s own identity and its long term consequences, part 2

My Life journey in Norway: Challenges and Responses

Personal Experience and Challenges

Text: Aman Kamsare // Photo: Olga Shavrina

Next, I am going to tell you the part of the story of my life journey in Norway, my second home country. March 9, 1999 the plane that brought me to Norway touched down in Oslo at Gardermoen airport.  Then my feet stepped into Norwegian soil for the first time. After a flight of less than two hours from Oslo to the Northern Norway, the plane, which brought me to Bodø, my first municipality in Norway had landed.  As soon as I arrived in Bodø, I began to imagine the breaking of the dawn of freedom and I felt the beginning of new life flowering inside me. I could not convince myself that I was in Norway, my second home country.  The beginning of new journey in life, new expectations and unfulfilled dreams!

Leif Erik my contact person, working for refugee office in Bodø at the time, accompanied by an Ethiopian translator retrieved me from the airport. From there we embarked on a car and drove to my flat in Mørkved. The flat was self-contained, well furnished, filled with vegetables and various types of food.

Couple of days after my arrival, I did all medical check-ups and immediately started Norwegian language class. I continued my higher education in Kongsbakken high school in Tromsø one year after my stay in Bødø and wounded up my further education in a period of one academic year. I did my masters in science of literature specializing in post-colonial African English literature at Tromsø University.  Simultaneously, I studied Norwegian PPU and recertified in my professional career of teaching.

After completing my education, recertification and fulfilling my obligations in the process of integration into the Norwegian society, I started looking for a job of my dream within my professional training.  Almost for the last solid 8 years, I left no stone unturned in applying for a job and 90% of my applications often turned down for the reasons I do not really understand.

Due mainly to the pressure of circumstances of the total rejection of my applications, I went to an office to seek a professional advice. Unexpectedly, I discovered something very strange and alarming contrary to my expectations in the advice I sought. “You have to change your name to a Norwegian name or European name so that you can fit into the system and be offered an occupation of your dream and profession.”  I was shocked to my bones and felt my hopes being shattered inside me!

This incident reminds me the saying “history repeats itself either in comedy or tragedy.”  Yes, it is both tragic and comic! However, I had to struggle to find out whether this self-repetition of history is on the same level or on a higher stage. Finally, I fought with my own contradicting ideas and convinced myself that it is true that history repeats itself but on a different stage and at a higher scale.

It is undeniable truth that my new home country, Norway is the land of opportunities. I cannot deny that I am a free person in Norway, safe and I do not feel the threat of torture and arbitrary arrest every morning I wake up. It is undeniable truth that Norway has one of the most generous welfare systems in the world and one of the best places to live. Still it is unequivocally true that Norway is a country renowned for its peace-making role and inspirational in giving novel prices in the struggle for human rights, democracy and world peace. I really feel proud of these and other fundamental human right values achieved by my second home country, Norway.

Having this fact in mind, how paradoxical it sounds being the citizen of this country and at the same being systematically forced to erase my own identity in order to fit into the system. Should I change my name and fit into the system to get a job of my training and qualification? Should I do it and could I do it? What will be the consequence if I do that?  This is not the whole story about my experience in Norway. In the process of socialization, sometimes, I come across a situation where the colour of my skin provokes controversies and becomes the sole reason for an exclusion of one sort or another.

I can tolerate in the process of inter-personal communication if I encounter partial or total rejection. I can tolerate if I smile to someone I do not know before, and have been answered with an angry and gloomy face.  Still I can tolerate if I compete for a job and if I finally could not pass an interview. I cannot forget that I live in a society where “Do not talk to a stranger” is the accepted social norm. Again, I have a hard skin that tolerates it. Indeed, I cannot tolerate when I am forced directly or indirectly to erase my identity and being pushed to go hiding! I had experienced exactly the same injustice in the country of my origin but on a different level. No need to repeat this tragic and traumatizing experience now once again. Logically one form of injustice is not better than the other.

It was in searching for my own integrity as a human person and in hunting for my defining national identity that they took me to jail. It was the sole reason why I had been incarcerated in one of the most notorious prison cells in the world, (Alem Bekagn, farewell to the world). These fundamental values are inalienable to every human person and remain unnegotiable dignities. I do not allow them to be clipped partly or wholly in order to fit into a system. It seems to me that it is very unnatural to cut one’s feet to fit to a pair of shoes. Naturally, the shoes should undergo cutting and fitting into the human feet.

I equally believe that silence and blind conformity under such unfortunate challenges result in deadly consequences and have a far-reaching repercussion overall humanity. Blind conformism and silence are progressive attributes that become harder and harder to overcome once they become permanent habits. Silence eventually leads to implicating oneself in discrimination and results in its justification.

The urgency for Collective Responses

The challenges that we are facing today as global human citizens are universal in their characteristics and equally affect our fundamental human dignities. Injustice in one place is injustice everywhere.

These days we live in the world in which alienation manifests itself in its extreme form.  We live in a global system where resources are highly concentrated in the hands of few powerful oligarchs and the gap between the rich and the poor is dramatically widening as Thomas Piketty’s research shows. Nowadays, we live in the global and local communities ostensibly “multi-cultural” where still we are either mountains or islands. Metaphorically, the mountains do not move and the islands are not connected to the mountains without bridges stretching over the seas. We are not only a mountain that does not move but also an island without a connecting bridge. In our everyday lives, we observe the isolated individuals from other people and even from their own deepest selves and emotions. Still we live in a local and global system in which significant number of citizens are totally absorbed in themselves and tormented by an intense loneliness and inability to communicate with others.

Our world is not yet equally a better place to live for all of us. We should not forget that our common territory of humanity becoming narrower and narrower from day to day by artificial boundaries. Thousands of refugees are being subjected to in-humane treatments while trying to cross these fabricated boundaries.

Furthermore, we find ourselves at an epoch in our history where national and narrow interests override human rights and civilians and innocent children are indiscriminately bombed by the most sophisticated modern weaponries of our time. Today, we find ourselves where ideologies, wrangling for power, religious dogmas etc. become pretext to commit mass murder. It is an un-refutable fact that we live in a global regime where digital relations replace human and social relations and we become strangers to one another!

Again, we are prisoners of a global regime where torture and human right abuse is legally justified and pursued by our own governments officially. As a result, we find on the top of the power pyramid emotionally detached, morally corrupted, irresponsible authorities, left with no human empathy and remorse for whatever hurt they inflict upon us.  At the bottom of the global oppressive power pyramid,  we find “the lonely crowd “and aggregation of atomized city dwellers that are being crushed and benumbed by the weight of social system in which they have neither significant purpose in life nor decision-making power.

Sometimes we find ourselves being entrenched in a situation where our own governments whom we voted into offices turn against us and silence us at gunpoints. Today it is public secret that freedom of expression is becoming treason and journalism being defined as terrorism in some countries. Consequently, a significant number of journalists and critics are being languished in maximum-security cells and openly murdered for telling us the truth. This reality holds true under all authoritarian regimes of our time on our globe.

As I told you earlier, my life is rich in prison experiences! Ironically, thanks to my prison experience, I lived and witnessed the most anguishing ambience where human beings were treated either as dehumanized objects or non-human animals. You see, in prisons things turn upside down and stand on their heads. What is human becomes animal and what is animal becomes a speaking chattel! Life under captivity makes the alienation chiasmatic figure! Worst kind of modern slavery is going on behind the barbed wires under all oppressive regimes. My own experience attests that prison is a place where alienation of humankind expresses itself in its worst forms like that of war conditions. Both wars and prisons dehumanize, traumatize, pacify, silence, radicalize… or break physical and mental integrity of a human person.

It is obvious fact that we live in a highly polarized global and local community where hourly and daily our identities and dignities as a human person are being eroded dismantled or completely wiped out. On the face of all these devastating experiences and trying challenges silence and implicitly are tantamount to suicide. It is time to break the silence, come forward, and let us reconfirm our collective human identities and dignities. These challenges are both local, global and collective in their characteristics and demand our common vision and collective action. As we break the silence, freedom, human rights and justice dawn! Procrastination is the thief time! Let us act now!