Tag Archives: Philosophy

Clients, Escorts & All: How You Behave When No One is Watching Defines Your Character

birds-symbolism

The increasing apathy towards others makes it apparent that there is a war against love and belonging in society. Disunity is being promoted on a grande scale in subtle ways — for what purpose? Disunity, destroying bonds, destroying love — they all serve the purpose of making us mindless drones, consuming endlessly. I try hard to not let this realization harden me, though it is a battle at times. I am aware that goodness still prevails in humanity. I’ve witness many people become jaded by the rampant trends of shallowness, but I remind them that wholesome goodness still remains in the margins. Like anything of true beauty, goodness is often a hidden gem and not apparent so easily.

It is said that the true mark of a person’s character is how they treat others. For me, I further evaluate ones goodness based on how they treat the most vulnerable people outside the public eye. Prostitutes get to see a spectrum of empathy and apathy in humanity in ways that, perhaps, the average woman does not see. We see how men behave when they are outside the surveillance of society -when they are anonymous.

Sadly, a lot of ‘nice’ people in public can be the exact opposite behind closed doors — especially when their identity is anonymous and they are situated in a setting where they cannot be touched by the law. A client, for instance, may behave very differently with a prostitute than with others in a public setting. He may disregard common decency and respect when dealing with prostitutes, because he knows he will face no backlash since his identity isn’t being exposed. Thus, it is often behind closed doors where ones’ true colors are exposed. All prostitutes have their own share of experiencing such a soulless character. Indeed, not all clients fit into this heartless persona. Thankfully, almost all of my clients personally are decent men. Indeed, a client who treats prostitutes with respect, kindness, and dignity is a wholesome being — such a persons kindness is genuine when they behave morally outside the public gaze.

What is worrisome is that the complete disregard of a woman’s soul and emotional well-being (a women’s mind and soul completely divorced from her body) is increasingly becoming MORE common in society — and not just towards sex workers. When apathy becomes the norm, how are people to trust others? When hatred and exploitation of certain peoples becomes the norm, how can there be hope?

There is hope, of course. Goodness still exists in a rampantly shallow society, though in the minority. And indeed, hard hearts can be softened..

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Baran (2001)

For this post, I want to analyze and recommend a film that is dear to my heart, a film that inspires the softening of the heart. A very simple, yet deeply meaningful film by the talented Iranian director Majid Majidi, titled Baran. Though the film Baran has nothing to do with prostitution, it is a film that has brought me to tears in relation to my work as a prostitute. But beyond that, the film Baran has immensely valuable lessons of humanity that have become so foreign to many of us.

The story in Baran is situated in modern day Iran, in the context of neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan. Millions of Afghan refugees fled to Iran in recent decades to flee war, and what emerged were profound xenophobic views towards Afghans living in Iran. The xenophobic attitudes of Iranian society towards Afghans is common place, comparable to the bigoted American view of illegal Mexican immigrants, or bigoted Gulf Arabs attitudes towards their migrant workers. In Baran, the reality of Afghans in Iran is depicted by illustrating how they work in slave-like jobs, were severely underpaid compared to Iranian or Turkish workers, and had limited-to-zero access to government social welfare provisions.

What is compelling about this film is it addresses the topic of basic humanity: genuine love (which is selfless) and belonging, and most importantly, it addresses the societal conflict that PREVENTS genuine forms of love and belonging from taking place. Indeed, there are endless forces within modern society that attempt to seal our hearts and replace love with synthetic versions (or hate). One might ask: Why are certain vulnerable groups treated with such hostility and degradation? How does one become a apathetic person who commits injustice to the vulnerable?

Baran teaches the viewer that a hateful, apathetic person is often the product of the their respective societal norms. In other words, if one lives in a society that embraces hateful attitudes towards a certain group and constantly spews propaganda to continuously demonize them, then inevitably the majority of the populace will internalize this societal norm. In the case of Baran, the main character Lateef, a Turkish migrant worker (viewed as more ‘dignified than being a ‘lowly’ Afghan worker) epitomizes a young mind who has internalized the prevalent xenophobic attitude towards Afghans. He behaves incredibly cruel towards the Afghan characters in the film, initially. His hate is based off not his own observation and experience, but rather through xenophobic societal norms. Lateefs’ cruelty is far more grave given that the Afghan workers, in particular, had no social or legal protection in Iran. Thus, cruelty towards marginalized groups, generally, face no repercussions or backlash. Moreover, when someone internalizes xenophobic attitudes, their cruelty is perceived as nonproblematic and in some cases, justified.

Change is Possible – A Hard Heart can be Softened

What strikes me is the climax in this film, which occurs when the initially cruel character, Lateef, has an epiphany — a life changing realization. Lateef realizes he has made a grave immoral mistake by abusing and neglecting the vulnerable. He is filled with remorse. I view Lateefs’ epiphany and realization of his faults as his mark into manhood/adulthood — he, initially, had zero care or empathy for others. He was hot-headed and careless, thus demonstrating his immaturity and lack of empathy. Empathy is a quality that marks one into maturity — a child does not know empathy. For instance, a baby or child cries out to its Mother when it needs something. A child does not yet have the capacity to be considerate of the Mother’s well-being. But as adults, one of the most noble traits to acquire that breaks one away from childhood is empathy. Empathy requires the realization that ones own actions affect others. Lateef came to this realization when he was faced with the ugliness of his own behavior towards the voiceless Afghan workers, which haunted him. And how did he come to this conclusion?

Lateef went upon his own journey of realization by going outside his own circle to observe the life of downtrodden people — namely, the despised Afghan refugees working in Tehran. He was brought to tears by witnessing the the hardships faced by the Afghans (poverty, hopelessness, humiliation, loneliness). By witnessing the hardships they faced, Lateef realizes how blind he was to the xenophobia towards Afghans in Iranian society. Essentially, the lesson learnt here is this: it is easy to condemn, exploit and dismiss people or groups when you have not known them personally or have experienced life from their perspective.

Finally, the most serene aspect of this film, which usually brings me to tears is how Lateef seeks to redeem his morality by giving up his own comfort (he gives his entire years worth of salary and life savings to the vulnerable Afghans). Lateef is irreversibly changed by this epiphany into a wholesome, responsible and moral young man. Lateef, himself, is relatively poor, but considers his plight as an impoverished Turkish migrant worker as a paradise compared to the plight of Afghans. So, thus, he gives up everything he has, his money and even sells his own identity card — a card that will disrupt his own well-being if he is without it. Lateef hopes that by giving aid he will redeem not only his past immorality, but he is also performing his moral responsibility as a man towards the female protagonist, Baran. What is compelling is that not a single soul knows about Lateefs’  act of generosity — he sought no reward, no recognition, no recompense for giving his lifes’ savings away to the vulnerable. What is this gesture other than the expression of utmost selfless love? Finally, at the end of the film, the expression of content that Lateef expresses with his smile is the epitome of true love. I urge you to watch this gem of a film and witness the very subtle messages of humility yourself. SubhanAllah

My heart melts while viewing this film for the immense morality it portrays, which is something so rare and beautiful –something so deeply lacking in today’s modern society — selfless love. How many of us can say we love without expectation? How many of us can say we give altruistically towards others, anonymously perhaps, without any expectation? Indeed these are questions I have to ponder and understand myself. How many clients are kind and respectful to prostitutes without putting her comfort in jeopardy? How many clients can retain kindness to a prostitute despite not getting what they had hoped for? It is indeed a mark of strength and courage to retain selflessness in today’s world. Even if we desire to love others selflessly, it is immensely difficult in a climate that tells us to focus on inflating our own egos. But I still have hope– I still believe, and have seen at times, that there are beautiful souls among us. The degree of humanity expressed in the film Baran is something one can only dream of. I suppose I, personally, still have a child-like desire to be loved by another truly selflessly — we yearn for this feeling that we had as children (to be loved selflessly by our Mothers and Fathers, if we were blessed to have them both or at all). Indeed some people were not blessed to experience the selfless love of parents, so I hope that those people, in particular, are blessed with the most sincere love from others.


To readers, keep your hearts soft — Don’t feel down if you cannot attain the love/gratitude that you desire for yourself. Sometimes, one must forget about themselves and spread love for those who are lacking the most love in society today.

It is my hope that this post beckons one to ask themselves: How do you treat others when no one else is watching?

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Why Seek The World?

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This world of palaces, thrones, and crowns.

This world of societies that resent humanity,

This world of those hungry for [material] wealth,

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

 

Each body is injured, each soul is thirsty,

With confused eyes and hearts full of sorrow,

Is this the world or the dominion of senselessness?

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

In this world where a person’s being is only a toy,

It is an establishment that worships death

Where it costs less to die than to breathe,

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

 

Here youth wanders in hopelessness,

Young bodies are decorated and sold in the market,

Where love is treated as a product to trade,

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

This world, where human life is nothing,

Where loyalty is nothing, where friendship is nothing,

Where love has no meaning at all,

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

Burn this world, set it on fire!

Move this world away from me!

The world is yours, you take care of it.

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

____

Yeh Duniya Agar Mil bhi Jaaye to Kya Hain? (Pyaasa, 1957)

————–

Subhanallah, what a beautiful, yet tragic Urdu poem from the 1957 classic Pyaasa. It is worthy to share this ghazal in time where ‘success’ is equated to fulfilling or striving for worldly pleasures. But what happens when one attains all the so-called worldly ‘pleasures’? You gained the world, but at what cost? Does the heart feel full? How many lives were slaughtered or degraded in the process of obtaining “success” and “happiness”?

I’ve met many great souls who are tormented, silently. They were, at some point during their lives, duped into believing that they weren’t ‘successful’ enough because they weren’t attaining enough worldly ‘pleasures.’ Or, perhaps, like myself, they obtained the so-called ‘good life’ and realized it meant nothing. My desire to ‘gain the world’ has lessened. It is my hope that myself and others can gain the strength to resist the deceptively-charming-in-your-face forces that are rampant in society. Life has so much beauty to offer that isn’t always visible to the human eye. After all, what significance is the world in a superficial sense? What significance is a body with no spiritual depth? It is only the soul that is immortal.

I actually feel great sadness when I realize many people are still chasing the worldly ‘pleasures’ to the extent that they become apathetic and soulless. People are seduced by this false notion that ‘gaining the world’ makes a worthy life. Such a predisposition suggests that a life without glamour, superficial beauty, money and power is unworthy. Again, does money, prestige and power make the heart feel full? Or does one even have a heart once they’ve slowly bartered off their soul for their ego?  The world (duniya) is only temporary —  Life becomes meaningful when one focuses on enriching their soul, not their ego. 

Duniya

 

 

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Sheherazade Becomes Marginal in a Society that Embraces Apathy

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When you live in a society where shallowness is embraced, there will be a mass following of people who imitate shallowness.

You see, the elite can only thrive with a mass following, by creating a mass appeal, popularity.

The merciless thrive by exploiting the basic human desires, and brand their strategies with the facade of “love” or “humanity.”

This shallowness is a form of turbulence — keeping us distracted, distancing us from Light.

Light can seem invisible with turbulent vision; yet the wise know Light continues to radiate in full spectra in undetected forms.

The wise know to be wary of “charming” promises, as Plato says “Things are not what they appear.”

It is only those placed in liminal states who are able to contrast between discourses.

But you see, our state of being is not a static entity. Circumstances can harden us, circumstances can soften us —

Can one be so optimistic these days?

Something new is occurring in human history, with humans being hardened into objects, irreversibly.

Resistance is strategically kept powerless and marginal.

If only Foucault was alive to see his biopolitics now.

The once optimistic feeling of softening the soul is being negated in a new social transformation who’s future is unknown.

Long ago, Sheherazade softened the heart of King Shariyar. But this was a time when the art of wisdom was embraced by the ruling elite.

Once, people were aware of the dehumanization resulting from objectification.

An objectified human becomes inanimate, lacking substance — yet this obsolescence is embraced!

Now, increasingly, the art of wisdom is silenced, and instead ‘information’ prevails.

Modern education is information, not knowledge — and the marginal are drowning.

A life of simulated shallowness, avarice and merciless individualism is propagated as “the promise” and masks the greedy profit that lies underneath

I have softened the hearts of many men. Though, I am limited in the abundance of human drones.

A drone is taught to valorise surfaces only, like the body; it cannot detect the emotional depth of the soul.

How foolish of me to consider myself a Sheherazade in a society that is morally bankrupt!

You see, in a world where shallowness prevails, the shallow ideals will be rewarded.

Oh, the days when I was an object, I only attracted objects!

Oh, I am fully aware, that if I transformed myself into a walking simulation of stupidity (a shapely ass and big pair of tits as my sole identity), then I will reign popularity.

But you see, now, I refuse to be an inanimate object.

How could anyone be an object once they’ve reached their soul?

I speak in a language that cannot be comprehended so easily,

it will only resonate by those immersed in Love.

My silence speaks this language.

My God, I am so thankful You reign in my heart, radiating Your Beauty

The burning of my heart keeps me from solidifying into a cold, hardened object. I’m melting in Your bliss.

Love will shine, it radiates in all forms to those whose surfaces are still permeable.

-Myself

*The tale of Scheherazade is symbolic in showcasing that wisdom is what makes a human worthy of being. Scheherazade changed King Shahriyar’s murderous vengence towards women, and inevitably softened his heart. How? She used her wisdom, her knowledge — she was not simply an object. The symbolism has relevance to today’s context: When a human is simply an object, devoid of inner depth, they become perceived as insignificant, disposable as an inanimate object. Sadly, it has become a trend in modern societies for people to identify in objectifying manners, thereby neglecting the ripening of their inner beings. This trend is a reflection of the ‘popular’ social values that are advertised by all forms of media/social media. 

___________

set free

“They have taken us prisoners,

They’ve locked us up.

But that’s nothing…

The worst

is when people –knowingly or not —

carry prison inside themselves”

-Nizam Hikmet

(trans. Sisir Kumar Das 378)

___________

Do Panjereh

(…)

always been a distance

between your hands and mine.

always with this bitterness

our days and nights have passed.

 *

there is not a very long distance between us, but

(even this short distance) seems so far.

the only connection between you and me

is the kind caressing hands of wind.

*

we are forced to stay captive.

we will stay captive as long as we live.

for us the only way to freedom is death.

as soon as we are set free, we will die.

*

Oh, I wish this wall would fall down

so that you and me will die together

and in another world

we will be able to hold hands, be together.

may be in that other world,

the pain of shunning and hatred wont exists in hearts.

(may be in that new world) between their windows

wont be any barrier of walls.

-Googoosh

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A Question of “Poison” – Western-Liberal Values

I apologize to my viewers for not posting lately. I have been writing extensively, but my thoughts, like my life, are complex, confusing and dynamic.

I find myself becoming more cynical towards Western-Liberal ideology, and all of its implications. In a nutshell, I can sum up Western-Liberal ideology as: money accumulation, perpetual growth, competition, individual gain and a discourse of ‘freedom.’ These are all values that I, unknowingly, adopted and internalized. Western-Liberal ideology is what I attribute to my self-destruction. I am starting to view Western-Liberal indoctrination as ‘poison.’ And people who practice such traits, I refer to them as ‘poisoned.’ I am ‘poisoned’ myself, yet I am aware of it’s negativity. Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower and how state power works indirectly to control our lifestyles, making us ‘self-regulators,’ also revolutionized my thoughts.

So why so cynic? The more I study about the history of cultures and make comparisons, I realize that the modern world has failed to fulfil the basic human need: belonging.  Individualism, by way of Western-Liberal ideology, had turn most of us into self-indulgent, narcissists. The implications of ‘greed’ is that we neglect others for self-gain — thus, the human need to belong is jeopardized. The inequalities between the favored and unfavored are growing.

Yet so many people are unaware of this. We ‘self-regulate’ ourselves in ways that do not benefit others, but rather maintain the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism. Many notions of Western-Liberal ideology are unchallenged by the majority, because they are so embedded into our minds (most of us do not think about the origin of these values). How often do people challenge the concept of ‘growth’ and realize that accumulation of things is not sustainable? Others may be aware, but they have no need to worry, because they are ‘normative’ people who get along well with like-minded individuals. But what about marginalized individuals? What about people who do not fit the ‘norm’ of society? They suffer. They are isolated. Nobody pays attention to them. And even worst, various institutions, such as the mass-media, feed us propaganda to dismiss these ‘misfit’s’ and blame them for social ills.  My heart cries for fellow marginalized individuals. Suicide crosses their minds, because the worst punishment for anyone is social isolation. As Emile Durkheim notes, those who belong are less likely to commit suicide. Happiness is linked to social cohesion, yet the current dynamics of conformity are based on maintaining social asymmetry rather than an egalitarian goal.

I strongly admire those who are not affected by this ‘poison.’ I cannot admire those who possess all of the negative traits that I possess. I outcaste myself. I don’t like doing things that most people my age do. I am still ‘poisoned’,  yes. I still carry poisonous items, such as designer items,….but slowly, I hope to getaway from all these things that are meaningless in life. What has meaning? Love, family, traditions, spirituality, nature.

Sometimes I have this dream…to run away. I love that novel by James Hilton, “Lost Horizon,” where a traveler accidentally arrives at a blissful haven on earth, away from the ills of civilization. Yet I have traveled the world. I have travel to several parts of the world, both wealthy and poor, trying to find meaning. Like James Hilton’s novel, I too have realized that the most kind and loving people are those who are content with less materialism. The unfortunate reality is that the entire world is being incorporated into this ‘poison’ — adopting Western ideology (capitalism). The old traditions will, tragically, die out.

On a recent venture to the Middle East, my expectations of a culture-rich society was met with disappointment — it is very evident that adopting the notion of wealth accumulation is destroying the beauty of the old traditions. Most cultures were manipulated, via colonialism and coersion, into this new modern ideology. In the rich Gulf States, most women and men are no longer concerned with tradition, but rather men are focused on comparing Ferrari and Maseratis in the Majles, and women are concerned with the latest Chanel or Birkin handbag and beautifying themselves on a  ‘plastic surgery’ trip to Lebanon. What is more disheartening is that it’s very ‘uncool’ to be traditional (in the premodern sense). It’s common to hear unintellectual youngsters being proud of not being beduoin or not having beduoin mannerisms.

Often, I like to imagine if I had a child one day. Where is the best place to live with good communal values? How would I protect my son or daughter from these individualistic ideals and practices that plague the majority? How do I prevent my child from living a meaningless life of going to nightclubs, drinking, drugs and using material things to determine their self-worth?

I was once the epitome of everything that I currently detest. Yet often I wonder why didn’t I end up like the majority? I feel very grateful for my experiences, otherwise I would have continued with empty, shallow habits. Everything happens for a reason

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