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The Great Pain Olympics and Why You Shouldn’t Want the Gold

So boom right, the other day I was watching a re-run of last week’s Real Time With Bill Maher as I went ape sh*t on some Five Guys and director Julian Schnabel (Basquiat) was guest on the panel. Schnabel was there to promote his new film Miral, which tells of the harsh realities of life in Israel through the eyes of a young Palestinian girl played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionare), who is Indian.

Confused yet? Yeah, me too Hoss, me too.

On paper Miral sounds like it would be a good story for people to watch to get some understanding of the plights of others but like everything that happens in the Israel and that neighborhood there is of course controversy. The problem issue here is that Schnabel is a Jew from BROOKLYN!!! Many of the members of his faith think that he is a “sell-out” for making a film that documents the trials of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a people who many feel are the enemy of his people.[i] Long story short many Jewish organizations around the world have issues with this up close and personal look at the conflict.

While listening to Maher and Schnabel’s conversation I turned to Miss Moneypenny and wondered aloud “I’m amazed at people and groups of people lack of ability to understand the suffering of others.”

I went on to say that people seem to like to play the pain game. By the pain game I meant that is seemed to a part of the “human condition” for one group of people who have been through any type of strife to always show how their strife was so much worse than anybody else’s.[ii] I’m far from an emotional guy, which is something that I’ve documented here before, but empathizing is something I try to do. Due to this fact I’m often shocked by those who refuse to walk a mile in the shoes of another.

A few years ago I ducked work and went to the barbershop to get a hair cut (What else would you do at a barber’s shop?) and a documentary about the Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, TN’s after school project to study the Holocaust came on HBO.[iii] As the documentary progressed one of the shops other patrons said something to the effect of “Why are they always talking about what happened to those Jews. That sh*t wasn’t worse than what happened to us!”[iv] This lead to a bunch of head nodding by many of the patrons and some head shaking by a few of the older customers. I didn’t say squat because I was never comfortable with playing the smarty-art dude in the barbershop.[v]

I just don’t understand why folks have always felt the pain game was a necessary undertaking. I’ve heard blacks, Arabs, Jews, Irishmen, other races, and even genders play the pain game over and over. Each time the game is played the level of vitriol increases at the expense of what’s need: understanding. All of the groups above know about the others plights but I seldom see them nodding their heads in understanding to what the other has been through.

Genocides, slavery, famines, forced removal, and occupation has shaped the legacy of many peoples across the globe. Instead of all of these commonalities bringing folks closer together, it only divides. Each time discussions of these topics happen they turn into a contest to see who has the biggest, nastiest scars to show off and frankly, that sh*t is old.

Vaya con Dios.


[i] Miral is based on a novel penned by Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian, who is also the girl friend of Julian Schnabel. I guess if someone is going to call you a “sell-out” then you should wrap yourself in the “sell-out” flag huh?

[ii] Yes, I do realize that terms like the “human condition” fluffed-up ways to generalize our species. Right or wrong the term works here. Hell sometimes we Homo sapiens are rather general.

[iii] This was about five years ago. My hair and I haven’t been involved in sometime. It started to leave so I kicked it out. #Baldninjasaresexierthanyoulivewithit

[iv] I’m not sure who the “they” in dude’s statement referred too but I’m pretty sure the “us” in this instance is black Americans. Man I hate when people us “they” in that manner. We never get a clear picture as to who “they” are do we?

[v] Sure someone has to keep “I’ve only got one part of the story guy” straight in the barbershop but that’s a weight to heavy for me to carry around.

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5 responses to “The Great Pain Olympics and Why You Shouldn’t Want the Gold

  1. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my mouth shut if someone said that. I honestly can’t say that I think either was worse than the other (slavery vs. Holocaust, why is this a match-up anyways?). I do know that both were terrible and to compare the two is like comparing apples to oranges.

    • I was next in the chair and probably pissy about something else already so dude wasn’t worth it. I’m not sure how the slave trade v. Holocaust match up keeps coming up but it does. You’re right about the apples and oranges comparison but both the apples and oranges are rotten.

  2. True story. It’s funny to see how groups of people want to compete to show that they’ve had it worse. This occurs even on an individual-by-individual basis. People argue over who grew up in a worse neighborhood or has a worse job/boss. Whoever had to overcome or deal with more atrocities or disadvantages wins.

  3. NubianEmpress

    Great Post, Wu. People really are stupid…iCant even get into it, I might get too angry.

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