Last month I wrote about us choosing to stay in Dubai even though I don’t enjoy living here. One of my (formerly) loyal readers didn’t like the post and left this comment on 3rd January:
Hello, I had already written to you and I read your posts each time there a new one, but I am so disappointed by your latest one, this will be the last one I read from you as we do not share the same vision of expatriation.
Indeed I am very disappointed by the way you think. Of course we are all free to express our thoughts and feelings but I experience this everyday in France where I live and that just pisses me off. I keep hearing people living in my country saying they don’t like anything about it (and sometimes anyone). This is so disrespectful. I am not saying we should like everybody and everything but at least we shouldn’t be allowed to be so ungrateful towards a country which has accepted you, we shouldn’t stay in a place we don’t respect (although some might say this is not a matter of respect, I do believe that you can’t respect people or a place you have absolutely no positive thought about).
People always endeavour to live in a better world but how will it ever be possible when after years living in a place where you have been given a new start in life your conclusion is that the only thing you like about it is escaping it!! For sure no place is perfect in this world and we can rightfully talk about the pros and cons objectively but rejecting so many things and all the people as a whole is just unacceptable to me.
You may not understand my post. You might even be angry at me, telling me not to come back to your ejo if I don’t like it. But I just needed to express myself! I don’t understand how you can enjoy travelling so much and be so narrow minded. Peace in the world will never happen with such comments, I am not sure you would understand people liking nothing about your country and staying anyway, that is unfair and you talked about racism but do you think such a blog will help? This is quite sad.
My reaction to this letter was physical. I felt out of breath, like I’d been punched. I felt sick. The concept of her statement was nothing new to me. David and I often argue that if I hate Dubai so much, perhaps we should just leave. My therapist, Zimmy, always tries her best to help me see Dubai more positively. But it took the words coming from a complete stranger to have the most impact on me. I felt gutted. And I went to bed in tears resolving to change.
After sleeping on it, I woke up seeing a more balanced picture. On the one hand, I don’t want to be perceived as a horrible, twisted, negative, complaining person. On the other, I want the freedom to publish exactly how I feel. I have never set out to sledge Dubai. I have only attempted to convey my own difficulty at finding a connection and love for the city I live in. And, as I wrote to Flo (my former loyal reader), “I have always imagined that my ejo rants were written in an entertaining way, tongue-in-cheek”.
Four days after Flo wrote to me telling me she didn’t like the way I was using words to disrespect the city I’ve chosen to live in, the world was shocked by the appalling Charlie Hebdo attacks in which twelve people were killed, ostensibly in an assault against freedom of speech. I was too stunned by the magnitude and the meaning of what had happened in Paris to make any kind of connection between that and my own freedom to express myself in my ejos. But it occurs to me now that while it would be foolish to make a comparison between myself and the Parisian publication, parallels can be drawn to any person who elects to express themselves publicly.
Was Charlie Hebdo promoting racism by reprinting supposedly blasphemous cartoons of an Islamic prophet? Or were they using satire to make a point? Have I unwittingly been promoting racism by bitching about Dubai? Or have I been trying to draw attention to a monster problem that exists in this city? Is Flo’s response to my ejo a charge against my own freedom of speech? And if so, should I fight back by continuing to publish and voice my opinion? Or should I fold to her criticism?
I’ve decided that Flo’s comments are simply her freely expressing how she feels. And that’s OK. I don’t think she’s trying to tell me to change the way I write. I think she’s telling me that she just no longer wants to read it. And that’s OK too. Am I sad to lose a reader? Yes. But I don’t write my ejos in order to collect subscribers. I write them for me. I can not, and will not, allow someone else’s opinion of me to change the way I write or what I write about.
Je suis Chryss.