In Ayad’s narrative we can see how one takes in ideas and lets them percolate tossing
out old viewpoints, finding something new, inviting other thoughts in, and how one learns to
create a space with multiple and often competing ideologies and roles. Ayad’s work as a
journalist allowed him to chronicle the details of Saddam Hussein’s abuse of power. It is an
arduous task, reporting on harsh circumstances and telling the stories of those who have
been silenced through fear and retribution. Vivien Burr, examining social construction,
suggests that absorbing multiple ideologies is complicated and notes:
. . .First of all, ideologies are not coherent, unified systems anyway, but always (at
least) two-sided and as such do not present a ‘story’ that can be lived out in this
way. And second, the nature of human beings is such that our very thinking
processes involve us in the debate, argument, weighing up pros and cons and so on.
In this account, human beings are not like sponges, soaking up ideas from their
social environment, but are rhetoricians, arguers, people who are constantly engaged
in exploring the contrary implications of ideas. The person here is an active thinker,
someone capable of exercising choice and making decisions about the strengths and
weaknesses of her or his society’s values and ideas. (Burr, 1995, p. 85)
Social construction is not just about what we learn from others, but what we can leave
behind. Ayad is creating a space for other interests and activities to emerge. Recently, we
had a conversation and he mentioned his new regime of reading the classics, staying away
from the news, and curtailing his involvement with Middle Eastern politics. He found
himself happier by avoiding the negativity. That’s one way to go about it.
Or, he can create a new narrative without having to remove himself. Imagine what kind of
rich story would emerge if he was to ask Iraqis to talk about their hopes and dreams for the
future? The only thing more compelling than reinventing our own story is how to
challenge our discourse so we can build a better scenario together. Unfortunately, Ayad
did not ask me to rewrite his story. I totally intervened. Now he needs to write his own
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