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Humiliation Leads to Alienation
von Anis Hamadeh, June 2005
German Original

"Is there anything you want to tell us?" His voice was calm, controlled, dominant. Joana's eyebrows shriveled. What was going on here? "What do you mean?" she asked in confusion. She looked at Muhammad, then at Heinz, searching. "You can say it now or we can ask Tony and Basim in to join us." Joana still did not know what the matter was. Hastily she recalled the events of the past few hours. She drove to the company, before it had taken her ages again to find the car key. Tired and exhausted she was, too, for the last weeks had been dramatic. Another thing not uncommon for Joana, her world had in a way been upside down since last summer.

At first, she had worked in an office for a medium sized company in western Germany after that things in her home town of Leipzig had gone all wrong. Through contacts she met somebody who employed her. She was still strong, still sexy and she wanted to work. It turned out, though, that the company in western Germany did not pay her any money until after three months she literally stood on the street without any means. There Muhammad found her in her miserable condition and had mercy with her. He took her home with him and his wife offered her a warm meal. Joana ate, relaxed, and then she told her story and talked and talked while Muhammad and his wife Brigitte listened with attention and compassion. Joana felt better afterwards. She needed somebody to trust after all these disappointments. In former times she had had a house, a husband and children. The dream did not come true. The kids, grown-ups today, remained in the east and Joana met this man from the west and tried a new start. There was a lot she wanted to forget about and a lot she still wanted to achieve.

For the first time in a long while she felt easy again, here with this couple. This was eight months ago by now. It had been a nice change for the two people in the house and they liked the open-minded and cordial character of Joana's. As there were enough free rooms in the house they let her recover at their place for a couple of days. Such a human being should get a chance, Brigitte and Muhammad agreed. After a while he let her dwell in the attic apartment that he owned in the village. Joana needed a place to stay and accepted greatfully, even if the apartment had not been inhabited for some months and at first glance did not appear to be too inviting. Muhammad filled the fridge for her and supported her. One day he even bought a bed and a bedroom cupboard for her. Joana had not asked for it, she actually did not even want it, because she still had her furniture in the east and besides she used to make such decisions herself. Muhammad was a little upset about that, but he did not say anything. He also did not say anything when Joana was absent sometimes for days and when she did not like to come over for a visit, although he desired to see her.

Joana loved to drive her car. There were weekends when she just drove away, to her daughter or to other remote places. Sometimes she just had to get out, maybe to flee, maybe to cope with life. To search for the point where life was stuck. Her hands needed motion, she wanted to work. To be occupied with something. She had worked her whole life through, in offices and outdoors. Once she had even worked for a whole night in Tony's bar, on short-term demand, although she had had no experience in this kind of job. 30 euros is what she got for that. That was when she was already in the company. For of course she did not want to dwell in the apartment for nothing, even though Muhammad had insisted. So she went to Muhammad's company and made herself useful there. She wanted to work anyway, so should she be squatting in the apartment with a bad conscience? She got along well with Tony, Basim and Heinz and there was enough work to do.

"There is ware missing in the store." Muhammad's voice was calm, controlled, dominant. Basim and Tony had meanwhile entered the office and sat around Joana to inform her about their opinion that Joana had regularly stolen ware from the store. Since a couple of weeks they had observed the quantities of certain products and by exclusion principle had come to the conclusion that only Joana could be the one who stole these things.

Joana was sitting there like in a dream or a film. She was completely confused. "We found ware in your bag", Muhammad continued. "But this ware is written off as a home requirement. Brigitte gave it to me and Samir", she replied quickly while it increasingly puzzled her that her bag had been opened. Muhammad and Heinz stood up and took her to the list with the things that were written off. Samir had recently introduced this list and placed it next to the copy machine. Indeed, the ware was mentioned there with the date of today. "Why do I as the boss not know this, why didn't you tell me?" Muhammad was still angry. He was disappointed that Joana of all people had stolen things from him while he had been so good to her.

"You did borrow money from Basim, didn't you?" the four men continued when they were all back in the office. Joana denied that. Basim did give her some money recently, that was true. It would be alright like that, she was told, and don't even mention it. There she took it. Muhammad, too, had given her some money sometimes, for fuel and just like that. She had taken it, and why not? She worked, made coffee, and often there was work on the weekends.

Samir entered the office, looking for something. "But when I need money I would ask you", said Joana and Samir looked at her in thoughts. He had found what he was looking for and returned whistling to the store where he was just fixing some shelves. In the last weeks he had accomplished a lot, at last there was space in the store and people did not have to stumble about things every five meters anymore. Also, things could systematically be found now. Samir asked himself how Basim and Tony had managed to work here in the past three years, at all. He himself had only been here for some months. He had reconciliated with his parents after five years of quarrel and he also urgently needed a job, so he asked whether he was needed in the company. Maybe it was possible to combine the energies for a change instead of using them to fight each other. Abu Samir, as Samir's father Muhammad was also called, was enthusiastic about the thought and instantly agreed. Brigitte also found that this was a good idea. This was how Samir met Joana.

The two had liked each other from the beginning. It was quite boring in the village and Joana helped Samir when he moved to settle in the area. They bought carpets and painted the walls. Joana would have liked to move here, too, it was nice in Samir's new apartment. He played the guitar and was somehow different from the people in her surroundings. For a moment she forgot about her sorrows and was, like Samir, happy that they could work together and that they had each other as a friend. "Dream team" Heinz had said in appreciation. While doing up the apartment together Joana and Samir realized that they both liked to be active and productive and that they gave each other strength.

Recently, their relationship had cooled down a little. Samir was worried about Joana having those skip-overs. Once she left her jeans jacket with the wallet at the hairdresser's and subsequently got into a police check. Typical! Or she drove head over heels to her daughter, who had problems, and then returned completely enervated and exhausted. Forgetting the mobile phone. Car batteries. Car stories in general. Then the loo overflew several times, she had put something wrong into it. The stove made problems, too, the other day it had caused a short-circuit. There was something wrong on a general level. And Samir lost touch. Only last weekend he had told his parents that he could not reach Joana anymore and that he was a bit upset about it, as she did not react. Before her hasty departure to the east Joana had painted a picture with watercolors for Samir's mother Brigitte, it was still wet when Samir had delivered it together with the pie, like Joana had wished. He had bought Joana a book, "The Celestine Prophecies", because he wanted to help her and this book provided many answers. He read it out for her and she appreciated that, still they had only managed to reach page 40. At the moment she had a transit visitor and thus again no time.

Samir screwed the final tin shelf on and collected the tools. It had a liberating effect on him when he established order. On his way to the sink he met a completely tear-stained Joana in the hall, on her way out. She recognized Samir through the tears and turned to him. "They say I have stolen." Then she cried again. It was not the first time that Samir was confronted with such dramatic utterances by Joana, but what was that she was saying there? He asked her to confirm what she said and talked to her. Yet she was not able to stay, apologized and ran away. Samir was confused. Benumbed he entered his father's room and looked at him. "So", Muhammad said knowingly, "what did Joana tell you?"


"This is a special relationship. She does also have the key to your parents' house and your father did also often fill the fridge for her." Heinz tried to calm Samir down. "We have learned our lesson. Such a thing will not happen again." He really wished to continue working with Samir for Samir worked in a clean, systematic and fast way. One could even talk with him about religious issues. The relationship had been good and always open which in turn was something highly appreciated by Samir. "Heinz, when he enters her apartment in her absence, looking for stolen goods, without asking her permission and even without information, then this is called a burglary. The same is true for the opening of her bag." Samir was angry. He had learnt that his father had been in Joana's apartment immediately before the trial yesterday. Joana told him that Muhammad had said goodbye to her at noon in the company telling her he was going to see the tax counselor. Later, Muhammad asserted that he went to the bank afterwards and there it spontaneously came to his mind that he still had to check the fuse box in Joana's apartment because of the stove. It was on his way, he said. He had forgotten to phone her before he went in.

Samir was ashamed of his father. If there was an incidence of theft in the store then this was something that they had to discuss together. But these four men had pondered and worried for weeks and they had not informed him and Joana, but had kept their suspicions to themselves. And suddenly the thing exploded like that. Meanwhile Muhammad had noticed that his suspicion could not be proven. In this second talk he apologized to Joana. She, in turn, did not leave straight away, but resumed her work. Samir acknowledged this with respect. But some hours later she came up to Samir and said that she would have to go home now and digest all the things that happened. Samir continued the discussion with Heinz: "It seems to me as if you happened to need someone to take the blame and that you chose the weakest person of the group. The classic." Heinz denied that. He listed the things Joana had done wrong in her life and that she was quick with tears. "This might be so, but what does this have to do with the allegations? And with the burglary?" Samir shook his head.

It followed a phase of absence from the company for both Joana and Samir. Samir still did not have a real working contract. There was a bigger amount of money on ice due to a translation mistake in a contract in February. This worry was pressing on the small company. Joana did not appear in the company anymore, because she had only gradually understood the humiliations of the last days and was unable to trust Muhammad anymore, despite his short apology. She still felt under suspicion and Samir could not rebut this, for he himself had heard in the company that there still would be open issues. Some weeks ago Tony saw her with ware which she allegedly was about to photograph for the website. He said she had behaved in a suspicious way. When Tony had invited the company to dinner in February he had not invited Joana and Samir. Tony did not talk much and he did not look into your eyes when he shook hands with you.

Samir's energy level sank rapidly. In the first two nights he could hardly find any sleep. His trauma had reopened. Abu Samir had done the very same thing with Joana that he had done with himself in former times. Only without physical violence. So he did it again, confirmed it. Samir was terribly ashamed of his father.

For years he had tried to explain to him that humiliations lead to alienation. And that one cannot just buy people with money. Now Muhammad openly committed a burglary, a mobbing and a lie without wanting to understand that he was not allowed to do that. His co-workers remained silent and rationalized that Joana always put herself in the role of the victim, anyway, and that in the end she was using everybody for her own advantage. Maybe she had put some witchcraft on Samir. They were four men with whom you could steal horses, like in the German saying Abu Samir sometimes quoted. Brigitte, too, in this issue had only this to say to Samir: "Well, did Joana cool down again?" For some months Muhammad had complained about not receiving a rent for the apartment. It would be fine and well that she worked in the company, but this would be a different pot. In the last conversation with him Samir said that he could simply not believe the story with the fuse box. "Well", Muhammad replied and shrugged his shoulders, "I did apologize, what else is there that I could do?" And Samir: "But I cannot trust you anymore." Again a shrug.

The problem for Samir was not only the burglary, the mobbing and the lie, rather it became impossible for him now to believe his father several other things, things he had said in the past. Like the forgetting of violence he exerted on his son.

In the following weeks it became clear that Joana was unable to come to the company anymore under these circumstances and that Samir, too, needed a two-weeks break. He only went to the company one more time and saw his father for a short time. They had a very calm, short talk in the course of which Samir asked: "Why is it that we always have such arguments?" Muhammad shrugged his shoulders. "I really have limits", Samir continued, "I cannot participate in everything." Meanwhile, Heinz was of the opinion that Joana should not return. That it was over. There would never have been an agreement for Joana to get a steady job. This, however, was not what Samir had heard from his father. Heinz also wanted to bring his daughter in the company, but denied a causal context.

While the case was closed for Muhammad, Heinz, Basim and Tony, Joana and Samir stayed at their respective homes, feeling an increasing pressure as they both had to care for the future and were cut off the monetary source for which they had been working. Before Samir left the city for an appointment he wrote an email to Muhammad and Heinz asking them why the result of the whole affair for Joana was the same as if she was guilty, although she did not steal as it turned out. Meanwhile, Muhammad had informed Joana in a letter that from now on she had to pay a rent of 350 euros and that her allegations were wrong. In his mail Samir wrote that his conscience makes it impossible for him to accept what happened and that the situation could only be regarded as settled when Joana had her piece in this matter, especially as the only woman among men. If there was no other way Samir would have to write down the whole story to make clear what happened here. In such cases where the rules were violated in such a severe way and with late effects one could not just turn to the routine as if nothing ever happened.

When Samir came back to town he called Joana to make up his mind about the situation. She had taken suppressants and could not drive. A couple of days earlier she had caused an accident when she ran into a car while driving out the entranceway. For a short while she had been in the hospital with a shock, her nerves were bad. "Why is he doing this?" she cried into the phone and referred to the incident, not the accident. In the meantime she had exchanged the lock of the apartment. Samir explained to her that he knew his father for a long time and knew that he had always picked weaker people to victimize them and. He himself had to play this role for decades. That this had been the reason for much pain and the reason why Samir had left him before. Joana listened and her tears ceased to flow. "Please also consider", said Samir, "that this behavior is not only because of you. He is also talking to me here, only that he cannot play this game with me anymore. Now he expects my approval for his free choice of another victim for his drama. Therefore we have to stick together now. You can certainly move to my place as long as this situation lasts. I will probably have to leave the city again, maybe you can take over my apartment then." They had a long conversation. He felt responsible for leaving her alone for almost a week. Her psychic state was really bad. She said Heinz had phoned her for a conversation when she was in the hospital. When she said that she wanted to come to the company on Monday, in Samir's presence, to talk it all over, Heinz declined. On Samir's announcement to write the story down should this be necessary to clarify the situation Heinz reacted horrified: "Regrettably, I have the impression that your emotions do not allow you to take an objective look at the facts." If he was posing conditions on them then this would be blackmail. Samir should not enter the company before this point is clarified, but talk to the two before.

He could well do without this talk, it was obvious what was going on. They blamed it on his emotions, just like with Joana. His insisting on a just solution of the situation was called blackmail. They wanted him to commit to the group, to prove his loyalty. He was to learn what was important in life. Was a blonde crybaby from the east more important to him than a career? More important than his father? More important than financial security? He thought of the verse in the quran which says that you always have to honor the parents. His father had mentioned this verse when his son wanted to explain to him that the two had alienated because of his violence. So there was no change, at all. Samir would write this story and then would have to find himself a new job quickly.

And Joana? She only needed a bit of a home, then she would recover and be able to go on. First of all she had to leave the apartment and find herself a job. The two would have to go into the uncertain and help each other. "Something better than death we will find anywhere." Samir laughed into the phone. "By the way, the war on Iraq started in a similar way." "Really?" Joana asked. - "Oh yes, and not only this."

Continued in Part 4: "Through Time a Flower Grows"

Index page: Samir's Adventures