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Eureka: New beginnings
by Joseph Gatt
2018-11-15 07:26:56
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I wanted to title my final Eureka piece “Eureka commits suicide” or some shock title like that. I am not suicidal, nor have I ever been. I am a dove and have no killer instincts. But “killing” Eureka would mean the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle.

Why Eureka? Why Ovi? Why writing? Identity is after all an important part of human life, and a lot of the questions you will be getting in life will have to do with your identity. A lot of the treatment you get, the way you are perceived, your career choices, your life path will be influenced by your identity.

I was aware of being an adopted child and that my mother was “a Jewish woman.” End of story. My foster home was that of a Muslim family and I was a guest in their house. My foster family did not choose to adopt me, they were forced to because of some huge credit card debt they had piled up shortly before my birth, and their debt was taken care of in exchange for my adoption. Or something like that, at least that's what I gather from piecing together different stories that were told.

eyrek01_400So there I was stuck with an Algerian passport, barred from holding an Israeli or American passport, despite being legally entitled to those. Adolescents lie, make stuff up, reinvent themselves. Adopted children rarely say they were adopted, because no one would believe them. I had an Algerian passport yet did not have the genes. The pale skin, the tendency to grow my hair long, my calm, careful but assertive demeanor, my respect for intellect yet complete disregard for formality, my being comfortable with older people. All those are not traits you'll find in Algerians. My tendency to assimilate, to in Rome do as the Romans, to chat with store owners and tea shop waiters, my tendency to spot lonely policemen and strike up conversations about football with them.

So by the age of fifteen I said I was Jewish when I was asked without being too specific. At 18 I ended up in France, completely by accident. My foster parents had suggested I go to college in Algeria; France was the only other visible option. Canada, the United States or Australia would have been the more logical choice, but France it was.

I knew I needed a job in France, but could not work with the rigid, militarized, contemptuous work culture. I tried my luck with journalism, but that's when the identity narrative arose. No one believed I was Jewish. People thought I was saying that to get favors in an industry where Jews have the reputation to be very present, some would say powerful. After all I had never celebrated a Jewish holiday, did not know the codes of the society. Truth is, there are no codes.

But as a journalist, and a graduate student in France, I was often mistaken for being a Muslim. That irritated me, because in the minds of a lot of people Muslim means you're dumb and chauvinistic, perhaps even bigoted. I did end up writing papers on Israel and other issues and they were published. I thought I could pursue the life of a successful pundit with the label of being a Jew raised in a Muslim foster home.

Oh, by the way, I was also a labor unionist. I did not join unions because a lot of them were Communist or Socialist which I despised, and few opposed authoritarianism at the workplace. I knew that workers had rights, and that emotional abuse was a crime punishable by law. By the way emotional abuse is also a crime in South Korea. I helped marginalized immigrants with their rights, especially foreign students or foreign workers who were denied their rights and who were the victims of blunt racist attacks.

So I was kicked out of France and sent to South Korea. France has a reputation for stereotyping minorities, Jews are arrogant and love money and Muslims are bigoted and dumb, but South Korea is a completely different story. South Koreans don't believe in nations. They believe each country is a different planet, with each country having its own species of human beings. Different species cannot do business together, work for each other, or marry each other, except in some strange circumstances. So as an Algerian, I could only trade with, do business with, or marry an Algerian. Or help Koreans do business with Algerians.

At conferences, I would be asked questions specifically about Algeria, and an Algerian flag would be on my podium. I would look at that flag and see an Israeli flag.

I could not go to Israel or the United States because I could not provide evidence for who this mysterious Jewish mother was. My foster family did not help either. So I had to find a way to get a passport that would help me move to Israel, or at least have a shot at looking for a job in Israel. I thought about moving to Canada or Australia where getting citizenship is relatively easy, but the 2008 recession hit, jobs dried up in Canada and Australia, more importantly, I lacked the funds and money to move to Canada or Australia.

So my eyes were on the Korean passport. But the Korean government put me on a blacklist, again for defending workers. I had studied Korean law, knew that emotional abuse or talking behind a worker's back, or using code words so a worker does not understand is against the law. It's in the books, but as I was spreading such information, I was banned from working in South Korea and from marrying a South Korean. Now I had nowhere to go.

So the only option I had left was to be so smart, to solve problems so complex, to be such a good journalist that no one could refuse me for a job. I put forward the fact that I speak very fluently 7, 8 or 9 languages depending on how you count, and from 2013 onward, read almost a book a day and tried my luck solving some complex problems.

I started in Korea (solving problems landed me in a concentration camp, not at a university) and was deported to Algeria where solving problems went largely unnoticed, at least on the record. Because I did not have an office in Algeria (I work on a living room table) and more importantly no pay, being smart did not get me the job I wanted, or give me that prized job in the US or Israel where I can live among like-minded people.

My mother ended up having a name and a face, turned out being Israeli (but she won't talk to me). At this point all I would like is any job that pays.

But, to why I am discontinuing Eureka. Solving problems, be it at Ovi or other publications, felt like reading poems to a horse. It's not the absence of pay. It's just that no one really notices. I still don't have that job where I get that paycheck on the 25th of each month, or on the 5th of each month. I still don't have a career track. My “interesting background” is still of interest to nobody.

So I'll read more books, and wait for a miracle. That's all I can do. 

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