ROAD to EQUALITY podcast

Episode 2 with Mo Farazi (Video, Audio & Transcript)


So the issues that plague us… So many… We have discrimination, we have racism, we have sexism, we’ve got a homeless situation, as you can see behind me. So a lot of issues that we’re facing in today’s world, and a lot of it’s been compounding over the past decades, up, and up, and up.

No one’s been facing them, so now we’re getting this slow avalanche, slowly hitting us, and you can see it behind us. Like, all throughout the park, this never used to be this way. This one pandemic hits, nobody’s been prepared for it, and this is the outcome? It’s really sad.

And this is not just a one-time event. We’ve seen things like this happen before over and over again, and the thing is, nothing seemingly changes. We’ve had riots in the past, we’ve had protests, we’ve got protests in 2020, last year, you know. BLM movement, the Me Too movement from the year prior… These things keep happening again and again, but seemingly the change that we want to see as a result is not there.

Right now at least, with BLM, you can see, at least for the most part, a lot of businesses supporting the movement. You’ve got signs put up here and there, but there are also businesses that don’t want to do that. They’re too afraid. One of the gyms that I used to go to would not put up any signs because they didn’t want to be the first ship to put up a movement behind them, they’re too afraid. That’s just discouraging and disgusting, right? Like, for such a positive movement, why? But you know, this is one of the many issues that we face in today’s world. And as a minority, these issues extrapolate themselves, and you tend to focus on them more because you know the impact that it has on you.

I’ll just give you a few examples… For example, with me, you know, obviously, ethnically I’m Middle Eastern. It’s very obvious for people to tell that, but it’s also very confusing to others who are like, are you… Well, Middle Eastern, what does that mean? Are you Arab? Are you Lebanese? Are you Pakistani? Are you Indian? There are a lot of different races… Iranian… That could, you know, formulate the Middle Eastern ethnicity. But a lot of these races also tend to, unfortunately, not like each other. Indians don’t like Pakistanis, Pakistani’s don’t like Indians, and there’s, you know… It’s not obviously a universal rule, but there’s tension, and this tension can be seen in the workplace these days as well, you know.

You’ve got the caste system being migrated over to workplaces here in Canada and in the US where visa holders will try and recruit other people from their own caste system and ignore others that aren’t from the same caste system. That’s beyond stupid that we are importing this in this day and age, here.

You’ve got that issue, you’ve got issues like just the name that you go by. So my formal name is, you know, Mohamed. However, everywhere here, I go by Mo, because one, it’s easier to go by Mo, and two, there’s a real change when you go by Mohamed versus when you go by Mo, and you can really see this when you go out for job interviews, applications, even dating, right? You say Mohamed, and a lot is just assumed by you and by your name, or you must be Muslim, he must be from here, he must be doing this kind of work… Whereas you go by Mo, a lot of people do know that Mo is shorthand, but a lot of people also don’t know that, so you could go by with less, going for that name. So job interviews, I’ve done this myself, where I’ve sent the same application in different resume formats with a full name and a short name, and then my short name would get a call back as opposed to my full name. It’s infuriating, but it does happen, and this is like a well-known phenomenon that you can look up online at any time… There are studies showing this, forums, people raging about this. It’s easy to find this info if you look for the info.

A lot of it is just something that we don’t really care about because it doesn’t impact us, the majority of people. It impacts a subset group of individuals. I happen to be one of them, you know. Yeah, gay people tend to be another subset group of people that have been marginalized for a very long time, and still to, you know, continue to be marginalized against today. Even with all the progress, all the change we’ve seen, all the equality, you know, campaigns that we’ve seen, a lot has changed for the better, which is amazing, but then we still see stupid people that go off with, you know, sexist jokes or homophobic jokes and say dumb things, and it’s that hinge that we need to push and move forward with.

And to me, it starts off with economic equality, because economic equality is how we set the playing field to a basic average level, whether that’s UBI (Universal Basic Income), or you know, better programs out there to assist people either on welfare or, you know, low wages, etc. But economic equality is where it starts, because if I have to work two jobs day in and night to just make and meet the minimum standards that I need to get by to buy food, to pay rent in this expensive city, and somebody else does not have to do any of that, there’s going to be a disparity in that, you know? If somebody just does, like, an eight-hour job, get by for the year on a month’s salary, compared to somebody who needs to work 12 months of the year to get by, just to pay rent and food?

There’s an obvious, you know, disadvantage there. And it doesn’t matter what I do myself to try and make that better, I’m never going to catch up. I’m always going to fall behind, and if I’m always falling behind, I’m never going to be at a place where culturally speaking, I’ll have the time to go and pursue, let’s say, arts, pursue something that can benefit my country, my city, society as a whole, because I’m busy trying to survive and get by. Whereas if I am feeling good, I’m cozy, my job’s fantastic, my spare time is dedicated, or you know, it can be dedicated to pursuing hobbies, cultural endeavours, art, history, society, all that jazz, right? I can go and defend, you know, Aboriginal rights and BLM, all that jazz, because I have the privilege to have that time to do these things, whereas somebody working a minimum wage job, let’s say as a cashier at a grocery store, is not going to have that time because they’re just trying to pay rent. So to me, it starts off at an economical level.

There’s a reason, and we’ve seen this through studies, through Google’s data, through a lot of available data you can find on the internet, that when COVID first hit, it was the privileged that had been least affected by it, because immediately they could just stay at home, work from home, groceries delivered, everything’s delivered, you don’t need to do anything and you’re safe and secure, whereas for a big portion of the population, none of that’s an option. You have to, you know… What we deem as essential workers and pay minimum wage and, like, grocery store workers, how is that any fair? If I’m an essential worker, I’m being paid minimum wage to subsidize your comfortable living. I’m exposed to a dangerous virus while you’re not… All this is readily available, but we see this disparity and we see it growing tremendously.

Even right now with the way the lockdowns are happening, it’s not fair to any small business owner. Now 100 people can migrate and get together at a Costco, versus the one or two people going to a small ma-and-pa shop. There’s no fairness in this whatsoever. There’s a reason it’s been laughed at universally within Ontario, because it just doesn’t make any sense. So to me, economic balance is where we need to start, and once everybody starts off at economic balance, you know, it’s… It’s ideal, it’s, you know, utopian.

I get that it’s not a snap of the finger, but that’s what we need to strive for, is to help people not live in tents behind us in a park and be able to live in a comfortable home, feel secure so they can work on themselves to get better, start, you know, applying for jobs and move on in the ladder of this society, because when you’re stuck behind, it’s not easy to then get your way and move forward, right? If you’re already at the top, it’s easier to stay at the top, and if you’re behind, it’s really hard to catch up. And right now, people are just too selfish. There’s rarely any help. There are some programs to help you catch up, it’s just they’re not really effective. There’s a reason we have people out here. There’s a reason a lot of people choose to live outside of homeless shelters as opposed to inside the homeless shelters, because the system doesn’t work.

I have friends that work as, you know, frontline… What do you call them? Dispatch people on suicide hotlines, and the amount of people calling in now is unparalleled compared to previous, you know, years and decades. More people now suffer from mental issues… Whether it’s because of the pandemic or because of stress, anxiety, there are so many issues going on today, especially within the mental side of things that are not as easily diagnosed that you can’t obviously tell from a person because it’s a like a mental disability, like a handicap that you cannot visibly see, but it’s raging. And the sad part of it is that suicide hotline is completely voluntary, right? All these staff that are here trying to save lives, they’re volunteers. They’re not getting paid for this, right?

On Christmas Day, they were sending out emails begging for volunteers to sign up because no one was willing to take a shift. Christmas Day, everybody wants to be with their family, right? Pandemic or not, people want to be with their family. But there are all these lonely people out there that have no one to be with that their only salvage is somebody they’re talking to, a stranger on the phone who is there to help them feel better, and nobody is there… We’re not even paying for this service that is saving lives because we don’t deem it essential. There’s no economic benefit out of it, whereas having a supermarket open is more essential, or having some other stupid shit open is going to be more essential where we pay for something like that, as opposed to something within the social work realm that is so essential to society and yet so ignored, right? It’s social workers that we need the most right now, especially in a pandemic like this, to help with all the mental issues that are arising, but they’re the ones paid, you know, the least. They’re the ones with all these requirements on top of requirements that they need to fulfill before even being able to assist anybody. It’s… Yep, it’s just not a good time.

I’m absolutely hopeful for the future, because like I said, with my generation, with Gen Z right now coming up, you’re seeing that change happen slowly and people are more vocal, people want to be heard. You know, finding information, finding people like-minded and in sound mind is easier than ever before because of the internet, and obviously there’s a counterpart to that as we’ve seen happen with the States, but the divisiveness does not need to be the one-and-all thing. I think that change is happening, incrementally, slowly, but it is happening. And it is the younger people that are pushing for all of this… Which makes me very happy, because I think the world is moving towards a positive step culturally and socially. However, economically, the wealth disparity is not progressing well. It’s actually dividing further and further, and the outcome’s right behind me. And that’s the saddest part.

The future to me is optimistic. We are working on all these big projects with green energy, renewables, moving away from oil. These are things we never would have dreamt of 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Today they’re happening at a significant pace as well. The future is looking bright. It’s more connected than ever… Which, ironically, has a lot of people feeling more isolated than ever before. However, the olive branch is there if we go and try to seek it and work together to come together.

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