Salam Pax (cont…)

I went and saw Salam Pax talk tonight as part of the Sydney Writers Festival. He said to tell you all he was real – that probably only means something to me, but I thought it worth sharing.

It was a great end to what’s been a pretty ordinary day. Salam was as great in person as he is on blog. He talked about politics, the weblog, the war, life after Saddam, self-censorship, the alter-ego that is Salam Pax, and many other topics.

Apparently he did an interview with Andrew Denton – not sure if it has been shown already, or whether it is being aired next week. Sounds like it would be a good one to see. His book is proving interesting reading already too – I wasn’t sure how a weblog-turned-book would be, but it works well, in a strange kind of way. I have his signature in it…

…which got me thinking – celebrity is a strange thing. I get the distinct impression that Salam would never have imagined that his little weblog would result in a book and movie contract, nor in a speaking tour of Australia and book signings. He is the first “celebrity” that I have met where it immediately felt like you were talking to a real person. He is intelligent, down to earth, and has a great sense of humour. Very cool.

The other thing that kinda struck me is – here is a person talking to us as an audience in one of the “Coalition Countries” who has just experienced the invasion – the bombings, the lootings, the humvees and US soldiers. He still lives in Baghdad as far as I know. It was like sitting in a living room talking to someone – he is just a nice guy, speaking of his experiences. Someone just like your friends, or that you might meet on the street.

And in that moment you realise just how fucked up all the anti-Arab sentiment is – the racial slurs, particularly for Arabs who are also Muslim. This was mentioned at the start of the presentation, and during, but sitting there I couldn’t help but thinking about how much our media, our government, and many of the people in this country have turned Arab into Terrorist, Muslim into Fundamentalist. And I think that if only more people in this country were open to seeing someone like Salam speak, and there are many people in this country alone who would fit the bill, we’d all be a lot better off.