Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Marwan: A whole life in a plastic bag

Marwan: A whole life in a plastic bag
View image on Twitter

     This picture hit the headlines on the Internet two weeks ago. Andrew Harper, the head of the UN refugees agency UNHCR in Jordan, posted it on Twitter. The lead paragraph said: Powerful image of a 4-year-old Syrian refugee boy alone in the desert. In the end the child was only a few feet away from his family. Anyway, despite of the fact that the boy was not alone, this image is overwhelming. The UN reports that more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011. Half of these refugees are children.
     I can’t imagine how confused the boy had to feel, wandering around the desert, plodding through the sand, following the crowd of Syrians who attempted to reach the Jordan border in desperation. The image of such a little boy holding a plastic bag is beyond all understanding.
     Unexpectedly, a different child came to my mind. It was Linus van Pelt, one of Charlie Brown’s friends. In Spain we knew Charlie as “Carlitos” and when I was a little girl I used to read Peanuts comic strip. Linus, dominated by his insecurities, is always depicted holding his old blue blanket while sucking his thumb He called it his “security and happiness blanket”. Then I searched in my computer for an image of him. I found out loads of psychological theories and scientific researches on this sort of objects. Known as “comfort objects”, they may take the form of a blanket, a stuffed animal or a favourite toy. They may be referred to by English-speaking toddlers as blankey and lovely. My interest on the subject was on the increase and I found new words related to this semantic field…blanky, wubby, jointness, transitional object, pacifier (a whole page on the benefits of this item that I had always known as a dummy).

     Finally, I stumbled upon the definition of Comfort Object: ”Item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations”. However, I couldn’t find among these objects a plastic bag. I felt miserable remembering Marwan, the little boy carrying his belongings in a huge plastic bag, crossing at Hagallat into Jordan, into an uncertain future.

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