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i don't want to disembowel myself...
but hear me out
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
3.28.08
film


In a black and white Japanese film, titled Harakiri, an old man requests an audience at a Samurai house, where a clan of Samurai runs “business” in 17th –century Edo. His sword and short blade are hanging from his belt, and his request is to be granted permission to perform Harakiri, the traditional ceremonial Japanese act of committing suicide by disemboweling oneself with a sword, in that house’s courtyard.

His reason for such a request is his unbearable life of poverty after the Samurai house he himself belonged to fell, leaving him in need of other means for survival in a tough job market in no need of Samurais.

Before the old man is granted permission to perform Harakiri in the house’s courtyard, he is told the story of a young man who had recently visited the same house, with the same request for the same reason. The young man was granted permission to perform Harakiri, and died an honorable death, disemboweling himself with his short blade. The old man is told how the young man had desperately begged for a grace period to go perform a duty, promising to return to die an honorable death. That request is denied, and he is immediately given the ceremonial white robes, and asked to take his place in the courtyard with audience. Further begging did not help the young man, and he is then asked to bring out his sword and short blade. Despite having bamboo for his sword and short blades, he is forced to perform his disembowelment with the bamboo blades.

Though this film is set in 17th century Japan, and covers the Samurai system, I can’t help but see the universality of what is essentially a commentary on unjust systems, old and new, that tread on the weak and helpless.

Unfortunately for the young man, Edo had been riddled with former Samurai facing hardships going to still-standing Samurai houses and requesting the use of their courtyards and audience to perform Harakiri. Samurai houses would commend the courage and honor of said men and would send them away with payment instead, letting them walk away with their lives and dignities intact. Much to the young man’s ill fortune, Samurai houses had had enough of such tricks, and in an effort to send a clear message to all those who think of such schemes to receive payment, began granting permission for the use of their courtyards for such acts instead of sending men away with payment. The young man was immediately labeled as a trickster, who’d tried to pull an old trick to get a payment instead of an honorable death like a true Samurai.

Life isn't quite so cruel for me, and there are many reasons why I am struggling, but I still struggle as a freelance writer in a time when freelance writers are a dime a dozen. Putting quality and talent aside, there are a heck of a lot of writers out there competing for the spaces publications designate for freelance work, but trust only a few to fill them. Those trusted few are usually those with already established names in the field, and all the right connections. They belong to the right “clan” and “house”, so to speak. Their integrity isn’t questioned, nor is their need to write less than literary masterpiece material for a per word fee. They are good at what they do and have those who can vouch for that, and so, they get dibs on available freelance space. That's wonderful.

But I, a journalism grad with little significant or eligible practice and experience as a journalist or writer in the real world, am struggling to be published. All potential publishers, and sometimes employers, see when they look at my credentials is my lack of publication in significant Medias.

To them, I have the equivalent of bamboo blades, and am nothing but an impostor looking for a way to get myself published when I may not be worthy. It’s possible that to them, I’m only claiming to be a writer, and my portfolio, if I have one, is puny, empty and pathetic. Maybe they scoff at my audacity for thinking I could ever fill that majestic space saved for those few trusty connected freelance writers.

To clarify, my portfolio is not devoid of anything of value. It’s filled with quality pieces I’ve written over the years and published with the click of a mouse, sometimes at 3 AM, and sometimes getting featured on the main page of a website or two. It’s filled with clips from my reporting days at the college newspaper, where I also wrote a weekly opinion column covering campus and off-campus issues. It’s filled with stuff I wrote and edited for newsletters and informative brochures and fliers when I interned at a communications firm. The winds of circumstance blew me away from writing and building my career in journalism and writing for a long time. I took a series of odd jobs that have nothing to do with my true ambition in life and built quite a resume for someone with half my education and barely any of my skill as a writer with passion and spelling bee queen status.

I am left with bamboo blades.

The young man was indeed a Samurai, whose house and clan had fallen, leaving him in the pit of poverty and despair, struggling to survive, despite his background. Though his wish to perform Harakiri was not entirely genuine, his situation was as he said it was. He really was at the end of his fraying rope, but honorable death would hardly alleviate his family’s hardship that would put any man in a position of desperation. An ill baby son and a frail wife in desperate need of medical attention prompted the young man, after having sold off everything of value in his possession, including his blades, to resort to the Harakiri scheme tried by many before him. Not all rules apply to all people.

I don’t plan on ever scheming to establish myself as a writer. Luckily, I have never seen reason to behave as a few rotten journalists and writers out there who forge facts, sources and even bylines to get ahead. I'm not even sure there ever is a reason why a writer would ever need to resort to that. I will continue to write and submit my work and do it with my dignity intact, but want to call attention to the struggling writers out there with less than stellar portfolios and credentials, yet possess spectacular writing skills that can dazzle readers if only given a chance.

If I were in 17th-century Japan, I might have bamboo blades, but that would not change the fact that I am able to wield my sword like a true Samurai.


ABOUT REEM AL-OMARI

Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

the distance between a book and a movie
sometimes it's pretty big
by reem al-omari
topic: film
published: 11.27.07


sometimes you want the hero to die
a movie where that was the case
by reem al-omari
topic: film
published: 8.17.07





COMMENTS

andrea augustine
3.25.08 @ 5:17p

Glad this is a figurative imagery. Beautifully put. Artists of every genre can relate... all you need to succeed is your words. You got it, Woman!

ammar khaleel
3.27.08 @ 12:51a

I don’t know if this is any consolation to you, but many years ago my music professor told me “Ammar do for life, what you would do for free!” so after years and years of soul searching I’ve come to realize that doing the things I enjoy doing for free will not afford me enough money to pay my bills, so I became a banker; however I still indulging myself in the things I enjoy on the side.

andrea augustine
3.27.08 @ 12:36p

I took the same advice, and now I make very good money doing what I love to do for free.... I guess I must just be lucky. It also doesn't hurt that I work very very hard at it and have never given up. I'm no good at day jobs. Glad you're still indulging yourself, Ammar. I don't want to disembowl myself either...

[edited]

robert melos
3.28.08 @ 12:39a

As a writer and a realtor I'm currently broke and in the position of the young samurai, but I don't want an honorable death. I want something sordid with news headlines, polticians and celebrities, and possibly late night talk show jokes for years on end.

I'm tired of the struggle, but at this point don't know any other way of surviving. Everything changes on a constant basis, so I'm expecting a change.

andrea augustine
3.28.08 @ 10:57a

I was so worried about you disappearing from the Gallery last night, but Kraemer informed me that you were being prepped for the hot spot. WOO! Good to know that you're being well read.

reem al-omari
3.28.08 @ 1:50p

Awww!!! Thank you so much for reading my work and noticing when it disappears... that speaks volumes to me, and it means the world to me. Thank you!

andrea augustine
3.28.08 @ 4:27p

Ask Kraemer how worried I was about the disappearance. I tried to call you... the call didn't go through for some reason, but you rock!


ammar khaleel
4.2.08 @ 1:49a

We are who we pretend to be, since perception is reality. Thus, if you pretend that you’re good at what you do, and perceive that to be the truth, then you’re successful at what you do, despite the lack of monetary rewards and public recognition.

dan gonzalez
4.8.08 @ 2:51a

In this life, no matter what God you consult with, no matter what crowd you convene with, no matter who you break your bread with and who you drink your booze with, you are still actually nothing more than what you do in your spare time and what you do when you are just sitting at home and trying to write. No one can ever take that away from you.

Who is Reem? Reem is a writer, pure and simple.

Reem writes very well and with piqued emotion. Reem doesn't get paid for writing, but she does it anyway, maybe because it means something personally.

I really don't know. That's all I can say.

I do love Reem, though. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.

[edited]

reem al-omari
4.8.08 @ 12:55p

That was beautiful Dan :)



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