By Mourad EL HANAFI
Once upon a time, a teacher of philosophy asked his students to conduct a very small-scale research experiment to vividly illustrate the difference between illusion and reality. To come up with interesting data, the teacher asked them to provide specific examples. Almost all students rushed to the Internet besides one. The lone student who didn’t use the Internet has an intellectual father who usually helps him with his school assignments and homework. As soon as he came back from school, he immediately asked his father if he could help with the assignment.
“Dad, I hope you have spare time to help me like you usual do,” the kid said.
“Let’s see how I can help,” replied the father as he put aside the newspaper, directing all of his attention to his son.
“Our philosophy teacher gave us a very confusing project to work on, and I don’t have any time to waste,” the kid said.
“You don’t have time? Are you making things up? I’ve never seen someone as frustrated as you are,” replied the father sarcastically.
“Please, father. The project is due tomorrow,” the boy insisted.
“Ok. What exactly did he ask you to do?” he replied.
“It’s very simple, dad, he just asked us to look for some specific examples that show the difference between illusion and reality.”
“Well, let me think,” the father replied, giving himself ample time to think it over.
After dead silence, the father continued, “Look, I’ll suggest something you can do to get the results you need yourself.”
“Ok, sounds good,” replied the boy.
“Ask a question to your mom and your sister and see how they answer. Say to your mom, ‘Mom, imagine if a filthy-rich Gulf man comes here and asks you to sleep with him for a single night in exchange of 200.000 DH. Would you go for it? It’s just theoretical, it’s not like it will actually happen.’ Ask your sister the same. I think this might help you with your project,” said the father.
“Daddy, that will be embarrassing!” said the boy, flushing.
“Oh, my son. While conducting research, you’ve got to be a little but shameless. Got it?”
“I’ll try and see.”
After talking it over with his father, the boy went looking for his mother and finally found her weaving a piece of cloth. He didn’t pay attention to what she was weaving; he was preoccupied with the embarrassing question he had to ask her. At first he hesitated a little bit, but after some casual conversation he managed to blurt out, “Imagine if a filthy-rich Gulf man wanted to sleep with you for one night and that’d he’d give you 200.000 DH for it. Would you do it? It’s only theoretical! My philosophy teacher told us to conduct this damned research on illusion vs. reality. Just let me know your answer, mom. I’ll accept whatever you say.”
“Dearest son, I would not say no to 200.000 DH. We’re in dire need of money, how could I say no?” said the mother with all openness.
With a frown on his face, he replied, “Thanks, mom.” He left the room in a hurry.
As he was walking through the house, he stopped to get some fresh air on the balcony. As soon as he got outside he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was his sister. “Ah, it’s you?!” he said.
“Who else would it be? You look terrible!” she replied.
“No no, I’m fine. Where were you?” he further said.
“I’ve just finished some housework. I’m so done with it,” she answered, clearly annoyed.
“I see,” he said.
“How are you studies going?” she further noted.
“Like they’ve always been. I have to submit a project paper tomorrow but I haven’t finished it yet,” he replied, paving the way to his next question.
“So, what are you waiting for?” his sister inquired.
“It’s a little bit confusing…I have to interview people and ask them awkward questions.”
“You don’t have time for all that! Where are you going to find people to ask these questions?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Oh, I’m so confused!”
“Look, you can ask me, mom and dad. That’ll make it easier, right?”
“I thought of it, but I…”
“Come on, you can ask me no problems!”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m ready for anything, don’t worry.”
“OK, suppose a very wealthy Gulf man paid you 200.000 DH to sleep with him for one night. I’m sorry for the question; I know it’s weird and uncomfortable. The whole thing is imaginary, but you should be frank. So, what would you say?” he finally asked, heaving a sigh of relief.
“Well, erm… hmm…You know, nowadays hymens are easy to purchase,” she replied.
“Uh-huh, I see what you mean. Thanks for your answer.”
The boy went back to his father, still sitting in his seat thumbing through the pages of another newspaper.
“So what’d they say?” the father asked as he heard the boy’s footsteps approaching him.
“I asked them the questions you suggested and their answers weren’t positive, but I can’t spot the link between positive answers and my project. I can’t detect what’s illusion and what’s reality in these situations,” the boy answered.
“Kids these days are all cut from the same cloth, you all look stupid.”
“Oh, dad, stop blaming me again. I should start writing now. So, tell me what’s going in this situation?” the boy asked, eager to find out the meaning.
“Okay listen, the illusion here is the rich Gulf man, and the reality is that your sister and your mom are prostitutes. Simple!”
Completely shocked and appalled, the boy started to regret his choice of research.
This anecdote was already published in The Moroccan Times.