Posted by: nazli | February 1, 2006

The Name of the Game

Indeed, I am fearless! I am ambitious! I am bold! (thanks to my family)

However, on paper, it is a different matter.

When I was applying to universities for a job as a professor, I was just about to graduate with a doctorate in Computer Science – first in my class. I included a simple, small head shot. On first consideration, one would think this was unprofessional – but there was a very good professional reason…as will be clear.

Of the 3 job interviews I had, I was offered all three jobs. However, at one of the interviews, a Dean had laughingly commented that, “you know with your name and your academic background, we were scared we were dealing with a ‘you know what’ – good thing you included a picture”. I laughed with him, and said, “what? the best candidate on the market?”. I also declined that particular job offer (but primarily because the others were more lucrative).

The point was not lost on me – but I treated it with the contempt it deserved and forgot about it. I thought about this yesterday when my class on network securites was discussing the technical aspect of the NSA scandal. The issue of profiling came up – yes it is necessary sometimes and yes caution is fundamental in security. But prejudice need not apply. And for a second I resented the Dean’s comment from 2 years back – until I remembered that everywhere in the world, everywhere – innocent people are systematically bullied and belittled, and jailed and even killed based on some fundamental factor – like their race, their religion, their orientation, their beliefs, their name – and they cannot fight this persecution. At least, in my case – it was an apparantly harmless comment – and I had been able to retort with undaunted confidence. At least my picture had counteracted the blatant prejudice.

At least I am able to articulate and disarm with fearlessless – and not everyone has that opportunity.

And the momentary resentment was soon replaced with further committment to relentlessly pursue the privilege of being alive. Because it is my privilege to be alive…

I cannot change the ways of the world – but I am very aware of it – I am very aware that words can break a heart, and that prejudice comes from fear and mean-mindedness, and that life is too short and too uncertain for either.

I wanted to make note of that incident in my blog – in my relentless pursuit of being alive – to help remind me to measure my words and my misconceptions and my responsibility to my conscience. I think I may have to write a thank you letter to that Dean – “thank you for aiding me in my relentless pursuit of being alive ”

As for the NSA, CIA, FBI, MI5 – I can only assume that they are already in love with me 🙂


  1. that coment by the interviewer was ill-advised. with somebody you are meeting for the first time, no good could come out of it.

  2. Joe – the good that did come out of it is that I can laugh about it with my friends who know my passion for peace – and also it did give me reason for introspection, and thus aid me in my relentless pursuit of being alive.

    But you are right – it is ill-advised, at all times, for anyone – because ignorance is a such waste of time

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