My recent stay in Syria has confirmed a long-standing suspicion of mine, a suspicion that anybody who has grown up in Damascus and its byzantine network of family relations will automatically be good at understanding politics. There is a sad tendency amongst families I know, including my own, to foster competition and rivalry based on intense jealousy between themselves. There is something unnerving, and slightly depressing, in knowing that people very close to me may have gone out of their way to sabotage some of my efforts or ambitions. Yet at the same time, appearances must be kept, connections must be maintained. Embraces and polite kisses are carried out whilst we mutter curses beneath our breath and proverbial daggers are raised behind each other's backs. The old ones know of these rivalries, and smile approvingly at us as we kiss their hands and offer our respect. They bestow their favour or wrath upon us like ancient gods while we attempt to strangle each other over resources and livelihoods - exactly like the Arab tribes from time immemorial. I am quickly finding that the old adage, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, must be adhered to without fail.