Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unity, Freedom, Socialism!

I'm exhausted. Not physically, although that is starting to get affected too, but mentally. I want to sleep for longer periods, and I have started to avoid anything which is too realistic whenever I turn the television on. It's almost as if, by watching even more and more ridiculous television I might be able to satisfy this urge for escapism that has grown inside me. The news from Syria is getting progressively worse, and my biggest concern is now for all those loved ones that I've left behind in that beautiful country. Only a few days ago, I asked a Syrian I knew, from the older generation, how come nobody was able to stand up to tyranny and the dictatorship that was forming when Hafez Assad took power in 1970. She told me it was because everybody was afraid, that after this "corrective movement", the Syrian people started to feel a particular type of fear for the first time in living memory.

At first there were only stories and rumours circulating, of people getting disappeared and, if lucky enough to be released, with horrific tales of torture and abuse to tell. The character of Damascus changed too in this time. Men from the rural areas started flooding into the city, and would behave as if they owned the place. In truth, they did. Every description I hear seems to reinforce my view that Syria has, for the past forty years, been under an occupation that was more sinister and oppressive than any Ottoman or French rule. Granted, Syria was undergoing a turbulent political scene, but the people could blissfully carry on their lives without caring much for the political machinations of aspiring generals and politicians. But if they thought this status quo could carry on indefinitely, then they were gravely mistaken. Not only did politics make itself felt on them, but it invaded their personal lives and even their thoughts. In the end, our complacence led the entire country to the slaughterhouse.

The Syrian revolution, in both its ugliest and its most beautiful, has made me rethink a lot of my previously held conceptions about a people's rights and their political freedoms. Political ideologies that are based on a "grand narrative" of some sort, whether Islamic or secular (Marxist) have only visited enormous destruction on the very people they were supposed to liberate. But even so, I am being unfair, for ideologies such as the Baath and the parties that espoused it had become hollow and artificial. There is nobody today, apart from a few die-hard believers, who can honestly believe in this ideology. In fact I have yet to meet anybody who has read the utterly boring works of Michel Aflaq and Salah al Din Bitar in their entirety. All that remains of their good intentions and attempts to create a pan-Arab ideology is the whittled down slogan of "Unity, Freedom, Socialism!". Yet Syria has, for the past forty years, shown none of these attributes. Far from unity, Assad's regime almost immediately entered into political intrigues and subterfuge with the equally ruthless but quite mad Saddam Hussein and his version of the Baath party. There is, of course, no freedom in the Assadian Syria, and Socialism was destroyed when Assad eliminated his rival to power, Salah Jadid, who was far more radical and leftist than the pragmatic future leader could ever tolerate. Today Syria is about as socialist as a Che Guevara t-shirt being sold in Camden market.

Yet what is even more absurd than tyranny is those who defend, and even rationalise, it. We are told that the alternative is chaos, that the country has enemies who would swoop down upon it in an instant if he allowed the peoples freedoms. We are told everything except the fact that the country has become the personal ranch for the tyrant and his family, or that Syrians have been subjected to the most horrific torture and abuse,  and suffered the burden of arbitrary and cruel laws that have crushed any form of free expression or dissent. We are told everything except the truth. Fear is used negatively when Assad's supporters warn everybody of the "grave dangers" that will befall them if he should go, and then it is used positively against those who are unwilling to head this advice, in the form of extra-judicial killings, arrests and detentions, and arbitrary court sentences based upon vague charges. This is the state of the country today.

I'm part of a generation of Syrians who don't want this to happen any more. Some Syrians are fighting, others are demonstrating day and night. I write, because that's the only avenue open to me. I vomit my frustrations onto a keyboard, and out comes this blog. They say that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, cyclones are unleashed in another. Today more than any other I hope that is true.


Anonymous said...

Hello. Nice blog. One comment. Allah, Souria, Bashar w bas. Thank you. Bye Bye.

You can call me shabbi7, you can call me mukhabarat, you can call me what you want, but I am an independent free-thinking Syrian citizen :)

Maysaloon said...

Say what you like. I will comment on this post the day Bashar is no longer in power.