Friday, September 12, 2014

I Review The Week

I don't know where this week went. It's Friday - yes, another Friday - and all I can think of is that President Obama said something about striking ISIS, but not completely. And then the Syrian regime and Iran and Russia aren't happy even about the not completely bit. But they want him to, just not in Syria. Or is that not without the regime's permission? Yes, it was.

I read somewhere that more Syrians died. Somebody shared a video of bodies washing up on the beach in Tunisia. It looked like a beautiful sunny day. And those bodies just lying face down as the water rushes past them and then back into the sea. Black, some brown. All doomed, all lost, the victims of our collective failure to build proper countries for ourselves. They don't have a future anymore. And here's the thing, there are hundreds and thousands of people willing to take that same journey across a sea to countries that don't want them, where their future is uncertain. They'll do it, and I don't blame them. Because at least they get a chance. Where they're coming from, there is no chance. No hope of a steady job, sending your kids to school, a car, a house, a chance to save some money and maybe go on a nice holiday every now and then. Where they come from the schools and hospitals and universities are falling apart. Everybody is out to get what they can. And then there are the rich people who drive around and tut-tut at the poverty and backwardness of their compatriots. It's the same god-damn model in every third world country. Of course privileged first and second generation third worlders living in the West love the poverty and wretchedness of the third world. Their sociology degrees need a subject matter and what better than the unwilling subjects of their interminable interviews and research papers. All very important of course. It's very important to get the voice of these people out there - with the author's name, of course.

Where was I? Yes, the week in review. What else do I remember? I'm sure there is some important anniversary of a horrible massacre that I've forgotten, or that somebody famous died. Robin Williams passed away, but that was a few weeks ago. No, my memory at this instant draws a blank. All those books I've read, all those intelligent conversations I had with people and wanted to have, it all means didley squat right now. I've got loads of people on my timeline in Facebook and Twitter who tweet and write about the same stuff I used to as an undergraduate. I'm so tired of it all. Yet another book review or must-read article about Palestine and the "Resistance" but now we have Syria too. Syria's revolution is whatever you want it to be. You want it to be a secular class struggle for the domination of the towering heights of the economy, of the means of production? You got it. Maybe you'd like it to be about gender and the breaking of ancient historical and religious shackles. Go for it. Oh and look there's another guy quoting Gramsci. Well done, man. Another actually admits to reading the Hanna Battatu book about the Baath party. That's hours and hours of your life that you won't get back. Hashtag, retweet, look how profound this Edward Said quote is. Mmmm...profound indeed. Let's not mention that he ignored the gassing of the Kurds.

Then there are all the quirky musical tastes I see. What's the name of that Latin American singer? Ah yes, Manu Chao. That one. Very nice to say you like her music, but it's another thing entirely to listen to it. I'm told you have to speak Spanish to fully appreciate it. I guess that's true. And look, there's yet another girl getting in touch with her Arabic and Islamic roots. Yet more pictures of minarets, Islamic patterns, and "this is true Islam" style articles. And of course there's the angry guy who has beef to grind with "The White Man" and he uses that term like he knows what he's talking about. And of course he does, he's read many books on the subject and has worked up his outrage by attending countless vigils and demonstrations. He's probably got a sticker on his iMac to express that too. Go for it, buddy. Fight the Man. And when somebody dies there's that whole "Rest in Power" thing. Why rest in power? When did this become a thing? I feel I have nothing in common with these people.

But wait, I was reviewing the week. There's something about Scotland. Something about Khamenei being sick in the hospital. I'm not one to gloat, sickness and death reach us all and I've never liked cheap shots. Ah, I knew there was something I was forgetting. Syrian refugees were getting beaten up in the streets in Lebanon by Hezbullah fan-boys. Because that's what rabid mobs of fascists do. Their leadership is never to blame, oh no. But somehow, the pack gets the signal that such behaviour will be acceptable to a certain limit, and they rush off baying for blood. To think I used to respect this ideology and what it represented. I cringe and feel ashamed but I guess we've all been young and stupid. And yesterday was September 11th. I remember when it happened I was in a very different phase in my life. I got home and saw the news coverage properly for the first time, and I had to go up to my room and put my head under the pillow to drown out the noise because I couldn't handle the enormity of it all. I still can't.

Then there's ISIS, IS, or ISIL, depending on who you ask. Everybody seems to want to do something about them, but nobody wants to be that person. They're awful, the pictures of what they do to people who cross them are terrible. And yes, there's something even more sinister and frightening about them than even the regime. I know better than to succumb to that sentiment, but I think for a moment about what average people who don't know the Middle East would think. It's like something out of the darkest part of our past, primeval and frightening. I think what makes it scary for us is that ISIS is holding up a picture of what the world would look like without the international agreements, norms and conventions that we love bashing; a world without the recognised consensus that we know as the "international community". Some people can't wait for the apocalypse. They cheerlead Russia, Assad or Iran for their upholding principles of national sovereignty. And yet those principles are upheld in a manner that demands their abolition.

I've been reading a book, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. I'm halfway through and it's incredible. Since Syria descended into armageddon I've been reading more (much more than usual) about the Second World War, about the Holocaust, and about the rise of the Nazis. I've also been fascinated with the totalitarianism of Stalin's Communism. The parallels are striking. Fallada paints us a picture of life in Nazi Berlin and it's like somebody picked up those same people in the story and put them in Syria, Russia or Iran today.  The Otto Quangel's, the Inspector Escheriches, the Enno Kluges, all of them. We find today the opportunist, the fanatic believer in the Cause, the indifferent, and then those few people who care enough to make a stand and are pulverised into dust because they're too weak to stand up to the bullies. It makes me think how I used to admire Hassan Nasrallah's oratory, and if you understand Arabic you can be mesmerised by it. When I see short clips of Hitler swooning with passion, his eyes fluttering as he holds his chest and releases it, I sense the same mechanics at play here, and what a person living then might have felt listening to him. It's frightening because I understand its seductiveness now, and to think of all the horrible things that happened as a result of people letting down their guard, of letting the wrong people into power, is just too much to bear. What's even more frightening is that this slide into madness seems inevitable. We aren't even staring into the abyss anymore, we've fallen into it but nobody seems to realise it yet.

I can't think of anything else that's important to write about this week. It's not because I don't care, it's just because I'm so tired. I'm going to go back to my book and see what happens to Otto. I'm still holding out hope that they never catch him, and that maybe one of his postcards reaches somebody decent. Maybe that's all it takes, to have that one solitary person who doesn't let the madness affect them. Solzhenitsyn once said let the Lie dominate the entire world, but not through you. That sounds about right in times like this.

1 comment:

bardill said...

Thanks for posting this, it's so passionate. But I think we are not going into any abyss as you fear. Instead I think the IS story is the last desperate attempt to radicalize the conflict within Islamic countries and that it will fail soon. For the first time ever, I see islamic people clearly taking a stand against all this, and practically no single government in the world that defends IS, at least not openly. My prophecy is that the IS will fall within a year and that some form of peace will be found in Syria and Iraq. IS crossed all possible barriers, finally exposing the heart of their fascist ideology and everybody, islamic or not, has to declare on which side he/she is. No excuses now, no way to hide behind the palestinian/israelian issue, or the Shi'ite-Sunnite divide or East vs West or anything. It's freedom against slavery, just like against Hitler. The world needed a clean cause to fight for and we've found it. Don't despair!