Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stuck in Time

There used to be a saying in Syria, "nobody starves to death anymore". It meant that the person should shut up and get on with it, that as hard as life might be, you could still eke a living somehow. This isn't the case anymore. This morning I read a shocking piece in the Times about food shortages in Aleppo. And that is only in recent months; there are parts of the country that have been living like this for almost two years!

As I sit down comfortably, drowsy from a heavy dinner, I think about those other people who are not living like this; who are not as fortunate. I want to help them, but I know that whatever I do, and I have done far too little as it is, will not be enough. Can I really sit here and analyze events in Syria, like most armchair pundits are doing these days, confidently predicting the downfall of a madman. Or shall I play the game of reading deeply into the statements of apparatchiks in Washington and Moscow, writing confidently about how deeply these will resonate with the regime?

I don't think so. I don't think anybody knows what is going on in that country. Not even the people caught up in this game. The person who least knows or understands the predicament he is in is that madman in Damascus. A man who never chose anything for himself, who never did anything for himself. This is the man who controlled the destiny of twenty three million souls for twelve years. Such a travesty, such a shame. Even more shameful are those bucket-shop populists in the South of Lebanon and Tehran who have cheered him on. With "friends" like these, who needs enemies?

 Damn them all to hell. And damn those fools who sit there and lecture the Syrian people about the virtues of the regime, that theirs is a resistance country, and that they must buck up, dig in and put up with things because of the big picture. When somebody tells you that there is a big picture, in the same way that people used to tell each other that nobody starves to death anymore, what they are really telling you is that your problem is not important enough - and you are not important enough. Shut up, do as you are told and don't ever try to question or complain. That is the Syrian way, our dramas would tell us, to make a martyr of ourselves. We're like the Middle East's Irish, we can live with something being wrong for the rest of our lives.

It once took me nine years to get back to Syria, to see friends and family that had started to seem less and less real with each passing season. It was such a shock to see them all again when I came back again for the first time, to feel as if I belonged somewhere, that there were people, my people, who knew who I was, remembered the things that I did, and with whom I had shared so much. I had been living in the company of strangers for so long that I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be a part of a "tribe". There were elders I could sit and talk to. Some seemed less wiser than I remembered them, perhaps because I had learnt a few things, and some seemed far greater than I remembered, perhaps because I had learnt to appreciate them. I had changed, and they had not. It was as if I had lived an entire lifetime separate from them and had now rejoined their time

When I underwent my first exile from home, I had felt as if time was twice as fast as normal for me, and had frozen for everybody there. Now I fear the opposite is true. Time has frozen for me, and each day seems like the one before. When I see them all again, will they be the ones who have changed, and I the one who was stuck in time?

1 comment:

Disaffection said...

your experiences are uncannily similar to mine. only difference is that it took me 12 years to go back rather than 9. otherwise, the sentiments and perceptions are identical. I suppose anyone would identify under the circumstances.

On the other hand, and it saddens me to say this, i'm starting to witness many arm chair activists to behave in similar fashion to those pro-regime ones. As if rebels are infallible. The minute someone begins to highlight any kind of criticism no-matter how factual or justified it is, i'm told to buck up, dig in and put up with mistakes because of the bigger picture. And better yet, stop whining. Ironic isnt it?

So really, to make friends, one has to pledge unconditional loyalty to one side or the other. or else risk being called a minhibakji by everyone.