Thursday, October 17, 2013

Syrian, all too Syrian

I'm sorry if I'm not perfect, and this revolution wasn't something that suited your preferences and tastes. I'm also sorry that those poor people you pretend to care about only got washed up hypocrites like myself to cry out when they were hurting. I really wished there were better people than me to write about all this at first, to explain and to tell the world. But for that short period when nobody cared (or dared), we saw something wrong and we wanted to say that this wasn't right. I don't remember seeing you at 3am in a cold square surrounded by police and police dogs, kettled in as we protested when artillery started falling on Homs. That night there were a lot of whom you'd have called the unwashed, those people you like to make fun of. People who don't know that revolutions need intellectuals and Marx and poetry and berets and Malcolm X quotes. They just knew that their family members were out there somewhere getting murdered. It was just naked human emotion on full display, and maybe that's why some people hate the Syrian revolution so much, because it makes them uncomfortable.

I learned a little bit about people during this time, believe it or not. Maybe I've also learned a bit more about myself, enough to know that I'm just a big nobody and that maybe that's not a bad thing because if you dig down then you find that almost everybody is pretending to be something that they're not. At least you know something certain and honest and true when you realise you're a nobody. You can start from that and build on it if that's what you want.

Some people like to lash out when they feel hurt, maybe because they want the world to feel what they are feeling. I guess I might have been like that once, but you learn quickly that it doesn't really work. Then there's another way, a way where you can look inwards and draw strength. You somehow find a way to push forward through the pain and all the misery and loneliness because that's all you've got and in the middle of it all you remember that you're still a human being and you can still try to be a good person. 

That night as we sat in a cold square I remember feeling a bit worried, wondering why I had gotten myself in that situation. We were kettled in by the police and nobody could leave. A man standing next to me had been charged by the police and pulled down by snarling dogs. He was right there, centimetres away, and I felt like a train had just ploughed past me. It took me a second to realise that I wasn't the one they were after, so I took a step back and looked at the man they pinned down. I recognised him as one of the people who had climbed up the embassy wall and taken down Assad's flag. He put a Kurdish flag there instead - good for him. I can't remember now, but I think that might have been around the time that Meshaal Tamo was assassinated. I'd never heard of Tamo before, but what I eventually learned was that he was somebody whom people looked up to. People like him lead in times like this, they keep people calm. They also get killed by the regime because that's the way it survives, by destroying all alternatives. It's like one of those koi fighting fish that can't stand another fish in the same fish tank, only this one deserves that a switched on electric hairdryer be dropped in with it because it's a horrible and wretched creature, rotten inside and out.

Some people started getting very nervous, and I also remember that the night was bitterly cold. I was also very thirsty. Somebody called out to everybody to calm down and start crouching, and then he started reciting from the Quran. At first it all seemed really silly, but slowly it had a soothing effect. Some girls stopped crying and the angry cries from some men became murmurs. I looked back and H was there, crouched behind me. He's been doing a lot of good work lately with charities trying to help Syrian refugees and I'd seen him before at earlier protests, good guy - stand up guy. He hadn't noticed me either, and then when our eyes met he smiled and seemed genuinely surprised. I nodded at him and smiled back, I wanted him to know that when it counted there were people who were prepared to get out of their comfort zone and stand up for what is right. That's what I was thinking anyway. He had packs of plastic water bottles that he was handing out individually and he passed me one. I thanked him and drank the cool water, like I said I was very thirsty. The police looked on and I felt sorry for them too, out on a cold night like this away from their families and loved ones.

When I got home that night, the news online still said parts of Homs were being shelled and that it was under a brutal onslaught. I contemplated in silence. Nothing had changed. We made no difference that night apart from getting frozen and wet, and enduring a tiresome journey on a nightbus surrounded by people oblivious to the carnage taking place. I didn't mind them. It's good that somewhere in the world people can still have fun without a care in the world. I liked that contradiction, in fact here's something else I learned. I know I'm not a great person, probably not a very good one. I've let people down and been foolish. But just this once people like me decided to speak up about something that really, really, meant something to us. That was right, do you understand? Right. Contradictions are what make us human. This revolution the people of Deraa startrf is a walking contradiction of noble aspirations and mindless brutality. A sad fact is that all those lives sinc then were squashed out of existence for a big nothing..for a murderer's greed, but it was also for something at the same time, for everything that was right and worth living for. And people like Assad don't like contradictions and they don't like human beings. After all they know how to deal with people who are perfectly good, they kill them, and they know how to deal with people who are perfectly corrupt, they buy them. It's those messy, hypocritical people in between, half saints and half sinners, that the regime doesn't like. People who aren't out there to slay demons and who aren't waiting for prophets to come and save them. People who can never be fully controlled, just like their revolution - flawed, Syrian, and very human. 


John C Scott said...

I've been receiving your posts by email for a while and they've always levelled me greatly and added perspective to my current situation and context to my surroundings. The plight of the contemporary Syrian is a global shame on us all. This most apposite post has really stirred me. Truly amazing writing that has touched me greatly. I wanted to say thank you. But that doesn't seem quite right.

Maysaloon said...

Thanks John. Really appreciate the kind words.