Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Crazy Thing!

One of the things that we, that is, my self-styled self-imposed Patron and I, talked about during that fateful two hour meeting was the possibility of – drum roll please – holding multi-candidate presidential elections coupled with free parliamentary elections where the Baath Party will compete on the same constitutional footing as any other party.

Had this person, let’s call him here General Dashing for simplicity’s sake, been any other state official, I wouldn’t have given his statements a second thought, and would have easily dismissed him as just another word-peddler, just like me sometimes, if I may wax self-critical.

Being who he is, though, made me take what he said in this regard very seriously. These “people” seem to have finally realized how deep their crisis happens to be, how existential it really is, and this, it seems, has compelled them to finally accept the intimate link between the way out and the necessity of undertaking radical internal political reforms, something they would never have contemplated, I know, just a few short months ago.

Now this must be good, isn’t it? I mean what more can we ask for?

Well, before I go into that, let me first note that, upon hearing General Dashing’s hints in this regard, I simply couldn’t help but share my two heretical bits with him, especially the idea calling for the adoption of a bicameral parliament as a way for ensuring minority rights and minority control over the army and security apparatuses to prevent the possibility of their Islamization. This is indeed a major worry for this regime. It has been, in fact, the major impediment in the way of political reform for the proceeding five years.

For political openness, as many seem to fear, will practically mean a Sunni takeover of the political process, the Sunnis being the predominant majority in the country, at a time when the Sunni community seems to be further and further radicalized with every passing day. Arguments for who is in control of the country notwithstanding, such prospect bodes ill for the future of minorities in this country.

As such, leaders of minority groups will fight to the better end against any kind of scheme that could pave the way for such a development. For the issue involves not only economic interests but, more importantly perhaps, issues of self-preservation as well in a climate of growing suspicion, mistrust, stereotyping and downright hostility. Failing to manage such a process properly could only lead to implosion and communal strife, all the usual gibberish about the “wondrous climate of tolerance” in the country notwithstanding.

Though I did not discuss the matter using such candid terms and references, for General Dashing had made it quite clear to me that his basic disagreement with the Tharwa Project was based upon his conviction that such references will only serve the Israeli-American plans for tearing this region and this country apart, it was not very difficult for General Dashing to understand what references to “communal diversity,” “national integrity,” and “containing the extremists” really meant.

Indeed, General Dashing’s eyes lit up at this point in our talk, and I was asked to put something in writing on these issues and fax it to him ASAP, so that the notes can be eventually delivered to the President himself, if all people. But that would not be very a difficult feat for General Dashing really, seeing that the whole thing will be a family affair of sorts for him.

Now we can discuss the meaning of all this.

The impending openness, its eventual facades notwithstanding, will be, in fact, heavily rigged. But this is only natural really, for it will not come as a result of some “white” or “velvet” revolution, but as a result of political machinations from the top, machinations meant specifically to preserve, if not even further, the interest of those “on top.”

So, the best possible scenario for our immediate future at this stage seems to suggest a mere transition from a traditional and quite brute form of oppression and corruption to a more benign and sophisticated scheme of the same. And I could very well be playing a role in this transformation. Oh what a liberal I am turning up to be!

The picture gets even more bleak, albeit realistic as well, when you add in to the mix the fact that the most “viable” grassroots pressure that we are likely to witness over the next few years, if not decades, will indeed be Islamist in nature. The fears of the regime are pretty much justified in this regard. Sooner or later, political openness will empower the Islamists and will give them much sway (though never complete control) over the political process. Islamists will also wreak havoc upon social dynamics.

Secularists, therefore, be they liberal, leftist or nationalist (both Syrian and Arab nationalists are included here), will have to content with an increasing doze of social oppression and marginalization to add to their increasing political difficulties, which is another natural outcome of “our” failure, so far, to build a strong grassroots support for ourselves, the reasons and roots for this failure notwithstanding.

The liberals in particular will suffer more than most as a result of this situation. For the leftists and nationalists have always had parties and organizations to represent their interests, the liberals never did. They existed only as individuals, and have never managed to establish movements or inspire currents or schools of thoughts. Not yet anyway. Our time might still come one day, but not soon.

Our real task at this stage is all too simply to manage the current crisis and plant seeds for the future.

Meanwhile, if we can, every now and then, do something to serve the “national interest,” for instance, by contributing some hapless idea of ours meant to help make the transition more peaceful and prevent the disintegration of this country, then we will have done the best we can in the circumstances.

But of course, and as a human being with a certain inherited artistic temperament, if not always the talent to go along with it, I cannot always manage, as efficiently as could be expected of me at any rate as a preacher of this intellectual mode, my yearning and longing for something more somehow, something better. Hence my occasional outbursts of cynicism, anger, frustration, depression and foolhardiness, as my blogs over the last few weeks must have amply shown, and for which I make no apologies. After all, I am what I am.

All these considerations are of course, rather theoretical at this stage. The future of the country is still lying in the “palm of a genie,” as we say, a genie whose real intentions towards us and our continued well-being are still far from clear, a matter complicated by the fact that genies, as we all must surely know, tend to have a rather nasty, if not downright sick, sense of humor.