Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Renovating Syria – Part Deux!

Last year, we had an opportunity to vote for a new Residents Committee. Since I hardly could recognize any of my neighbors, not to mention sympathize with or care about them, I just voted for the same old Committee to stay in place. For what was the point of replacing one set of inefficient morons with another? What was the point of compounding inefficiencies?

The elections, in other words, did not offer me any real alternatives. The same old way of doing business will prevail no matter who gets elected. Might as well be apathetic about the whole thing then.

If inefficiency was not enough, there was also the issue of a lack of representation. Unless I nominated myself for a position, there is was no way for my tastes, desires and aspirations to be represented in the Committee. Knowing, however, that there was this cultural gap separating me from the rest, and knowing, off-hand, that I had no chance of winning, seeing that no one (other than my wife, that was, and who was not present a the time anyway) would, in fact, vote for me, I had no choice but to vote for the status quo. For once again, what was the point of compounding inefficiencies?

So, a year later, here they are, my tasteless (by my aristocratic standards, of course) inefficient neighbors living up to all my expectations of them and well-nigh destroying the damn building, all in the name of renovation.

The sides of the building are being painted white. Fine. But why is the paint being splashed on the walls without any attempt at fixing the problems of erosion, without attemptint to plug the holes? Why all these pockmarks still visible from outer space? Well, we actually don’t have enough funds to actually fix these things, and it will take a bloody long time for them to be fixed anyway, I was told, but the building will look nice in white, wouldn’t it neighbor? Sure, now they ask.

But even if they had asked me before, what difference would it have made? My taste is simply too different to be taken under account.

This is the essence of my problem. Our taste in art, politics, religious and paint color is simply too different to count around here. But it sticks out, which makes us the center of much suspicion and hostility. Oh the joy of being a wesern-educated liberal in this decrepit country!

And the renovation process is all about covering up the problems under a thick layer of paint that will only erode in the coming days. The problems will remain underneath and will actually fester. The next paint job has to be twice as thick to cover half as much as it does today.

But there is no layer thick enough to hide the internal contradictions of this country. Is there?

In the process of renovation, the Committee members will continue to give themselves the right to dispense of other people’s property, without a second thought, in the name of the greater collective good, as they perceive it of course. The end result will be as ugly and inconsequential as the people who supervised the process, and I and my family will feel more alienated and helpless than ever at the end of it all, our home having been violated under our very eyes without us being able to do anything about it.

Meantime, and for a few brief months, and as pollution slowly works its dark magic on our walls, there is one building along the Mazzeh Autostrad that will glow defiantly all through the night, attracting too much attention to its utter ugliness. But people will know, for people cannot but know, eventually, that underneath that homogenous thick layer of snowy white paint many a tortured soul, no matter how differently tortured, must lie.