Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Mr. Assad Must Still Take Down Our Wall!
Indeed, despite the fact that the Atassy 8 were released hours prior to the publication of this article, the main thrust of the article and its main arguments still hold true. I stand by each and every word.
Now that most of the work on the expansion of the Tharwa Project Team and Projects has been accomplished, I can now free some time to writing articles and editorials once more. Heaven help us all.
Monday, May 30, 2005
A few hours ago, the Atassy 8 were released. International and internal pressures seem to have paid off. As such, and rather than coming as a demonstration of strength, as it was intended to be, the entire move came as a further demonstration of the Regime’s weakness, confusion and lack of resolve.
Mr. Ali Abdallah, however, the leftist activist that had read the Muslim Brotherhood statement in the Forum is still under arrest and will reportedly be tried under Law 49 outlawing the Brotherhood and prescribing the death penalty against those who collaborate with it. The same fate seems to await the lawyer and human rights activist, Muhammad Raadoun.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the government arrested another well-known lawyer and activist, one Habib Salih. No reason was given for the arrest. Also, the official spokesman for the Atassy Forum, Mr. Habib Issa, jailed two years ago, is still in jail and is not expected to be released anytime soon. So are the MPs Riyad Seif and Mamoun Homsi. The same applies to scores of Kurdish, Islamist and secularist activists that have been arrested over the last few months and years. The promise that the President made less than a year ago to end the file of political detainees still goes unfulfilled, and still witnesses unexplained reversals.
Our joy is never complete in this country. Still, we should not underestimate the significance of the release of the Atassy 8, because it proves that pressures work even in these internal issues. The regime can be made to back down on specific issues. The regime can be successfully opposed.
Now, will the dissident community in Syria understand this implication? Will it coordinate its efforts more in the future so as to launch more successful challenges to the regime? I hope so, for this definitely the way for working out the miracle I describe below.
“Do I think street boiling and twisting blades is the answer this century? Nope. Nope it's not. If the whole world (and the whole world it has to be) wants real change I'm afraid it's just going to have to turf the whole war/revolution (faux and real), blood and guts and anger thing altogether.”
My dear Émigré, you have to tell the difference between describing a phenomenon and endorsing it. I don’t want old-style revolution anymore than you do. What I want and what I advocate is a change in mentality, and this is something that could only be produced through education and its results can only be seen in decades.
Unfortunately though, I feel that an old-style mayhem is imposing itself upon us on account of deficient leadership skills and vision and endemic corruption on part of both regimes and opposition groups in the country, if not the region.
I think the mechanisms for that have already been set in motion, and I don’t know if we can stop them anymore. It might just be that the best we can do at this stage is to manage the crisis as best as we can, and pick up the pieces. It’s not the most enviable position in the world, of course, but…
Despite my pessimism though, I am not giving up all together on the possibility of working out a miracle. I just don’t believe that this miracle can be worked out by this particular regime with its cadres of corrupt and inefficient leaders. I also know that miracle-working is a very dangerous and complicated industry, and that its chances of going bust are always higher than its chances of success.
Miracle-working is like gambling and I hate it for that. I hate it when things deteriorate to this level. I hate the people who got us to this position. But I won’t let that hate consume me, and I just hope that we, whoever we are, can still work out this miracle. If not, I hope we can still be able to pick up the pieces, as I just said, because, in the final analysis, someone has to do it.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Catherine has a point. The Syrian opposition and dissident movements do not know how to organize. This has been their problem all along. They often fail to invite enough members of the press to their improvised sit-ins, and they have shown clearly that they have no stomach for clashes with security officers.
As for the Street, the boiling that is taking part is setting people against each other, not against the authorities in any direct manner – at least, not at this stage. We have already seen this happen in Suweida, Qamishly, Hassakeh, Misyaf. But more importantly, such incidents are taking place on a daily basis these days. True, their scale is too small for them to be widely noticed, that is, we are not talking about recurring open riots here, but about scuffles. Still, these scuffles are happening along ethnic or sectarian lines and they are happening frequently. This means that central authorities are absent or too weak and ineffectual to prevent such developments. These are the basic ingredients for the boiling I am talking about.
The root causes of all this are indeed socioeconomic in nature. But coming up with the necessary team that can chart policies to help control the situation and resolve the problem cannot take place unless radical political changes are adopted.
I am talking to a lot of “average citizens” these days, and what they have to say is astounding. They do like the President, but they also believe he is weak and ineffectual. Weak and ineffectual. In a dictatorship people don’t respect a weak and ineffectual leader, no matter how much they sympathize with his situation, no matter how likeable he happens to be. Indeed, clueless leaders cannot maintain their hold on power for long.
But our leaders are clueless, and they will not be able to produce the necessary political changes required of them. Meanwhile, the world is not simply watching, it is actively dabbling. Hence the impending the implosion.
Thanks to Proud Syrian for these additional contacts:
Prime Ministry: Fax +963 (11) 2237842
Parliament: Fax +963 (11) 3712104 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Ministry of Economy: Fax +963 (11) 4420435
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Fax +963 (11) 3327620
Ministry of Information: Fax +963 (11) 6665166
Ministry of Interior: Fax +963 (11) 2223428, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Civil Affairs section: email@example.com
Ministry of Expatriates: Fax +963 (11) 3134301. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Culture: Email email@example.com
Ministry of Communication and Technology: Email firstname.lastname@example.org Authority of Radio and
TV: Fax +963 (11) 2234930
Syrian TV Director: Fax +963 (11) 2249307
Tishreen Newspaper: email@example.com
Al-Thawra Newspaper: Fax +963 (11) 2232017. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Syrian Embassy in Germany: email@example.com, Fax +49 (30) 50177311
Syrian Embassy in Sweden: Fax +46 86608805
Syrian Embassy in Belgium: Fax +32 (2) 6464018
Syrian Embassy in Greece: Fax +30 1 6716402
Syrian Embassy in Pakistan: Fax +92 51 279472
Syrian Embassy in the UAE: Fax +971 2 4449387
Syrian Embassy in Turkey: Fax +90 312 4385609
Syrian Embassy in France: Fax +33 1 47059273
Syrian Embassy in Romania: Fax +40 1 3129554
Syrian Embassy in Brazil: Fax +55 61 2232595
Syrian Embassy in Czech Republic: Fax +24 24317911
Syrian Embassy in China: Fax +86 (10) 65321575. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Syrian Embassy in Serbia: Fax +381 11 4446590
Syrian Embassy in Hungary: +36 1 2008048
Syrian Embassy in Argentina: +54 11 48143211
Syrian Embassy in Tunisia: +216 71 887989
Syrian Embassy in Indonesia: +622 1 5202511
Syrian Embassy in Saudi Arabia +966 1 4826196
Syrian Embassy in Algeria: +213 2 912030
Syrian Embassy in Sudan: +249 11 471066
Syrian Embassy in Tanzania: +255 51 115860
Syrian Embassy in Qatar: +974 832139
Syrian Embassy in Morocco: +212 7 757520
Syrian Embassy in Italy: +39 6 6794989
Syrian Embassy in Chile: +562 2311825
Syrian Embassy in Libya: +218 21 3339030
Syrian Embassy in Iran: +982 1 2059409
Syrian Embassy in Japan: +81 3 35868979
Syrian Embassy in Jordan: +962 6 4651945
Syrian Embassy in Austria +43 1 5334632
Syrian Embassy in Egypt: +20 2 3358232
Syrian Embassy in Kuwait: +965 5396509
Syrian Embassy in the UK: +44 171 2354621
Syrian Embassy in Spain: +34 91 4202681
Syrian Embassy in Russia: +7 095 9563191
Syrian Embassy in Oman: +968 603895 email@example.com
Syrian Embassy in Mauritania: +222 25 9922
Syrian Embassy in India: +91 11 6143107
Syrian Embassy in Cyprus: +357 2 756963
Syrian Embassy in Poland: +48 22 491847
Syrian Embassy in Cuba: +53 7 242829
Syrian Embassy in Senegal: +221 8249007
Syrian Embassy in Nigeria: +234 9 5238337
Syrian Embassy in Canada: +1 (613) 5693800 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Istanbul: +90 212 2302215
New York: +1 212 983 4439
Geneva: +41 22 7384275
Dubai: +971 4 2698277
Jeddah: +966 2 6603186
Friday, May 27, 2005
It was bound to happen sooner or later I guess. Even my wife Khawla for all her fears of security crackdowns, is urging me to do it. The time for taking a loud public stand has come.
Khawla thinks of it in preemptive terms as well as sympathetic ones. That is, we might be victims of the ongoing crackdown soon anyway, so might as well start fighting now. On the other hand, one of the Atassy 8, namely Suheir Atasssy has an 11-year old son. Khawla was his age when security agents took her parents away and stayed with her and her brothers and a sister for a week in the hope of catching some of the alleged cell members who might drop for a visit.
A week later her mother was released, but her father was never released and has reportedly died under torture in 1981. Khawla can see these days coming, and rather than run away, she wants to pout up a better fight than she could have done back in those dreary days.
Now if Khawla feels this way, how do you think I feel? My sense of disgusts has been gnawing at me for years now, it is indeed about time I did something about it. I do not know about the preemptive value of all this though. If anything, I have been keeping relatively quiet for the last few weeks, so much so many people thought that I left the country.
My decision to remain quiet was not done out of fear though, otherwise I would have stopped blogging as well. It was done because I ran out of things to say, the regime is dead, and my fellow dissidents and activists are too set in their ways to accommodate my approach. So, there was really noting to talk about.
But the arrest of the Atassy 8, and Khawla’s strong reaction and recurring fears, and my own (foolish, self-promoting, describe it as you wish, it does not really matter, I don’t even understand myself) desire to make a difference even in the face of all these odds, are just too much for me to handle in the usual quietist manner.
So, let the fight begin.
At one point a couple of months ago, when I was going through that period of interrogations and travel ban, some of my fellow bloggers offered to flood the Syrian Embassy in DC with emails on my behalf, now I urge them to do it on behalf of the Atassy 8 and all the other prisoners of conscience in Syria. On the even of the Baath Conference, the President, and other elements in the regime, are trying to play it tough. I think we should do so as well.
This regime needs to be isolated like never before. While dissidents need to be empowered. We are the source of legitimacy and credibility of any regime, without us, without an active and vibrant dissent movement, no regime in the region should have any credibility whatsoever.
As for the international community, no country or government in the world who claims to be democratic and to be in support of democratization and human rights in our region or anywhere in the world, could maintain its credibility if it gives up on any of us, regardless of our political affiliations, so long as we are committed to basic principles of democracy and civil liberties.
As such, the Atassy 8 may not be known to you, you may not know what they have done over the years, you may not know what their exact political philosophy is (I don’t think they know that themselves really), but suffice it to know that they were committed to democracy, committed to reform and committed to dialogue. That should be enough for them to deserve our support.
So, flood the embassies with your emails, this is the least that we can do. Student groups that can hold vigils for their sake are more than encouraged to do so. Those who can write articles, op-eds or blog entries about them, go ahead and do so. Freedom for the Atassy 8 and all prisoners of conscience in Syria should be our rallying cry from now on. No reform package will be accepted from this regime if it does not include strict guarantees for our basic freedoms. We will not live at the whim of anyone.
Some relevant information:
Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC
Fax: (202) 232-4357
Ministry of Tourism:
Fax: +963 11 2242636
Syrian Arab News Agency
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
If the President is to emerge as the Man of the Hour during the upcoming Baath conference, at least in the eyes of other members of the regime as well as his own inner circle, he has no choice to act tough at this stage. It is primarily in this light indeed that we should see the current crackdown against the Islamists, the recent arrest of the Atassi Forum Board Members and of human rights activist Muhammad Raadoun, and the recent annoucement that Syria has ceased any security cooperation with the US.
The President cannot afford to look weak at this stage. As he faces a legitimacy crisis within the ranks of the Alawite sect, he cannot anymore afford to look too lenient with Sunni Islamists. And as he prepares to revamp the upper echelons of the Baath Party, the security apparatuses and the army, he cannot afford to look intimidated by the Americans, or anyone for that matter. He needs to look tough, even at the risk of a potential international, not to mention internal, backlash. And he needs to believe that the reforms he intends to introduce will more than make up for any setback at this stage. The stakes are high, his life might be on the line, and he knows it.
Still, he is bound to fail no matter what he does and regardless of his intentions. You simply cannot fix a corpse. And time is not on his side. Perhaps, at this stage in particular, it is on nobody’s side. We’ll see. We’ll see.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
A lot of people still think that the upcoming Baath conference will be bringing with it some serious positive change. They still think that President has it in him. The absence of immediate alternative to the current regime and its President continue to inspire some hope in them that things are bound to take a turn for the better. This regime and this President simply have no choice but to brig about some change.
The question of whether they have what it takes to produce a semblance for a new vision for the country doesn’t seem to bother them much. For, as long as there is no alternative, whatever little changes brought about by the regime and the President is bound to lead to something that can be considered reform, in a few years time.
I don’t know what is more dismal: my vision of impending doom, or this “cautiously optimistic” one? But I really have to ask here…
Have our noses become so clogged up that we cannot tell the difference between the winds of change and a chronic case of halitosis, or a collective breaking of the wind on top of our heads, a wet anal sigh of relief of sorts?
Waiting for a deus ex machina to come and save the day is in itself problematic, but to expect the arrival of a deus ex diaboli is simply ridiculous. We are waiting for our criminals to become saints and our idiots to become geniuses, and we are expecting this to happen overnight too.
The line of “reasoning” involved here seems to go as follows: “these people can’t be that stupid, they must know that they need to change. They must still be capable of producing something. There is no alternative to them, and there is no alternative for them but to change in order to soften international pressures on them.”
I think that we are losing sight of several important considerations here:
- The regime is very fragmented, but each group in itself is weak and views the others as competitors. As such, no one is trying to take charge. Everybody is on a wait-and-see mode. The regime is surviving by default.
- The central authorities have shown over the last few years that their grip on the country is growing rather weak, and that while they are still capable of cracking down, holding the country together is quite the different story.
- There are no intelligent people around in the upper ranks of the regime. The non-Baathist reformers that have been brought in act only as advisors. They have no real say in the decision-making process itself. The decisions are thus left to the morons in charge.
- The Americans, while they may not invade at this stage, will continue to pressure and dabble in Syria’s affairs.
- And the Street is boiling, or am I the only one seeing this?
But here, perhaps, we have to note that the Street is not primarily represented by the Middle Class anymore. As such when people say that the President is popular, I think they are often referring to the sentiments of the continuously shrinking Middle Class, that is, to people who still have something to lose, and, are therefore, still inclined to believe that the President can do it, that he can still save the day. They want to believe.
The poor, on the other hand, who represent the majority at this stage, seem to be beginning to realize that the President is neither capable nor even interested in improving their lot. And they seem to be going past the frustration stage into a state of anger. This bodes ill for the stability of the country. Indeed, the days of open rioting in major cities like Damascus, Aleppo, and Lattakia are fast approaching.
Monday, May 16, 2005
A few days ago, the President issued a special degree inviting the Syrian Social National Party to join the National Progressive Front, as assortment of socialist, communist and Nasserist parties already cannibalized and marginalized by the Baath Party.
But the “new” party now invited in is not actually the real thing. It is only a schismatic movement within the SSNP, represented by a deaf 84 old man who reportedly slips in and out of senility ten times in the span of ten seconds. So, this is how the regime is planning to reform itself.
Indeed, the development managed to rekindle the satirical spirit in some with a recent joke going like this [though I am not sure how good it will sound in English]: “what is the difference between the SSNP and a stupid man? The stupid man hits the wall, the SSNP hits the Front.”
Another thing to note is the fact that by doing this, the President is also saying quite clearly and loudly that NPF will still be around and that governance will take place through it. There will be no radical changes then in the upcoming Baath Congress. The President has just preempted that possibility. For, if the NPF is going to be kept, it follows that the Baath Party will also be kept as the leading party, and Article 8 in the Constitution will not be amended.
The fact that no reform-minded member has been elected to take part in the Congress bespeaks volumes as well. Another preemptive move, it seems, this time on part of the Baath Party’s own top cadres.
What are people waiting for then?
Meanwhile, reports abound of high ranking officials in the Party, including the former PM Miro, liquidating their assets and smuggling their funds abroad.
So, even if new faces should emerge during the upcoming Congress, old ways and patterns will continue to dominate and dictate.
So much for reform.
In my infamous meeting with General Dashing, he made it quite clear that a purge of the upper echelon in the Party is bound to take place, a purge orchestrated by the likes of him, he stressed, the “real Baathists” as he called them. The whole point of the upcoming reform then is to keep “real Baathists” in charge, which, I think, is the real problem with this reform. Indeed, the whole thing is becoming too macabre and downright surreal for my taste. I will no longer think or speak of if.
Indeed, Hezbollah’s adventurism against Israel is going to create ample problems for the Syrian regime.
Serious problems, in fact, especially if we take under consideration the likelihood that Hezbollah’s activities are being coordinated in collusion with regime members. This is exactly what I was afraid of. In lull times, the regime tends to fall back on old habits and old behavioral patterns. Someone in the regime, I am sure, must think it absolutely brilliant to continue to use Hezbollah to apply pressure on Israel in the hope of jumpstarting the long stagnant peace talks with Syria. This is a complete misreading of the situation, of course. But this is exactly the kind of misreading that this regime has been in the habit of doing for many years now. This tendency is bound to get more pronounced as the regime gets more and more desperate.
And so the countdown begins. The more violence there is along the Lebanese-Israeli borders, the greater the chances of a direct confrontation between the US and Syria.
Can’t you hear Jim Morrison in the background going “this is the end?”
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Security interrogations began, and ended…
A travel ban was imposed, then lifted…
The expansion of the Tharwa Team continues apace, funding worries notwithstanding…
Committing “suicide by media” remains a tempting, perhaps even alluring, prospect…
Khawla’s breast tumors were finally diagnosed benign, late yesterday.
Troubles keep coming our way, for one reason or another.
But we continue to prevail, somehow.
Indeed there is a god for the heretics.
Regimefall might be upon us soon,
Or a new regimerise, who cares?
The immediate matters not for us, you and I -
We are here for the long haul.
Together we will make a better world still.
Together, we are a better world.
Come what may…
Thursday, May 05, 2005
What is the meaning of national belonging and cultural authenticity in the Age of Globalization? Being true to oneself might indeed be the best strategy for coping with this Age, or any other age for that matter. But how can one be true to a divided fragmented self?
Obviously, this will not be easy. Still the mere acknowledgement of the existence of this problem sets one apart from the prevalent intellectual scene around here, where everyone seems sure, acts sure, or is required to be sure, of who he/she happens to be. You don’t even need to give an answer here to be a heretic.
But, once you begin to dabble with potential answers, you become more than just a heretic, more than a simple outsider, you become an outcast. This is actually quite the refreshing thought, when you think about it.
As members of this dismembered collective that is humanity, I don’t think we can be any better or worse than we are at any given moment – there will always be some who are at war, while the rest enjoy some relative peace, there will always be some who live in famine or affluence, while most live slightly above or below the comfort levels, and there will always be people preaching moderation, while others preach hate or isolation and passivity. This has always been the nature of things. This is as good as it will get for this “dismembered collective.”
Whether globalization will prove the end of this dismemberment or a mere furtherance thereof, along similar and different lines, is still up in the air, for now. Albeit, I believe, it will actually mean both, human nature being what it is.
As such, people who continue to reject the “outside” world under whatever pretext or set of pretexts are not simply waving their right to influence it, they are compromising their very ability to influence their own “internal” worlds a well.
For the “outside” has long let itself in, and though it hasn’t done so in a surreptitious manner, there are those who still live in denial and who will themselves ignorant of the consequences of this development. Rape victims are a hard lot to handle, especially men. And what is this region of ours but a male victim of a brutal rape.
No, our introduction into the modern world did not come as a rude awakening, but as rape.
Be that as it may, the only measure of goodness and progress that I can believe in is how good we can be to each other. Thousands of years of human history have elapsed, but this little axiom remains the only reasonable measure for all moral conduct.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The recent mention I received in the Arabic version of Newsweek as one of 43 people making a difference in the Arab World was bound to raise eyebrows and generate some cynical, if not downright hostile, responses here. After all, I was the only Syrian on the list, yet very few people around here know me. So how could I be making any difference? – A very legitimate question indeed, and the fact that someone did indeed raise it in the Syrian press on Monday was not particularly surprising to me.
Putting the author of a “single novel” (at least in print-form) that did not appear in Arabic, and the director of a “Jihadist” website project on minority rights, in the forefront of people making a difference in Syria, while neglecting such seminal names as Adonis, Sadik al-Azm, among others, must have come, “at best,” as an attempt at “trivializing the more established names in other currents.” For “his achievements so far do not merit this kind of notice,” despite the fact that he tends to be a “lively and dynamic young man.”
I couldn’t agree more. But then I did not choose to have this kind of honor bestowed upon me. Indeed, I do believe it is premature, and I do believe that there are people in Syria who, at this stage at least, are more worthy of this honor than me. But, for some reason, Newsweek noticed me and not them. So the question is why? What is the reason behind my sudden visibility?
Because I am critical of the government? Can’t be. There are so many others, who are no less bold in their criticism than I, and they have been doing so for a longer time, some have even been jailed for it and for more years than they would like to remember, and yet, there are still out there, in the forefront of it all.
Because I speak and write in English? But there are many others who do speak this blessed language as well, and they, too, tend to write, occasionally at least, critical articles of the Syrian regime and culture. More importantly, all the big literary and intellectual names in Syria have works that were translated to English, among many other languages, and long before I appeared on the scene. So, this cannot be it the answer.
Is it a conspiracy then? Am I being prepped for something, with or without my duplicity? A superficial reading of the event might indeed suggest something along these lines. But, no, I believe the truth is more complex and subtle than this.
I believe the truth of the matter to go to the heart of our current identity crisis as modern day Arabs, our current position in the world today, and the very nature of the world we are living in at this stage, that is, the very nature of modernity and globalization, the very nature of this capitalistic American-dominated age, the very nature of the American Imperium.
How so? Consider for a brief while the people included in the list and the American identity of the compiler and the criteria they probably have in mind.
All the names on the list reveal remarkable openness to western, if not downright American, values and culture. Most are clearly committed to free market economics.
As such, the compiler is telling us that the people who are making a difference in the Arab World today are those who are attempting to bring it closer to the folds of American culture and interests. For, in our day and age, this is the norm by which things are measured.
When things are framed in such a manner, there might indeed appear a few nay-sayers on the list, or, at least, a few people who would opt to nuance this statement a bit. Still, the point remains that the people on the list have been selected because they are perceived as such by the compilers, regardless of whether they like it or not.
So, how many Syrian intellectuals and activists would qualify to be on this list, especially considering the fact that the compilers are looking for relatively younger names? More importantly, how many of them would want to be included on such a list? Considering the anti-American tendencies of the predominant majority of our intellectuals, this comes more as a rhetorical question really.
The reality is I seem to have been chosen primarily because I was amiable to American culture, and even politics. And I said so on more than one occasion, and I have made some waves in this regard in certain significant circles when I was in Washington, DC. In times like these, when Syria and the US are at loggerheads, it is very hard for someone like me not to stand out, or even be made to stand out. No, not as part of a conspiracy, but as part of that tit-for-tat “game” that gets, inevitably perhaps, played in times like these.
Mind you, I have no objection to being “used” in this game. After all, I have a stake in it too. For I want my country to change, and yes, I wouldn’t mind seeing it more westernized, even Americanized, in certain basic respects.
Still, had I been asked to nominate someone from Syria, I would have nominated Riyad Seif, our former MP who might finally be released from imprisonment in a few weeks. He would have been the more reasonable and worthy candidate, had he not been forgotten, by us first and then the world. This world has a very short attention span, and the only way to deal with it would be to know how to play the media game well enough. In a country that has no free media, and that has not had any such media for so many decades, it is very difficult for people to play that game. That, too, gave me an advantage, albeit I was a rather unwitting player in this particular instance.
But, it would have been really quite difficult for the people at Newsweek to avoid someone who was featured in New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Chronicle for Higher Education in the span of a few short weeks, and who have been making so many "daring" and "defiant" statements to the international press throughout the last few months, and from Damascus itself of all places, at a time when the only other Syrians making headlines were our President, and his US-invented and -based opponent Farid Ghadri.
Ah! what did I get myself into?