Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Fire & the Works!

The 4th of July fireworks at the National Mall were an amazing display indeed, enough to satiate the personal egos of a thousand Chinese emperors, though there was nothing really egoistical about it. The patriotic songs that we heard in the background, all celebrated the beauty of the homeland or, as is the case with the national anthem, a certain captured moment of inspiration in the midst of a decisive battle.

Old glories did not seem to matter much, and the personalities of the Founding Fathers, and any existing past or present leader, historical or mythical, were not celebrated or sanctified. Indeed, this was a national occasion, yet no “hail to the leader” was heard anywhere, no “our blood and soul are yours, o [insert the name of your favorite political asshole], and no “I’ll sacrifice my mother and father for you, o [insert the name of whatever self-appointed spokesasshole of God]. I have lived for so many years in this country when I was a student, and I am still amazed by the lack of reverence for historical figures and events here, at least in comparison with our obsession with these things back home. And if I were amazed one fold, Khawla and Oula were amazed ten folds.

This country’s only mistake at this stage is that it can still fall prey, and ever so easily, to the imperial temptation that comes with great power. But no one has yet invented an antidote to hubris and unenlightened self-interest, so, there is enough blame to go around in this regard. It is for this reason mainly that I avoid criticizing America’s foreign policy on moral grounds, for, in principle, no nation or state can cast any real stones on moral grounds, albeit, in practice, each and every nation and state throughout history has always justified the pursuit of its very material interests on the basis of some moral principle. As such, even Syria’s occupation of Lebanon was done on very moral grounds, and most Syrians are still willing to buy into this line of reasoning, even when evidence of official corruption and avarice is so clearly visible. People just crave to believe they are on the right side.

This is what is so unique really about the Vietnam protests. This was probably the first time in recorded history that a sizeable and organized chunk of a certain population was willing to stand up against the national consensus on issues related to war and national interest and to doubt the wisdom of the leaders on such issues. And the official response to that was not exactly peaceful, and this was in a democracy, as one can tell from the hundreds of clashes with riots police. So, how about it when something like that takes place in an autocratic society, such as Syria?

This is indeed what was so brave and unique about the Damascus-Beirut Declaration. This is also the dilemma that opposition groups find themselves in: they are not only standing up against the corrupt regimes but, oftentimes, they stand up against the national consensus as well. Now, imagine what the public and popular reaction will be like if we ever opted to stand out equally as publicly against the national consensus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as there are indeed some very good reasons why we should do something along these lines one day?

If the uproar against Bayanouni’s recent statements, which merely noted the willingness of a hypothetical MB-led government in Syria to put negotiations first on the table while not vetoing other possibilities, is anything to go by, we might just be over our heads at this stage. Luckily, we don’t have to chew on this particular bitter apple anytime soon. Bayanouni’s statements were necessary in order to showcase the growing pragmatism of the Brotherhood, but it is not important or relevant to reiterate this message at this stage.


Whenever we had fireworks during my childhood, there was always a rumor around that some people had a special rocket that can draw the President’s name in the sky for all the world to see, and there were always kids around claiming that this is indeed what happened in their neighborhood.

Three birds went on what seems to have been intended as a promethean flight right into the blazing firmament and got as high as the highest tree out there before disappearing into its glittering branches. Not all promethean ventures are destined to succeed I guess, nor are they all worth undertaken to begin with. But how can we know when really, that is, when to proceed, and when to call it quits?