Monday, July 17, 2006

Standing Up to the Bullies!

When I was a kid, I outwitted one of our neighborhood’s many bullies in a verbal tit-for-tat, and for weeks after that, all what the neighborhood kids could talk about was the beating I got at the hand of that bully and how stupid I was to have tried to stand up to him.

Indeed, violence is the first and last resort of all bullies, that’s how they get in the game, that’s how they preserve their stake in it. Whenever they stray into trying some different tactics and avenues for self-expression, they often get put back in their place. But, then, they immediately relapse into their old tactics with vengeance. Smart bullies have always been a few, and most bullies’ smarts are restricted to the area of their preferred activity: the science of bullying. So, when push comes to shove, bullies will resort to their fists, and the idealists’ to their wits, and the bullies will always win.

When I left Syria with my family last September, I knew I had won the battle of wits again, this time, against the country’s top bullies. I got them to where little old me was actually a major source of worry for them, so much so they needed to deliver a clear message to me via one of the main pillars of the regime. I got their attention all right and I got them scared. Little old me.

But what did I really gain, beyond some immediate narcissistic satisfaction? I was alone facing a clear and very credible death-threat and there was nothing I can do about it but bow out, or sell out. I picked the wrong battle perhaps, or the wrong time for it, I am not really sure. But in the battle against bullies, we should devote part of our wits as well to out-bully the bullies when the right time comes, because if we are not ready, or, at very least, seriously planning to be ready for the final showdown, there is nothing to be gained by outwitting the bullies but “martyrdom.”

But I don’t like martyrdom anymore, those days when I used to dream of it and wish for it are long gone. There is no nobility in death and no honor in it when one has a real choice and a real reason to live and make a difference. I left Syria because I was lucky enough to be given that choice to live and hope to make a difference at some later date. Not everybody I know had the choice, hell, I think I was one very few people in our little group who ever had it really. I never hid my mixed feeling about that.

Be that as it may, what I am trying to say here is that this round might indeed go to the bullies, because, once again, we, the dwindling liberals in this region, were not ready to stand up to them, for whatever reason. So, we really need to begin organizing ourselves more effectively starting now in order to prevent a similar recurrence in the future. Every round we lose is a round that brings us closer and closer to extinction in the region, and there will be nothing to prevent the final implosion of it in due course of time, or, at least, pick the pieces and put them back in an order that can somehow and no matter how retroactively justify the sacrifices that were made, or to be more specific, forced upon us. The bullies don't mind lording over ruins, so long as they can lord. But we cannot live, not to mention thrive, in a world where mere survival is the name of the game, a world that does not allow us to be free to create and explore and infuse our soul in it.

This is both an existentialist and an ideological battle, then. And in our attempt to win back the street, if we ever had it, we should able to expose the fraudulent nature of all these conflicts that are being imposed upon us by our bullies. This is not an easy feat to accomplish I know, especially when we are already being denounced as traitors and agents of the West. Still, we have to marshal the relevant facts with a certain tenacity and consistency and we have to create whatever teams and networks all the while in order to deliver this message far and wide, all while hoping that, one day soon, the people will soon get tired of dying and will begin listening to what we have to say. We need to turn the tide against the bullies. We need to undercut their support, remove their aura and expose them as the frauds that they are. This might be easier to achieve with certain figures than others, but we still need to find ways to do it. We are running out of time and, more importantly perhaps, time is running out of us.