Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reactions to “The Imbecile!”

My latest post seems to have hit a rather raw nerve among some of my readers so much so that I think a new post needs to be dedicated to the subject.

Yet indeed, and as Yaman has pointed out, calling Bashar the village idiot is actually not a purely emotional reaction on my part. Rather, it comes as a rational conclusion that I reached on the basis of own observations of Bashar’s behavior and my own contact with him, albeit somewhat limited, when we were at school – I called him an idiot then too and to his face. So, I am merely carrying out a tradition of sorts.

My description of Bashar is also based on my impression of the people around him, I have met many of them through years, especially during that the short period of interrogations that I had to go through in the first part of 2005, and many of them were no less the imbeciles than he is, which makes a lot of things really, considering the dictators’ knack for surrounding themselves with like-minded people - pale images of themselves.

Moreover, this impression of mine is not really so unique, just read what this little summary of official and popular regional reactions to Bashar’s latest gem and you’ll find out (sorry it is in available only in Arabic).

But to satisfy the request made by Engineering Change, let me just summarize here why I think Bashar is indeed an idiot and an imbecile on the basis of the current developments:

  1. * His speech angered so many people in the international community that, instead of benefiting from the dissatisfaction of some Europeans with current US policies in the region and driving a wedge between the two, he turned them against him, including the Germans who were just trying to engage the Assads regime.
  2. ** His speech served to further alienate Syria from Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, while a more rational and calm speech, coupling a more benign criticism of these countries recent attitudes vis-à-vis the Assads (mostly for popular consumption in Syria) with a call for unity and solidarity with a Lebanese and Palestinian people, and for putting past differences aside, would have made it easier for the rulers of these countries to reengage the Assads and to defend them in international circles. Indeed, neither the Saudis, nor the Egyptians nor the Jordanians want to see regime change or instability in Syria, but Bashar keeps on pushing on this direction, hedging his bets completely on his Iranian allies, not to mention Hezbollah and Hamas. Now, pardon me if I think this is dumb. But it is. Now even the official press in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are criticizing Bashar and not always politely.
  3. *** By attacking the March 14 crowd, he is making their argument for them, that the Assads won’t stop interfering in Lebanon. Also, he managed to baffle and upset some of his very supporters in Lebanon, such as Salim al-Hoss and the editor of al-Safir newspaper who contrasted Bashar’s speech with that of Nasrallah, which was more conciliatory in tone from a Lebanese perspective. This constant comparison between Bashar and Nasrallah is really going to hurt him on the long run. Nasrallah is a man of action and he has accomplished some of the things he promised in his speeches. Bashar will be hard pressed to do the same. Failing that, he will look more and more like the charlatan that he truly is. Now, when you put yourself in this position and you invite such a comparison, you simply must be dumb.

Now what did Bashar gain out of all this? The support of the Syrian people? Well, true, the Syrian people in their support of Bashar may not be as fickle as the Iraqis in their support of Saddam, but fickle they are, just as they were in their support of his father all through the 80s. When push comes to shove, and despite the higher proportions of 20-somethigns in the country, Bashar will have little popular support. And guess what? If and when the dreaded push comes to the yearning shove, this will not materialize as a result of any lobbying by the opposition groups, but as a result of the Assads’ own actions. And this is the quintessence of dumb. The Assads are bringing upon themselves and the rest of us, a calamity that even their enemies want them to avoid. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Now, for all those people who were angry with my post, I say “damn it, it’s about time!” Where the hell were you guys? I have been lambasting this idiot for quite a while now, and it’s about time that someone got unnerved by that. After all, he must have some supporters somewhere who would be interested in defending his illusory and elusive honor.

Teasing aside though, let me be clear here: I want you, whoever you are and regardless of the nature of your loyalties, your ethnic affiliations, your professional backgrounds, your age and your gender, I want you to be angry. It does not matter in the least to me if your anger is aimed at me at this stage. After all, I am not running for president. So, think me the Anti-Christ, if you will, what possible difference will it make to me?

My relevance, as a heretic, is not premised on popular support, but on popular resentment, and my message has never been intended to be popular, but to unite a certain like-minded few who, like me, are willing to push the envelope, people who are willing to allow me to do things my way, while they do things their way, but where the basic message remains the same: the need for challenging the status quo, for breaking the stalemate, for focusing on our real problems and on developmental issues.

Already one of you accused me of “racism,” because he could detect in my discourse, a rather dismissive urban attitude vis-à-vis the Assads, who, as we all know, come from a rural background. Wonderful! There is indeed much truth here, if not about me, then about how many people in Syria, in the major urban centers in particular, feel indeed about the Assads and their supporters.

We have a major problem in Syria related to our diversity, whether defined along ethnic lines, provincial lines, religious lines, class lines, educational lines and/or professional lines. These are serious issues. We all suffer from major prejudices emanating from our particular backgrounds, and he who will claim to be completely innocent and free of that is a liar. Many of us do try to be above these matters, and we, sometimes, think that we have succeeded, but then, something happens, a little personal incident, or some major national one, and we find out that we have much to learn yet.

Prejudices like ours are so deeply rooted in our daily life and culture that they cannot be neutralized so easily. Just ask White, Black, Hispanic and Asian America, among the many other Americas out here, about this. The Americans have developed quite the extensive literature on this matter. But the only thing we seem to have developed in this regard is a culture of silence, denial and inaction, where all problems continue to fester until they blow up one sure and dismal day in our faces.

So, my question to my accuser is: do you really think you are innocent of the crime of which you accuse me?