Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sore throat?.. So what!..

Why on Earth am I blogging?...
What can I say about the current events in Lebanon that has not already been said time over time??.. and far more eloquently than I can ever say it?..
I really do not have anything new to say.. and even if I did, I ask you, who is actually reading this or paying any attention?..
Is anyone reading this able to do ANYTHING to stop the ongoing destruction?.. Even more, would the collective action of all those reading this blog, posting on their own blogs, or commenting on other blogs, result in saving a single road from destruction?.. a single house from demolition?.. even a single child from being blown up to bits?... I put it to you, my friends, that the answer is a resounding 'NO'!...
I am not, by nature, a defeatist.. but I am so, so frustrated.. so overwhelmed by an overpowering sense of futility and irrelevance.. A beautiful country that I have lived in, loved and still love, is being destroyed.. its infrastructure decimated, and its people killed, maimed and displaced.. and all I can do is BLOG???...
Well.. I have, in fact, tried other things.. like writing to my MP (the Right Honourable Jack Straw, no less!..).. like trying to get colleagues and work-mates to do the same.. like canvassing support and starting petitions at my workplace.. and some good did all that do, I hear you say!!!...
A few days ago, I had a very heated discussion with a very good friend of mine.. She is a highly intelligent, very articulate, and extremely well-read (not to mention beautiful and charming!..) lady.. And what was the discussion about?.. Well, you guessed it!.. Lebanon, Israel, Hizbullah, and the God-almighty mess they have got themselves into!!..
Although she concedes that the Israeli actions are disproportionate, she is of the view that Hizbullah have brought this onto themselves and Lebanon.. She argues vociferously that Hizbullah have shown no respect for the lives of their own people and followers by mixing with civilians, and, consequently, they bear the responsibility for the killings...
Now, I am not a fan of Hizbullah or Nassrallah.. In fact, I am not a fan of any religious organization that proclaims political aspirations.. I firmly believe that God and politics should not mix.. but surely, this is a bit more than just a school yard tussle.. I really do not care, at this point at least, as to 'who started it?'... For me, the important thing at the moment is to stop the killing and the destruction.. on both sides.. and whether or not Hizbullah fighters are hiding amongst civilians, at the end of the day, it is the Israeli bombs that are killing the children by the dozens..
The argument branched into all sorts of other issues, such as religion and its role in politics in the Middle East, the love/hate relationship between East and West (I actually maintain that it is between North and South.. but I digress!..), not to mention women's rights and race relations within the UK.. amongst other hot potatoes..
I came out of that discussion with a few conclusions...

Conclusion #1:
It is very difficult to change someone's opinions. People make up their own minds and set their own views, based on their experiences, readings, exposures, culture, and background.. Even when you offer what you believe to be blinding evidence, they will probably retort with what they see as equally blinding evidence in favour of the opposite view!..

Conclusion #2:
Our ability, as Arabs, to argue our position is very severely hamstrung by the fact that our own rulers, singularly and without exception, are corrupt, oppressive and authoritarian.. These rulers and regimes (please don't call them Governments.. that term implies the existence of systems and methods and rules and regulations.. those people do not deserve that title!.. but I digress again..).. where was I?.. yes.. these rulers and regimes will hijack any cause that stirs the masses, and use it to strengthen their hold, and tighten the noose around our collective neck.. And trust me, those whom you engage in a discussion can see it, too!.. and they will use that fact to undermine your argument..

Conclusion #3:
Our ability to argue any position is hampered even more by the fact that our society is full of hypocrisy and contradictions, and until we look inwards and examine our inner selves, we are going nowhere.. We cannot blame all our ills on the regimes and rulers.. We must take some responsibility for our collective destiny...

Conclusion #4
A corollary to Conclusion #3, I think that our problem lies, partly at least, in our inability to accept that there is room for more than one view.. some of us want to impose their own opinion on everybody else.. by force.. brutal force, if necessary.. It seems to me that, deep inside, some of us cannot accept diversity in our ranks.. and one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.. Democracy and pluralism will only work if we all respect one another's right to freedom of belief and expression.. We have to agree to differ... Surely, we can accept that others are also entitled to their own opinion?..

Conclusion #5:
Once upon a time, I was an optimist...

Nevertheless, despite becoming an old cynic, and for what it's worth, I will not stop arguing my case.. or shouting against injustice.. knowing fully well that all I will get out of it is probably a hoarse voice and a sore throat..


JoseyWales said...

What you and I can do, very slowly and very painfully, is to change one or two minds at a time, and hope that in turn they change a couple.

IMHO, the main root problem is hypocrisy and faulty analysis.


Fares said...

Excellent post SB. You need to publish it somehow. I'll link it in my newest post

Harming Syria, Dream on
Please come and show love, support and solidarity for Syria which is apparently now on the neo-cons radar. YOUR COMMENTS ARE NEEDED.

M. Simon said...

The root cause is bad rulers (as you point out).

Read Farres' post. Bitter, but excellent.

I fear that the stability that Fares wants is not in the cards. The Israeli Cabinent is about to authorise a move to the Litani. The war is coming closer.

If Israel moves on the Bekaa, a war with Syria is almost certain.

Have a get away plan that does not involve road travel. Stock up on food and water.

Go to Fares' link. He has a link to my predictions about Syria.


To get back to my first point. Bush is determined to eliminate bad rulers. Assad is on the list for meddling in Iraq and supporting Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Iran for the same reasons. Done by the end of summer.

Gluon said...

Syrian Brit -

Hi, I'm new to your blog; just wanted to say "hi", and don't lose hope and stop blogging now. Since I feel I should really contribute something, here's an observation:

Here in the USA, I'm impressed by the tremendous political activity of muslims who have come here (although I usually disagree with it). Most of them are Arabs, from student organizations to organized and increasingly vocal NGOs. Of course, there's alot of money going into some of those organizations, but I'm struck by how active and outspoken they are here compared to their own homelands.

I used to read many Iranian blogs in English, mostly here in the States and Canadian. They intellectualized endlessly, but were so inactive and poorly organized, that I felt they would never get together and be able to effect any meaningful change. They seemed to get hopeful every time there was an anniversary of a student uprising coming up, as if they were waiting for student demonstrations in Iran to bring down the government there. Ha. I thought maybe it had something to do with shi'ite fatalism.

But, if the Arabs can be so organized and focused in western countries, why can't they get together and work out strategies to create change in some of their home countries? They try to cause changes here in the west (usually changes we DON'T want), but when it comes to their home countries, they try to discourage western gov'ts from forcing or encouraging change back there.

They have blogs now, they have enough critical mass overseas, they have the ability to find each other and organize and figure out how to be a force for peaceful and progressive change in the middle east. But they still haven't done anything yet. I think maybe all the arab and muslim bloggers who want change ought to call for an online convention to discuss ideas about how they can actually DO something.

There are ways to undermine the autocrats and tyrants without fomenting revolution or causing violence. The internet provides the tools. The expatriates provide the people who don't have to worry about being thrown in jail for their activities. I've got ideas of my own, but I feel it might be best if they came from within the communities that are most concerned.

You talk about frustration and futility and irrelevance, but I'd be optimistic. Well, not about Lebanon right now, but about Syria's future and the possibility of reform and change in the years to come. But nothing will happen if people don't get together and push. They just need to find the right leverage, as I think there are already enough people to provide a big enough push.

I don't know if I was able to clearly say what I had in mind, but I hope so. Ordinary citizens must become statesmen, even if they're not in their home countries right now. And they have the biggest "soapboxes" the world has ever known - the internet. Put them together and I think it's possible to change the future of the middle east.

Abu Kareem said...


Good to see you back. I had stopped posting for about a week and had the same feelings you had expressed at the beginning of your post. The post I started writing yesterday sounded very much like yours: cynical and desparate. I didn't publish it but today I altered it into a more hopeful post. The reason for the change is a flood of emails we got from friends in Beirut. They had a sense of urgency in them as they tried to network to get information out to appeal for help. I could not sit by and just do nothing. As I say in my post, there is something different about the way the Lebanese (citizens, not politicians or political parties) are dealing with this conflict. They are not taking this passively. They feel empowered and are collectively mobilizing their civil society organizations to help in this national emergency. This will not change the immediate course of this conflict but is essential in dealing with the aftermath. To me these are signs of a maturing citizenry, not the cowed, non-participant citizens typical of many neighboring countries. Wishful thinking? I don't think so. SB, things are changing in our piece of this earth, yes some for the worse but also some for the better. Its going to take time.

So chin up my friend. Nurse that sore throat, get back into the fray and fight the good fight. As Joseywales said, we are going to do this one person at a time.

M. Simon said...


I linked to this piece at Syrian Brit Speaks.

Hope you get some traffic.

BTW excellent.

Fares said...

SB, I posted this on M Simon site under your article intorduction, link above:

M Simon,

You seem to selectively choose what we write and make it sound that all the problems lie within us...and that we need your agenda to choose the middle east destiny.

But anyway I am keeping the dialog for the sake of communication and trying to understand each other...but it does not mean that we have any common agenda.

Thanks for the traffic to my site, also the link to Syrian Brit site in this post is wrong (it points to your site), here it is for the sake of your readers so they really know how anti war and how patriotic he is.

Try to stop this war instead of cheering it on. The consequences would be disaster...Japan and Germany is different than the middle east, also the war happened than things got fixed not the other war around (ie you don't create war to cause changes)

Gluon you make excellent points, I was thinking the same way a little bit earlier.

Anonymous said...

I think you are way too harsh on Arab political leaders. They are no worse that the rest of the world. Don't be blinded by your British experience, only a handful of States in the whole world have governments that deserve that name, 40 out of 400? Arab states began their existance what 50,60 years ago? Remember what the Europeans were doing to themselves and to the rest of the world then and a little before and after that?

The Syrian Brit said...

Thank you all for your contributions..‎

I wish I can share you optimism.. Patience is a virtue I do not possess in great abundance these ‎days ..‎

I am grateful for your kind words and for the link on your post.. I assure you I do follow your all ‎posts closely even if I do not always leave comments..‎

Abu Kareem,‎
I take my hat off to your resilience and stamina and applaud your optimism and enthusiasm.. ‎Sadly, while I entirely agree that things are different this time because of all that you mentioned ‎‎(here and in your post), I still believe that the odds are stacked way too high against us.. That ‎does not go to say that I will give up the struggle or that I will rest until all the dark clouds have ‎been blown away by the wind of change.. It is at times like these that one needs all the ‎steadfastness and determination..‎

‎ m.simon,‎
The way you seem to glorify the continuous and increasing killing and destruction.. the way you ‎seem to glee at the number of the dead and displaced.. is both sick and sickening.. Just because ‎I wanted to take a self-critical, soul-searching look at our shortcomings does not mean, in any ‎shape, form, or fashion, that I am suggesting that the fault lies purely in us.. ‎
How can you claim moral superiority while you condone the indiscriminate killing and wanton ‎destruction of a whole country, just to teach a few morons a lesson.. perhaps one day you too will ‎look inwards and examine your inner self, and perhaps then you will be able to see the Israeli ‎actions for what they really are... and before you dredge up the issue of the deaths amongst the ‎Israeli civilians, I assure you I have not forgotten them and I include them when I express my ‎disgust..‎

I am delighted to welcome you aboard.. You express your views clearly, despite your unfounded ‎concerns that they do not come across clearly enough.. Regrettably, while Arab activists might be ‎organised and effective in the US and Canada, they could not be further from that on this side of ‎the Pond.. In Continental Europe, the two mainstream factions (the Muslim Brotherhood and ‎Khaddam & Co.) who hold almost diagonally opposing views, seem to have joined forces to ‎topple the Regime, but each for his own reasons.. Conclusion?.. Neither is worthy of any trust or ‎support.. (Well, most of us knew that BEFORE they merged!..) .. Nevertheless, I entirely agree ‎with the line of thoughts behind your views..‎

Too harsh on Arab political leaders?.. Apart from North Korea and (previously) Tahiti (two ‎SHINING examples of good government, of course!..) can you name any other “Hereditary ‎Republic” where Presidency is handed from Father to Son?.. No worse than the rest of the ‎World?.. How much worse would you like it to be?.. Where else in the World, apart from Syria ‎a.k.a. Assad-Makhlouf Inc. can you see ONE person who happenes to be the cousin of the inept ‎President having such a total hold on economy that by his own admission his company.. ONE ‎of his companies.. made profits that equal 17% of the WHOLE GNP ... The taxes that the ‎company (Syriatel) paid (in his own words) equalled 3% of the whole budget of the country ... ‎‎(of course his company would not even pay a much taxes as it should).. Your comments ‎demonstrate who is the one that is “blinded”.. Arab governments of 40, 50, 60 years ago, were a ‎damn sight more honest than the so-called governments we have now.. As the world marches ‎forwards, we roll backwords at ever increasing speeds... Having said that your comments are ‎always welcome on this blog...‎

Fares said...

SB, your arguments and logic is just great. I am so proud of you.

Here are some more posts on my blog if you are interested

Israeli Arrogance and Bush latest Trick

Breaking the cycle of violence

Fares said...

lebanon Survives once again, But will Syria of Assad

Ascribo said...

I can see how discussions can be very difficult, even Right here in this comment box! If we cannot reach a total agreement among us, those who come from the same place.
You can notice how difficult it would be from people who comes from a completely different culture.

Your points are right after all, but I would say that in that sort of discussions you need an agreement on main points, like: Do you agree that killing innocents is a bad thing that should NOT be done under no circumstances? that might make things better. Of course you'd not be able to change one's mind, but at least you can make them understand your point in a better way.

I'd be happy if you read my recent post in which I'm discussing something related.

I hope you'll continue posting. You'll get sore fingers, but at least you'll say what you can say.