November 26, 2005

trust your shepherdess

Praise, all praise, be to Authority, the splendid, the all controlling, the high. May her arm of reach extend, and may her shadow on all expand and last. This most recent act of goodness and mercy by her could not have come at a more opportune time.

Just when you were taken by trepidation of an impending new ice age, of being left to the cold abyss and lonely torment of indifference. Just when you thought you became insignificant, hardly noticed, barley recognized, scarcely cared about, now that she obtained what she sought from you. Just when you thought you can exhaust all the talk, all the walk and sit-ins, but all would fall on two ears of clay and dough. Just when you thought that yours is a message lost in the isle of -soon to be- 9 daily newspapers, a universe of 9 million blogs and 9 billions web pages. Just when you were about to conclude that you can scream your soul out from here to the four corners of earth for her to come back and honour the pledges she made to you, yet not a lovely hair of her would be moved.

Suddenly, just as you are languishing in bleak despair, there reaches a caring hand, patting on your desk and lap. Without a hint of a door knock, she whisked herself into your room to shut all windows and pull down all curtains, and lock it up on you. Sitting there, in all her radiance and disrobed beauty, she tells you in her captivating way that your access to views, sights and sites distracting from her will be without. She is, you know, the most jealous of ladies. She rather breaks you a leg or arm or lock you up in solo recluse, rather than surrender to others a sliver of share in you, whether by way of chat, whisper or a flirtatious strike of a typepad. She wants your undivided love, adoration and loyalty. There, it dawns on you how passionate about you she still is. She had not forsaken you for a moment, she had all along cared to know and kept track of all what you had to say, in gist or gag. You remained her significant other, the centre of her attention, and nothing would change that. Out of frigid foreboding blue, passion suddenly rekindles. Who said those passionately dueling years have left? She is back.

November 12, 2005

the turban is not the summit

The clerics had only to thunder-clap, for the faithful, in their tens of thousands to pour in, to the streets. A massive rally was held in support of the clerics' position on the proposed codification of family law. The crowds, which stretched close to 2 km long, might not be fully briefed on the issues at hand, but they clearly believed that what was good for the clerics was good for the country. Gross underreporting by Al-Ayam and Akhbar-al-Khaleej notwithstanding, the demonstration was an unmitigated success; a strong message and show of influence by the leading clerics of the land to the powers of the day. For many a turbaned soul that Wednesday, it must have been an exceptionally ebullient night.

It was not without its share of irony of course. The self-proclaimed representatives of the transcendental were up in arms and banners over the most worldly and mundane of matters. The sole, exclusive organs of a Shia theology that sided historically with the vulnerable and the underdog were seemed to be slighting the plight of women in favour of guarding the juristic vault. You might have wished that such a rally was called for at the Friday’s prayers of February 15, 2002, a day after promulgating the present constitution, and how that stance would have altered where we are today. But you can’t blame some people for being what they are, the happy perennial hill sitters rather than the occasional summiteers. The presumed saviours too are unwitting product of the parochialism of a locale, the historicism of a text. (Of all the chapters of Shia jurisprudence - edifying as some can be, the standard treatise on the definition of marriage is a notable disgrace).

In politics, like in marriage, you have to accept your partner/s as they are. Whether they acted out of piety, deep rooted conservatism, fending against the statizing of the last bastion of state-free domains, masked self/group interest - or all of the above, the morning after raises a pressing question.

Now, that the average people have given the clerics this massive shot in the arms, and in a sense scratched their back, would their eminences become emboldened enough to return the favour, and scratch ordinary people's back? Would they side with the cause of the discriminated against, the unemployed, the landless, and the poor? Not those shy, lukewarm pronouncements that begin and end on a Friday’s pulpit, but a support with the same impressive vehemence and tenacity by which they prosecuted this crusade of theirs.

Can people hope to be optimistic, for once?

November 06, 2005

Paris, Sitra

M. Nicolas Sarkozy, Ministre de l'Intérieur et de l'aménagement du territoire.
Place Beauvau, Paris,
Republique Francaise (Ex. Royaume de France)

Cher Monsieur Le Ministre,

This memo is written on the directives of a very high authority of the land. He is disturbed by the TV footage of the city of lights turning into a city of flames. He is further disturbed by the call for your resignation by the left, and not at all bemused by the offers of help made by the respectable governments of Libya and Morocco. He asked who this French Interior minister in dire need of help is and we told him your good sounding name. He asked if we knew which important family or thigh of a tribe you belong to, and we could only inform him –and correct us if we were wrong- that you seem to have the support and enthusiasm of the Hebraic tribe, peace be upon it, both in France and in the Mediterranean Kingdom. He ordered us to write to you.

Not to belittle our sisterly countries, but if you are looking for the experts on how to deal with unrest caused by perceived marginalisation, discrimination or exclusion, look no further than here. Only few years ago, our streets and villages were raging with the kind of turmoil you are witnessing today in your banlieus. But look where we are today: an oasis of peace and tranquility. Did we solve the underlying problems? No. Did we find a brilliant exit strategy? You bet. We realise it is hard for a republican regime to swallow its fierte and listen to a royal advice, but if you wish to live up to your long title, and respond to the calls from the right to establish effective and speedy order, then you should.

To maintain your national self esteem, let us hasten to say that your sociologists have it right. ( it's only in France where a table has a fine baguette, fine camembert and fine sociologie au menu). The problem is indeed spurred by failed expectations of the youth. We know this first-hand. In the 70’s , some lower segments of our society witnessed upward mobility, only to be sharply reversed –due to compelling political reasons- in the 80’s, hence the turmoil of the 90’s. So how do you deal with the situation? You simply work on altering these expectations; de nouveau, and drastically.

For an appetiser for the masses, begin by pointing the fork at a common enemy that will serve to rally your troupes and allies, preferably foreign-based. One perfect candidate always springs to mind: that Lebanese party with a recently banned satellite channel in Europe. The motive is perfect too, they are acting on the behest of the Syrians to punish France for its UN resolutions. You can arrange for a tape of some bearded young men to appear confessing on TF1. And if confessions are hard to come by, give your friendly counterparts in the countries to the south a call and they will readily supply you with the right kind of confessing detainees, for a small charge.

The main course (and plat de resistance) will be to identify your target territory, sharpen your security knife around it, and begin your expectation altering experiment. No one is to enter or leave without significant difficulty, old and young, women and men alike. Make an ill woman plead her case, a school headmaster face the wall in the sun along with his pupils. It is all for a purpose: no one shall be immune. Use tear gas and rubber bullets freely, and not a night should pass without tear-gas filling the air over those areas, or break-ins into the houses. For intensive tear gas usage, focus on congregational places like mosques and prayer halls – you don’t’ have maatams do you?- with special emphasis on special religious orsocial occasions or periods of school exams. Parents of youth caught causing damage to public property - like a traffic light or a transformer, shall made to pay the full replacement cost of the item and then some. They can’t pay? Exactly. The point is to deliver pain and suffering to those bearing the genetic markers that produced these mal-faisant youths in the first place: the parents and grand parents. Never lose sight of your ultimate objective: to produce an ideal, wholesome deterrent experience that lasts for a lifetime/ a generation, one that will inevitably help alter the expectations of all concerned.

Also, the point must be made that a French passport in and of itself means nothing. It is loyalty that confers rights. To drive home the message, you may need to strip a score of people of their citizenship and ship them –by sea of course- to the homelands of their ancestors. And no law should stop you. Concurrently, you got to work on demographics. You can devise a scheme whereby thousands of impoverished but grateful families from new
Eastern Europe are invited to install into the same neighbourhoods. They should be granted instant citizenship and all material rights, from HLM housing to assurance sociales to employment in the branches of the security forces, including la police de proximite and the gendarmerie.

To sweeten your tooth, you must have the ears and hearts of the outside world. The BBC reporter is not on message? Have her threatened or replaced. You must use your good offices to ensure that the world media always refer to the protestors as Shiite, oops, North African rioters. It helps on the western front. As for the Arab part of the world, you need not worry. Should your North African journalist friends prove less malleable to serve the cause, you can always count on the East of Mediterranean contingent of writers, editors and research centres.

When the right span of unrelenting offensive has passed - the optimal period is 3 years but can be shortened in time for your presidential election bid in 2007, no one will even remember what they were protesting in the first place. All they want is to be safe and away from harm way. If you protest anything, you will hear: do you want us to go back to the bleak Al-Ahdaath years? When you reach that benchmark, you know you have succeeded and can begin phase II, which is the planning for your charm offensive.

Now, you must be asking why are we letting you in on our secrets? I personally have no clue, but the British officer who is supplying the gist of this advice seems to be rooting for you against Monsieur De Villepin. He says that with you as the president of
France, the United Kingdom would have another irrefutable proof of superiority over the French Republic.

November 03, 2005

Eid and the long fast from freedom

To me, the most difficult part about the holy month has less to do with hunger or thirst as much as the loss of freedom. The freedom to do what you wish or need when you wish or need it; to have a semblance of control over your day. Instead, your whole metabolism, mood and nerves sail at the mercy of events, time and waiting, until you reach the promised hour.

It's all a self-imposed trip of course. No hanging sword or pointed gun at our heads. And it's temporary and short lived. And, on a night like this, we all celebrate the regaining of that precious freedom.

But what has not been temporary nor short lived, and anything but self-imposed, is another long, collective fast of ours. Our fast from basic (non-biological) freedoms and liberties. The freedom to dissent, to have a say, to effect change. Heavens know it has been a long, centuries old fast, unending. Heavens know it has been an arduously long sailing, a costly march toward the dryland of the free.

On this auspicious day, may the time and distance (and cost) to breaking that long fast, to the real Eid, be nearer than ever.

Happy Eid to all, especially to those at a distance from family or ease.