In our roundup this week, we will overlook politics again to talk more about the people.
Abu Fares in this sensational post, laments the simplicity of the old Levantine-Mediterranean lifestyle. One that has been trenched and swept off with a new wave of “neo-cons” as he describes them, whether the Judeo-Christian Neo Conservatives or the Neo Islamists, they're two sides to the same coin.
Tartous, the dreamy little town by the sea is no more. It has physically mutated over the last three decades into a pathetic jungle of concrete. Moreover, on the social and cultural levels, the sweeping changes have been more colossal. By and large, we are no longer the cheerful seculars, open-minded Mediterraneans, provincial-metropolitans and discoverers-adapters of colorful ways of life. We were a unique and distinct group, transcending socioeconomic lines, facing the mysterious sea and always seeking the exotic delights lying beyond. We grew up in a Joie de Vivre ambiance unhindered by class, free of political guilt and insouciant to mass religious indoctrination. We heard the politicians and preachers like everybody else but we never listened to them.
And while Abu Fares laments, Omar from Deconstructed Life writes about the way people are pushed into the norms of society, giving as an example a simple story, that would happen at any given house in Syria.
She waited for me to go and order coffee (my mom’s friend that is..) and she whispers to my wife: so are you pregnant yet?
However, unlike me, she (da wife) is a very nice person and knows how to answer politely (my default answer would have been: none of your business).. So she started explaining how we’ve been married for less than 2 months now, and how we still want to enjoy time together and travel a bit, which is what we have been planning to do for a long time..
So the lady looks at Souha, my wife, and he says: what do you mean enjoy your time? Do you really think that you’re young? (my wife is 29 year old by the way)
Why is that? Am I not a Syrian myself, yes…and no. Syria itself is named the Syrian Arab Republic but I no longer consider myself a Syrian nationalist, let alone an Arab nationalist. Does that mean I am no longer Syrian, or an Arab? As Maxime Rodinson discusses in his book called, pretty obviously, “The Arabs”; What is an Arab? Is it racial? Linguistic? Cultural? Religious? Each of these concepts fails to stand up to scrutiny, torn down by inherent inconsistencies. Yet still, I refer to myself as an Arab. I am a Syrian as a conscious and voluntary decision in a world which defines you based on something called a ‘passport’. If I was born in Columbia I would have been Columbian, so does that mean that my identity as an Arab and a Syrian is constructed? I think so, but that does not negate it's importance or power. On the contrary, a conscious and enlightened decision to embrace this identity is healthy and necessary just for the illusion of comfort and stability if nothing else.
Last Sunday morning, I called my father in Beirut to wish him a happy 80th birthday. We exchanged a few words; he was never very good at connecting emotionally with his sons, but we could talk for hours about politics. As he thanked me for the call and bid me goodbye before putting my mother on, his voice broke a little; he was happy I called.