Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 3rd, 2013

“From where do you write?”

What’s your angle?

Loyalty is varied. The deepest and truest loyalty is to be discovered.

And discovered through genuine writing. And the first step is to answer: “From where do you write?”

Agnes Desarthe tried to exorcise her childhood state of mind in “How I learned to read“.

Agnes wanted to know, 40 years later, how she would have behaved if her parents insisted on her staying in an all girl primary school. For an unknown reason, Agnes was quickly transferred to a school predominantly of male kids.

First, in context.

The parents of Agnes are Jewish. Her father was born in Libya and studied in Algeria to become a physician, and lived in France. Her mother is from Germany.

The father is comfortable living amid an extended family and surrounded by noisy kids. He always lamented that the Arabic words had no adequate french counterpart, like the recurring word Leil (Night) in Arabic songs that offers varied connotation that the French language lacks.

The mother’s family members have been drastically reduced and her mother world is of silence and untold secrets.

Agnes was reluctant to read assigned books at schools on the ground that they are meant to impress on her the notion of France “territory, Land, culture…”. Her father brought her detective US and English novels that were translated into French, and Agnes read the “Serie Noire” (Black series)

Agnes tried to summarize he childhood state of mind in a boys school as follows:

1. Learning to read meant to learn about boys

2. Knowing guys is to become a prey

3. Being a prey in school courtyard is to be prey in occupied France (by the German Nazi troops in WWII)

4. Being a girl is like being a Jew

5. Being pursued by guys is like feeling tracked down by Naziz…

Agnes didn’t feel at home reading books until she stumbled on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Shosha” “Yentl”

Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote about the Jewish life in the Polish ghettos, talking about dibbouks, golems, Lilith, gehenne, arranged marriage, girls dressing like boys in order to pursue their education in Yeshiva… and his books were first written in Yiddish, translated into English and translated from English into French, and it is in the last translation that Agnes read the books.

“From where do you write?”

From genders differences? Class differences?

Archaic slow life-style or tasting and grabbing newer opportunities offered by modern life-styles?

“From where do you write?”

The origin of your mother, father, grand parents?

From the living in your hometown or experiencing the life in a foreign land?

From relating to the rituals, customs and traditions or seeking to understand the structure of modern developed societies in which you “exiled” yourself?

From translating the social life-style in your homeland or acquiring the knowledge of the rights and responsibilities in political systems that extended wide human rights and freedom of expressions?

There are billion of people who never left their hometown.

Do you think such a person will ever feel the urge to write anything? What can he says? Regurgitating in the description of the daily rituals and customs of the town where many are more placed to know and comprehend the traditions?

How such a person can enrich the language and create new emotions and perception?

Even people living in developed nations and enjoying many opportunities to exit the “comfort” of their hometown, do you think that they will ever feel the urge to write, even if they have access to TV and internet connections?

The authors who managed to enrich any language are those who traveled abroad and interacted with different customs and cultures.

They are the multilingual authors who suffered in translating their culture and emotions into a host and adoptive language.

Can we substitute two painful identities with a third more painful? Are painful identities more real, viable and enduring than comfortable identities that shortcut reflection and obstruct any zeal to search for the truth, of your right of doing your due diligence in discovering yourself?

A terror replace another terror, though never kicking it out of our system, more likely amplifying the former terror. This fear that renders people mute.

There is this amorphous mass, a mixture of dichotomies (such as learning to read and refusing to read, practicing the rituals of your heritage and opposing the viability of these rituals for an harmonious development of mankind, the need to preserve innocence and countering with actions that keep you ignorant…)

Time alone is not enough to let the oil float atop this volume of stagnant water.

There is this occasional urge to agitate the content, sort of feeling apprehensive that, if our world vision has settled, we are doomed to a slow death and apathy.

If I can settle on an answer to “from where do I write”, does this automatically translate to being able to answer “from where do I read?”

The void is this state after a treatment we went through (psychoanalysis, dis-intoxication, weight loss…). You feel that you are not the same, but you didn’t change that much. You feel that the symptoms have been displaced and you have no ideas what are the newer symptoms to discover.

Is reading a job? Is writing a job that should be mentioned in CV? Can I circumvent this deception of not being able to claim talent in any job?

Reading is a sort of the solvent in the process of untangling this confused mass of memory and emotions.

Reading is an infraction: Allowing another brain to challenge and enter your brain. This assimilation of reading to a predator is not easy to confront.

If your writing is not transmitting the emotions and feelings of your own culture, more likely than not the reader will not appreciate the genuine nature of your books.

And it is very hard to be write in an adoptive language and pulling up this feat of reaching a wide audience.

Writing is being in a permanent state of Nostalgia: pondering on open wounds, responding to queries such as “How my life unfolded, why am I living, what opportunities did I miss, did I change and how?”

Writing gives us the illusion of reaching closure on particular issues, and this process of research turns out to leave a wide exit in the circles that we intended to entirely close and get relief.

Woo to the authors who feel they got closure: He might as well stop writing.

British Ambassador Addresses the Lebanese: On Independence Day

I can sympathize with Tom Fletcher, and the good previous recent British ambassadors to Lebanon, and I feel that the negatives responses to the ambassadors reflect a state of mind of the Lebanese who feel down on their luck and totally hopeless to undertake serious reforms to their political and social structure since their independence in 1943, or as the French mandated troops vacated in 1946.

Lebanon is not a usual country: a deformed version of a nation, at best. It is a place where people don’t agree on the definition of statehood and nationhood, and a place where sectarian divisions have constituted a bonanza for foreign intervention.

In the last 40 years, Lebanon had not enjoyed a stable situation that is promising. Currently, we have no Parliament: it extended its tenure for another 2 years and never has met since. We have no government in the last 6 months and the designated “Prime Minister” is sitting tight, waiting for political movements to reach a consensus on a government to form.

In the meantime, the Syrian refugees are flooding in Lebanon and their number has reached about 50% of our population.

Lebanon is also a place crying out for an identity. While some do see marks of history, geography, and culture and recognize Lebanon as it is – an Arab country, no less Arab than other countries – others think that they have been misplaced in the Middle East, that they belong to Europe.

But first, here an example of the counter-responses to the ambassador speech.

As’ad AbuKhalil posted this Nov. 25, 2013 on his blog Angry Corner:

Some ultra-Lebanese nationalists developed a variety of forms and motifs of nationalism that stress the (imagined) relationship between Lebanon and Europe, which consider Lebanon the least in its priorities.

Some Lebanese think that donning Western clothes and faking an American or a French accent is sufficient to place them squarely among the White Man of Europe.

Some really bought into that. Those Lebanese (represented by An-Nahar newspaper, among others) are more than eager to prostrate at the mere sight of a white man in their midst.

Some even think that they themselves are white. It is for this reason that European and American diplomats in Lebanon act more arrogantly and more condescendingly than perhaps in other places.

It was in this context that the British ambassador in Lebanon addressed the Lebanese people on the anniversary of Lebanese independence. He lectured, preached, hectored, sermonized, and moralized to the Lebanese people. He even bragged about the role of the UK in Lebanon’s independence.

Thereby insulting the intelligence of the Lebanese people (and his own) by pretending that British policies (whether in Palestine – lest he thinks we forgot – or in Lebanon itself) were motivated by anything other than greed, colonial interest, care for Israeli occupation, and competition between the colonial powers themselves.

Of course, the ambassador prefaces his remarks by a perfunctory dosage of flattery – the substance of which he must have heard from the Lebanese themselves – or those upper-class Lebanese who attend embassy functions in Beirut. He even praises the hospitality of the Lebanese people, which is inferior to the hospitality that the UK accorded to the Zionist project. Talk about hospitality.

And while the ambassador expresses admiration for the Lebanese, he also shares their frustration. He tells the Lebanese that he is frustrated with them.

But what does Tom think that we feel toward his government? He thinks that the Balfour Declaration, the divisions of the spoils of the region in Sykes-Picot, and the subservience of his country to US war designs in the region are relics of the ancient past?

It is not frustration that characterizes our feelings toward his government’s record in the region but deep anger and antipathy. If one should feel frustrated it is us.

What does he think we think about his government plot against Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956 or his government’s role in the civil war in Lebanon in 1958 on the side of Chamoun and the right-wing fascistic elements?

Balfour requires much more than an apology to be forgiven – if ever: It requires a restoration of justice.

The UK will not reach a historic reconciliation with all the Arabs before the extinction of the Balfour Declaration and all of its ramifications.

His first advice to the Lebanese is that we should ignore advice from outsiders, and he included himself among them. But that is pure flippancy: If Tom truly wishes that we ignore his advice, why did he bother to write this long letter?

Furthermore, not all outsiders are alike: Some have truly assisted Lebanon in its struggle against occupation and for independence, and others (like his government) sponsored the occupation and brutalization of Lebanon.

The rest of Tom’s advice is akin to the psycho-babble of American talk show hosts and guests. Renewing marriage vows? What does that mean?

And is Britain about to renew marriage vows with Scotland or is it heading for divorce?

Does the US seek advice from the Lebanese ambassador in London? And why do I get the feeling that if the Lebanese ambassador in London were to draft a letter similar to Tom’s, she would be deported at once.

Finally, if Tom and his government like the Lebanese so much, why do the visa requirements make it virtually impossible for any Lebanese to visit the UK unless they are among the rich and powerful of Lebanon?

Maybe Tom’s letter is addressed to the political and economic elite of Lebanon, as it is doubtful that Tom ever wines and dines with average Lebanese, or with poor Lebanese (outside of those who work in the kitchen of his embassy).

Nevertheless, I will take the advice of Tom to heart: I will ignore letter.

I exchanged a few lines with Tom on Twitter, and he said in response to my critique that he was merely expressing his views. I answered by saying that he would never dare criticize, say, the government and society of Saudi Arabia.

I dared him to have his colleague in Riyadh draft such a letter to the Saudi people. He answered by sending me the routine human rights evaluation of Saudi Arabia (which is part of an annual global assessment that the UK and US do but without any policy implication).

Tom must have known that does not suffice, and that his government and all of its ambassadors are required to adhere to the highest norms of prostration and subservience in dealing with the House of Saud. Too bad, Tom, that Lebanon has not extracted its oil and gas yet. I bet you that you would have not drafted your letter in that case.

Note 1: Other critics brought forth the advanced ancient civilization of Lebanon and the Levant region (Syria and Palestine), and this is reason enough to refuse advises from a British ambassador.

Fact is very few Lebanese are engaged in researching this ancient civilization, and fewer who care of the past.

Note 2: This is a sample article on advanced ancient civilization




December 2013

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