Adonis Diaries

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Fiesta of the goat? Mario Vargas Llosa

109حفلة التيس ـــ ماريو فارغاس يوسا

لعلي كتبت عن هذا من قبل. إتقان الإثارة. البراعة في تصعيد الفضول لدى القاريء، ليجد نفسه متورطاً بالقراءة بفعل تلك الأفخاخ الصغيرة، المتقنة الصنع والتورية.

لا تغيب صورة غابرييل غارسيا ماركيز من على صفحات هذه الرواية. مقارنة، لا أعرف كم هو عدد الذين أجروها أثناء قراءتهم، تفرض نفسها: فالأحداث متشابهة والأبطال كذلك.

ولكن حكايات هذه الرواية هي أكثر”عقلانية”. يمكن لنا أن نصدق أنها حدثت ذات يوم في بلد حقيقي له خريطته وحدوده ومسؤوليه الذين تذكرهم كتب التاريخ. تاريخ صاخب كان المواطنون بلحمهم وحيواتهم وأبنائهم هم الحبر الذي كتب كل هذه الحكايا الممتعة.

مفارقة تبعث على الأسى.

أن تستمتع بقراءة رواية تحكي عن مأساة عاشها شعب بكامله.. وعن دماء حقيقية سالت.. وأن تكون ممتناً لقدر أتاح لهذا الكاتب أن يعيد صياغة كل هذه المذابح لتصير قابلة لقراءة تبعث على المتعة!

. فلا شيء في الرواية يمنعنا من التفكير بأنها مجرد سرد روائي لتاريخ تلك الجمهورية. كثرة الأحداث والألقاب والضحايا، والمؤامرات والانقلابات،

كلها أمور ممكنة الحدوث ونعرف أنها حدثت هناك في الجمهوريات التي كنا نسميها جمهوريات الموز.

إن تلك الخلطة السرية بين تاريخ بلد ما وبين قدرات الروائي على ربطنا إلى الثقب الذي فتحه لنتلصص ـــ حرفياً ـــ على أناس ذلك البلد ومسؤوليه، كانت مغرية ولذيذة، فأغرقتنا في الأحداث الدموية وألهتنا عن التساؤل عن سر استمتاعنا (المعيب!) بكل ذلك القهر الذي مارسه “التيس” على قطيع لا ينضب من الخراف.

هذا المزج المسكر بين أحداث تلزمه الذاكرة بروايتها، وبين خياله متحرراً من أثقال التاريخ، يستحق التنويه. فليس كل من جلس ليتذكر تاريخ بلاده قادراً على ذلك!.

فماذا عن تاريخ البلاد التي تعرفها؟

إن المقارنة مرعبة. في بلادك، الآن، يدور الحديث همساً عن رعب تثيره أعداد المنتشرين في القرى من السوريين. حتى أعلى الأصوات التي تدعونا إلى الاطمئنان، لا تكون واثقة بالكامل. في الرواية، تتشابه الأحداث فكأن القاريء ينظر في مرآة…

خمسة وعشرين عاماً من “الاحتلال” الهاييتي للدومينيكان، ثم حرية قليلة. ليبدأ بعد ذلك تدفق أعداد “الهاييتيين” بلباس مدني هذه المرة.

عمال في البداية، ثم بعد ذلك هاربون من سعير حرب في بلادهم.

لقد كان الحل في تلك الجمهورية قاسياً ودموياً. أما هنا، فإن القسوة التي لا تغادر بال البعض لا تزال تتخفى في أردية الانسانية والتفهم. ما الذي سيجري بعد ذلك؟

.. كيف سينتهي مصير هذه الملايين المتراكمة في ملاجئها البائسة؟.. لا يمكن لأحد أن يحزر.

يمكنني بسهولة أن أحس بلذة الكاتب أثناء كتابة هذا النص. عنايته الواضحة بتقسيم الفصول، ورواية الأحداث بدون أن تفلت منه “معلومة” واحدة تكشف أسرار الرواية للقاريء قبل الوقت الذي يحدده هو.

مثل قاتل يتسلى بغرس نصل سكينه قليلاً قليلاً في جسد ضحيته.. في أماكن متفرقة وغير مميتة.. حتى تكاد الضحية أن تتوهم أـنها في طريقها إلى النجاة.. ولكن هيهات. فالنصل يزداد في كل لحظة حدة وانغراساً، حتى أن النجاة لا تعود مرئية.

فلنترك الرواية وكاتبها. أنت كقاريء، وغيرك آخرون،

هل تقرأ عن تاريخ الدومينيكان أم أن ذاكرتك ومخيلتك تصور لك ما يجري في بلادك؟.. كل الأحداث سمعت عنها بشكل أو بآخر وبأسماء مختلفة ( بنفس الألقاب).

. سمعتها شفهياً وقرأت مثلها في الصحف أو في كتب التاريخ التي كتبها أشخاص وقادة خلصوا بلادهم من العتاة ليصيروا بعد شهور قليلة مثلهم أو أعتى حتى.

حتى مصائر أولئك القادة تتشابه. سيرهم. فسادهم. حاشيتهم بكامل أعضائها، التي تنتقل مثل غرض جامد بولائها إلى الزعيم الجديد بتضحيات قليلة أو كثيرة، ولكنها تضحيات كافية لتتابع تلك الأسر فسادها في الجمهوريات والممالك الجديدة!.

في الجزء الأخير تصير الرواية سرداً وتأريخاً لأحداث تلك الفترة في تاريخ تلك الجمهورية.

أقول إن الرواية تفقد جزءاً من روعتها، فكأنها خلعت ثوب الرواية لتلبس ثياب التاريخ. وأكثر ما يؤكد ذلك هو ابتعاد الأبطال الحقيقيين للرواية عن الصفحات ليتركوها لكمية من المعلومات التي لا تتعلق بهم شخصياً، ولا بمصائرهم. هذا الحد الفاصل بين الرواية والتاريخ الذي تجاوزه الكاتب أضر بالرواية كما قلت.

الرواية تحتاج إلى معلومات عن أشخاصها وإلى أحداث تتعلق بأبطالها، هي بكلمات أخرى تأريخ لحياة أبطالها. أما تاريخ تلك الجمهورية وتحولاتها الدموية نحو ديمقراطية لا نعرف مقدار الحقيقة فيها، فهو شأن الدومينيكانيين.

ولكن ماريو بارغاس يوسا، الكاتب وليس المؤرخ، يعرف ذلك بالتأكيد. ولذلك لم يفاجئني أنه خبأ الفصل الأخير من روايته لإرضاء أكثر قرائه تطلباً.

فعرفنا، مثلما رغب كل قاريء من سطر الرواية الأول، ما الذي جرى بين أغوسطين كابرال وابنته الجميلة أورانيتا.
26 كانون الثاني 2018

Before colonial powers took over Africa: Africa history

Note 1: Repost of 2014 of “Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent”

Note 2: Maps were drawn upside down during the Arabic Empire and they skew the current traditional eurocentric point of direction.
Africa was called before the European colonization Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan meaning ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’
Frank Jacobs, November 12, 2014
Uitsny_suid_afrika

What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans?

The Reconquista in Spain would have never happened.

If Spain and Portugal didn’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents in the 16th century, this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations.

All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography.

None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa.

By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass.

Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent.

This map is the result of an entirely different course of history. The continent depicted here isn’t even called Africa [1] but Alkebu-Lan, supposedly Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ [2].

That name is sometimes used by those who reject even the name ‘Africa’ as a European imposition.

It is therefore an ideal title for this thought experiment by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon.

Essentially, it formulates a cartographic answer to the question: What would Africa have looked like if Europe hadn’t become a colonizing power? 

To arrive at this map, Cyon constructed an alternative timeline. Its difference from our own starts in the mid-14th century.

The point of divergence: the deadliness of the Plague.

In our own timeline, over the course of the half dozen years from 1346 to 1353, the Black Death [3] wiped out between 30 and 60% of Europe’s population. It would take the continent more than a century to reach pre-Plague population levels. That was terrible enough.

But what if Europe had suffered an even more catastrophic extermination – one from which it could not recover?

Allohistorical Africa, seen from our North-up perspective. The continent’s superstates (at least size-wise): Al-Maghrib, Al-Misr, Songhai, Ethiopia, Kongo and Katanga.

European colonies in Africa in ‘our’ 1913.

Blue: France, pink: Britain, light green: Germany, dark green: Italy, light purple: Spain, dark purple: Portugal, yellow: Belgium, white: independent. Lines reflect current borders.

Cyon borrowed this counterfactual hypothesis from The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternate history novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. The book, first published in 2002, explores how the depopulation of Europe would have altered world history.

Robinson speculates that Europe would have been colonized by Muslims from the 14th century onwards, and that the 20th century would see a world war between a sprawling Muslim alliance on the one side, and the Chinese empire and the Indian and native American federations on the other.

Cyon focuses on Africa – or rather, Alkebu-Lan – which in his version of events doesn’t suffer the ignominy and injustice of the European slave trade and subsequent colonization.

In our timeline, Europe’s domination of Africa obscured the latter continent’s rich history and many cultural achievements.

On the map of Cyon’ s Africa, a many-splendored landscape of nations and empires, all native to the continent itself, gives the lie to the 19th- and 20th-century European presumption that Africa merely was a ‘dark continent’ to be enlightened, or a ‘blank page’ for someone else to write upon.

Basing himself on Unesco’s General History of Africa, Cyon built his map around historical empires, linguistic regions and natural boundaries.

His snapshot is taken in 1844 (or 1260 Anno Hegirae), also the date of a map of tribal and political units in Unesco’s multi-volume General History.

Al-Andalus, in this timeline still a dependency of Al-Maghrib; and the Emirate of Sicily to the left of the map.

Zooming in on the northern (bottom) part of the map, we see an ironic reversal of the present situation: in our timeline, Spain is still holding on to Ceuta, Melilla and other plazas de soberania in Northern Africa.

In Cyon’s world, most of the Iberian peninsula still called Al-Andalus, and is an overseas part of Al-Maghrib, a counterfactual Moroccan superstate covering a huge swathe of northwestern Africa.

Sicily, which we consider to be part of Europe, is colored in as African, and goes by the name of Siqilliyya Imārat (Emirate of Sicily).

The Arabic is no accident.

Absent the European imprint, Islam has left an even more visible mark on large swathes of North, West and East Africa than it has today.

Numerous states carry the nomenclature Sultānat, Khilāfat or Imārat. And what are the difference between a Caliphate, Sultanate and Emirate?

A Caliph claims supreme religious and political leadership as the successor (caliph) to Muhammad, ideally over all Muslims.

I spot two Caliphates on the map: Hafsid (centered on Tunis, but much larger than Tunisia), and Sokoto in West Africa (nowadays: northwest Nigeria).

Sokoto, Dahomey, Benin and other states in country-rich West Africa. 

A Sultan is an independent Islamic ruler who does not claim spiritual leadership.

Five states in the greater Somalia region are Sultanates, for example: Majerteen, Hiraab, Geledi, Adāl and Warsangele. Others include Az-Zarqa (in present-day Sudan), Misr (Egypt, but also virtually all of today’s Israel), and Tarābulus (capital: Tripoli, in our Libya).

An Emir is a prince or a governor of a province, implying some suzerainty to a higher power. There’s a cluster of them in West Africa: Trarza, Tagant, Brakna, all south of Al-Maghrib. But they are elsewhere too: Kano and Katsina, just north of Sokoto.

Islam of course did not originate in Africa, and some would claim that its dominance of large areas of Africa, at the expense of pre-existing belief systems, is as much an example of foreign cultural imperialism as the spread of Western religions and languages is in our day.

But that is material for another thought experiment. This one aims to filter out the European influence.

Neither European nor Arab influence is in evidence in the southern part of Africa – although some toponyms relate directly to states in our timeline: BaTswana is Botswana, Wene wa Kongo refers to the two countries bearing that name. Umoja wa Falme za Katanga is echoed in the name of the DR Congo’s giant inland province, Katanga.

Rundi, Banyarwanda and Buganda, squeezed in between the Great Lakes, are alternative versions of ‘our’ Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Some familiar-sounding names around the Great Lakes.

There is an interesting parallel to the Africa/Alkebu-Lan dichotomy in the toponymic ebb and flow of Congo and Zaïre as names for the former Belgian colony at the center of the continent.

Congo, denoting both the stream and the two countries on either of its lower banks [4], derives from 16th- and 17th-century Bantu kingdoms such as Esikongo, Manikongo and Kakongo near the mouth of the river.

The name was taken up by European cartographers and the territory it covered eventually reached deep inland.

But because of its long association with colonialism, and also to fix his own imprint on the country, Congo’ s dictator Mobutu in 1971 changed the name of the country and the stream to Zaïre.

The name-change was part of a campaign for local authenticity which also entailed the Africanisation of the names of persons and cities [5], and the introduction of the abacos [6] – a local alternative to European formal and business wear.

Curiously for a campaign trying to rid the country of European influences, the name Zaïre actually was a Portuguese corruption of Nzadi o Nzere, a local term meaning ‘River that Swallows Rivers’.

Zaïre was the Portuguese name for the Congo stream in the 16th and 17th centuries, but gradually lost ground to Congo before being picked up again by Mobutu.

After the ouster and death of Mobutu, the country reverted to its former name, but chose the predicate Democratic Republic to distinguish itself from the Republic of Congo across the eponymous river.

Kongo – a coastal superstate in the alternative timeline.

This particular tug of war is emblematic for the symbolism attached to place names, especially in Africa, where many either refer to a pre-colonial past (e.g. Ghana and Benin, named after ancient kingdoms), represent the vestiges of the colonial era (e.g. Lüderitz, in Namibia), or attempt to build a postcolonial consensus (e.g. Tanzania, a portmanteau name for Tanganyika and Zanzibar).

By taking the colonial trauma out of the equation, this map offers a uniquely a-colonial perspective on the continent, whether it is called Africa or Alkebu-Lan.

Map of Alkebu-Lan and excerpts thereof reproduced by kind permission of Nikolaj Cyon.

See it in full resolution on this page of his website. Map of Africa in 1913 by Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons User: Sting), found here on Wikimedia Commons.

_______________

Strange Maps #688

[1] A name popularized by the Romans. It is of uncertain origin, possibly meaning ‘sunny’, ‘dusty’ or ‘cave-y’.

[2] The origin and meaning of the toponym are disputed. The Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ would be Bilad as-Sudan, which is how the present-day country of Sudan got its name.

Other translations offered for Alkebu-Lan (also rendered as Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan) are ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’. Although supposedly of ancient origin, the term was popularized by the academic Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan (b. 1918).

The term is not a 20th-century invention, however. Its first traceable use is in La Iberiada (1813), an epic poem from 1813 by Ramón Valvidares y Longo. In the index, where the origin of ‘Africa’ is explained, it reads: “Han dado las naciones á este pais diversos nombres, llamándole Ephrikia los Turcos, Alkebulan los Arabes, Besecath los Indios, y los pueblos del territorio Iphrikia ó Aphrikia: los Griegos, en fin, le apellidaron Libia, y despues Africa, cuyo nombre han adoptado los Españoles, Italianos, Latinos, Ingleses y algunos otros pueblos de la Europa”.

[3] A.k.a. the Plague, a very contagious and highly deadly disease caused by Yersinia pestis. That bacterium infested the fleas that lived on the rats coming over from Crimea to Europe on Genoese merchant ships.

[4] In fact, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, are positioned across from each other on the banks of the Congo River – the only example in the world of two national capitals adjacent to each other.

[5] The ‘founder-president’ himself changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga. The capital Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, after an ancient village on the same site.

[6] Despite the African-sounding name, abacos is an acronym of à bas costumes, or: ‘Down with (Western) suits’.

 

Heaven Without People (Ghada’a El Eid)

Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Posted on March 2018

Everyone loves a family gathering – in theory.

What could be better than seeing all your loved ones in one place at the same time?

Josephine (Sarkis) is the matriarch of a Lebanese Orthodox Christian family. Getting her family together is like pulling teeth: they haven’t been in the same room for a meal for more than two years.

It’s Easter Sunday and she has prepared a feast for her children and their spouses (and two grandchildren, one too young to do anything but sleep).

The children are in various stages of functionality.

Serge (Samra) seems to be the most level-headed but he has been dating his girlfriend Rita (Shaer) for three years without any sign of commitment; she is concerned that she might be pregnant which Serge who is very much against taking care of a baby.

Leila (Semaan) is a strident political firebrand who is very critical about the government for which her father (Boutros) was once employed with.

Christine (Karam) is closest to Josephine but is having big problems with her teenage son Sami (Habib).

Elias (Hage) is married to Noha (Gebara) and is more than a little bit of a bully; the family treats him with contempt most of the time.

Josephine’s maid (Helou) tries to be in the background but she is treated with love by the family.

The conversation turns from politics to religion and tension soon begins to make things a little bit frayed at the table. Josephine then discovers that a large sum of money is missing, money that she and her husband – who despite his apparent vigor is actually in a fragile state of health – desperately need.

There’s no way to know who took it other than that it is someone at the dining table.

By the end of the meal all of the skeletons will come out of the closet and the things bubbling under the surface will grow into a full-on boil

I liked this movie very much. I believe the great Gene Siskel would have too.  Movies that are a slice of life, particularly in other cultures, were essentially his favorite kind of films.

I love learning about different cultures – the foods they eat, the traditions they hold to, the rituals that a meal brings with it I also enjoy the dynamics of a family (which generally speaking are pretty much the same everywhere) particularly when there is discord.

Few families love each other universally all the time. There are always squabbles.

The performances are pretty natural. I don’t know whether the performers are professional actors or amateurs. Either way the dynamics in this family are very believable and none of the performers seem to be wooden or stiff: they’re all comfortable in front of the camera which can be a big deal in movies like this one.

I had real problems with the camera movement. Cinematographer Ahmad Al Trabolsi utilizes a hand-held camera and circles the table constantly. While it does add an air of tension to the story it also serves to be distracting and downright annoying.

Some fixed camera angles would have benefitted the film and relieved the constant camera movement.

I will say that both cinematographer and director did a good job despite the confined and somewhat claustrophobic set (nearly all the movie takes place inside the small apartment of Josephine and her husband).

Sometimes directors and cinematographers will make a film look more like a stage play in these kinds of conditions but that didn’t happen here.

The film moves at  slow but steady pace, the tension increasing as the meal progresses and eventually the situation of the missing money is revealed to the rest of the family.

The climax is handled very nicely and left me wondering how the family would survive what happened.

A great film will leave you concerned for the welfare of its characters and that’s precisely what happened here.

The build-up may be a little too long for attention-challenged viewers but those with the patience to stick with the film will be richly rewarded – the final few scenes are truly amazing.

Bourjeily is certainly someone to keep an eye on. If you’re heading down to Miami to catch this festival, this is one you should put on your list.

REASONS TO GO: It’s a slow build to a fast boil. A lovely slice of life with a little bit of rot below the surface.
REASONS TO STAY: The handheld camera becomes quite annoying after awhile.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some violence and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourjeily, who got his MFA in film from Loyola Marymount University (my alma mater), is making his feature film debut.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/10/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: August: Osage County
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
 Call Me By Your Name

Turkish Manhood and moustaches: “Imagined Masculinity” by late Mai Ghoussoub

Note: In the previous re-edit of “Imagined Masculinity” I covered 3 chapters. This is the fourth chapter edited by Mai Ghoussoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb of March 1st, 2007 

Chapter on Turkish manhood:

“Our Bulen is now a Commando: Military service and manhood in Turkey” by Emma Sinclair-Webb is a chapter concerned with the military service rituals into manhood.

Military service is another form of masculine initiation to manhood.

In the poor counties the families and communities gather to celebrate the joining of the recruits in the military.  While the poor recruits might obtain advantages from military service in the form of health check ups, dental care and better nutrition, as well as an opportunity to get away from their restricted locality and in some cases to learn to read and write, the extension of the military service to over a year and a half has very negative impact.

The first few months are pure trauma of experiencing constant curses, contempt and punishments designed to erase any residual personality or individuality, to empty the mind and feelings, shaping the recruits into the single mould prepared by the militaristic dogma.

The recruits are made to lose their self-confidence by encouraging alienation and mistrust among themselves and that they cannot do anything correctly without the superior commander direction and control.

The recruits are given names that express their insignificance in most armies such as “Tommy soldiers” or “Mehmetcik” (Little Mehmet).

The connotations are that the recruits are uncomplicated “chap” from the lower orders in the social structure constituted by the officers, ready to “perform any act of self-sacrifice without batting an eyelid”.

The recruits are invariably schooled at feeling infantile or at best children, forming the backbone of the army but nevertheless much less than the heroic “real men” or soldiers or officers.

In most countries, in addition to prison terms, dodgers of the military service are ostracized from society; they cannot find a job, or vote, or obtain passports or leave the country. In many instance they cannot marry because of the taboo attached to their lack of masculinity or responsibility to care for a family.

In wars, over 40% of the recruits are sent to the riskiest zones to fight internal or external enemies.

If a recruit dies he is labeled a martyr or “shahid” and if he is crippled or traumatized then he receives much less health care than what a regular soldier receives in hospital facilities or psychiatric treatment.

Chapter 5: On Palestinian treatment in Israel

I will try to summarize a chapter in “Imagined masculinities” titled “Male gender and rituals of resistance in the Palestinian Intifada a cultural politics of violence” by Julie Petite. 

In the 4 years of the first Intifada beginning in December 1987 through 1990, an estimated 106,000 Palestinians were injured.  If we count the beatings this estimate could reach the number of over 200,000 or 10% of the total population of the Palestinians living under the Zionist occupation.

Most of these injured Palestinians are youth under the age of twelve .

More than 60% of the youth passed through beatings and methodical investigation and incarceration.

Anton Shammas wrote in 1988: “For twenty years now, officially there has been no childhood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  A 10-year-old child shot by the Israeli military forces is reported to be a young man of ten’”

The Palestinians consider the Israeli soldiers as cowards and devoid of any sense of honor and for good reason.

When you challenge someone you pick the one able to taking up the challenge; otherwise there is no honor in the challenge.

When the Israeli soldiers challenge the unarmed Palestinian youth the repost do not take place, there is no challenge and the encounter degenerates into mere aggression.  Such aggression deprives the Israeli practitioners to claims of honor and morality; the Israeli soldier is thus considered as lacking in the emotional and moral quality of manhood.

Most of the incarcerated youth return home and supplant their fathers in the family hierarchy and are called on to mediate disputes and lead the neighborhood politically and organizationally.

The unconcerned and apathetic youth is transformed after the beating and interrogations into an active underground member and who had the opportunity to receive education during his prison term by the educated Palestinian prisoners.

It is normal that family violence increases after the release of the Palestinian prisoners and the females take the brunt of the outburst, especially lately when the Israelis reverted into focusing on the sexual maltreatment of prisoners with the adverse consequences on the prisoners and his family after his release.

Imagined Masculinity”? A book review of Mai Ghoussoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb, published in 2007.

Note: Re-edit of an article posted in 2008 ““Imagined Masculinity”

Chapter One:

The kids, Moris Farhi and his friend Selim, used to accompany their Armenian servant Sofia to a Turkish bath called “Paradise”.

The manageress Teyze hanim (Lady Aunt) allowed the two kids to bath with the females because their testicles did not yet drop off.

The kids heard this chit chatting and started to continuously checking their testicles and wondering when they might drop off; they roamed the streets looking for any pairs of testicles in case theirs might drop off and attach the found ones.

The kids heard a lot of myths told by Gypsy kids about female genitals and breasts and would surreptitiously investigate the category of women in the “hammam” through seemingly closed eyes.

The kids would try to discriminate the temperament and emotional sexual performance of women according to the size of the aureole of the breast, the shape and elasticity of the labia and the size of the clitoris, sesame, or lentil, or chickpeas and whether the pubic hair is shaved daily (a status of riches) or occasionally.

Chapter 2: Hassan Daoud on moustaches.

It appears that in older times, village leaders instituted various styles of moustaches depending on ranks and nobility; whomever wore moustaches not adequate to his rank was forced to shave them. Thus, when a person used to leave a single hair from his moustaches as a guarantee for a loan, the lender would know the capacity of this fellow to repay his loan.

The Lebanese army used to, or still is, allocate a monthly stipend for soldiers with appropriate moustaches as large as for any additional child he had.  I can generate two plausible hypotheses for this practice in our army:

First hypothesis: Emir Majid Erslan was the defense minister most of his life since our independence and he wore these fine but ridiculous moustaches that circled upward and would swear on his moustaches; I guess he might have induced the army to encourage the officers and soldiers to carry these moustaches so that he would not be laughed at or mocked by the new generation of Lebanese.

The second hypothesis is that our army is a carbon copy of the French colonial army in structure. laws and behavior; I guess the republican French army held to the standards of the elite Napoleonic “grognards”, who were selected among the most hairy and awe-inspiring virility of their large moustaches, among other factors.

Now, why moustaches are no longer a la mode? Pick and choose one or several of these reason:

First, women don’t like moustaches because they rub roughly their skins, they send the implicit message that the man is not interested enough to beautify his looks to please them and insist on the virility value of moustaches, or because the upper lip would cease to look like the man version of pudendum when shaved;

Second reason: after our many defeats with Israel frequent pre-emptive wars we are no longer fond of imitating our valorous grandfathers. Well, may be after the Hezbollah victory we might experience a resurgence of the moustaches, hopefully left unkept and wild; or

Third reason: Nose mucus sometimes stick to moustaches along with food and other sticky materials and finger-pointing to these humiliating debris can destroy the resemblance of virility; or because the Mullahs, and religious men are no longer appetizing for the modern generations and they need to remove that visible aberration. Or because the modern sharp and safe razors, manual or electric, provided the adequate leverage for fashion alternatives.

Chapter on circumcision: The Tunisian Abdelwahab Bouhdiba wrote a chapter on circumcision.

Nothing in the Koran, what the Prophet Muhammad admonished, states anything related to the need to get circumcised or “khitan“; it is Muslims and not Islam that imposed circumcision to the conquered people who opted to join Islam.

Even in the 3,000 pages of the “Fatawa Hindiyya” or the 2,000 pages of “Ihya” of Al-Ghazali the act of circumcision was never accorded a compulsory duty, barely a “sunna” act or strongly recommended.

Al-Ghazali recommended that circumcision of boys must not be done a week after he was born as the Jew did but after the boy’s grew steady hair. The excision of girls was basically irrelevant and this act was demoted to at best a “makruma” or a pious act.

Clearly, circumcision is a tribal sign, a tattoo, for inclusion in the Muslim communities; like it is within the Jewish communities, although the Jew attached this act to the Torah in an attempt to create a tight tribal relationship.

In any case, circumcision has become the number one obligation among the Muslims and festivities of violence accompany these events.

The ceremony is an almost carbon copy to the ceremony of wedding and which could be interpreted as the preparation of the boy to matrimony, a few years earlier before the girl loses her virginity when the boy is married off.

The circumcision of a boy occurs when he is between 8 and 12 years old and the ceremony is accompanied by very loud noises to cover the crying and shouting of the victim.

The advantage of circumcision is to direct the boys away from lechery, and because the foreskin makes of the penis very sensitive and the wife would enjoy a longer copulation time when penis Not that sensitive which she usually needs and wants. Actually, getting a hard on becomes mostly an act of good imagination and a willingness to please the mate.

The author Abdu Khal wrote a section about his circumcision ceremony (brit milah in Hebrew or the cutting according to the covenant) in the early forties in South Saudi Arabia close to the borders with Yemen. Abdu was to go on pilgrimage to Mecca with his grandmother because his dad has died and he was the only male in the family; thus, he was to be circumcised first.

Abdu was to dance all the way to the open place of the “makhatina” podium for the cutting of his foreskin (orla in Hebrew), accompanied by the “zaghareeds” of the women and loud noises, then he was to stand erect, akimbo, hands on his hips and looking far in the distance; he was not to blink or swoon or flinch “takhabbab” otherwise he will bring shame to the whole family as long as he lives.

Abdu proved to be a man and asked the circumciser to cut another slice in honor of his uncle and then another slice in honor of his mother.

His mother carried him away promptly in fear that he would mutilate himself for the whole tribe.  Abdu suffered three gruesome months from infections to the wounds which festered and spread to his testicles and could have died.

The act of circumcision of the male boys (zhakar for male in both Arabic and Hebrew) seems to be a common ritual in nomadic tribes starting for hygiene reason and then taking on several structural and religious dimensions and interpretations like the prerequisite step toward learning.

The ancient Jews used to perform circumcision late and in mass ceremonies before they decided to have it the 8-day for the newly born for infection reason by observation

My personal hypothesis is that during the captivity in Babylon or other dire circumstances that prohibited mass celebrations this act was transformed and made more confined in secrecy early on.

Thus, a more public ceremony consisted on the cutting of the hair at the age of 3 when the boys are taught the Torah and the religious doctrines.

Since a woman should be kept close to her natural state and uncut, thus impure, then the boys should have something cut off, like pruning or grafting trees, so that they grow better, more knowledgeable and productive.

It appears that productivity is purely in terms of procreation since the male spend their life studying the religious doctrines and most of the work is done by the women, even earning the daily bread.

The haircutting ritual of Jewish boys at the age of three “halaka” as pronounced in Arabic was adopted from the Muslim rituals when families visited holy shrines; the Palestinian Jews (musta3rbim) spread this ritual which was primarily a Sephardic or Middle Eastern custom and the Kabala adopted it in the sixteenth century until it became widespread among the Jews in Israel.

Miron is a town near Safed where the shrine of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai is the target of the pilgrimage; the ear-locks are left intact and the rest of the head is shaved; time for the boys to start going to religious pre-schools “heyder”, wear the four-cornered undergarment, recite the Jewish statement of faith (Shema Yisrael) and accompany his father to the synagogue.

Theoretically, the boy who looked like a girl with curly hair now looks like his father “tsurat yehoudi“; the boy is now completely attached to his father, separated from the female sex, and oriented to acquiring the religious wisdom and knowledge.

It appears that during the early crusades in Medieval Europe the Jews were under pressure to convert to Christianity; the early indoctrination to Torah of the Jewish children was a counter response to inoculate the Jews from later pressures.

Note: More on other chapters in subsequent articles

 

 

Can we learn anything from Lebanon civil war (15 years)?

Note: re-editing this old article “Lebanon civil war revisited (Written in Jan 8, 2006 and published in 2008)”

I wrote in 1976 a lengthy article that was published, in two successive issues, by the university students’ newspaper of the Oklahoma Daily at Norman, on the subject of the civil war in Lebanon (the war has been less than a year in activities).

Unfortunately, I misplaced a copy of that article to compare my views with my current understanding of this calamity, although I think that I was on the right track even then.

Simply, the main facts of the civil war of Lebanon (1975-1991) points to the direction that it was an internally ignited and executed war, and entirely reinforced by external regional States in later planning, supply and logistics.

Since 1973, the Syrian regime of dictator Hafez Assad harassed Lebanon with almost impossible demands, and closed the borders for trade for 6 months in a stretch.

Basically, Assad was pissed off that the Lebanese government had decided not to declare war against Israel in September 1973, and refused to join the armies of Syria and Egypt of Sadat.

Hafez Assad wanted to have total control of the Palestinian Resistance Movement, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat (based in Lebanon).  Finally, Assad managed to control the major arms and arsenal depots of the Palestinian resistance through the Palestinian faction called Saika under the total control of Syria.

When the civil war in Lebanon started, the Palestinian forces could overrun the Lebanese army and the Phalanges Christian forces within a week, but Assad refused to open the arms depots to Arafat.

And the civil war dragged on for the coming 17 years, resulting in “religious cleansing” of major regions into self-autonomous cantons.

Since the Independence of Lebanon in 1943, our political system has been contained and maintained through the tacit alliance of the feudal, confessional and mercantile powerhouses of both the Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims.

Then and now, I am convinced that the sectarian and conservative Christian Maronite political parties, with the complete support of then President Suleiman Frangieh and the high-ranking officers of the army, decided that a civil war was the only alternative solution remaining in their hands to salvage the crumbling confessional political and social status.

I reluctantly insert reviews of our past political system, solely for the benefit of the new generations of Lebanese, who cannot perceive the continuation of the past in our worsening present system.

We can reach as far in our past and attest to the vicious cycle of short periods of self-determination, lasting half a human life, making room to centuries of subjugation.

These cycles keep springing up as unbreakable as if our destiny is a series of hopeless attempts for independence from the neighboring power houses in Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, or even Iraq before the 10th century.

I might as well start in 1969, with the unpublished agreement between Yasser Arafat and the Lebanese government on the location of the military bases of the Palestinian Resistance Movement.

The “Arkoub Land” in south Lebanon (bordering Israel) was to become a secured islands  from Lebanon law, army, and forces of order.  This agreement was signed in Cairo by Jamal Abel Nasser, Yasser Arafat, the Lebanese army chief Emil Bustany, the Prime Minister Rashid Karame and the minister of the interior Pierre Gemayel who was also the leader of the Phalanx (Kataeb) party.

Under the motto that “The strength of Lebanon is in his weakness”, secured by the charter of the United Nations, Lebanon successive governments, as early as its independence in 1943, could not agree on forming a strong army able to defend its border.

The successive governments refrained from investing in the southern regions, in the Bekaa Valley and in Akkar.  the southern “citizens” or more accurately inhabitants, of  Muslim Shia majority, did not receive any attention from the central government in the budget or development planning.

The Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims feudal and conservative leaders figured out that any troubles in the south will not significantly affect the rest of Lebanon or destabilize its confessional political system.

When Israel started to retaliate for the Palestinian rocket launching attacks from the Arkoub Land and under various pretenses, the citizens in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut forming what was called the “belt of misery” The “Dahiyat”, currently the stronghold of the Hezbollah Party.

These suburbs would have major impacts on the process of the civil war in many respects.

In the years 1969-1975, the Lebanese university students were the vanguard for significant reforms of our outdated political confessional system, and the Capital Beirut was the scene of multiple demonstrations per month demanding the governments to pay more attention to the dreams and drives of the youth for a modern and fair political system.

The Lebanese University was the hub of these demonstrations, lead by the Communists and left leaning students who succeeded in winning the elections of the student councils throughout the University branches.

The popular support for drastic reforms signaled the feasibility of changes through democratic means, which scared the confessional forces to bypass the real issues and lay our problems to the existence of the Palestinian resistance factions.

In order to rally the moderate Lebanese citizens around their status quo system, the confessional forces hammered on the prerequisite of uniting around the army, whenever premeditated incidents led to direct military confrontations on a few refugees’ camps in the Christian enclave like Dbayeh and Jesr El Basha; those same camps that former President Camille Chamoun opened and later extended the Lebanese Nationality to the Christian Palestinians to vote for him and his coalition during the Parliamentary elections.

In few instances, the army air force dusted off its archaic and limited war planes as a show of force, and twice determined to enter the camps without much political success.

It is a fact that the Maronite political parties, lead by the Phalanges party, planned the civil war, started it and refused to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.

They initiated the mass killing and genocide tactics based solely on confessional status, with the strategy of cleansing the areas of Christian majority from any Muslim or Palestinian elements.

The cleansing process went two steps further as the war continued;

First, they evacuated their areas from every Christian members affiliated to secular political parties like the Communists and the Lebanese based Syrian National Social party, and

Second, turned the guns to the Christian confessional party members (The Tiger forces and Arz forces…) who refused to unite under the banner of the unique party of “The Lebanese Forces” headed by Bashir Gemayel.

They also invited the Syrian forces to cross the Lebanese borders once their war plans failed to produce the equilibrium in military forces: The phalange territories were close to be sacked by the Nationalist and “progressive” coalition forces.

They negotiated directly with Israel, the enemy of Lebanon, and secured military logistical support in arms, ammunition and training.  In 1982, they encouraged Israel to extend their invasion to entering our Capital Beirut in order to chase the Palestinians out of Lebanon.

If it were not for Sharon’s foolish decision to chase Palestinian resistance out of Lebanon, it is very probable that Lebanon would have become a substitute de-facto State for the Palestinians.

Note:  You may select category “Testimony of civil war” in my blog for many articles on that subject.

So many Questions for the curious type

Note: I re-edited this article of 2011 “Questions, questions…Quit it! What do I know?” Actually, I am re-editing older articles that viewers are reminding me of them. Adding, correcting and updating.

At what moment eyes see?

“My new-born girl, my new-born grandchild taught me how seeing come to be.  The first few days, the new-born had vague vision.  The looking eyes focused on me, gradually acquiring primitive thinking.  Suddenly, I recognize an elaborate thinking in the eyes:  The new-born is seeing me! The vision has a meaning now” (Medical professor Yves Pouliquen).

(You can’t shed this feeling Not to be true, whatever sciences confirm)

What is the power of beauty?

“Beauty has immense power of illumination:  It is a counter-poison to reality.  Beauty permits you to appreciate reality and to love living.  Beauty resides in the domain of the dreams, an invention of the mind, a mental construct to survive.  The two dreams of beauty and love are real since we are capable of dedicating our life to them.  Beauty necessarily contains a large portion of what we consider as truth”.  (Academician Jean-Marie Rouart)

(Falling in love is transferred to failing to sleep, but Love is a notion that is consequent to consistent caring and compassion)

Are we born a man?

“We are born female.  We are inducted into manhood by rituals and customs.  It is a harsh process of indoctrination” (Eric Zemmour)

(I tend to rally to that conjecture since we are taken care of by mostly women in our upbringing. Obviously high testosterone level  might change the done in adulthood by succumbing peer-pressure and emulating the male antics)

Is writing a smile or a lament?

“Writing is our way of nodding agreement to what has taken place.  Writing is an approving prayer, a positive confirmation” (Author and politician Marc Lambron)

( I say: Voyons! Un bon livre vaut une vie: ce serait une vie pour les future generations)

Is life a real product, a scenario, or a stage production?

“Life is remodeled and sculpted every day.  Life is revisited constantly:  the dialogue, the sequence…in the stage production and are altered at each new location.  You change the location of the scene and the entire script acquires a different meaning, an alternative perspective on life” (Movie director Elie Chouraqui)

Does the past reserves surprises?

“It is mostly past recollections that extend surprises for the transformation of our stories.  Feelings are constantly metamorphosed:  What seemed like glorious best moments can become the worst events in our memory.” (Author Jean-Paul Einthoven)

Still pictures or videos?

Once we click on the camera the picture is already from the past.

If we could learn how to analyse still pictures and the emotions that transpire, our diaries and auto-biographies are enhanced in frankness and openness. Why pictures in auto-biographies are of the happy moments among family and friends?

Are we trying to hide our real feelings from the intelligent readers?

Note 2:  Those quotes are extracted from the book “Two or three things I know about them…” by Sabine de Boustros and Loris Moutran

 


adonis49

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