Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘absolute monarchies

Has The Syrian Revolution lost it cause? Supported by all these absolute monarchies and colonial powers?

What went wrong with the initially valid causes for the Syrian uprising? Where did insurgents go wrong? How did a once inspirational and noble popular uprising calling for freedom and basic human rights degenerate into an orgy of bloodthirsty sectarian violence, with depravity unfit for even animals?

Was it inevitable and wholly unavoidable, or did it not have to be this way?

I posted more than two dozen articles on the Syria and the current upheaval, and it is refreshing to read Edward Dark‘s article.

Edward Dark, a pseudonym for a Syrian currently residing in Aleppo, posted for Al-Monitor on May 28.

The simple answer to the above question is the miscalculation (or was it planned?) of Syrians taking up arms against their regime, a ruthless military dictatorship, held together by nepotism and clan and sectarian loyalties for 40 years of absolute power.

Former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford specifically warned about this in his infamous visit to Hama in the summer of 2011, just as the city was in the grip of massive anti-regime protests and before it was stormed by the Syrian army. That warning fell on deaf ears, whether by design or accident, and we have only ourselves to blame.

Western and global inaction or not, we are solely responsible for our broken nation at the end of the day.

Nietzsche once said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” (The same is true when your objective is the end goal and you totally neglect how to treat people in the process…)

That has proved to be very prophetic in the Syrian scenario.  Away from all the agendas, whitewashing, propaganda, and outright lies of the global media stations, what we saw on the ground when the rebel fighters entered Aleppo was a far different reality. It hit home hard. It was a shock, especially to those of us who had supported and believed in the uprising all along. It was the ultimate betrayal.

To us, a rebel fighting against tyranny doesn’t commit the same sort of crimes as the regime he’s supposed to be fighting against.

The revolutionary rebel doesn’t loot the homes, businesses and communities of the people he’s supposed to be fighting for.

Yet, as the weeks went by in Aleppo, it became increasingly clear that this was exactly what was happening.

Rebels would systematically loot the neighborhoods they entered. They had very little regard for the lives and property of the people, and would even kidnap for ransom and execute anyone they pleased with little recourse to any form of judicial process.

The Syrian rebels would deliberately vandalize and destroy ancient and historical landmarks and icons of the city.

They would strip factories and industrial zones bare, even down to the electrical wiring, hauling their loot of expensive industrial machinery and infrastructure off across the border to Turkey to be sold at a fraction of its price. Shopping malls were emptied, warehouses, too.

They stole the grain in storage silos, creating a crisis and a sharp rise in staple food costs.

They would incessantly shell residential civilian neighborhoods under regime control with mortars, rocket fire and car bombs, causing death and injury to countless innocent people, their snipers routinely killing in cold blood unsuspecting passersby. As a consequence, tens of thousands became destitute and homeless in this once bustling, thriving and rich commercial metropolis.

But why was this so? Why were they doing it?

It became apparent soon enough, that it was simply a case of us versus them. They were the underprivileged rural class who took up arms and stormed the city, and they were out for revenge against the perceived injustices of years past.

The motivation of this rebel wasn’t like ours, it was not to seek freedom, democracy or justice for the entire nation, it was simply unbridled hatred and vengeance for themselves.

Extremist and sectarian in nature, they made no secret that they thought us city folk in Aleppo, all of us, regime stooges and sympathizers, and that our lives and property were forfeit as far as they were concerned.

Rebel profiteer warlords soon became household names, their penchant for looting and spreading terror among the populace inducing far more bitterness and bile than what was felt against the regime and its forces.

Add to that terrible fray, the extremist Islamists and their open association with Al-Qaeda (Takfiriyeen) and their horrific plans for the future of our nation, and you can guess what the atmosphere over here felt like: a stifling primordial fear, a mixture of terror and despair.

So who was “us,” and why did we feel that we were any different or better?

By “us” I mean, and at the risk of sounding rather elitist, the civil grassroots opposition movement in Aleppo, who for months were organizing peaceful protests and handing out aid at considerable danger and risk to our own lives.

“We” truly believed in the higher ideals of social and political change, and tried to emulate them.

We tried to model ourselves on the civil rights movement of the US in the 1960s, Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, and the teachings of Gandhi: precisely what similar civil movements in other Arab Spring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt had done before.

For “us,” a revolution was a slow, deliberate and committed struggle for change.

Like water drops repeatedly beating down on a boulder, eventually we would break it.

But for “them,” (particularly the foreign takfir mercenaries), their idea of change was throwing a ton of TNT at that boulder and having it, and everything around it, blown to smithereens. “We,” well, we mostly came from the educated urban middle class of the city.

We came from all walks of life, all sects and all areas, and we didn’t care.

We never asked where that guy or girl was from or what they worshiped. Each one of us gave and contributed what we could, in the capacity we could.

The leader of our group was a young Christian lawyer, a very active and dedicated young woman. The rest of the volunteers in our group were a microcosm of Syrian society; veiled girls, Shiite boys, rich kids and poor working class all working together for ideals we strongly shared and believed in.

Over the course of our activist work, some of our group were jailed and injured, one was killed. That is why it never hit home so hard, and never have I felt as sad as when, shortly after Aleppo was raided by the rebels, I received messages from some of those people I used to work with. One said, “How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!” and another said, “Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred.”

It was around about that time that I gave up on the revolution, such as it had become, and saw that the only way to Syria’s salvation was through reconciliation and a renunciation of violence. Many felt this way, too.

Unfortunately, that is not a view shared by the warmongers and power brokers who still think that more Syrian blood should be spilled to appease the insatiable appetites of their sordid aspirations.

Even as activists, intellectuals, businessmen, doctors and skilled professionals fled the city in droves, others remained and still tried to organize civil action in the form of providing aid and relief work to the countless thousands of families that were now internally displaced inside their own city in desperate conditions. But it was clear that it was becoming futile. Everything had changed; it would never be the same again.

This is what it has come down to in Syria:

It’s us versus them everywhere you go. Opposition versus regime, secular versus Islamist, Sunni versus Shiite, peaceful versus armed, city versus rural, and in all of that cacophony the voice of reason is sure to be drowned out. Whatever is left of Syria at the end will be carved out between the wolves and vultures that fought over its bleeding and dying corpse, leaving us, the Syrian people to pick up the shattered pieces of our nation and our futures.

Do we have recourse to blame anyone but ourselves for this? Was this our destiny, or the cruel machinations of evil men?

Perhaps a future generation of Syrians will be able to answer that question.

Edward Dark tweets at @edwardedark.

Happiness is a modern concept? What the ancient philosophers were talking about…?

In 1794, the young and radical French revolutionary Saint-Just proclaimed at the Convention: “Happiness is a new idea in Europe“.  Saint-Just was a learned man and must have read the documents and discussions of the leaders of the American Revolution and the concept that happiness is a natural right for every citizen. Was this idea of happiness similar to the one understood in Europe?

After the French Revolution, there were ideas thrown around that all citizens were entitled to eat properly, enjoy health, free time for leisure, appropriate retirement conditions…

What substituted happiness in Europe before the French Revolution?

Before the revolution, the little people were invisible and were of no concern to the nobility in these absolute monarchies, except when famine hits and the power feels the heat…

The ancient philosophers and the succeeding thinkers viewed happiness as “a way of living”, guided by virtue and reason, in relative indifference to material possession and worldly successes. It was out of the question that idiots can be considered to be happy…

It was not conceivable to claim happiness if you believed that it could have an end: Happiness was a concept directly linked to a faith in eternity and immortality.

Happiness was irreducibly an elitist acquisition, reserved for those who had the mental and material means to become wise and leisurely contemplate nature and the living people…

What could be the meaning and value of Happiness in modern time?

The “utilitarian” vision of happiness (Jeremy Bentham) proclaimed that happiness is in essence the absence of pains and aches, and the satisfaction of individual preferences can come in any order…The goal of  the activities of individuals is the greater happiness possible within the greater number of mankind “the common good”.

This “democratization” of happiness, at the reach of the little people, was denuded of its sacred meanings, detached of its religious connotations, not opposite to ephemeral and artificial pleasures…

Like what kinds of modern pleasures?

Smoking marijuana, taking cocaine, morphine, hallucinogenic products, Prozac…watching action movies, scary movies, science fiction movies…all kinds of musics, concerts, all kinds of variety of food, visiting remote regions, seeing new cultures and civilization…wearing variety of clothes…engaging in a variety of physical activities and sports…

The German philosopher Kant tried to demonstrate that happiness bears No Moral meaning. For example, there are so many objective desires that people aspire to, such as wealth, glory, power…Can we agree that these “values” are at best controversial and not evident to the little people? So many exploiters and tyrants have been swimming in happiness

How happiness was characterized before the French revolution?

1. Epicure (341-270 BC) taught in his Garden to oppose the rigor of stoicism, and to converge toward a moral of moderation “Let’s not jump into any kinds of pleasure…There is no agreeable living without a hefty dose of prudence, honesty and justice…”

2. Seneca (4 BC-65) The individual should be capable of combining reason and character in order to find pleasure from his physical faculties “I am after happiness of man and not of his stomach…”

3. Leibniz (1646-1716): “Evil exists. Considering Creation as a whole, God did his best…The grain suffer in the soil before bearing fruits…Our suffering lead the way to the good, to the greater perfection…”

4. Spinoza (1632-1677): “The essence of mankind is the desire to be happy, to live good, and to act good…The only access to happiness is to know what determine our passions in the natural order of the universe…”

And what are the visions of happiness after 1789?

5. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). All the pleasures are Not of equal values. It is better to be an unhappy Socrates rather than a happy imbecile. Individual happiness is not complete if the common good is forgotten and neglected…

6. Nietzsche (1844-1900): “Who cannot learn to take a break to forget the past, to enjoy the moment, will never appreciate happiness, and will never learn how render others happy…There is a level of insomnia, of rumination, and of historical meaning that ruin the living person and annihilate his happiness…”

7. Georges Bataille (1897-1962): “If happiness is a reaction to the call of desire, and if desire is a caprice incarnate…then happiness is the sole moral value…”

8. Michel Foucault (1926-1962): “Abstinence that leads to individual sovereignty is happiness without desire and without trouble…”

Many modern critiques and thinkers made it a business (publishing books of how to be happy…) to fall back into the archaic version of “learning to be happy…” Kind of  “if we know how to enjoy life in the cheapest way possible…” happiness can be in the reach of everyone…(except those dying of famine and of common diseases…?)

All that talks of ancient and modern ideas of happiness have no sense if not described and explained within the proper context of the period and culture. For example:

1. How an individual with a life expectancy of no more than 30 years can conceive of happiness?

2. How an individual living in the harshest conditions to survive may experience happiness?

3. How the European under absolute monarchies and with a life expectancy not surpassing 40 years could comprehend the idea of happiness?

4. How all those cow-boys of the Far West experienced the meaning of happiness?

5. Was happiness the same before, during and after the Chinese revolution?

6. Was happiness experienced in the same quality before, during and after the British dominion of India?

7. Has happiness the same meaning and value before and after the “Industrial Age“?

8. Has happiness the same meaning and value during this instant communication and traveling facilities?

9. Don’t you think as life expectancy reaches 80 years that happiness requires extensive planing and preparation as we hit retirement age? What can you do without talent after 60?  How can you be happy if your eye sight goes and your hearing capacity dwindle?

The next article intends to describe the feasibility of experiencing “happiness” within the proper context…

Note: Post inspired from a study by Ruwen Ogien in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur #2490


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