Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘mai ghoussoub

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

 

 

Movable fairs in Beirut: 1971-74

I decided to re-edit my old article “Wonderful early 1970’s:  Movable fairs in Beirut” in order to demonstrate to the current generation in Lebanon that it is highly feasible to generate a mass upheaval as was done in Tunisia and Egypt. It is a scream against the total impunity that our politicians, in this semi-State of Lebanon, are enjoying, those militia/mafia “leaders” of our civil war, a war that no one was a victor.

Our movable fair lasted 4 years, 3 years behind Paris and Woodstock, and if it were Not for the control of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) over our political system, which diffused the purpose of the movement, Lebanon would have reformed against all odds.

Woodstock musical fiesta was organized in 1968 and disbanded three days later.  The French students revolt in Paris of 1968, then joined by the working organizations,  ended a week later. The French students revolt of 1968 was a big party with deep lucidity:  banners read “Run, comrade, run.  The old world is chasing after you.” Youth was taking a reprieve by running joyously, a week of total freedom, running as fast as he could, knowing that the old world will invariably catch up with him.

These students and youth movements crossed to Lebanon in 1970 and lingered for 5 years as movable fairs in Beirut, before the civil war set in.

I witnessed that wonderful and crazy period as a university student, witnessing far more than studying.

By 1970 I was attending university, mainly math, physics, and chemistry courses.   Once the morning courses were taken care of, I roamed Beirut freely and all alone. (Would have been more pleasurable and instructive if I had friends to join me then)

For less than 5 Lebanese pounds ($2 at the time) I could see movies, watch theater pieces, or go to the empty beaches in mid September and October, eat local sandwiches of falafel, shaworma, and freshly pressed fruits.

Most of the days I ended up attending conferences, political party meetings, joining regular demonstrations and marches by university students, sit-ins, hunger strikes on the street in front of the education ministry (I tried once for half a day).

Fleeing police tanks and water hoses, or just walking all around Beirut circulating where the “movable fairs” crossed my path, gathering of people chanting slogans against the sectarian and mercantile political system, the defeatist government, not responding to the frequent bombardment of Israel in south Lebanon...

The citizens (mostly Moslem Chiaa) in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut, mainly in Dahieh, and labelled the “Red belt of poverty” in order to flee the successive incursions of Israel, under all lame excuses.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, and its institutions were firmly established in Beirut and in a dozen Palestinian camps.  Cash in hard currency spent by the PLO and the various resistance movements maintained the Lebanese currency very strong.

In May 1972, Beirut Cinema Club in cooperation with the US Cultural Center projected a series of Orson Wells movies such as “Citizen Kane”, “The lady from Shanghai”, “Secret report”, “Satan’s touch”, and “Falstaff”.  Wells mostly recalls the negative critics: for example, a critic said that Orson shouts like a rhinoceros” when Orson played “Candid” of Bernard Show.

Wells and Charlie Chaplin might be the greatest American directors.  Wells prefers that producers invest massively on many movies, even if one of his films are not marketed.  He said: “Without men there is no art.  Without women, men never become artists”

In May 1973, the film “Red Weddings” by French director Claude Chabrol was projected in Eldorado movie theater. There was a curfew in the previous week:  The Lebanese army tried to enter the Palestinian camp of Dbayeh (mostly Christians).

A few feddayins escaped and fled through the valley of river Nahr Kalb (Dog River); and we provided them shelter for three days in Beit-Chabab and they were to resume the trip to Dhour Showier.  An ambush by the Phalange (Kataeb) Party killed several of them on the way.

Chabrol has a particular style and a deterministic view on how events should unfold:  His movies are about illicit love affairs, murder, then punishment by the “bourgeois” legal system:  that genuinely falling in-love is irrelevant and thus must be punished, one way or another.

In June 1974, “The hour of liberation has chimed.. Out colonialists” by the young woman director Heine Srour won a special acclaim in Cannes.  This movie is about the popular revolutionary struggle of the people in Zofar (Oman, Hadramout, and south Yemen) from the British colonial power and archaic monarchic structures.

Heine invested two years in preparation and shot the one-hour movie with the rudiment of equipment and finances.  Heine and three technicians walked hundreds of kilometers with the fighters under scorching sun and the bombing of British jets.

Heine conducted interviews in the local Arabic slang the “Himyari” and projected the essential roles that women shared in that revolution along the fighters.

This movie was one of the first to broach situation in other Arabic States outside of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or Palestine.  Movies on the Algerian revolution were to be produced shortly after.

In February 1975, director Borhan Awalweyeh showed his movie “Kfar Kassem“.  Hundreds of spectators remained in the theater way after midnight discussing the movie.

The film is a retrospective documentary of the genocidal massacre that Israel committed against the Palestinians in the village of Kfar Kassem in 1956 before it invaded Sinai.  Peasants returning from the fields were killed because they could not know about the curfew that the Israeli troops declared in their absence.

This movie was based on the novel of the same name by Assem Jundi.  Issam Mahfouz wrote the dialogue in the Palestinian Arabic slang.

Lebanon of 1974, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men“.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.

Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young then, but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”

Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

Arab movies of quality were being shown such as “Events of red years” by Akhdar Hamina;  “Beirut…O Beirut” by Maroun Baghdadi; “May… The Palestinians” by Rafic Hajjar; “The bird” by Youssef Chaheen; “Al Haram” by Henry Barakat; “Hold on… O Sea” by Khaled Seddik.

Karl Marx said:  ”When history repeats its cycles, the next time around is a farce.”  Spring of 68 was a sympathetic and spontaneous farce; it was an innovating and creative revolt with no arms.

Spring in Paris was a movable fair, an all free-invited party.  It was a movable feast for sharing ideas and desires for justice, peace, liberty, and pleasure. There were plenty of generosity and compassion:  Youth was feeling bored of the old world system of unjust order, capitalism, petrified ideologies and dogmas.

It was a humongous fair where affluent lifestyle in the western States of plenty hide the miseries of the lowest classes living in shantytowns.

It was in a period for the third world struggling to emerge from the slavery stage of colonialism.

Spring fairs in the western world spread to most nations where the partying lasted and lasted.

The virus of the movable feast reached countries with old systems destroyed by the colonial powers:  The newer power systems were unstable and mostly haphazard to come chasing after mass movable fairs.

Spring of 68 crossed to Lebanon and lasted 5 years and emerged on a civil war that lasted 13 years and produced 300 thousand casualties (10% of the population!)

Note 1:  Details of this introspection were supplied by Georges Al Rassi in “Stations along the trail of Lebanese and Arab movies

Note 2: This student movement in Lebanon was mostly let by the students of our public university. The public university, in Choweifat, was mostly controlled by leftist-leaning organizations, including the teaching staff. Most probably, the colonial powers got weary of the growing influence of this university that was spreading to the private universities. The right-wing parties , the president and the army were ready to confront this movement by strong arm tactics.

Note 3:  You may read more details on my next post https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/movable-fairs-beirut-1970-74/

What’s the difference among developing and developed democracies?  Successful Civil Wars?

There are major differences between developed and developing liberal democracies.  Before I expand with an example, there are three major factors for discriminating among various liberal democracies.

First, developed liberal democracies have stable and sustainable institutions to evaluating and proposing reforms based on specific programs.   Whereas developing democracies are barely skin-deep clones of previous colonial systems they are familiar with, which didn’t match the level of consciousness and awareness of the natives in real applications. Consequently, the lack of institutions to follow-up on any draft program for reforms generated haphazard systems that kept mutating as new “military” leaders came to power.

Second, developed democracies have diversified their economic bases in services, industries, and agriculture.  Statistics are kept and serious budgets are presented yearly.  This is not the case in developing “democracies”.

Third, cultural and educational activities are affordable in developed democracies.  Public libraries and community facilities are spread all over the land.  Thus, learning and culture are not exclusive to the elite classes, and common people have vast opportunities to learn and become free reflecting citizens, if they wish and want to.  This is not the case in developing democracies where activities are mostly concentrated in States Capitals.

The common denominator among the developed democracies is that they all experienced a protracted civil war with first, the objective of establishing a strong central power, and second, the alliance for a central power was the victor in the civil war.

Woo to countries waging a civil war and ending up without a definite victor. Woo to countries engaging in a civil war without a program of uniting the people and working on a vast basis of alliances among all religious sects of the middle classes.

The other main differences can be explained explicitly with examples.

Let me consider the case of Lebanon.  Lebanon experienced a savaged civil war in 1975 and lasted 13 years.   The war harvested 10% in casualties (300,000 of dead, physically handicapped, and mentally disabled individuals); it also affected 30% of the population in the forms of transfer to other localities, immigration, poverty, and family dislocation.

Before the civil war, Lebanon enjoyed a semi liberal democracy that set this State system apart from the surrounding Arab States political systems.  A semi liberal democracy means that the elite class (including the clerics of 19 religious sects) hold the levers for electing deputies and municipal councils that represent their interests: they were grabbing the power and went overboard, since major reforms could not be attained without sustained and pragmatic programs from the political movement.

Election laws are fundamentally biased toward the elite class in finance and feudal standing.

Lebanon of 1974, a year prior to the civil war, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men”.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted, and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.  Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young then but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”  Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

There were plenty of excuses, and still being voiced, laying the blame on regional and foreign powers battling for their interests and differences in Lebanon at Lebanon’s expense.  That may be the tip of the iceberg of material evidences hiding the real fundamental reasons.

Fact is, all regional and international powers had their secret agencies and services, their political parties, their dailies, magazines, airwaves and their representatives in the Parliament, executive branch and directors of public institutions.

In a fragile system based on officially recognized 19 religious sects enjoying the rights of sole civil administrators of their caste members, the “citizen” is identified by his religious sect.  The only evidence of a State in Lebanon is issuing passports to “citizens” and printing currency.

It is interesting that France and the USA were battling out the Lebanese radio airwaves.  It is reasonable to foresee what happens when reforms are voiced in demonstrations and marches when the rest of the Lebanese were entirely ignored by the central government and the political movements.

Outside Beirut, the Lebanese were living the same traditional culture as during the Ottoman Empire and organized under the caste system of religious sect and feudal landlords.

It was a great opportunity to realizing Ben Gurion strategy: “The Zionist State has two main enemies:  the religious and ethnic diversities in Lebanon and Iraq.  These two States have to be disintegrated into ethnic cantons”  Kissinger of the US and the Egyptian President Sadat made sure to keeping the fire on and pull this civil war to its devastating consequences.

Note 1: A sample of the most active cinema directors are:  Maroun Baghdadi, Jean Cham3oun, Silvio Tabet, Samir Ghossayn, Samir nasri, Berhane Alawiyeh, Heini Srour, Rafic Hajjar, Akhdar Hamina, Nabil Maleh…

Civil wars in less developed “liberal democracies”

There are major differences between developed and developing liberal democracies.

Before I expand with an example, there are 3 major factors for discriminating various liberal democracies:

First, developed liberal democracies have stable and sustainable institutions to evaluating and proposing reforms based on specific programs.   Developing democracies are skin-deep clones of colonial systems that didn’t match the level of consciousness and awareness of the natives in real applications. Consequently, the lack of institutions to follow-up on any draft program for reforms generated haphazard systems that kept mutating as new “military” leaders came to power.

Second, developed democracies have diversified economic bases in services, industries, and agriculture.  Statistics are kept and serious budgets are presented yearly.  This is not the case in developing “democracies”.

Third, cultural and educational activities are affordable in developed democracies.  Public libraries and community facilities are spread out all over the land.  Thus, learning and culture are not exclusive to the elite classes: Common people have vast opportunities to be learned and free reflecting citizens if they wish and want to.  This is not the case in developing democracies where activities are concentrated in the capitals of States. The other main differences can be explained explicitly with examples.

Let me consider the case of Lebanon. 

Lebanon experienced a savaged civil war in 1975 that lasted 13 years; the war harvested 10% in casualties of the population (300,000 among dead, physically handicapped, and mentally disabled). The wart also affected 30% of the population in the forms of transfer to other localities, immigration, poverty, and family dislocation.

Before the civil war, Lebanon enjoyed a semi liberal democracy that set this State system apart from the surrounding Arab States political systems.  A semi liberal democracy means that the elite class (including the clerics of 19 religious sects) hold the levers for electing deputies and municipal councils that represent their interests: they were grabbing the power and went overboard since major reforms could not be attained without sustained and pragmatic programs from the political movement.  Election laws are fundamentally biased toward the elite class in finance and feudal standing.

Lebanon of 1974, a year prior to the civil war, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men”.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.

Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young at the start of the war, but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”  Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

There were plenty of excuses, and still being voiced, laying the blame on regional and foreign powers battling for their interests and differences in Lebanon at Lebanon’s expense.

That may be the tip of the iceberg of material evidences hiding the real fundamental reasons.  Fact is, all regional and international powers had their secret agencies and services, their political parties, their dailies, magazines, airwaves and their representatives in the Parliament, executive branch and directors of public institutions.  In a fragile system based on 19 religious sects playing the role of civil administrators of their caste members.

It is interesting that France and the USA were battling out the Lebanese radio airwaves.  It is reasonable to foresee what happens when reforms are voiced in demonstrations and marches when the rest of the Lebanese were entirely ignored by the central government and the political movements.

Outside Beirut, the Lebanese were living the same traditional culture as during the Ottoman Empire and organized under the caste system of religious sect and feudal landlords.

It was a great opportunity to realizing Ben Gurion strategy:

“The Zionist State has two main enemies:  the religious and ethnic diversities in Lebanon and Iraq.  These two States have to be disintegrated into ethnic cantons”  Kissinger of the US and the Egyptian President Sadat made sure to pull this civil war to its devastating consequences.

It is to be noticed that successful civil wars were realized in developed nations at the time of the upheaval, such as England, France and the USA: There was always a winner.

Note 1:  A sample of authors and theater directors most active in the two years prior to the civil war in Beirut were:  Rahbani brothers, Saadallah Wanous, Nabih Abu Hassan, Dored Laham, Chouchou, Borge Vaselian, Khaldoun Tannir, Nidal Ashkar, Mohammad Maghout, Ziad Rahbani, Chakib Khoury, Maurice Maaluf, Jalal Khoury, Issam Mahfouz, Antoine and Latifeh Multaka, Ussama Aref…

Note 2: A sample of the most active cinema directors are:  Maroun Baghdadi, Jean Cham3oun, Silvio Tabet, Samir Ghossayn, Samir nasri, Berhane Alawiyeh, Heini Srour, Rafic Hajjar, Akhdar Hamina, Nabil Maleh…

Wonderful early 1970’s:  Movable fairs in Beirut

Woodstock musical fiesta was organized in 1968 and disbanded three days later.  The French student revolt in Paris of 1968 ended a week later. These student and youth movements crossed to Lebanon in 1969 and lingered for 5 years as movable fairs in Beirut.  I witnessed that wonderful and crazy period as a university student, witnessing far more than studying.

By 1970 I was attending university, mainly math, physics, and chemistry courses.   Once the morning courses were taken care of, I roamed Beirut freely and all alone.

For less than 5 Lebanese pounds ($2 at the time) I could see movies, watch theater pieces, or go to the empty beaches in mid September and October, eat local sandwiches of falafel, shaworma, and freshly pressed fruits.

Most of the days I ended up attending conferences, political party meetings, joining regular demonstrations and marches by university students, sit-ins, hunger strikes on the street in front of the education ministry (I tried once for half a day), fleeing police tanks and water hoses, or just walking all around Beirut circulating where the “movable fairs” crossed my path, gathering of people chanting slogans against the sectarian and mercantile political system, the defeatist government, not responding to the frequent bombardment of Israel in south Lebanon...

The citizens (mostly Moslem Chiaa) in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut, mainly in Dahieh, and labelled the “Red belt of poverty

The Palestinian Liberation Movement, led by Yasser Arafat, and its institutions were firmly established in Beirut and in a dozen Palestinian camps.  Cash in hard currency spent by the PLO and the various resistance movements maintained the Lebanese currency very strong.

In May 1972, Beirut Cinema Club in cooperation with the US Cultural Center projected a series of Orson Wells movies such as “Citizen Kane”, “The lady from Shanghai”, “Secret report”, “Satan’s touch”, and “Falstaff”.  Wells mostly recalls the negative critics: for example, a critic said that Orson shouts like a rhinoceros” when Orson played “Candid” of Bernard Show.  Wells and Charlie Chaplin might be the greatest American directors.  Wells prefers that producers invest massively on many movies, even if one of his films are not marketed.  He said: “Without men there is no art.  Without women, men never become artists”

In May 1973, the film “Red Weddings” by French director Claude Chabrol was projected in Eldorado movie theater.  There was a curfew in the previous week:  The Lebanese army tried to enter the Palestinian camp of Dbayeh (mostly Christians).  A few feddayins escaped and fled through the valley of river Nahr Kalb; we provided them shelter for three days in Beit-Chabab and they were to resume the trip to Dhour Showier.  An ambush by the Phalange (Kataeb) Party killed several of them on the way.

Chabrol has a particular style and a deterministic view on how events should unfold:  His movies are about illicit love affairs, murder, then punishment by the “bourgeois” legal system.  That falling in-love is genuine is irrelevant and thus must be punished, one way or another.

In June 1974, “The hour of liberation has chimed.. Out colonialists” by the young woman director Heine Srour won a special acclaim in Cannes.  This movie is about the popular revolutionary struggle of the people in Zofar (Oman, Hadramout, and south Yemen) from the British colonial power and archaic monarchic structures.

Heine invested two years in preparation and shot the one-hour movie with the rudiment of equipment and finances.  Heine and three technicians walked hundreds of kilometers with the fighters under scorching sun and the bombing of British jets.  Heine conducted interviews in the local Arabic slang the “Himyari” and projected the essential roles that women shared in that revolution along the fighters.

This movie was one of the first to broach situation in other Arabic States outside of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or Palestine.  Movies on the Algerian revolution were to be produced shortly after.

In February 1975, director Borhan Awalweyeh showed his movie “Kfar Kassem“.  Hundreds of spectators remained in the theater way after midnight discussing the movie.  The film is a retrospective documentary of the genocidal massacre that Israel committed against the Palestinians in the village of Kfar Kassem in 1956 before it invaded Sinai.  Peasants returning from the fields were killed because they could not know about the curfew that the Israeli troops declared in their absence.  This movie was based on the novel of the same name by Assem Jundi.  Issam Mahfouz wrote the dialogue in the Palestinian Arabic slang.

Lebanon of 1974, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men“.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.

Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young then, but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”

Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

Arab movies of quality were being shown such as “Events of red years” by Akhdar Hamina;  “Beirut…O Beirut” by Maroun Baghdadi; “May… The Palestinians” by Rafic Hajjar; “The bird” by Youssef Chaheen; “Al Haram” by Henry Barakat; “Hold on… O Sea” by Khaled Seddik.

The French student revolt of 1968 was a big party with deep lucidity:  banners read “Run, comrade, run.  The old world is chasing after you.” Youth was taking a reprieve by running joyously, a week of total freedom, running as fast as he could, knowing that the old world will invariably catch up with him.

Karl Marx said:  ”When history repeats its cycles, the next time around is a farce.”  Spring of 68 was a sympathetic and spontaneous farce; it was an innovating and creative revolt with no arms.

Spring in Paris was a movable fair, an all free-invited party.  It was a movable feast for sharing ideas and desires for justice, peace, liberty, and pleasure. There were plenty of generosity and compassion:  Youth was feeling bored of the old world system of unjust order, capitalism, petrified ideologies and dogmas.  It was a humongous fair where affluent lifestyle in the western States of plenty hide the miseries of the lowest classes living in shantytowns.

It was in a period for the third world struggling to emerge from the slavery stage of colonialism.

Spring fairs in the western world spread to most nations where the partying lasted and lasted.

The virus of the movable feast reached countries with old systems destroyed by the colonial powers:  The newer power systems were unstable and mostly haphazard to come chasing after mass movable fairs.

Spring of 68 crossed to Lebanon and lasted 5 years and emerged on a civil war that lasted 13 years and produced 300 thousand casualties (10% of the population!)

Note 1:  Details of this introspection were supplied by Georges Al Rassi in “Stations along the trail of Lebanese and Arab movies

Note 2:  You may read more details on my next post https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/movable-fairs-beirut-1970-74/

“I killed Scheherazade” by Joumana Haddad

“Let me warn you from the start:  I don’t facilitate life.  If you are reading this book with prejudices such as: truths that you think you do know; proofs that you think you have gathered; being confronted with your vision of the orient; being reassured of your anti-Arab prejudices; hoping to read of the constant civilization clash; confirmations of your Arab women idiosyncrasies then, stop reading here and there.”

Joumana Haddad had published a magazine on women erotic body called “Jassad” or Body.

A foreign woman journalist asked Joumana in 2008: “How an Arab woman came to publish an Arabic magazine as controversial as Jassad? Most western people cannot imagine that there exist Arab Women as liberated as you are.”   Joumana replied defensively: “I don’t view myself as exceptional.  There are plenty of liberated Arab women.  If the western people ignore our existence, as you mentioned, then it is your problem, not ours.

That day, Joumana felt upset and she had the idea of going through all the fragments of her articles, personal notes, and ventured into the job of writing and publishing this book.

Joumana has the phobia of the whistling sound of incoming missiles or cannon balls.  She has no love affair with Beirut since she never crossed to West Beirut during the 15 years of civil war and because Beirut has no longer any particular culture.

I had the impression from the comments of the dailies that this book is an autobiography or a serious introspection study.  The book is fundamentally a set of essays on women, Arabs and non-Arabs.   They are good essays:  For example, you have essays on:

Young Arab woman reading Sade’s books” beginning with writer May Ziade‘s saying: “Books are the unique places where two strangers can meet in complete intimacy”;

“Women Arabs with no homeland” and the saying of Fatima Mernissi: “Absence of clear vision for the future is one of the main tragic obstacles confronting Arabs”;

“Arab women writing erotic poems” and starting with Nawal Saadawi saying: “A better world is impossible as long as our spirit, our body, and our language on women are not liberated“;

“Arab woman creating a magazine on the body”;

“Arab woman redefining its femininity” starting with the saying of Khalida Said: ” Not a single change in the hierarchy of power, actions against satanizing of women,  her exclusion from the workforce, education and centers of struggle is feasible as long as women have not entered the fields of activities, shouldered by her will, and her individual choice”;

“Arab woman not fearing provoking Allah” beginning with Wajeha Al-Huwaider saying: “I will continue demanding the rights of Saudi women as long as Saudi men are not brought to police stations for driving cars, women denied wearing comfortable garment, men not wearing veils and black cloths, and men having but two locations: Home and the tomb”;

“Arab woman saying NO and living it” introduced by Fadwa Touqan’s saying “I will never cease being free; I will chant the desires of my spirit in chains and my face rubbing in earth; my chant will pour out from the deep”

“Am I an Arab woman?”  Many women wear whatever they want, go wherever they desire, say their mind freely, are not illiterate, oppressed, and not submitted.  No men deny us riding cars, bicycles, motorcycle, or airplane.  Many of us are professionals and go to their work; we are active, have great salaries surpassing professional men.

We don’t live in tents, ride camels, and cannot belly dance.  We resemble so much to any foreign women.  Apparently, statistics shows that only 10,000 out of 200 million Arabs read poetry although 4 times that number claim to be poets.

It is good to read essays of May Ziade, Laure Moghaizel, Hoda Chaarawi, Etel Adnan, Mai Ghoussoub, Fatima Mernissi, Khalida Said.  It is interesting to read the novels of Ahdaf Soueif, Alawiya Sobh, Hoda Barakat, Hanan el-Cheikh, and Sahar Khalifeh.  You are encouraged to see the art works of Zaha Hadid, Mona Hatoum, Helen Khal, and Ghada Amer.

It is a joy reading the poems of Joyce Mansour, Saniya Saleh, , Nazek al Malaika, Nadia Tueni, and Fadwa Toukan.

You will thrilled by the pieces of theater of Jalila Bakkar, Raja ben Ammar, Lina Khoury, Darina el-Joundi, and Nidal al-Ashkar.  You will apreciate the movies of Jocelyne Saab, Randa Shahhal, Danielle Arbid, Layla al-Marrakshi.

Would Jumana reaches a stage of awareness for a serious introspection of her limitations, weaknesses, and foibles? I believe introspection is necessary to resuming a career of a writer:  Jumana might later be capable to strive for universality.

If Joumana is writing a diary then this is a fantastic initiation to honestly baring her spirit and sharing with mankind the deepest difficulties that women have to face and challenge.

Note 1:  My 12 year-old niece asked me “why a woman would like to kill Scheherazade?  She told the story of Sindbad and she saved thousands of women who would have died if she were not a good story-teller”

Sure, I will tell Joumana not to try killing Scheherazade again?  I wish I had  Scheherazade to keep me company.

Note 2:  I overheard that Joumana was on the diploma panel of a woman student submitting her final project.  This student displayed her magazine project along with all the necessary details.  Joumana stole the project without the consent of the graduate student and applied it and published it as her own as “Jassad”.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2020
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