Thursday, August 12, 2004

Neither fear nor respect!

Since apparently the born again, reformed binging, latte hating frat boys don’t do nuances, I am going to drop the guarded observation routine and let it out straight. It wasn’t working to begin with.

I am plenty mad about the butchery in Iraq. Killing and tormenting people, in an ancient cemetery no less. This Middle Eastern initiative plan thing is going no where fast. I am telling you this as some one without an ounce of sympathy for the Shi’ia International and its Iranian branch—this murderous Occupation Authority which has been stifling life here for the past 25 years.

The reasons are both simple and complex. Let’s settle on a medium we can all connect on without much effort, Hollywood movies.

Remember your Star Trek: remember how the cloaked Klingon Ship zaps the Enterprise repeatedly with impunity until Spock improvises with one of the photon torpedoes and as the first one lands on the Klingons, the crowed goes wild, hooting and hollering in all theaters across the globe?

Remember your Lethal Weapon series? When the nasty diplomat keeps rubbing it in by saying “you can’t do that, I have diplomatic immunity?” And as he gets shot, the crowd goes wild in all theatres globally?

Well, no one likes bullies. No one likes to see relatives, friends and fellow country men and women killed, tortured and abused with impunity. No one likes to hear silly excuses as people they know are butchered and the places they roam are trashed; least of all by foreigners who have no love for what they value in life, however problematic, and don’t even bother to hide their disdain.

Deep down, though, there is a sense of fair play and justice at work here.. It is about dislike for tormenting the weak. It is, dare I say, ultimately about empathy

You can see the factor at work in any nursery you drop your kid in. One child laughs early in the morning and the whole atmosphere is light. Some days, everyone cries and you simply know it all started with only one child.

It normally takes 12 years of schooling, plus college and apparently some high powered Liberal Arts education to kill the recognition of some basic human traits in some, I am guessing. But the fact remains that no one is going to be happy watching the lopsided murder of Iraqis in this nasty summer heat.

Luckily, most interventionists have dropped all pretenses lately, which is a good thing. You can’t miss the venom, the hate and the bloodlust even if you tried. This campaign is no longer about democracy, human rights, oil or some such nonsense, even nominally.

Here is their argument as I understand it and the root of all the Usama connection musical chairs and the hype.

American power and hegemony is under threat and it is best to quash opposition once and for all. You win and win big and the herd will follow you. Humans love success stories. You crush your enemies and humiliate them and they’ll begin to see the light. Simple as that.

The justifications come in layers. Some more thoughtful ones even have the theological dimensions worked out. Weren’t the Japanese too quite the suicidal fighters? And the Germans? They were defeated first and then the whole puzzle fell in place. At some point if you humiliate the enemy long enough and you mercilessly kill enough of them, then the enemy will suddenly see the light.

Once they understand that God has abandoned them; with country and the global community caring nothing for their plight, well then… the rogues, however many of them happen to be alive by then, will have to come in from the cold and we’ll live happily ever after.


This from the geniuses who grew up in a culture which has given us one (potential) tragedy only: Death of a Salesman. Assuming, of course, that they do read at all.

Hasn’t anyone read the Esther lately? How does the Old Testament view defeats? Isn’t each defeat in war understood only as the consequence/result of having abandoned the Almighty and the tradition during the period of peace preceding the war? Islam too is rooted in the Old Testament. Each defeat is only going to strengthen the traditionalists. This is no argument against winning wars, only a cautionary note about the unintended consequences.

Yes I know, we all love and adore winners, they tell us. But most cultures agree: there is no straight forward connection between winning and goodness. That which is noble doesn’t always prevail and that which prevails is not always noble. Or else we wouldn’t have tragedies.

The Greeks of the ancient times are most clear on this. Persians too knew this well. That’s why we (the Persians and Greeks) are more alike than different. A pity some of the nicest and loudest American Classicists, when it comes to politics, miss the Greek Spirit entirely.

Death portion of men in battle is determined ultimately by Zeus’s golden scale in the Iliad. Victory passes back and forth among warriors. Even the Athenians, as Thucydides makes clear, get their due in Syracuse, but remember: who really wins the Peloponnesian wars anyways? And who executes Socrates?

This beautiful, nasty region is/has always been a killing field. The invaders, killers, the slaves and the masters come and go. We fight, we live as peaceful neighbors and we continue fighting again. And there is even a curse having to do with long-term memory.

Life is one never ending perpetual battle/humiliation here. Nothing anyone can will alter the humiliation factor qualitatively. And everyone here knows how to deal with humiliations. You put up with it the best way you can, until one day when you finally decide you have had enough and don’t want to anymore.

In the meanwhile, no one is passive really. No one is ever defeated really. Something about indomitable spirits permeating all around. Docility is a rare trait around these parts.

That’s why it is hard to get anyone to work collectively. No one wants to give in. No one wants to bend in the slightest. This is the land of belligerence, pigheadedness and abuse. Even the stereotypically sensitive and gentle Jews with pretty high standards about “purity of arms” become home demolishers and collective punishers after a couple of generations living here.

And so, here we have another round of revolt one day which is to be marked by a series of new killing fields. Then we go back to our daily routine of more humiliation and lay in waiting for the next opportunity to exact revenge. Nothing ever ends. Nothing ever changes.

Unless, of course, some fundamentals are altered. And I don’t see Americans capable of doing that with the sort of policies and this manner of execution we have witnessed in the past 16 months.

I don’t have all the answers, frankly. Look yourselves in the eyes and tell yourselves your crystal ball works any better than mine. But I am becoming more convinced about one thing.

No one can humiliate anyone into accepting defeat in this region.

You can destroy entire communities, if that’s what sets your shorts on fire, but you can’t defeat anyone. And if you destroy communities, you’re no different than the biggest thug around. And you will only hasten your turn to come. You can bet your life on that.

Look carefully at Iran. Here we experience brutality, heavy handed repression and humiliation everyday. But there is neither fear, nor respect. Only intimidation in large doses and slight hesitations. Even that doesn’t last long.

We are just waiting—all of us—in the shadows-- waiting and hoping for our next opportunity to torment our present abusers. In the meanwhile, life goes on.

So, here we have another tribe with its unique bloodlust and bigotry thrown in the mix.

In an ideal universe, those innocent/not so innocent American soldiers should be in college and/or drinking or fucking on some beach along with the rest of those frat boys and sorority girls whose parents have sent these young kids to kill and die for them in some alien land. Or, simply blowing off some steam by talking tough about how “WE are number one,” and “WE are kicking ass.”

“We” are doing no such thing, of course, but only managing to hide our fears and avoiding the much needed confrontation with the weasel within.

And those unfortunate Iraqi’s should be snoozing in some air conditioned room in that punishing 130’ heat.

But as it is, they are just going to kill and be killed in that ancient cemetery. And for what?

The rest of us, as always, are holding our breath, watching from some safe distance, hoping and praying that this madness ends without too many casualties; without too much lamentations, and with minimal tears!

Only death cults thrive in times of war and ruin. No religion is ever going to lose its grip in a milieu of murder and mayhem.

The answer is life—in all its multifaceted glorious delights. Only affirmations of life will offer us opportunities to really isolate and ultimately banish these myriad hateful, murderous gods along with their peons who only specialize in death, torture and torment.

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