Very Marginal Notes
Every time I think of Syria, my mind eventually wanders to the sight of people who’ve finally found a voice of their own, marching in the dead of night with drums; chanting, singing and raising their fists in the face of one poster that has haunted and taunted them their whole life. The collective euphoria of that night still brings a sense of serenity over me.
Another scene comes back quickly; of a morning stroll in downtown Homs. The light and the heavy sun make my eyes hurt, but they can’t wash away the anger brewing at every corner of a city preparing to bury those who died the night before. The looks of defiance, and the anticipation of things to come. A feeling of gloom, only exacerbated by the bright sizzling sun. Everywhere you looked there were tanks, APCs, armed men in uniform, armed men in leather jackets and the people they were trying to terrorize. But you knew very well that in an hour’s time, these people will be chanting at the top of their lungs, and all the guns in the world won’t keep them quiet. For we have finally reached the end of this country as we know it.
The uprising is far from being a success. In fact, as tales of revolutions go, Syria’s is –and will be– the saddest one. Stuck between a hammer and a hard place; a manifestation of authority and power, so criminal that its first instinct was to take the country a hostage to its own delusions. And us, everyone who identified with this uprising, betrayed by our own inexperience and our own demagoguery that we couldn’t take back that hostage.
The obvious measure of success for the uprising, wasn’t the undoing of the basic structures of state, society and power, rather manipulating how they manifest themselves; hardly a revolutionary ideal, but the safest one, we were convinced, for a country with a brutalised and traumatised identity that still can’t accept the decimation and marginalization it’s been subjected to throughout the past few centuries. We failed miserably in that.
Inadvertently or not so much, we oversaw a meltdown in the makeshift state that is Syria, and now we can hardly put it back together. But in a sense, that’s what revolutions are for; to create, from a fossil, an ungovernable, unmanageable moment in time and space that is fluid enough to reinvent, by its own volition, a new image of itself. It’s good for history to trample all over our petty compromises every once in a while.
For the past fortnight in Tunisia, I was asked the same question repeatedly by everyone I met. It wasn’t about the courage of those who still choose to chant under a hail of bullets; nor was it about the brutality of power; all things these people knew first hand.
They asked, how is it possible for someone to defend an oppressor against its oppressed? I find the question unanswerable, especially if one tries to replace the morally, and emotionally-charged words. How could someone defend Bashar al-Assad against Ghiath Matar?