Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

With a magic carpet flying over the Middle East in 2012


The poetess Najet Adouani in Tunis writes that "troubles are everywhere now, nobody is happy, clouds are covering the blue, birds can't sing free as before."

If that is the case, what are the reasons for the set-backs or why an incomplete revolution from below can be transformed so easily into something else?

No doubt, countries without a strong democratic tradition will have a tendency to fall back on what they know best: servitude and autocratic use of power. But there is more to that than judging political developments in the Middle East are anything but bleaque.

There is Syria engulfed in what some call a civil war. With an estimated over 70 000 dead, that conflict has reached a magnitude which is hard to imagine. Alone the destruction of cities like Aleppo with its world heritage in the form of an ancient market place makes one wonder what besets people to do that? There has to be added something else. It seems impossible to realize in the twenty-first century, in our modern world in full transition, to fulfil the humanistic dream.

Some go even so far to say 'humanism' has been all but defeated both as idea and as belief in man and woman as human beings who can find a way out of conflicts and reconcile with each other. Why can this dream of love between man and woman not be realized?

The Syrian protest started peacefully but then too many demonstrators were shot and killed. The army did not mediate as had been the case in Egypt but instead stood firmly on the side of Assad. That alters the magnitude of the destruction which includes bombing 'own people'. If a cultural diverse country rich in many cultures like Syria turns into such an ugly place, then it reflects that many things which could uphold human and social relations have been neglected for too long. Above all, the neglect means a system which does not allow for a peaceful questioning of power and more specifically of abuse of power. Therefore the way to free elections to allow for a peaceful transition of power, as so often preached by Western powers, has not be found, and this again for many reasons.

In societies dominated by religion and various forms of collective loyalities, the role of sacrifice for the sake of the whole, may that be the king in power or the country, is crucial to understand why misgivings can be cultivated over time. For sacrifice is linked to martyrs but if without a chance of resurrection as would be the case in the Christian religion, there is no way out of this trap but for a new form of corruption. When Khomeiny waged the Iranian war against Iraq, he promised each family which would sacrifice one child as mine sweeper to be given the honor of sending another child to university. This was the religious version of the Communist system which pretended to send workers' children to university, while those of the Middle or privileged classes in the past were exempted. Still, in a non secular society, salvation is hardly possible and therefore being redeemed for a life lived so far ruled out. There is no chance to get any compensation while still alive. All what is promised is a life in heaven. It has no equivalent sense to real compensation. There is only an after life which the power holders promise to be better than the one on earth and thereby make the sacrifice worthwhile.

The illusionary power which can propel this kind of thinking has to be of a different religion able to use a language where images are hidden behind not darkened windows but veils and closed doors. Mysterious is then even daily life. Only winds shall pound against this attempt to shut out an open life in public. That means doing and undoing a personal identity in communication with others is done professionally under quite different terms. Everyone has to survive but it is unsure under what code and ethical concern as the secterian compassion plays in these regions with a huge cultural diversity as well a decisive role.

Resounding voices heard when in dialogue with those living through the aftermaths of the Arabic spring allow the imagination to follow again the flight of the bird but now wounded and who knows if it will soon be unable to fly any further. The handicap is how power defines itself through a collision of interests under terms having nothing to do with anything but wishing to gain in influence. The latter can mean linkages to outside forces wishing to influence and to shape the region. Thus the latest word coming out of Syria after a delegation from Iran paid a visit to Assad is that there exists now something like an 'axis of resistance' against all other forces whether local or international. The evocation of such a term like 'axes' is that it reminds of how Hitler in linkage to Japan used it or how then President Bush would denounce an axis of 'evil' to justify the going to war first in Afghanistan, than in Iraq and ever since in its wake has come sectarian violence. The newest variation of that is only rebels fighting Assad and his regime post their latest actions on Facebook as a means to gain financial support for what they wish to continue to do. Any journalist in the region has already difficulties in figuring out what this Shakespearian like landscape entails, and even if it is much about nothing, the results speak almost by themselves: more refuge camps in Jordan, Turkey, Yemen and Lebanon being filled up with people fleeing Syria while elsewhere the youth dreams of living not close to home but in Europe or North America. Such projections are important to consider as to what shall be the future of the region.


To reaccount: there was first Tunesia, then came Egypt. It was called the Arabic spring, but then came the military intervention in Libya and now the violent conflict in Syria lasting over more than 18 months.

The hopeful sign of the 'blue bird' in the Middle East' being heard in Egypt as sign of political maturation in 2011 has been replaced by new despair, violence and extremism. The poetess Najet Adouani writes about the current state of affairs as "troubles are everywhere now, nobody is happy, clouds are covering the blue, birds can't sing free as before."

What has happened? Why the surge of the Salafists and the tendency towards an extreme version of religious law as if this can promise a better way of governing than what was before the case?

For outsiders the Middle East has always been a puzzle, an evasive region with many hidden alleys and enchanting eyes behind veils. When Kapuscinski knew no longer how to judge events in Etiopia, he simply resorted to literature, in order to let intuition and the imagination do the talking. Finding out some truths in the making shall not be simple, but then there is this invitation by Najet Adouani.

"We fly over all the events to see what happens", proposes the poetess Najet Adouani, and she means by that to do so with "a magic carpet so that we can travel into the depth of the history!"

"But what about the inner need for survival?", I asked her. "Is that not linked to upholding the highest code of ethics possible, even when that would mean a denial of love as it would threaten to undermine the code of the inner circle in power? That question relates to an article about King Arthur and his fateful ending. The king of the round table of knights recognized his true love who had been fighting him all his life long only when first he, then she were mortally wounded."

Najet Adouani response was immediate: "Answers are found where the real and the legend come together and make that harmony possible which is reflected in how every person relates to his or her feelings".

And the poetess in her exclaims: "I like this kind of writing where things have more than one meaning, so that reading the story is like a wonderful promenade by the sea side at sunset."

About interpretation of what is going on in the Middle East, she adds a word of caution: "Of course behind each image there is another meaning which takes one into the present or to what is going on now. If we only change names, we can find the same persons acting out a new role, one which is also inspired by that distant one in the past, and this is so because the two paradoxes prevail: love and hate are always here, we can't erase one of them."

She has written many novels about this hate-love drama and reminds which writers have been drawn to the Arab world by taking such a trip on the magic carpet.


To start with, when flying over the Middle East, no compass is needed. The carpet knows the contours of the earth better than anyone. Dragged often enough over the ground when taking out to be aired, the carpet had suffered under many feet approaching the ruler. Many of them had daggers in their cloaks and listy eyes. None wanted to tell the truth.

At that time the carpet had held a sleep for many years.

To be brought out now to carry us two through the air, that was itself a feat of the poetess whose voice would recall how many others had tried this before. They never succeeded for it does take magic words to make the carpet wake up and be ready to fly.

In visual terms often Arabic cities are shown to loom suddenly out of the desert and the first things to be seen are the overarching minarette towers. It symbols religion plays a huge role in the lives of those who have become rightful dwellers of this holy place. Shrines and archways aside, the streets are often not straight but reflect the curvatures of the earth. Darkness descends as if golden dust falls onto the shoulders and makes them sense the work of the day has been quite heavy. The shoulders ache and the throat is dry. Hardships abound but also do certain pleasures. That is revealed again by listy eyes.

For any stranger to dare entering these narrow alleys leading to the main market place is a risk, at least in this phantasy world. No one knows your face but all watch with keen eyes as if they know already what is going to happen next.

That is why flying with the carpet is safer than risking a misleading step and then never getting out of the labyrinth.



Athens 10.8.2012

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