Friday, October 20, 2006

The Ramadan of delirium

Ramadan 2006. Days go fast, you work less hours yet you feel more tired even when you are religiously not fasting. Things don’t get done, document drag without a new redline version for the eternity of 72 hours, sacrilegious state of affairs!

What is it with this month that makes you so angry and you chafe easily when people rub you the wrong way. You are trigger happy with expletives; tolerance level in down to micron level, smoking gun is in your first drawer. You go up to 220km/hour at Iftar time trying to reach the meal in time, even when you snacked an hour ago, the mindset is one of little patience and even less decorum.

You lose track of your priorities in the haze of the shisha smoke, you relate to current event only on subliminal level, you are dehydrated of energy, soul, and intelligent thinking. You blame the TV series, the occasional indulgence of Katayef, the constant Sahar to wee hours, and the bipolar extremes of feigned piety and indulgence, ever in their weird tango.

The region’s multiple sores of conflicts becomes the daily routine and the news reel sounds recycled from yesterday or 25 years ago, the Lebanonization of Iraq, the Iraqization of Palestine, the polarization in Lebanon, and a silent shameful murder in Sudan. You lose track of who requested a national unity government whether it was Abbas or Michel Aon, who is the puppet and who is the puppet master in Iraq. You are bombarded by the defiant words of Nasarallah,Sadr, Hanieh, and Ahmadi Najad. The distinction between a historic victory and an unmitigated disaster depends on your political affiliation.

You look abroad and see millions of Europeans genuinely afraid of the Islamic war of conquest, the tyranny of the sword as the voice of the religion and the hordes of immigrant on their doors, of the Hijab as the face of the difference, and of potential enemies in their midst. In your region, the feeling of siege is also omnipresent, the religion is attacked as fascist, the prophet is ridiculed, and the image of the ordinary citizen is equated with the suicide bomber. And both are right.

In the midst of this weird concoction, you travel around the region and see booming cities, rising middle class (despite all the argument to the contrary), and an advance of many aspects of modernity. Nothing is pure of distortion and substance is often lacking, but the progress is real. Same time, political, social, and often psychological progress is retarded. Is it bread before democracy? Or bread sans democracy? Right now in Palestine democracy has brought hunger and anarchy, and in Lebanon it brought stalemate. In Doha, Riyadh and Kuwait city, the boom is a new Arab renaissance, as demonstrated by glass and steel towers designed by westerners and built by Indians.

You process all of the above, and the anger is explained, but if the region has succeeded in producing (and exporting) a product, it is angry young (and graying) men and women. Can anger be channeled in a positive way, does it always has to be directed against a real or an imagined enemy? Can hope be extracted from the jaw of inertia?

No use, more questions than answers. In an environment where you usually go straight on a T-junction, that is typical currency of discourse.

Will the Eid bring hope, truces and some national and regional consensus? Will we break the soul’s fast with a feast of mediocrity, as always? Is status quo ante better than what tomorrow will bring us on the screens of Al-Jazeerah?

Eid’s new clothes will be regular ones in a week, that is all the answer that I know.