September 17, 2008

"Arabia Felix" in search of Herself...

Just yesterday, in the comment section, the name of Arabia Felix popped up. Arabia Felix was originally coined to designate the Yemen, and then became some sort of orientalist cliché for the whole of Arabia. Arabia the Happy One or L'Arabie Heureuse.

L'Arabie is far from being heureuse, thanks to the Orientalists and Colonialists of this world. L'Arabie is bleeding on all levels - moral, political, financial, ecological, social and spiritual...from the individual to the collectivity, from the child to the elderly... Denial comes in handy, a necessary defense mechanism. A wishful thought, an ostrich...

And there are no sheer coincidences in "Arabia." I have noticed that, on numerous occasions.

At times it scares me, as if the mere mention of a name, a word, will trigger an event, an incident, and confirm the deep suspicion, or simply shed light on more truths unravelling themselves before my very eyes.

This has forced me to become cautious in my writings, choosing subjects carefully, mentioning names and places with extreme reverence, for I know, as it has happened over and over, that sooner than later, something will happen along the same lines...

I have tested this almost ethereal connection. Take for instance Arabia Felix - Yemen, and a few hours later a bomb goes off at the American Embassy in Yemen, followed by a statement from Bush to the effect - This is a reminder that we are still at war with Extremists. Referring to Yemen, and by implication to Arabia as whole...

Yemen has been experiencing for quite some time some serious sectarian conflicts in some of its tribal areas and now this.

I have become superstitious, politically superstitious. I don't think I possess an uncanny ability to tap into the unknown, it is more like a very predictable agenda, scenario, plot, unfolding...I just sense it first, by connecting the dots.

At times I feel I, we, in " Arabia" are dealing with forces beyond politics, with dark forces beyond our grasp and beyond our control. It feels almost like some battle on some other level, an almost astral one.

The rational part in me likes to dismiss this kind of "hocus pocus", arming itself with theories and empirical facts. The other part of me, the "Arabian" part, believes that a decisive battle is taking place, on many fronts and on many levels, some of which I cannot full comprehend. It is indeed beyond politics and culture, beyond the "clash of civilizations"...

So yes, somewhere along the lines, I do understand the "Islamic" response, because deep in the collective psyche of "Arabia", Islam as a -- concept /thought or way of cognizance or life (not merely a personal system of religious beliefs) can appear as the only viable anchor, reference and defense.

It is not some archaic response as some like to believe. Sure, it is cultivated and played upon by politics and politicians with their own specific ideological agenda. However, it does resonate and strike many chords in the collective psyche and also provides a buffer, both temporal and spiritual from these external attacks, these incessant attacks on the "Arabian body."

And this "Body" has not been given respite. Assailed, constantly assailed, it has no time to reflect and no time to heal. It has no time and no space to find "rational" solutions, it reacts by falling back onto what it knows best or more aptly said -- on what it is most intimate with. Like some inner force that has been relegated to some private domain but has now come to the forefront, filling a vacuum and affirming itself.

And I may add that what it knows best or this resurgent force may not prove to be such a bad thing after all, maybe a necessary stepping stone - despite all of its downsides, a necessary and vital stepping stone to protect that "Arabian Body" or what is left of it. Unless of course, you are a partisan of new labour pangs and monstrous deliveries -- the new born Arabian Frankenstein.

Of course, we can discuss for days, the role of "Islam" particularly in its political dimension, and we may not reach any conclusion. But it seems to me, that "political Islam" (under its different shades and colors), as a counter force will have to be reckoned with, both on an individual and collective level. It may look like an impasse but it may also be a blessing. This is all open to debate.

And I invite Arabs in particular, to take a break from the bleeding "body", to use this blog as a starting point, a mini forum if you like, and start brainstorming, exchanging and hopefully conceptualizing, inventing, creating, a political model -- a culturally, historically specific, political model that may one day give birth to an Arabie Heureuse.

Painting : Iraqi artist, Kareem Farhan.