May 23, 2011

An Absent Future...

Been without a computer for quite some time, a loving hacker decided to silence me again, hoping maybe I will lose the ability to put in words...he/she sort of succeeded, because after such an absence, I feel am a like a beginner again...even though it has not been all that long...or has it?

I don't know, I have lost count of Time, the Future, I have no vision for. I live one day at a time and go where the winds take me...

It might come across as strange for those who plan ahead, the famous - 1 year, 2 years, 5 years plan...how can one not plan for the future they wonder ?
I did not plan for the occupation, so why should I plan for the future ?

This has become my modus operandi.

When people ask me about the future, I just shrug and say - I don't know, maybe, maybe not, perhaps, we shall see, Inshallah, who knows, no guarantees...I noticed these are idioms I use often, almost automatically...like they have become part of my being.

I am not sure, maybe I am afflicted by some endemic Fatalism, where I have been robbed of the possibility of conceptualizing the Future. Or maybe, the Future in my mind is tied to Iraq and hence I see nothing but bleakness...

Not long ago, I promised someone that I was going to do my best to remain optimistic. Seeing that am constitutionally incapable of that, we struck a deal. I am allowed to retain my pessimism but only 40% of it. It worked for a few days until I met some fellow Iraqis, who paid me an impromptu visit.

We took a short break to breathe - he said.

I felt guilty, for several reasons...but mainly because I was secretly devising a strategy of interrogation and I knew the last thing he wanted was to be grilled with questions...because grilled he was, some years ago. He still screams in the middle of the night...

I felt guilty like a voyeur who realizes how intrusive his acts are...yet I could not stop myself...it was part curiosity, part reconnecting...reconnecting with something I try very hard to blot out, yet a something that remains alive, demanding to be addressed and recognized...fully recognized.

So I cajoled my way into territories that no one cares to visit no more...I wheedled my way into an imposed silence, a silence within and without, with the most innocuous, almost banal - how are you and how are things ?

Things - things are objects, hence the necessary distance...things can mean just about anything...it's an open ended question - with things.

Trying to go beyond the Hamdullilah - Thank God for everything line, I probed more...discreetly so...leaving the personal as the last item on the list of things.

This reticence to speak, I have observed it many times, it's as if the message is - why are you opening our wounds ? And my reply, even non verbal, is - they are already wide open.

I see them in the distance that separates us, in the forced smiles, in the sigh that breaks the silent pause. I see them in the eyes. I see them in the pair of shoes that is too worn out and can't afford to be replaced. I see them in the murmurs between you about "how much things cost, and how long can we afford to stay". I see them when you look out of the window and I can tell that the scenery, a scenery free of bombs, silencer guns and beggars - makes you long yet fills you with guilt...

I can tell, because I have learned to read the silence like an open book...I can tell because I stood there like you did, torn inside, longing for peace and longing for hell...

You and I shove the split, the schizophrenia of this dual reality, and pretend to be normal...this dual reality where we have been cornered into a position of total silence because still ruled by fear...the fear of saying things as they are...the fear of punishment, the fear of rejection, the fear of judgement,the fear of labels...the fear instilled by the ideology of political correctness with severe consequences in your case, should you break it, should you say that you as a Sunni Arab, you have been stripped of all of your rights, that you can't and others like you can't even hope for an employment because of your sect, that if you convert to theirs, or pay allegiance to one of their parties and their ideology they will back you and open doors for you, that the city you grew up in is now divided into Karkh and Russafa and that Russafa is your ghetto, that the mosque that your ancestors built has been appropriated and is now - a Shiite only - place of worship, that you have even been excluded from praying in the place that you tended and swept with devotion...because you are not one of them...

You fear, or maybe you just want to live the rest of your days in a little peace...who can blame you ? You who used to love taking long strolls, are now a prisoner of four walls, afraid to venture...is it going to be sticky bombs, the silencer gun, or a kidnapping ? You wonder each morning...so you shut up and you stay put in your rocking chair, rocking yourself and your dreams, rocking your absent future into a lullaby...hoping for a tranquil snooze, uninterrupted by the past, your past...your recent past, where they still visit you, with their black uniforms and hooded faces and where you found yourself chained like a dog, mercilessly tortured in the name of a God, that is theirs...and theirs alone.

Your heart breaks when you hear of another kid in your neighborhood diagnosed with leukemia, another tumor growing in one of the women in your entourage, another child abducted and sold for sex...but you sit on that rocking chair, with your wounds and mouth badly bandaged and you rock yourself some more, hoping to find cracks in a clement harmless present...who can blame you ?

Then Ali mentions Mosul and Basra. Ali is your trusted friend from Najaf...he too dares not say the truth...he dares not say what he sees daily...he gives me his words, offers them on a tray like old pieces of rotten bread...as if to partake in some secret communion of a final revelation, of a final communion...

He says - some of us do not approve of what happened and what is taking place...but we can do nothing...

I give him the benefit of the doubt and don't stop at the "but", I let him continue his real lamentation, his real self flagellation...I let him continue because I want to reach the bitter end...the bitter end of it all, where no Future is present.

He continues - the Persians they hate us, some of us in Najaf, refuse to sell them goods...they treat us like slaves...

- And your Sistani and your Hawza ?

- They are all paid...They tarnished our sect and what we stand for.

I did not want to dig deeper into what they stand for...You are his friend, and you experienced what they stood for, in that dungeon.

- So what about Mosul ?

- They, the Kurds. have cleansed Mosul of Christians. Christian women are forced to veil.

- And what about Basra ?

- It's an Iranian stronghold. The children are dying of leukemia, so many of them, so many...Depleted Uranium

- What about Baghdad's hospitals ?

- They are sectarian...too many troubles. You might not make it out alive.

- And the reconstruction money ?


Laughter filled the room...

Reconstruction money was the joke of the day...

- Corruption, severe corruption. They hoard the medicine and sell it on the black market. One tablet of Paracetemol costs 1$


- Do you remember when we received the memo from the Ministry of Health urging us not to use the pink tablets of Paracetemol made in Iran ?

- Yeah I remember, they were tablets that you throw into the car's gas tank and the car explodes. I was surprised the Ministry of Health actually sent this memo, since they are they are their guys after all.

- Maybe they felt a little guilty ?

- Yeah maybe...


The ball rolled by itself...I let it. I was no longer in the picture with my curious voyeurism...

- Even the gas, the petrol for car, we are importing from Iran. We queue for hours.

- No now its from Turkey

- Turkey...ah yes, they are competing with the Iranians for the Iraqi market. Their goods are flooding the markets now, even in "Kurdistan".

Did you need a visa to go there, I ask.

- Akeed, for sure. We need a visa and we need to mention the exact purpose of our visit and the exact numbers of days we are to stay there...but you know the Israelis, the Jews, they have helped the Kurds so much...it's like a different continent.

You need a visa to visit your own country ?

- Yes - more laughter followed by a silence, by the dawn of Reality.

A laughter made of smoke and fog. A silence made of corpses.


Tidbits of the Iraqi Reality...squeezing itself into conversations, into cajoled forced conversations, where the victim's only wish is to breathe...for a little.

But no, imperious as it is, it imposes itself, dressed in the black robes of Kings and Queens...there is no escape...it bulldozes through your silence, your siesta, your amnesia...
it invades you like the voyeur that I am, reminding you of an absent Future...