Friday, May 27, 2005

Saturday, May 21 st, 2005
Sometimes, similar events occur simultaneously, evoking one question.
I was reading an old, but very famous novel in the west, the author is Josef Conrad, (a British from a Polish origin), the novel's title is "the Heart of Darkness", published in 1899. In it he talks about the White Man's mentality towards other civilizations, especially in the colonies. The novel talks about Africa, and the British occupation there; the men who went under the slogans: we carry mercy, science, knowledge, and civilizations to ignorant nations. While they were ransacking the wealth of these miserable countries, leaving them in swamps of hunger, diseases, ignorance, and darkness…mercilessly…without science, or progress.
And this is the mission of capitalism, or imperialism, that sucks the blood of the poor nations, looking at them with contempt, while announcing their official mission to the world to be: the cause of bringing progress, science, and mercy to these countries?
That was Conrad's notion in the novel.
Hummm. Doesn't this talk seem familiar to us?
Especially we in Iraq?
We, whom war was waged against us, for reasons of salvation and mercy against the unjust tyrant, to bring democracy and progress to us??
Conrad portrayed this case with rare honesty… how did he escape the heritage of that western mentality?
I think this is the characteristic of the smart artist, how he sees things in an abstract way, without lying, or falsification.
Conrad says, by the speech of his major character in the novel: (…in his argument, he started by the notion that we -the white people- taking off from the point of progress we reached, should appear to them – the savages- in the guise of supernatural creatures, we must take them by force, like the force of the gods… and thus, by the simple applying of our determination, we can create an invincible power….
The speech was wonderful, it made me experience an imaginary greatness, ruled by a majestic tendency…it made me intoxicate with fervor, this was the power of the unbeatable rhetoric…the power of words, noble, flaming words…..).
As for me, I say that this reminds me of the leaders of the present American administration, in their noble, flaming, fluent speeches.
Of course, this enthusiastic man, who gave this fluent speech in the novel, came under the cover of mercy, science, and progress to Africa, but he spent his life trading secretly in Ivory, making his fortune from that trade, while putting the skulls of African men on the fence of his house, whom he calls: the rebellions!
If I could have read this novel ten years ago, perhaps it wouldn't have meant a thing to me…but after the war on Iraq, facing the west and its mentality face to face…I understood Conrad more now….and I see the same mentality is still there…
And as Kipling said, (a British writer with Conrad), his famous parable: the East is east, and the West is west, but they won't meet… as for Conrad, it is as if he said in his novel: Yes, they would meet, but in an ugly way, in an un-fair relation, where there is exploitation, and fortune plundering.
Or, a relation of master and slave….
Did this equation change, while we are in the 21 st century?
Then, I saw the movie of " Lawrence of Arabia" on an Arabic satellite channel yesterday… in it I saw the same sick western mentality, that wants to "market" the idea that the white man came to free the ignorant, bringing them from darkness to light…
I have previously read the famous Lawrence diary : The Seven Columns of Wisdom, in Baghdad. I wrote a post about it, several months ago… in it I said he was an honest man, who loved Arabs and helped them in their revolution against the Ottoman rule, but he felt ashamed by the British administration for letting him down, fooling the Arabs, giving them a lip-spoken promise of independence, after the fall of the Ottoman state, and the end of World War I, then retracting back from their promises, occupying the Arab states, without giving them independence.
The question is: Don't they fell ashamed from these behaviors? How would a person have credibility while being a lire, and a promise – denier?
Would they see it as smartness, and intelligence? We see this as a big defect, and a trait of respectable men.
And today, when I hear one of the western leaders talking about morals, principals, and human rights, I smile.
How could these people be believed? How do they change their skins so fast?
I do not know…
Anyway, the movie is old, perhaps I have seen it as a young girl, and believed what's in it, as others would. But yesterday, I sat, amazed, as I watched it…
There were countless lies in it… and the sad thing was, that Omar Sheriff had an important role in it, how did he agree for the film to be presented in this dishonest way about the Arabs? Was he perhaps facing two choices: either to bear principals and refuse to act, unless the false details in the film would be changed, or to forget the principles, for the sake of becoming an international actor.
Would he get such a chance again?
And obviously he chose fame and money, in stead of arguments, patriotism, and correcting the vision of the director or the producer in the film.
In the real diaries of Lawrence, he speaks truthfully about the Arabs; their manners, their good treatment of others, their patriotism, and honesty… I could not smell a scent of contempt or scorn in it. He spoke of constant meetings between Prince Faisal and his father, Al-Shareef Al-Hussein bin Ali, and Prince Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein, and other Arab leaders at the time. Then there were his meetings with nationalist men, Iraqis and Syrians, most of whom left the Turkish army and had fighting skills, intelligence, and national ambitions to be independent from Turkey, they discussed many plans to work together, asking Lawrence to provide them with weapons from Britain, and the men were ready….
But the movie showed Lawrence to be the only hero, and the axis of every thing.
In the movie, people get killed for drinking water from the well of some tribe…and that is not true.
The tribes in the desert usually honor the stranger, and give him the right of hospitality for three days, not kill him for drinking water while passing by! The Bedouins (or Nomads) had rules we all know, about using water, fire, and grass, for cattle pasturing. All of these are common, used by everyone without monopoly…
Then, the talk about Al-Huwaita'at Tribe, and its leader…Ouda Bu Tayeeh. They portrayed him as a bandit thieve, without principals, looking only for material gains, not caring to fight the Ottoman occupation, but thinking about the golden coins that shall be paid to him.
I asked my Jordanian friend, whose family comes from the "Rum" valley, where the events of the movie took place, about their customs about water and wells, and about Ouda Bu Tayeeh's reputation in Jordan. She said: Do not believe this movie, it is all lies, Bu Tayeeh has a clean reputation; he was a generous, patriotic man…and everybody respects him, and his tribe.
So, I went back once more to the point of Mentality. When the producer or the director read Lawrence's book, about his experience in the Arabian Peninsula, they understood the story according to their mentality, so they manufactured the movie within this ridicules vision, far away from truth and reality.
In a scene in the movie: during their march in the desert towards Aqaba, they lost a man, and refused to go back for him, but Lawrence, stubborn against them, went back alone, facing all dangers, and returned with him. This is to portray the Arabs as cruel, who do not know mercy… and stupid, surrendering to a non-negotiable fate, meaning: that their brains are idle, not able to discuss, or try to change…. While the white man, the European, knows mercy, and rationality in handling matters.
And when a Turkish air raid takes place on the tents camp, and the tribe's dwellings, Prince Faisal rides his horse, raises his sward, and yells in the face of the airplane, as if wanting to fight it by sward. Is this possible?
Are we that much naïve and fools?
Then, in another scene, Prince Faisal talks to the American journalist in the movie, saying: we had many casualties, because we do not carry the wounded with us, we kill them as we leave the battle field, because between us and the Ottomans there is no application of the Geneva Treaties of war prisoners.
What brought the Geneva Treaties here?
These days I read in a book about the international law, human rights, and the Geneva Treaties, that were formed finally, and approved in 1949, that talks about protecting the wounded in the battle fields…oh, yes, the beginning was in the Geneva conference in 1864, in Switzerland, but it was not approved, nor was observed until 1949, meaning; after World War II. While the events of the movie took place between the years: 1916-1918, (during World War I). And, at the end of the movie, they reached Damascus, and the Arab leaders fought among themselves, (Prince Ali, and Ouda Bu Tayeeh, the leader of Al-Huwaita'at Tribe), about distributing the possessions and prerogatives in Syria, and Lawrence shouted at them: Do not say this and that, say we are Arabs…
Ha,ha,ha…why are stories told upside down?
While our history, and our ancestors told us that Britain divided us, to conquer us?
Didn't the present occupation forces divide Iraq, since the first months when they entered it, in 2003, into Sunni Arabs, Shia'at Arabs, and Kurds?
While we, all our lives, identified our selves as Iraqis?
Then, when we travel outside Iraq, people began asking us, for the first time, this silly question: are you Sunnis, or Shia'ats? Arabs, or Kurds?
Who did this to us??
This is live history, we live in it since Baghdad fell…we weren't told that by books or movies…
A live history we live through, and still taste its bitterness everyday….
I doubt that the silly, negative remarks against the Arabs were written by Lawrence in his diaries, for I couldn't detect any smell of the superiority mentality in him, when I read his book more than once, that was devised by the movie's producer, or director, as a form of breaking boredom, and adding a special magic, the western way...
Translated by May/Baghdad.

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