Flirting with the Devil

Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and
He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So he loves also the bow that is stable.

On Children from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran, 1923

Before we attempt our valiant counter-offensive against political oppression and authoritarianism in the Middle East we should start with some vital in-house cleaning. I have taken it upon myself since I started writing here to expose the evils of this time and place while concurrently shedding a feeble beam of light on our obscure delights and felicities. Today, I am in a fiendish mood and as thus am inclined to frivolously flirt with the devil rather than majestically dance with the angels.

So far and to a certain extent Syria might have been fortunate enough to have escaped scores of the prevailing social ills inflicting most countries in the world, like high violent crime rates for instance. However, like everybody else, we are moving in the wrong direction. Local Crime is on the rise mainly due to the obscene economic disparity bisecting our society and polarizing what was once a continuous spectrum into Haves and Have-nots. We are environmentally illiterate and our natural resources are being slaughtered in the stupid name of "modernization", industrialization and development. Our streets, cities and countryside are dirty and unkempt because we are not conditioned to give but rather to take. We might be hygienically conscious when it comes to our bodies (especially on Friday mornings) and immediate surroundings but could care less about the rest of the world. We are generous and kind but have little respect for individualism and personal freedom and as thus are loud and boisterous and have no perception of personal space at all. We cannot adequately differentiate between love and smothering and this is most apparent in the parent/children relationship. Parents more often than not stifle their children's ambitions and dreams and force them down the road of conformity and banality. We have created a monster out of religion and accepted its interference with our basic identity to the point where many of us see themselves as Muslims or Christians before being humans. These faults and so much more were not caused by the absence of democracy per say but rather because we have tyrannical traditions imposed on our collective psyche through centuries of religious submissiveness. We have given consent to our leaders (masters) to mount us like beasts of burden, use and abuse us because, among other bizarre facts, not a single monotheist religion advocated banishing slavery! Just think of this notion for a minute. God spoke to us three times (at least) in this part of the world. Three times… and he never told us that slavery is ungodly. Before we call for political reform we’d better get indoors, within the dank walls of our own homes and rummage around for rot, pests and rodents in our basements, in the core of our foundations.

While traditional societies had evaded the onslaught of globalization for a longer period than their modern counterparts their eventual fall was far more spectacular and disastrous. A traditional culture like ours, which had over time relied heavily on religious mores to regulate its acceptable behavioral patterns while neglecting proper social evolution, communal conscience and the development of a comprehensive set of civil laws and regulations, is finding itself all of a sudden disgustingly naked. It's like a pot-bellied middle-aged man stripping and exhibiting his albinal folds of hairy fat in a skimpy black Speedo on a beach full of tanned and athletically appealing young men and women. His other option would be to keep his clothes on and stroll the beach like a pervert. And this is exactly what most of my parenting generation is doing, watching the world goes by while avoiding embarrassment through hiding our defects, hereditary and self-inflicted. If we were only opting for this defeatist attitude toward the challenges of history without further dragging the younger generations with us our sins could have been somehow forgiven. But in an act of absolute selfishness and cowardice we are holding our children hostages and eventually prefer to bring them down with us on this doomed ship.

We will never rise as a people until we shed our bauble robes of jejuneness, piety and self-righteousness and incinerate them in the hell we so wholeheartedly believe in and fear. Let our children discover a world free of ecclesiastical neurosis and taboos. They should realize, with us not despite of us, that they are at liberty to break the walls of isolation and bigotry without feeling the slightest regret or remorse. They should push forward universal suffrage for women. I know for a fact that many women are on equal grounds with men in Syria but not all. In rural areas and in excessively traditional families women have to either fight for their rights and pay for them with their own blood or they have given up entirely and accepted their inferior status. Honor killings, despite their rarity in Syria, still take place. Even a single murder for the alleged honor of mentally impotent men is too many. Accordingly and to all the men out there who condone the killing of women, be they their sisters and daughters or total strangers, to wash away their shame and to preserve their honor: shove your honor, your virtue and your rectitude up your rectums you imbecilic morons.

I beg the new generations to let go of their parents’ delusions of grandeur and probity. We were never better than any other culture or civilization. We were never worse. We have to open our doors and minds east and west. If we cannot emerge winners or at least reach a draw then we never had anything worth keeping in the first place.

My Treasure:


Yazan said…
This belongs in vintage Abu Fares!

Along with this post,

It gives a rather accurate description of our status quo.

These long years of twisted perceptions of morality have left us here.

It was a Hussaini, the Mufti of Jerusalem who went to give support to Hitler. We refuse to even discuss that, even though it should, in no way, undermine the current suffering of the palestinians. We would rather keep our history false and "clean", than to actually debate it and learn from it. We raise people like Saddam Hussein to the level of martyrs, which only insults the real martyrs in our history. And we think that the only way to respond to a politically-mandated ICC against Omar al-Bashir is by denying the suffering in Darfur.

We all love this country, but that is an irrational feeling stemming from the fact that we were born here. Just like any Haitian, or American or Indian loves his own. The difference is that we are incapable of looking at it from a different perspective, from a rational one. The picture would look terribly painful, for with any rational this is not a place (as a collective of societies and cultures at this moment in time) that is loveable!
Anonymous said…
A clean freak mother who once I heard telling her little kid to throw his empty Pepsi can out of the car window because she wanted to keep her car clean.
I know your your message is beyond that example. I know that your blogs are being read by many, but for those who don't have internet or can't read English, how do can reach them? and if we did, do you think they understand what you are talking about? or even try to understand your point?
Anonymous said…
With some particular exceptions (honor killings being the first and foremost incredible one of them), this could be true of many society now a days, PR included. We find ourselves in a consumeristic, narcisistic (I think this is a word?) and egotistical society where people like to complain but are never up to do hard work to change for the better of all humankind. It is always "me, me, me first, second and third" and screw everyone else and the environment with it!

It is a vicious circle and one very hard to break, but we have to keep on trying. Somehow, somewhere it will break and hopefully for the better. In the mean time I do whatever I can in my small little surroundings to at least make a small mark!

w.b. yeats
Abufares said…
Our past history, like all the other "great" civilizations is syphilitically tainted. If we take a close look at what we have been revering all of our lives, in particular Islamic and Arabic history we will find more photoshop crap than reality. We have so many fucking heroes. So many good guys. We were always the underdogs at first then we always won. And it's so funny that now we accuse Holywood and the West of falsifying history without admitting that we had committed the same lies and atrocities when we were on top of the "food chain".
We are as guilty as everybody else and we have very little to be proud of. Until humanism and science caught on, civilization has very little to be proud of and yet they have to come to this land and blow all the bullshit away, once and for good.
Anonymous said…
"Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game..."

w.b. yeats
Abufares said…
You're so right. My blog is not read by many and I can't reach any statistically significant group with my ranting. Writing in English shrinks the circle of my target audience even further. Still, among this niche group there are those who believe that we, as a "nation" as they would like to call us, are so much better off than all the others by virtue of religion and/or ethnicity.
I am squarely addressing Syrians and Arabs who actually read this and other English blogs and believe this crap and international readers. No we are not that dumb to believe that we are perfect. Like the rest of the world we have more than our handful of problems. And yes, we are responsible for most of them.
Abufares said…
@w.b. yeats
yes the evils of our times are so universal.
Honor killing! Doesn't it remind you of witch hunts and chastity belts? Well guess where these practices got their fuel from.
We should all pitch in and try to make the world a better place but it's most important that we start with ourselves and teach our children to cherish and defend their freedom and their right to choose their own destiny.
Ah, the Rolling Stones... You weren't there when they came to New Orleans later on. Well you probably were... but we were not :-)
Anonymous said…
Nope, I arrived to N.O. just the semester after they played. Anny Falgas did go to the concert... Said it was wild! They are like mummys now, but my God that man has energy, or is still the drugs? Kieth Richards is a riot : )

Do you know my 17 year old is an avid fan of Journey!!!
He! That brings back memories : )

w.b. yeats
Dubai Jazz said…
Vintage indeed! Abu Fares takes on the tattered traditions, and rightly so. You're my friend, but it's not because of that that I praise your writing. It's smart, direct, solid and enjoyable. And man, you ripped 'em apart!

Perhaps it's not a big coincidence that I read your post right after I saw this video on the BBC

Granted, rape victims most likely don't to report to the police any where in the world. But in our nick of the wood the subject is compounded by 'honor' killings. It's not unusual to hear that female rape victims are killed by their male siblings or their fathers to wash off the disgrace. I would also accuse the whole society of complicity in the crime because it places such a great pressure on those male studs until they commit it.
Anonymous said…
Abu Fares,
Although I rarely comment on your blog, I have to admit I am a regular and avid reader.
What else can I say except Sallem Temmak.
“Obscene economic disparities…environmentally illiterate… we have created a monster out of religion…”. Going through your list of ailments as you dissect Syrian society and put forth its problems and shortcomings, I thought there for a while that you were talking about my beloved Lebanon and about Lebanese society. But I will not get started on that issue as the list will certainly be much longer.
Coming back to your main argument, you are absolutely right when you say that the many problems we are facing as Arabs are not caused by a lack of democracy but rather by tyrannical traditions we have inherited. If I can flip this argument around, I would argue that those traditions are in fact at the very core of our lack of democracy. Aren’t we in a way reproducing at the level of political practice and representation the same traditional patterns we have known and perpetuated for centuries in terms of family structure and relationship between parents and children. Aren’t we taught as kids that a father is above all a figure of authority to whom we owe deference and obedience. And are we not in a way reproducing that very same relationship, collectively, with our selection of Raïs, Zaïm, and other fatherly endowed and heavenly inspired figures that govern many Arab countries from Machrek to Maghreb.
Kama Takounou Youwalla ‘Alaykoum.
Take care Abu Fares.
saint said…
I have no idea what type of screwed minds are those enlightened nationalists who rose up after 500 years hiatus and call for Arabism or Islamism or what ever. Idealists some times are destroyers, they made the middle east history clean bill and forgot that without god bless his name Hulagu, they would not have got ridden of the khalif who has 700 wives in addition to some others who had been hidden away from the sun and the moon for future pleasure. Yes it is syphilis history and the problem they did not does not presented as it was, they sterilize it, however still I not inclined to blaming the slaves and masters on the same level. But it is OK for the times being since people do not have their freedom yet, but I wonder what is kind of opinions we will have after emancipation.
Gabriela said…
You've made me think...
And, amazingly, this morning I was thinking about looking for that excerpt from "The Prophet", but then forgot and got stuck in work.
Anonymous said…
Dear abufares, do you think your blogging experience has helped you growing spiritually?...and what make you able to broke relegion taboo? we need to spread this critical thinking..but how?
I appreciate you deeply and i am more than proud to call you compatriot...please do me a favor be a wrigter!
Abufares said…
@w.b. yeats

Only The Young by Journey

Another night in any town
You can hear the thunder of their cry
Ahead of their time
They wonder why

In the shadows of a golden age
A generation waits for dawn
Brave carry on
Bold and the strong

Only the young can say
They're free to fly away
Sharing the same desires
Burnin' like wildfire

They're seein' through the promises
And all the lies they dare to tell
Is it heaven or hell?
They know very well

Only the young can say
Abufares said…
Thank you my dear FRIEND.
The slide show about Fatima is fantastic.
Nothing could be closer to the truth, we are all partners in crime. But again, our most unforgivable act would be trying to mold our children into our own distorted and grotesque image. They have a chance to break the chain... and I hope they do.
Abufares said…
Welcome back. I'm very glad that you are still reading my blog and I agree with you that we have very similar problems in Syria and Lebanon. Well basically the entire Arab world is in the same hands. Different faces but same filthy hands.
We still brag about our closer family ties and marital stability. To a certain extent, sure, we're lucky. But, at times, the price we are paying is far too high. Take for instance the tyrant father who abuses and terrorizes the whole family but is still looked at with respect and admiration by society because he knows how to raise his children properly! When this model father meets the Raïs or Zaïm (leader) he will wag his tail like a happy dog and feels honored when a bone is thrown his way.
Kama Takounou Youwalla ‘Alaykoum, indeed.
kinzi said…
Abu Fares, thank you for invoking Khalil Jibran...what my American parents raised me with!

Thank you for linking my blog, and for making some excellent points. Also, for caring for women.

I wish the Jordanian men had been willing to post on the subject as you have.

I saw you are on itoot, so I will be back for more. :)
Abufares said…
After emancipation! The sound of it is beautiful.
Unlike what some readers might think, I have never called for the total destruction of our uniqueness. All I dream of is total separation of State and Mosque (church) especially in the legal system where full secular civil rights should be the basic foundation of an evolving constitution. One that is honored and revered because it changes with time.
Abufares said…
You know what, recently I've been told by the most beautiful woman in the world that we keep thinking about the same subject at the same time. It has happened quite frequently in the last few days.
I just found out the reason! Apparently, I'm in perfect tune and on the same wave length with beautiful women. I'm saying this after I saw your profile photo on your blog :-)
I'm so glad I have this incredible talent. I just hope it lasts.
My Spanish is a little better than your Arabic. Nevertheless, I have started reading your blog...
y realmente me gusta es
Abufares said…
I just wish you give yourself a name, any name. I don't like to call you Anonymous:-)
Sure my blogging experience, 3 years next month, has helped me tremendously refining and fine tuning my thoughts and ideas. The comment section is as important, if not more, than the post itself. The interaction between us has taught me so much about others and about myself.
I have grown individually rather than only spiritually. As for breaking up with religious taboos it didn't simply come in one day. In my earlier posts I shyly flirted with the devil while subconsciously I didn't want to upset the angels. Of course I'm using the terms devil and angel as interpreted by religion and certainly not by me.
I am as proud of you being here as you are of me writing.
Please come again.
Abufares said…
Thank you for your visit.
Everyone should follow and support your valiant and courageous efforts in trying to change the putrid mindset of a significant part of our population.
I ask all readers here to give Kinzi's blog a serious look "My Treasure" as it is certainly laden with many treasures, big and small.
KJ said…
You have to understand that in the past few years there has been a sudden and radical shift in mentality. People are not expected to simply embrace this change, especially the older generations. All this new "crap" is poised to taint whatever has been passed on for generations before. While it is true that not everything new is awesome (I still condemn kids for spending the whole day watching Rotana instead of doing something useful), the shift in ideologies and social paradigms is only picked up by the younger ones, when the older generations do their best to resist such change.

Therefor they call up on religion and smear it left and right, picking up convoluted texts and reinterpreting them to their needs, condemning everyone to some grave sin, a conspiracy theory and what have you.

Children then can't pursue their desires or their needs. You still have kids who want to live up to their parents expectations, whether the parents force it or not - the whole upbringing in two conflicting ideologies and exposure to both will surely confuse the younger generations.

Which is why you have young people (like me) who have been chronically depressed, confused and at loss. To think that someone in their twenties is like that! But this is how it is. Depression and other more abnormal mental disorders is on the rise, suicide, honor killings, and everything in between.

If the change has been slow and gradual, people might not have felt it. But just as there was a sudden change in women's rights, civil movements, racism etc, while it has been embraced as of now, many people are still stuck in yesteryear because of the "shock" factor.

These issues will be resolved in time, when younger generations dilute the older ones away.

I only pray that we pick up the right habits to heal this planet. It is a burden Abu Fares, or probably I feel overly responsible, but it's now our job to fix things. I hope we make the right decisions for our own kids' sake
Isobel said…
Abu Fares, I think, to a certain extent, people from any country could learn from what you say in your post. Sometimes as a parent, you're so lost in the moment that its difficult to pull back and have these other moments of wisdom. Bravo! Thank you for that and thank you especially for mentioning mine and Kinzi's posts regarding "Honour Killings". I never realized how difficult it is to get the word out about such things. How quickly the barriers go up! I'm not sure whether its the reluctance to interfere, change or just simply re-open and re-examine a long debate (although I don't understand how there is a debate here). Anyway...just thank you.
Haifaa said…
Ynser Denk, ya Abu Fares.

That was an oxymoron.

I began to read your superb and I had to yell that to you. Now, I will chill and read it carefully. It is making my heart flutter.
Haifaa said…
I read it and went to the Jordan Times and I wonder why isn't it a front cover news???

I am depressed now and starting to weep.
Abufares said…
Instead of replying to your comment I should point everyone to your excellent post Why Did I kill My Sister
Abufares said…
As I was proofreading my post before publishing I needed a short break. I started looking around my favorite daily blogs and yours is on the very top of my list:
I was surprised in a way that you had basically written about the same subject, although you were specifically discussing Honor Murders or Killings as they are called.
Well I wanted to thank you for taking this stand on your blog but the funniest thing keeps happening as I am trying to respond to your comment, I mean right now.
I keep getting distracted by ... Well that's another story and I don't think I can go into it right now. Suffice it to say that it involves sheep, a whole flock of them :-)
Gabriela said…
You made me blush!
As I answered your comment in my blog, feel free to write in English or in Spanish, as long as you come back. Thanks for Google translator.
Arabic is a language missing on my resumee, indeed.
Abufares said…
@Az3ar's fan
Please don't despair my friend. As long as we start talking and exposing our weaknesses we might be on the right track. As long as our children realize our disillusionment with our past and avoid it in their present and future we'll be alright.
Anonymous said…
Dear Abu Fares,
I wish my father read this post, I wish all father are like you.
Beautifully written, with very difficult vocab :)
one thing though, Syria rates the fifth country in the world with regards to "honor killing":

it's pretty serious.
Haifaa said…
Abu Fares,

This reminds me of Zorba the Greek.

In the end he celebrates life and makes fun of the monks.
Abufares said…
I'm sure you look even prettier when you blush ;-)
Thank you for becoming a regular here and I have enjoyed my first reading of your blog for 3 good reasons.
1. It's very well written.
2. Spanish is my absolute favorite language although I understand and use it more like a 3-year old.
3. It's your blog and by definition cannot be but beautiful.

Seis de Enero
Abufares said…
If I knew that you would only come over if I discuss grave matters I would put on a tie and my 3-piece suit for the rest of my life.

I am guilty of intentionally using a couple of difficult words in each other post. I do that out of respect for the craft of writing and out of respect for my reader. If she finds that reading my blog is a waste of time she would at least learn or refresh her memory with poignant vocabulary.

I am sure that as a father I share many traits with yours. If I have something positive going for me it is that I admit committing mistakes. But I do commit them all the time.

Finally, although Syria is inflicted with this dishonorable plague "Honor Killing" I think 5th rank is way wrong. Murders may be better reported in Syria than the rest of the Middle East (especially the Gulf Region) and specifically as far as this type of crime is concerned. The government of Saudi Arabia commits more Honor Killings in public than criminals and psychos in Syria do. The Indian subcontinent and the adjacent regions are also way up there. Still, if we ranked 100th that is not acceptable.

Thank you for dropping by, and whether you admit it or not, you have a gorgeous smile;-)
Abufares said…
@Az3ar's Fan
Thanks for the memorable clips. Zorba is one of my favorite movies. You just brought it back alive to me. I will get it on DVD and watch it over the weekend.
kinzi said…
Abu F, I am sorry that a comment of yours got lost somewhere, and am happy to get the latest!

Thanks for the affirming words in your comment here, and the valuation of the treasures that are hidden in my blog. I usually just write about my kids, faith and cookies (well, and sexual abuse), it has been an unusual month of activism.

As I have read other posts of yours and your comments to others, I see you DO love women, in many ways :)

I appreciate the challenge both you and KJ give to be careful of 'religiousity', especially in terms of what I am passing on to my children.
Abufares said…
I first found out about your blog on Isobel's Suffonsifisms. How do you expect me not to love women if they are anywhere nearly as beautiful as Izzy is?
Over the years, I've been rightly and wrongly accused of many deeds. The one I'm happiest with is that I DO love women. When beauty and intelligence meet the combination becomes irresistible. And, I'm not talking only about external beauty (although I don't mind it at all:-) I mean a woman who is totally at ease with herself and with the beauty of other women is simply irresistible. Besides, what's the point behind resistance? More importantly, what's the point behind not telling the whole world about it?
Be that as it may, I'm honored by your visit indeed and I do like your blog about your kids and all the little AND big things that make up the canvas of our lives.
My best to you, your Hubby and kids and I look forward reading you on your blog and here again and again.
willy said…
as a matter of fact there's no harm following a middle path between rigid written or tacit religious preconceptions and total liberation as in western societies,carring life on with a mild religious personal observance, living and letting others mind their own business, seeking welfare and happiness as well as one pleases to do with his own time in planet earth. A least that`s the way I traveled each one of my 50 years through the "long and winding road" to self realization.
Abufares said…
You've traveled well buddy. There's no perfect path in life but the one you picked is scenic and laid back.
I guess you've made a great choice as I've been walking by your side most of my life as well. I follow some obscure trail every once in a while and enjoy the adrenaline rush but I always return.
Thank you for sharing and for taking the time to drop by.
Anonymous said…
Abufares,being an atheist I can understand the holy books ank I can think at the same time

Abufares said…
Understanding and appreciating the holy books and Thinking at the same time is an endowment enjoyed but by a very few.
Allie said…
Beautifully written, Abu Fares. I think this summarises the entirety of inter-cultural distress around the world, not just in the Middle East. If more people (of all cultures: mine, yours, "theirs," whomever's) were willing to rip the band-aid off their wounds and look at them honestly and objectively, we would be much closer to getting along than ever before.
Abufares said…
Thank you.
You're absolutely right. We're all guilty of hiding behind our fingers. Raising children with the notion that they are inherently better than others by virtue of ethnicity, race or religion will only lead to further chauvinism, hatred and extremism. I have been around kids who display this inbred arrogance, unintentionally perhaps, in the presence of others from a different background and I feel such rage directed to their parents. How stupid are they to teach their own to grow up and go through life as bonafide assholes.
Anonymous said…
touché... Well said!

w.b. yeats
Allie said…
I totally agree. I see it so much here. My parents raised us to believe that regardless of anything, we are no better or worse than anyone else - that there will always be differences based on religion, race, ethnicity, culture, etc., but all of those differences need to be treated with respect and curiousity rather than derision. I'm thankful for that upbringing, because it's allowed me to be more well-rounded. It pains me when I see children raised with such ethnocentrism, as it really only contributes to the already numerous problems we have personally and globally.

Again, wonderful post! Your posts are always well-thought out and articulate, and I enjoy them very much (including the times I don't agree with you). :)
Abufares said…
I have a special request. Any time you disagree with me, please comment. It will make for a much more exciting comment section.
Thank you so much.
Allie said…
Will do. :)

I think I've only disagreed with you in a couple instances, though I never commented because the disagreements were on extraordinarily controversial subjects. In the future I'll put the disagreements out there!

And thank you, for being welcoming of some debate now and again!
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