Quadrennial Anniversary - a disgruntled tartoussi

A few readers have expressed their discontent over my predisposed beautification of Syria and the untainted image I strive to paint in my writing. On the occasion of this blog's fourth anniversary I admit that they are partially right. Although I am not in a perpetual state of bliss and satisfaction I tend to not elaborate on my dislikes. I am simply stingy when it comes to the expenditure of mental energy on my aversions. I would rather talk, write and cerebrate about life's pleasures rather than its unavoidable maladies.

That we cannot freely and entirely express ourselves here is a well-known fact of life. However, when mushrooming zealots seek to stifle freedom of expression and rowdily promote a fake carbon copy of a traditional and devoutly pious Syria, one which had never existed, it is high time I lash back. On the popular level, their extraneous brand of petro-Islam was sanctioned by an innate feeling of resentment and bitterness toward the dark years of the Bush administration and the whorish demeanor of Israel. Our religiously driven addicts took advantage of the prevailing frustration and sense of helplessness and earnestly pursued their social and political assumptions and ambitions, which incidentally nestle perfectly within the neo-cons' and the Zionist overall master plan for this region and the rest of the world. The writings were all over the wall and if left unchecked they would stop at nothing short of transforming Syria into a mutated Saudi mongrel.

There are over twenty-two millions of us Syrians as per latest available statistics, thanks to a government that continuously looks the other way, if not encourages us to breed like rabbits, and to an ecclesiastical gang-raping of native Levantine culture. In 1977, when I took my Bakaloria exam, the population of Syria was around eight millions. We have increased by a whopping 275% in 32 years, we have reduced green and forested areas to a third and we have decimated the chances of younger generations to find and pursue a better future. Being alienated from a West that treats them with suspicion and lured by a well-funded canonical machine our youth have but a limited number of options to choose from. Slowly but surely a bony temperament, buried in an alien and dusty past, beckons as a viable lifestyle.

My daughter is in 9th grade. This is a very significant point in the lives of fifteen-year-old Syrian students as they have to take a national exam (Brevet) which affects their academic fate. Excellence is measured by how much they remember word by word of the archaic curriculum. They are discouraged from making decisions or voicing opinions. Our educational system emphasizes total subservience and uniformity and represses creativity and divergence. Among the various subjects they have to memorize by rote, two in particular stand out for not only negating one another thus making them a total waste of time, but for being absolutely absurd as instruments to measure scholastic attainment. Teenagers, the age of budding roses, carry the dual burden of "learning" National Socialist Education and Religious Education (Muslim or Christian). "Scientific thought defeats ignorance and outdated traditions, frees us from all forms of awkwardness: Economic, social and cultural and rids us of illogical and indisputable bigotry.” Quite a brilliant quote from the National Socialist Education book, isn't it? Then how about these gems taken from the introduction of the Islamic Education textbook about the purpose of the course: “The presentation of scientific material in a simple manner and detailed explanation in order for students to memorize it... Relying on scientific sources in order to prove the selected scientific material.” Our children are being taught the value of the scientific method by failed national socialists and science by a moronic clergy.

Nonsense and idiocy are riddling our daily existence and I have never been blind to them. Every once in a while when I feel overwhelmed by the obnoxiousness of the emerging literate crowd I strike back. This is the voice of a secular humanist from Tartous, a simple man walking the once enlightened and bustling street, turned silent and bereft in these times of parasitic noise and groveling babble. This blog is about my Syria, the way it was and the way I want it to be. I will continue to write about the good life and the delicious food of the Levant, the rich history and the swaying butts of our gorgeous women, the music, the mountains and the sea of a Syria that is far too modest to flaunt her beauty for the rest of the world to see. A princess once told me (Yes, there is a princess among my readers) that if it were not for me she would have never heard of Tartous. If that is all I have done in four years, I am satisfied that I have done enough. There still is plenty to come from this old tartoussi troubadour in the times ahead. Just stay tuned, Your Highness... and the rest of you.


BIL said…

First I would like to congratulate you on your fourth anniversary! Through your postings I have seen a small glimpse of today's Syria both from an historical point of view and that of modern day. I can fully understand when you get that frustrated feeling when you think the direction of your surroundings is not going as they should. However, that can be said for almost anyplace on this Earth. As I have seen in my travels throughout this world and experiencing different cultures, each has some form of discontent the people must put up with. What I see here in today's post is: Religion, unabated development, and conformity. First Religion should be an enhancement to one's life and not the life itself forcing beliefs on to others (no one has a patent on exactly what is right or wrong) and least of all it is not worth sending the masses against one another just to promote that purpose…life is too short and the expenditure of those efforts can be better utilized to promote the betterment of all mankind. Second unabated development cannot be successfully sustained simply because of the infrastructures cannot keep pace with that type of growth, this makes the whole standard of living for all to become less than what it was and should be. One would hope that the next generation will have it better than the last. For that is the legacy we owe our children, or as one can put it "progress". Then there is the conformity, by itself makes for a boring environment and does not let the people express themselves in a way that promotes development and progress. Each one of us has something positive to offer for the betterment of mankind (hopefully) and with a positive energy this world can become a better place. Sometimes I think I am overly optimistic but in reality I see there is not so many differences between people (no matter where they live) as what we (collectively) want to portray. Again, congratulations, keep up the fine work and say hello to all for me. BIL
Anas Qtiesh said…
Happy fourth anniversary!

I have to say, our students are not only to memorize the curriculum, but to revolt against anything that's not in the textbooks. When I was a baccalaureate student we had an English teacher that actually tried to teach us the language instead of trying to go through the book page by page like a robot. Student were outraged and they didn't stop until she was replaced by an older teacher who has been teaching the "curriculum" for over 30 years, and in their opinion was better fit for their needs.

I heard the same students a couple of years later in college complain about how school never really taught them English. I struggled not say "Fuck you, you had a chance with a great teacher and you didn't shut up until you got the same mindless education you're trained to love. You cared about passing an English exam, not learning to speak English!"

Wow, I'll end my irrelevant rant before I go any further.

Abu Fares, Kudos on four years of quality blogging.
Unknown said…
Mabrook, my friend! "Four years of quality blogging" indeed! Ever since I discovered your wonderful writings, I've discovered a Syria I am desperate to experience more than ever. Despite it's shortcomings, which, as BIL rightly said, is something all countries suffer from, it still has so much richness and beauty. How do I know this? You. :) Thank you for another superb post. Keep writing...always.
Pearl said…
3azama 3ala 3azama :o) (was that right? lol)

amen abufares...amen! i may not have been born or raised in Syria, but I visited enough and heard enough from my father about the Syria of which you speak...the way it used to be and the way it should be now. I take pride in that Syria...even though I was born in the States. I am grateful to have been raised here bec I was not subjected to that sorry excuse for an education system, HOWEVER, I want to "go back" somehow, someday and try to make a difference...

Mabrook on 4 years...3o2bal el miyeh :o) Cheers!
Anonymous said…
Thanks ever so much Abu Fares!
Abu Fares,

I hang on to the hope that the pendulum will swing back -as it always must- and the unnatural fervor of the hyper-religious will wane.

When a Saudi poetess stands up and publicly gives the finger to religious zealots, you know that there is hope.
Joseph said…
Happy Quadrennial Anniversary, Mr. Troubadourtoussi! Here’s to many more years.

I have to admit, Abufares, I for one at first, and for all that I loved in your writings, still failed to realize your tangible flow of voice...
but it did not take long for the elements to materialize and pretty damn quick the poised disposition of your mind, contaminated my own mind with ethereal beauty... regardless of whether I concur with or differ at times.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong , and it is only natural that you illustrate Syria in the colors you paint her with.

I cannot agree more with what Bil and Abu Kareem have kindly commented.

The grin on your face in the accompanied photo, tells it all!

'Keep your wings dipped in the lucid flow of air".
Mariyah said…
Congratulations, dearest Abufares. Your writing always has been, and continues to be, a great inspiration, even when you're disgruntled. :) Your Syria is a beautiful place and your passion for it evident in every word you write. I can almost breathe the fragrant sea air of Tartous as I wrap myself in the arms of your eloquent compositions. For a girl living in the dry air of Damascus, that can be quite an intoxicating effect. ;) Thank you for giving us all a comfortable and enlightening place to visit each week. All my best to you, dear.
Abufares said…
Thank you for your comprehensive comment in which you fully addressed my concerns one by one.
I realize that some of the problems we have are more or less universal in nature.
The main point behind this post was to illustrate that if one was to start on the negative aspects of life he can go on and on indefinitely.
Additionally we do face significant problems that are unique to this part of the world. I'm more concerned with the self-inflicted dilemmas. They are what upset me most, when I make the effort to think about them.
Abufares said…
Your remark is quite accurate. Students and teachers (and parents) reinforce the parroting educational practices by embracing this static system.
From my personal experience, I hadn't learned a thing until high school except from my personal readings. Then once I started college (in the US) the whole world opened up to me.
Many thanks for your visit.
Abufares said…
Thank you dear Isobel for your encouragement and support.
Your beautiful presence on my blog makes it all worthwhile.
I hope that someday I can show you around Syria (Tartous in particular) and discover with you so many of the riches and treasures that remain to be found.
Abufares said…
Your father did right in keeping the true image of Syria dancing in your mind.
I hope you come back and make a difference in a collective and commendable effort. Both the demise and the resurrection of a civilization come from within. There's no other way about it.
Thank you for your kind words.
Abufares said…
You're more than welcome
Abufares said…
@Abu Kareem
There is always hope and that's why I chose my path in writing to engage myself with the lighter side of life in Syria... and elsewhere really.
I cannot identify myself as a pessimist or an optimist. I'm more concerned with today because the future rides on our current actions and reflections.
We should all possess a little of her poetic disposition and point our fingers in the same direction.
Abufares said…
I'm thrilled to have wings my friend and their flutter in the wind brings a smile to my face, one I rarely remove and put aside.
My happiness is nurtured deep within and is, to a certain extent, immune from the absurdities of the facts of life.
It's such a joy to have our agreements and disagreements as they make us more human and real even when we're flying high above the crowds.
Abufares said…
I've never felt a more refreshing breath of fresh air than the one you brought our way from Damascus
Oh God what a girl :-)
Thank you for the whiff of jasmine and lavender. My mind is infused with your words.
Yazan said…
Is being cynical about the present, and the inevitable past that led to it, equal to defeatism? I doubt that, but I have no way to prove it.

Nevertheless, if we weren't able to conjure up a beautiful image, even from the lowest and dirtiest of holes then we might as well stop trying to better ourselves, and our world. I, unequivocally, love everything you're writing about, starting with them swaying butts.

For those who really need constant injections of "reality", then it's really not all that complex. Our last 50 years are as plain and boring as the school curriculum they've produced. If it was up to me, I'd replace the whole Socialist Education class with the following paragraph.

"ince the neo-Leninist illusion carried on by present-day Trotskyism is constantly being contradicted by the reality of modern capitalist societies (both bourgeois and bureaucratic), it is not surprising that it gets its most favorable reception in the nominally independent “underdeveloped” countries, where the local ruling classes’ versions of bureaucratic state socialism end up amounting to little more than a mere ideology of economic development. The hybrid composition of these ruling classes tends to correspond to their position within the bourgeois-bureaucratic spectrum. Their international maneuvering between those two poles of capitalist power, along with their numerous ideological compromises (notably with Islam) stemming from their heterogeneous social bases, end up removing from these degraded versions of ideological socialism everything serious except the police." Guy Debord - Society of the Spectacle, 1967.

And a very happy anniversary to you sir!
Dubai Jazz said…
Great post, Abu Fares. Sobering, enlightening, depressing, and yet overall inspiring. I do not for a second lose optimism about the future of our homeland. And that's because people like you are still amongst us, able to detect the maladies (as you rightly called them) and raise appropriate alarms.

Happy anniversary, Abu Fares. Your blog has always been worthy of royal time :D
Abufares said…
As long as we have a young generation enriched by the likes of you we will be ok.
I'm not returning a compliment here. I'm just saying what I really believe in.
Thank you for being so much wiser for your years while keeping your priorities straight :-)
Abufares said…
I enjoy your company my friend, on and offline. While I and others of my generation raise the alarm I'm full of hope that yours will be able to rid us of some of our persistent problems.
Amira said…
Kul Sana w enta tayib ya Abu Fares.

I think I have ceaselessly enjoyed your writing over 4 years and hope for it to continue for many more, reminding us of the beauty of not only Syria but the world :)
أنا سوري said…
Wallahi I couldn't agree with you anymore on the pathetic state of our education system Abu Fares. I was reading the text books of my nieces while I was there, and the English teaching ones were full of mistakes, and most of the others had outdated information. According to the Geography one, the population of Damascus is still 1.7 mil. Students, as you mentioned, still have to memorize the books. It seems that the year-end tests are more about who has a better memory than understanding. We pass new laws and take it to the extreme thinking it would make us look more civilized, way before we target the problem at its roots. People leave the Friday prayers, get into their cars, and immediately go back to their old habit of driving like they're the only ones on the roads out there. I'm not sure how we're going to fix our society, but it seems more impossible after every visit I try to enjoy at home. Happy 4th anniversary my friend. Keep up the excellent work.
Karin said…
Alf alf mabrouk dear friend!! Your blog is not only fantastic and most enjoyable to read, it teaches the reader about a Syria few ever heard of and will know in future!

The beauty (not only the devil!) often lays in the detail, the seemingly unimportant, not-popping out at first glance ... and you always know to chose topics which simply capture and make one smile at the end (or all along)!

Keep on going or rather writing dear friend ... another four years and another ... and another and rest assured, I will always be among you very loyal readers!!
Abufares said…
Many thanks for your kind words and for letting me know that you've been all along on this ride.
Abufares said…
@Ana Sourie
Our problems start and end in our homes and schools. That's what I believe anyway.
The way our educational system is set right now and the fact that it remains unchallenged by students and parents (mainly parents) mean that very little social progress can be expected anytime soon.
Unfortunate but true.
Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog.
I have sent you a message earlier telling you that I would've liked to meet you when you were here.
Hopefully next time and under better circumstances.
Again, may your mother rest in peace my friend.
Abufares said…
We've been together since day one more or less.
You were always one of the most avid commentators and supportive friends to me and I thank you for every word of encouragement and appreciation you've written on my behalf.
Your blog is a beam of hope bringing to light that oppression cannot go on indefinitely undetected, unaccounted for and unpunished.
Thank you for being you Karin, a most wonderful human being.
Karin said…
Your response to my comment made my day and pulled me through a few difficult moments ... that was soooo nice, thank you so very very much!
I do cherish our friendship ... you're a wonderful friend!
Gabriela said…
Being 15 and having to go through life lasting decisions is hard. I once read that God must have been very angry with teenagers when he created them: at a very hard age, they have to deal with acne, a changing body and career choices.
I hope your girl goes through that stage pretty well.
Saludos desde Chile.
Abufares said…
I was wondering where you were. I hope you were partying :-) and going wild!!!
She's holding on, much better than me when I was her age to tell you the truth.
Always a pleasure to see you here.
Gabriela said…
Thanks for worrying for my "silence".
I think a blog is a personal space, and as such, you can use this personal space as you like it, as long as you don't harm nor hurt anyone.
Keep the good work going!
Four Years! wow ... double wow for makign it of such intensity, passion and quality!

Every nation has a dark under belly - some a little larger than others. I believe that the positive energy you put out for Syria will only bring her and you more to be grateful for.
Abufares said…
4 years indeed! I never knew I had so much talk in me :-)
Thank you for being here and for writing on your wonderful blog. I know you celebrated your blog's first anniversary a short while back. I hope you stick around for many years to come. Since it's all about LOVE, you'll never run short on inspiration.
KJ said…
Bring it on old man :) You're one of the very few reasons I still am around the blogging sphere
Abufares said…
Thank you my friend. You're one of the few reasons I still enjoy blogging :-)

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