I’ve decided to stop fearing Brexit
I call myself a pacifist. A socialist. I accept capital as a means of exchange and I enjoy luxury.
The school to which I draw my beliefs is a school of thought. A practice, so like a way of living but with the meaning of every word there is also a poetry- which is the pleasant twice usefulness of language, isn’t it? That it can mean more than it must.
In my language, the word for power is lust.
I grew up in a town of few practicing Catholics, that was known in ancient British history as a refuge of monks. Out of my father’s own pity he saved us from the religious teachings of his parents, that of the Druze. A minority sect from The Lebanon, to this day a people demanding great notions of power and identity in a contested region, they have managed to secure their lands over time, in the face of all kinds of encroachment- international, internal. The Druze have a history of serving alongside their preferred masters, who allow them to live out the quietest forms of their religion, in exchange for their support. In Syria, they are split, as they are in Mount Lebanon, where most of them reside, between their alliance to the ruling family. In Israel and Occupied Palestine, they wield exceptional favor with the ruling authority- the regime which rules with such impunity it is difficult to imagine another time such a true, outstanding power- untouchable in every sense- existed in the region. My parents did not teach me the ways of our religion, and so I grew up rather secular in habit and in taste- enjoying a very fine relationship with the master Karl Marx. Not so much as a political icon in my imagination- to that I owe mostly Gramsci and Fanon- and the not so unusual fascination with Che Guevara, because why not?
It was not until later in my studies, I think, my third or fourth semester at university- at the American University of Beirut- paying extra attention to the war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq- I was drawn to the ideas of the Ayatollahs of Iran- their special interest in religious authorities standing as philosophers of the time. In my research the ideas of the wilayat faqih were made clear to me. That of a particularly outstanding spiritual being, whose understanding of a legal reading of religious context and manifest is unrivaled. Someone so smart, they would probably be tenured at a university and live out the rest of their lives teaching uninterested students high on Xanax and Meth. Instead they’re on it, and they’re smart.
But we’re told that they’re just a bunch of raving lunatics, who want to destroy us, and we’re supposed to be afraid of them and their techniques. And that ours are so noble, if they would only play with our rules, we would all live in peace.
Can you imagine a world without the resistance? How distasteful would it be?
As I grew older, I found myself drawn to new ideas, to would challenge the old dogma, the old traditions. I can’t really say I’ve taken to yoga, not because it doesn’t interest me. Mostly because I have a hard time believing I should be doing anything other than write- or to think, to myself, what is wrong with my life? What is wrong with me?
Writing seems to help. Writing is me.
In my writing I have managed to find a new rhythm, a new sense of self, that is not dictated by the authorities, who are like a cancer in my mind- always there. In this cavity of power I have managed to find myself, and I have given myself the authority to speak on behalf of my tribe, who have accepted to be spoken on their behalf.
I converted to the teachings of Zahreddine sometime in the summer of 2011. I was primed for change, eager to find some sort of meaning in my life. Living in Beirut for five years, I had seen the city fall into disrepair after the latest Israeli assault. It was, in many ways, devastating to my notions of belonging. Not only the political overcurrents, as they are. Also the way this manifested in the way that the Lebanese are known to treat each other and to treat their surroundings. Every one who is Lebanese will understand this- and while we aren’t many, we are a comfortable outfit, enough to fill a crowd- we treat each other like shit, and we treat our nature even worse. We treat our ideals as if it is ours, as if we own them. While in England, in the country I was born- we have started to believe that we own this country, that it is ours. That somehow, what we imagine this country ought to be, ought to be embraced. That somehow the idea that the country ought to represent our deepest convictions in what it is, this is somehow embraced as the ultimate paramount goal of democracy, and we ought to uphold it.
I was in New York, walking down the streets at night, stoned. I guess you could say- as the narrative goes- I was a prime candidate to go it alone- a lone wolf. Had I converted? Nobody knows. I have never been questioned, nor had my efforts of movement restrained. I move among you rather curtly, and actually I am encouraged, you take to my kindness, to my light. In this way, I have managed to build a home in many circles around you, but you’ll never know.
As I was saying, I was walking down the streets of New York, stoned, when I heard the word Bara ringing in my mind- I began to sing out loud. I said- BARA IS MINE.
What does Bara mean?
I was on Bowery and 1st, and I walked to a bar across the street. It was closing, but the man let me sit, and I promised to roll him a joint. We spoke for some time. In the end I wrote down the 20 Limits of the Mind, which I wanted to answer that night, but which have taken me at least 10 years to respond. I am still on the 9th, and I think I need this final year to know if I am right, if I was right all along.
And I thought- what does it mean to be Arab in body and Western in mind, Arab in sentimentality and Western in reading. As I always say, I have only read Darwish in English, and it hurts. True, I’m too lazy to better my Arabic. I didn’t focus as a kid, and my parents were not wise enough to take me to a therapist to get me on Ritalin, so I haven’t really perfected anything other than a simple stutter of language- like the sound that a typewriter starts.
Bara is your identity spelled backwards, if you look like me.
A new eye, a new heart.
Today, the Bara are a tribe and my voice represents them. They exist in cities across the Western world- living some as refugees, others as independent, highly skilled laborers- others simply as students- travelers- lovers. They exist in your circles of independence and in your public spaces, to those of you who will read this who attest to being white- though did you know that on my SATS I had to cross off Caucasian? How does that make you feel, Donald Trump? Isn’t that confusing?
What do the Bara aim to accomplish? A change in the order of things.
THE END OF THE WEST IS HERE.
I had been grappling with the ideas that would infuse theirs with mine for some time. Losing a bit of my identity here and there, giving it away in order to fit in, or to feel at peace with my friends, or to discover something secret, a private pleasure.
I dress differently than the regular Arab you see on the street. Colored in a Western style, I have a beard- which draws a certain amount of looks in Berlin, where I live- a discreet life- free from the violence of my ancestors and outside of their reach.
Based on the cities I’ve lived, I could’ve spoken five languages, speaking three of them so poorly I mix them up all the time. I dream in English and Arabic- I write in English- I fuck in Latin- I rhyme in a verse that is only mine.
In Bara, the word for identity is nine. How much of my identity is really mine?
I was greatly distressed, because I felt suddenly the hope that we might overturn Article 50 was slipping from our grasp. It was in many ways a repeat of the election morning in 2016, when I felt that even in the West the world was slowly corrupting out of itself.
Recent studies show Americans are deeply afraid. It might be an epidemic of addictions that is fueling this. It might also be their peace of mind. One wonders if the very fabric which has always fed the Western self-image- a perception of Western society as being immune to defeat. I can’t recall when exactly, as I have only been on this planet some years. There was a time when Western civilization did not seem so concrete. Did not seem so immovable.
The parallels to a time before WWI are a constant reference these days. What happened thereafter was really the seed of an entirely new world- a world in which national structures- largely dictated by competing levels of self- interest- used capital to exchange on a battlefield of power. Capital through a diverse range of enterprise formations- corporations, national and private- SMEs- nonprofits- fantasy funds- financial markets- industries and general privates. It is often taught to pupils in school that on the eve of WWI there were a mere fourteen recognized states in the world- while in the world we live in today, there are some two hundred. Each with their own defining self-image- many conflicted from within- it is this peculiar unreliability of the nation state in particular which must be abolished, if we are to survive the profanity of our own stupidity.
In the teachings of Zahreddine, we learn that the formula to live a balanced and healthy life begins in the opening of the chalice- the opening of the mouth. When we feel pain in our hearts, because of something that is distressing- for me, it may be Brexit, as I feel this is symbolic of a general distaste in modern politics that is eating away at our perceptions of each other- of what is right and wrong- simply to say we have forgotten how to find in our compassion a balance between one another, which is preferable as much to me as it is to you- for you, this may be something so distressing as climate change, which is a deep and disturbing problem which is itself- and its solutions- at the heart of my own. Such interconnectedness is indicative of the world in which we live. When we feel this pain in our hearts, we must understand that we are restricting ourselves in a way that will only further the distress, grave as it may seem.
This is the basis of the 1st Tenet of Practice, in the teachings of Zahreddine.
That which will be made to endure great suffering
shall imagine it worse than it is.
I have had a slight difficult time in understanding, in my own life practice, how to apply these words. What do they tell me?
First, if we know that there is a problem in front of us. Take Brexit- it is happening in no less than 8 days. The entire situation is changing every minute, but one thing has remained the same- it is about politics, not about change. It is a story of leadership and challenges, not a story about reform. Has a single policy been discussed by the two sides? They have all played in what they feel is actually the remote suspension of reason which overtakes politics making and allows for democracy to work in waves.
Rather than seek a new set of solutions, the entire focus has been on the media game- where the modern theatre of politics is played out. A tripartite equation, pitting Theresa May and her conservative party in a dual challenge of cat and mouse with a frustrated public and MPs on the opposite side, struggling to have their voices heard. The media plays the interlocutor in this very modern conversation, where the openings cause minor disruptions and ruptures- the waves that balance truth like a slack-liner balances faith. After all the bickering and politicking and crimes against citizens and cries of democratic rights, the perils of representative democracy laid bare in the open- there is only a single truth- that we have been played- that we played along in a game that was too big for us, an opponent too strong. We gave them our focus, and they fed us through fears and lies and chatter and song a whole systemic rapprochement of distractions. While what? We dance into another decade, earning less, working harder- while the rich get richer- the poor get poorer- and the rest are left to die.
In my recent Twitter feed I’ve read a few comments from users who claim to be working class patriots. Voted Conservative, Labour and UKIP, all of the above. At the end of the day, they feel that the experience they have shared has been theirs in a totally independent way than it has been mine or someone else’s, who lives by the thread of a different ancestry to theirs. Even if you look just a little off-white, your food smells different. You approach things under different stress, have to manage differently. We’ve all shared a similar fate, in what has been decided. And really, is it at all conceivable that in any other situation in our lives, we should consider it better to know absolutely nothing about the fate of what will come, simply that it feels to uphold our own imaginations- this ideal self-image of a nation- our nation- which happens to overcome certain cultures more than others- who can claim by their own recent readings of ancestry and history a cultural superiority over others- we come to this disgrace.
Call me petty, call me ignorant, call me wild. I wasn’t raised in Kensington or educated at Eton. English is my native language, and my Arabic is shit. Wherever I go, I find I am a stranger. There’s one thing I know, either way. Whatever deal comes in the end, whatever happens- there won’t be a place for me.