Sunday, October 7, 2012

Among Savages

What really got my blood rushing with the ads in New York City's subway stations last month was not Mona Eltahawy pink-spraying these ads; was not @monaeltahawy phrasing tweets full of fucks coming from a proud savage; was not Mona E. - in pure Hollywood style - firing for effects rather than for results. What really got me upset when looking at the ads in the NYC subway stations: that Israel once again was depicted as a civilized nation surviving in a sea of savages. The same Israel that occupies Palestinian land for decades. The same Israel that imprisons Palestinians for years, without charge, without trial. The same Israel that got away with burying Rachel Corrie alive. The same Israel that has chosen to settle in the Middle East, in Asia, but is playing football with the Europeans, instead of trying to integrate peacefully into her geopolitical environment. 

The same Israel that is presented as a beacon of democracy and free speech has issues with free speech herself. Her president in command - Obama, D.C. - is lecturing others on the beauty of free speech but is not allowed to mention Israel's nuclear weapons as a fact. Of course he could, Obama, but then someone will take over Michelle's garden in the backyard of the White House. Günther Grass, the German Nobel prize winner for literature, published yet another text (Eintagsfliegen - mayflies) in September, criticizing Israel, singing the praise of her nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Don't worry Günther, you are safe: you already earned yourself a "persona non grata" in Israel for writing "Was gesagt werden muss" (what needs to be said) in April of this year. 


stop savages: New York City subway station

Let's reflect for a moment: so far, Israel has only made peace, or concluded a non-aggression pact of some sorts, with strong authoritarians. Sadat, then Mubarak in Egypt, Hussein and Abdullah of Jordan, the devils we know in Damascus, the ramshackle Kings of Saudi Arabia and the bulky Emirs of Qatar. The late Shah of Iran was a good friend too. Frightened democrats don't have the space to take risks, to make deals with Israel. "Marg bar Amrika" is a more popular slogan than "let's get cozy with Israel". The high end of civilization, according to Pam Geller that is, is actually a beneficiary of the muzzles other regimes have buckled on their own subjects.

Enough of this political whining and bashing! Here's somebody talking to you who has been there. Who has lived among savages the entire month of September. In Lebanon. Somebody with a first hand experience. Here's Yorikirii, your expert on savagery.

Is it being savage, then, that Richard, the glass guy, had to be reminded several times with phone calls that he had taken an order to install some piece of glass in my bathroom, deliverable in ten days (but counting from when...)? Is it being savage that Richard tells me on the phone that he is in the car and will be at my place in 40 minutes? And when I call him again 90 minutes later he tells me that the glass has just arrived and he is about to leave now.

Is it being savage that Robert, the cleaning institute guy, misses two appointments to clean my apartment? And Soha, the cleaning institute lady from a rival company, doesn't show up as well, twice in a row, the second time having her husband answering the phone, claiming she had an "unexpected accident". Is it being savage that I had to clean the apartment myself, appropriating and re-appropriating the flat again and again, getting familiar with every corner of it? Is it being savage that I left the main share of the cleaning to somebody close to me, immensely more qualified for this than I ever could be?

Is it being savage that Jo, the car paint guy, tells me to be at his shop at 1700, to leave the car with him to paint it, but when I arrive at 1645, his shop is closed, Jo nowhere to be seen and his employees are smoking their first narguileh of a Friday evening? I find Jo later, some blocks away, chatting, and he expected me to find him. And if I hadn't: my problem.

Is it being savage that cars beat every pedestrian, that bicyclists don't dare to hit the roads and that a green and efficient public transportation system is absent from the services provided to the Lebanese by their state? Is it being savage that people ask me what exactly do you mean when you talk about "public services"?

Is it being savage that I start to dislike driving outside of Lebanon? That I deplore that pedestrians, bicyclists and trams have more rights than me and my car. Is it being savage that I start to intimidate my fellow road users at crossroads, forcing my way to where I want to go, damn well knowing that I don't have the priority?

Is it being savage that is takes ages - and probably it will never happen - to fix electricity in Lebanon, while it only took two weeks to make the new nano-SIM cards available for everyone eager to buy a iPhone 5?


choosing between savages: Miss Lebanon 2012 contest

Is it being savage that the Miss Lebanon 2012 contest was decided between identical twins - with Rina to be the winner and Romy to be the runner up - and I didn't know where to look and who to choose? Is it being savage when I say that Lebanese are community-oriented alpha-individuals bordering on ruthlessness and serial liars? Or do I miss a cultural beat here? Or is it life as it happens?

Obama's principles of free speech stop at the borders of Israel, at the gates of Gaza. Pamela Geller, America's premier Islamophobist, is mounting cheap shot ads, greatly helped by Mona Eltahawy who seems to believe that defacing an ad is a significant contribution to the promotion of free speech. Mordechai Vanunu was kidnapped by the Mossad and had been jailed for years for mentioning Israel's nuclear weapons program. Günther Grass was almost stripped off his Nobel prize for expressing his fears over Israel's aggressive attitude. As long as the civilized world keeps applying two measures to free speech - for Israel and for the rest - the self declared civilized world is in no position to give lessons. Until then, I will continue to live among savages. Here and there.