While as the British get maximum benefits and minimal damage because of their sense of perfect timing when they have tea; We, in the Middle East, get anemia for sipping tea before during and after meals. We inflict upon ourselves maximum damage and gain minimal benefits, from otherwise potentially healthy dietary items, because of our poor sense of timing. We do not have to wear the Sri Lankan national dress whenever we felt like having a cup of tea. Nor do we have to substance abuse, then blame our iron depletion on our imports of excellent Sri Lankan tea.
A case in point is our substance abuse of garlic and nutmeg. While garlic built a reputation since ancient Egyptian times for its medicinal qualities, nutmeg is known to give zest and enhance food taste. If consumed in large quantities however, garlic causes sleepiness, amongst other serious side effects, and nutmeg causes a definite change in reality and in auditory faculties.
The Middle East has been on a diet based on garlic and nutmeg for too long. Finally, it overdosed and crashed. It landed on the operating table under the knives of surgeons and their supporting team of angels of mercy. Rare as it happens during surgery, but while under full anesthesia, all systems paralyzed, all wounds opened, the Middle East wakes up. Aware of everything that is happening in the operating room; from doctors cracking golf jokes, to doctors discussing democracy and civilization, to doctors wanting to brain dead. Only too helpless to do anything about the situation except go through the painful experience of watching its history and the history of generations to come in the making.
While the Middle East is bleeding internally, externally and in between, Israel gets a vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East, by spreading Palestinians equally all over. The US decides it is high time the Middle East gets civilized. Between the Israeli vision and the US mission, the Middle East goes in shock. The only good news about being in shock is not being dead.
Well! Yes, the French do eat a lot garlic and nutmeg. But the French have the right built and the right defenses, and can afford the wine that balances then waters all down. Besides, when the French go to sleep, they know when is the right time to wake up.
Waking up at the wrong time during surgery is pitiful. You want to say to whoever was at the wheel before the crash, by all means go back to sleep. But when the operation ends, as they all do, you cannot help ask the driver, what was he thinking dosing off with passengers at the back seat, without seat belts, their fate hanging in the air? He may want to surprise you by not being too predictable. Then again he might not want to do either, and blame all on garlic, nutmeg, and the Palestinians, who seem to have a hand in everything except their past, present and future.
Ironically, the Middle East calls 911 to come to the rescue. But instead of the usual hero operator one always hears about, there is a recording with, the number you have dialed is prehistoric and the episodes you are watching are prehistoric. Don’t call us. We will send someone to put you out of your misery.
Good old Kurtz arrives all the way from “The Heart of Darkness” in full armour. The story goes that while on a mission to civilize dark Africans in deep dark Africa, Kurtz, alone and with unlimited power, decides that the best way to unburden himself from “The White Man’s Burden”, that of civilizing other colors of the human race, is to “Exterminate all the brutes”. Having played god, killed natives and taken their ivory; he then declares, “I want no more than justice”. Apart from his idea of justice, Kurtz has a recipe for spreading a certain brand of suffering by spreading civilization.
Ingredients: unlimited power plus patriotism (Imperial measure)
Preparation time: depends on consumed amounts of garlic and nutmeg in selected spots.
Marinating time: anywhere between one to fifty years. The longer the marinating, the better the results.
Cooking time: anywhere from forty-five minutes to over five hundred years.
Choose from world Atlas, one to three rich spots where you want to spread civilization and drain of energy and resources.
Stretch your muscles and be generous with display of power.
Mix few conspiracies with a lot of propaganda and don’t forget to add patriotism to mixture.
Sprinkle with pretexts for humanitarian and economic assistance.
Accuse “natives” of being lazy devils and unworthy of resources.
Be an angle and set sail to help rid the world of demons.
Add at various intervals, according to taste, more spots from world atlas.
Gradually but consistently, spread suffering until “natives” have simmered.
Raise temperature, just before boiling point, bomb people out of civilization.
Restart the process of civilizing at lowest temperature, whereby, it has almost a zero effect on progress of natives.
Make sure, the whole time you are stirring different spots, nobody gets devilish ideas like nationalism, democracy, and progress.
If some start having dark thoughts or start asking serious questions, bomb them out of civilization.
Start the process of civilizing all over again and keep at it, until you have built an empire.
Cover spots with blood, leave premises in good time and don’t forget to leave treaties of all sorts.
Let “the natives” clean up the mess.
Kurtz, recipe at hand, has the Middle East on top of a list of countries that have to be civilized. He wants to teach people of the Middle East how to eat garlic and nutmeg using knives and forks. Although Kurtz has unlimited number of teaching tools at his disposal, he lacks a sense for the ironical. For unless the cradle of civilizations changed sites in the last few months, the Middle East along with other hubs and cribs on his list, has greatly contributed to his use of the perfect utensils, to pick up the perfect green pea, and put it in his perfectly round mouth, at the perfect time, before it drops on his perfectly tailored Armani suit.
With Kurtz, it is always the same question: why didn’t God ask him who gets what? If only God did, he would have told him with all humility and for no fees, that as long as people in the Middle East have brown eyes on their brown heads, no colored lenses
and no amount of coloring shampoo would make them deserving of their resources. It never crosses a Kurtz’s mind, that it is precisely because of his ideas on the distribution of resources and civilizations that God never asks for his opinions on earthly matters.
What God does instead, is send to earth someone like Kurtz with unlimited power. In the hope that he will see for himself, if he were God what he will do. He then sends someone like Joseph Conrad author of the “Heart of Darkness” to report on Kurtz, and to remind the undecided rest to make up their minds, would they like to be aggressors or victims and in what dosage? Both report to God. He studies each case, then passes judgement who is good and who failed the test.
God has sole rights to the distribution of suffering as he sees fit. That we all have to suffer is a prerequisite to being human. We do get a choice though, but only in the nature of our suffering. At moment of truth, which is a requirement for all, do we prefer to suffer as aggressors or as victims? As with drinking tea and eating garlic, time is crucial to the kind of suffering we select. We cannot kill for example, then say we are very sorry, and expect to get the same kind of suffering as someone who decided from the very beginning that killing is wrong. There is a difference in the kind of suffering as well, whether we decide to repent after we have killed one, one hundred or one thousand, and of any colour for this matter. When it is time for the last and final call, there are no colour preferences, discounts or special offers to preselected brands of suffering.
Most people prefer to suffer as victims. This isn’t because people revel or “enjoy being victims”, hence the calling. It is more of a subconscious celebration of the soul in not being the aggressor. There is an established innocence and nobility in the suffering of victims. It is the kind of suffering that Jesus endured on behalf of the sins of humanity, while carrying the cross. The Middle East, apart from having to suffer because of a self inflicted case of severe anemia; has a long history of enduring for the sins of others.
If there was a perfect time for despair, now is the time. In the Middle East, to be happy has become the easiest thing and the most irrelevant to living. All one has to do is compare with the worst and feel on top of the world. If you live in Gaza for example, you look at Rafah. If you live in Nablus, you look at Jenine. If you live in Jenine, you think of Sabra and Shatila. If you don’t live in Palestine, you look at Afghanistan. If you don’t live in this entourage, you do not have to look altogether and be happy.
Even sadder, with differences disappearing by the season, we are all becoming equals. Just when the East has been trying to emulate the best in the West, the West is busy emulating the worst in the East. Just when you thought you learned something good from the West, if nothing, then a little bit of language, the whole West are digging their heads in their dictionaries and encyclopedias looking for root meanings of cat, rat, wrong and right. When a teacher has to research the word cat, how can you trust him with meanings of words like schizophrenia, autism and irony? You expect him to tell you that irony is derived from iron. If you have any dignity and if you feel you owe him, for having learned something useful from him, other than eating soup with a knife and garlic with a shovel, you have to disagree.
When words get twisted in the West, people in the East twist them back. Not only because it is the age of the twist, but because when the Sharons of the world are called men of peace, people look around with their eyes, hearts and minds and find that the claim is not scientifically verifiable or corroborates with the truth.
The problem is not East not understanding West because of all the cultural differences and the language barrier. It is more East understanding West only too clearly when they start talking about the spreading of democracy and civilization. Being experts on being colonized for too long, there is no misunderstanding in that department. Not by a ten year old boy who lives in Gaza and whose hobby is to collect Western military icons that demolished his house, or by an old illiterate man who lives anywhere in the Middle East and remembers what Kurtz did last time he was in town.
What people in the East find difficult to understand though, is how can a great religion like Islam be slandered with such ease, when courts are filled with slanderous cases of mortals suing other fellow mortals for slander. If stars and psychologically damaged whales can sue, so can God. If being civilized dictates that we address even fraudulent “corporate gods”, as Sirs, it is only apt that we do not call God or Islam bad names.
What people in the East find difficult to understand, is how can people in Florida Mao, ignore and not lose any sleep over shallow graves in Afghanistan, with hands and teeth sticking out, when they cannot possibly ignore sick people telling sick jokes? Just when you thought you knew even if your are deaf or have the volume of your TV on mute, here is where the good cop says to the bad guy he has just arrested, ” you have the right to remain silent.” He says instead; you better be silent, anything you say or not say inside or outside the court of law will be held against you anyway and irrespective, as long as you are wearing this ugly brown shirt. Take off your shoes and give me your fingers, you are under arrest. Since it is not a comedy show you are watching, you want to ask where was this good cop in June, July and August before the fact?
Contrary to rumours, people in the Middle East are not jealous from people in the West for getting the rights to demonize, report and deport. They have suffered sufficiently and for too long from having these rights. How can anyone be jealous from the Western hair style, when the famous hair stylists cannot see the similarity between the all shaved and the all bearded, both wearing placards with large print that reads: down with everybody except myself?
What is the attraction in being equal with the all bearded, the all shaved the kurtzes and the Sharons? What is the attraction in all this spreading of civilization and democracy? Has the West gone to sleep? Or have they been eating too much garlic and nutmeg the result of which the East has to suffer twisted visions?
With the age of the “Twist” in full swing, one longs for a “Jazz Age” full of dreams, unhappiness and differences. Just when you thought you could hear all the beats of the world in one song, they tell you to stop at the dance floor whenever the beat is not yours. How un- rhythmic can you get? Just when you learned that health is related to food and both are related to time, they tell you either to forget or to unlearn. How amnesic can you get? Just when you woke up, they want to put you back to sleep. What an imperfect timing.