Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beware the Flogging You Driving Woman!

Lest you thought erroneously that the dark ages are a thing of the past, please be informed that just yesterday a woman was sentenced to ten whiplashes  because *drum roll* she was caught driving a car!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I kid you not. And this of course takes place in none other than the backward-minded "Kingdom."

I hate to refer to that country, where beloved Mecca and Medina lie, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia because, like my very wise grandmother always said, no country should be name after its rulers.

How can women still face such cruel and demeaning corporeal punishment in the year 2011--and by order of a judge? What is wrong with the world?

And before you jump to conclusions about extremists and Islamic Sharia law, let me tell you that Saudi king and royalty are not as pious as they would like us to believe. They, and their beloved/favored ones, are out of the reach of said Sharia law. They do whatever the hell pleases them and in many instances have to travel far and wide to enjoy freedom.

So again the case of the Kingdom is merely a case of chauvinist pigs used religion to exercise their misogyny. It's an age old trick.  Watch the locked up housewives of Venice in the movie Dangerous Beauty do they remind you of someone?

Women of the Kingdom, fear not. You will see the light of freedom, soon I hope--in our lifetime. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Disillusionement and the Arab Spring

One of  most interesting Arab intellectuals on the blogging scene, Rami Zurayk, Professor of Ecosystem Management in the American University of Beirut, wrote a  piece on why he is not disillusioned with the Arab spring.

Now, it is only natural that I find his post intriguing. After all, disillusionment was one of  my most common states of mind--guess the hapless romantics all know what I am talking about.

There comes the time when you realize that there is no place for disillusionment, because all your worst fears are true. Utopia is truly nowhere, and happinness is more fleeting that a cigarette's wick.

This was precisely where I stood right before the Arab spring worked its magic on me. 

But then, like spring always does, the Arab spring gave way to a cruel and harsh summer--with bodies all over the place and hope no where in sight.

Zurayk argues that disillusionment is a natural state of affairs that one should embrace, as a part of the circle of life, rather than worry about it. He also firmly asserts that disillusioned with the Arab spring he is not and will never be. Why? because the Arab spring has remolded our societies perceptions and ended the infamous acquiescence of Arab people for all time. 

You cannot really argue with that. But the way I see it, oil monarchies are poison to the Arab's freedom springs. Rich corrupt kings do not freedom for their people--or their people's neighbors. They would like to see the dictator-free countries in a perpetuel state of chaos. So that they serve as cautionary tales for the people of the gulf--lest they dare seek freedom for themselves.  

This brings me back to the question: are YOU disillusioned with the Arab spring? Or do you see a dim light at the far end of the tunnel?

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Hope and Being Young

I found a quotations notebook from my teenage years the other day.

It started off  with stanza One of  Emily Dicknison's
 "Hope is the thing with feathers.
 That perches in the soul.
 And sings a tune-- without the words
 And never stops at all."

It was written up in beautiful colors with an elegant hand writing complete with decorative motifs and small happy scribbles. 

The notebook's was full of quotations, some attributed some not. I flipped through it without much attention--until I found that final page. 

I had not remembered collecting these quotes or making that notebook at all. But from the choice of first quote I had assumed that it was a happy teenage girl's little book--a guide to life, or something of the sort. 

Until I came across the last page.
The page held the last quote: 
"Contentement is when you finally realize that life is a gift, not a right." with a small circular drawing beside it, labeled "Vicious Circle of Wants and Needs."  The circle, scribbled in fading pencil strokes, showed how the "quest for happiness" leads to "unfullfillment" which, naturally, leads right back up to the "quest for happiness."

Then, a sad question a few lines down: "How can I break free?"

The answer was shocking: " God," circled in red.

I must have been fourteen or fifteen when I wrote the first quote. But I remember nothing of the circumstances of writing this one last page.  That page was not just a pious girl's quest for Nirvana, or a plan to relinquish material life. This is was the beginning of what was to be many years of learned helplessness.

I wonder who taught this young intelligent human being full of potential that she has to "stop wanting." Who taught her that happiness is bad? Why did she think that there was no use trying?

What happened between the first and the last pages, you may wonder. Well, the patriarchal misogynist Powers That Be had finally gotten the best of me. A very long story that I am sure I am going to tell someday, or even put it in a book. For many years I battled with this there-is-no-use mentality. Sometimes I won, but most of the time the Powers That Be had something entirely different in mind.

How did that story end? Well, I ultimately came out victorious! The Powers That Be are no longer in charge. I'm in charge!

But somewhere deep inside still lies that sad scared little girl. Is this why I was drawn to writing YA fiction about a girl who thought of herself no good but turned out to hold all the power? Perhaps. But maybe I also wrote it for my daughter, to tell her of all the things that she can be and all the things that she can do--if she chooses to.

The operative term here is "if she chooses to." This is a theme I will come back to time and time again in the Battle for Maat. Aya is not just someone who is fated by blood and heritage for greatness, she had to choose to be great. She will even defy common sense on many occasions because she wants to do what she feels is right and wants to find her own way.

"We are who we choose to be." The blind Seer tells Aya in the beginning of her journey. I believe in that wholeheartedly. Don't you?