How to Live With A Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (Or Kicking His)

Chapter 8: On Comrades, Concepts and Bad Days

The revolutionary tends to mostly be a happy go lucky kind of person. He has to, for the revolution couldn’t possibly be carried by negative, all-year-round miserable people: there needs to be enthusiasm in the struggle! Fiery passion when singing l’Internationale! Motivation in the picket lines! Not to mention the fact that you need quite the nervous system to bear all the (minor, he’ll tell you) setbacks the global, permanent revolution has had to endure since Comrade Marx published his Manifesto. No, the revolution is a positive person kind of job, no time for whiny bourgeois spoiled brats.

However, and despite contradicting evidence, the revolutionary is human and has sometimes some down days, or less chirpy moments. You see, it sometimes hits the revolutionary that some Great Comrades are no longer with us (please note: it is believed that revolutionaries never die, for their struggle survives them, so we’re only talking here about mere physical absence). The revolutionary will be happily reading the Bible (The Permanent Revolution, of course) or the Sequel to the Bible (The Russian Revolution, what else?) (I hope by now you do realise that both are from Comrade Trotsky), he’ll be nodding in approval of every word, muttering under his beard “See! When you read the Russian Revolution, you find all the features we’re encountering right now in the Arab Spring! This is why Comrade Trotsky is so relevant! This is why he’s so unbelievably great!” And then it hits him. Comrade Trotsky is long gone. The Revolutionary will never be able to shake his hand, talk with him about the permanent revolution, or even organise a little demo with him.

  

That saddens the revolutionary. Sighing, he’ll go back to his readings, a heaviness to his heart.

Of course, the revolutionary doesn’t only miss Comrade Trotsky. Comrade Habash for example is another much loved comrade, one that the revolutionary only thinks highly of. Oh! To have shared, if only briefly, an escape from a Syrian prison with al Hakim!

Alas, this will never be. *More sighing*

Thankfully, the revolutionary finds solace in toying with Concepts and badgering you all day long with them, waiting for you at the corner of politically and revolutionary correct, so much so that you’ll weigh every word carefully before you let them go out of your mouth (as if). For examples, you’re not allowed to generalise some people under “The Arabs blah blah blah”. That’s orientalism. Comrade Said said so. And you’re not allowed to compare people “The Arabs” vs “Westerners”. That’s orientalism in reverse. Comrade Said said so too. Even if it’s only to say “The Arabs put more spices in their dishes than Westerners”. How do you know? How can you generalise, stigmatise, reduce peoples like that? And then he starts its rant, where you’re usually featured as an evil product of bourgeois narrow-mindedness, when really you were just cooking, making your life a living hell.

You’re not living with a revolutionary for nothing. You do remember the slogan “one solution, revolution!”. You hence rebel. You’ll have to. Survival Skills. Just tell him he’s oppressing you by correcting every word you say, violating your basic rights, being uttely machist and conservative, all of which SUPREMELY COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY.

No bigger insult than being called counter-revolutionary. That ought to send him back to his readings, sulking, while you can go back to being your orientalist, reverse-orientalist, conservative self.

Now don’t tell me I ain’t doing anything to help you cope with living with a revolutionary!

Advertisements

Leave

Er7al!

My fist clenched around a rock, sweat dripping from my brow I know no foe.  The only thing that matters is the rhythm of my heart slowly telling me I’m not dead yet, that I’m there, truly alive, each pulsation quietly reminding me that their time has not come yet, their time to play God with me and decide when  I shall depart my sacred land.

Er7al!

At that very moment nothing exists except the pure trajectory of my arm slowly drawing arabesques above my head, of my whole being folding on itself, my hand alone stretched out, reaching out to the sun, to the glorious victory of freedom. I count seconds and release the rock, leaving it to deliver my message of despair and hope and as I do so, my shirt is lifted, revealing my thin frame, my ribs apparent, my rage, intact and corrosive.

Er7al!

For a split second, noises become liquid and I drown into them, plunging into my fate, happily. My rock still in the air, I fully stand up, releasing my body from years of tyranny, giving it back its long lost humanity, I want to stand up straight for once and see what I’ve hit, see the dent my small act has made on the concrete walls around me.

Er7al!

The feet of the seemingly unmovable iron idol with clay feet absorbs the tiny projectile but as I look up and emerge from within myself I see hundreds and thousands tiny rocks attacking it, relentlessly bringing it down.  Thousands of hands outstretched, and screams and demands, our rights, we want nothing more than what is rightly ours, our rights, and we won’t be waiting in a corner until you decide to give us scraps of your feast, until you decide that we’d rather be fed than freed.

Er7al!

What you don’t give us we will take. When you silence us we will speak, kill one, see hundreds bloom, torture one, hear thousands scream.

Er7al!

And here I am, while some of us fall as I carry on, wearing my flag and clenching my fists, here I am shouting out to the sun that one day, yes one day, we will be enough, that one day, yes one day, I’ll throw flowers instead of rocks, waving my flag high in the sky instead of wrapping it so closely to my body, as if to protect it from all the insults it has already borne.

Er7al!

 

 

Snakeskin

Curled up in your bed, silently crying tears no one will ever hear. 

I know how you feel. 
Drowning in books and booze and work, sedating yourself with other stories, other lives and other dreams, you square your shoulders and tighten your jaw and carry on. Or pretend. Same thing really.

Oh how i know how you feel. Lying awake shaking in your bed, fantasizing on what it could have been, asking yourself where it all went wrong as if it was all your fault, as if it was only up to you. When did you play that wrong card,  when did you lower your guard? BUt there was simply nothing left to say, you both ran your course.It’s admitting it that’s the bitch.
You go out and lose yourself in fake smiles and glitter, making your heels click with each wannabe victorious step that you take, blowing kisses above polished heads, taking in the admiring glances, embracing the envious stares, sealing off the cracks in your self esteem with strength found in others’ eyes.
Yet you get home dry from the pretence, tired from the act, eager to take the cloak of lies off, incongruous feelings of guilt and shame plaguing you, sticking to your damp sheets, unshakable.
Sinking in your solitude, revelling in it, you shy away from the world, declaring yourself on strike against false complacency, fake sympathy, half baked empathy. Hear no evil, see no evil, your raw soul simply could not take it, disappearing is all that matters and to hell with the offended comments and judgmental stares that pierce your back every time you pluck up the courage to venture out. 
I know how you feel. 
If only I could take a break from myself you say, if only I could become this nameless faceless shadow over there, oh what I’d give to leave my own skin behind for only a second of blissful oblivion. 
I know how you feel. 
Blurred by the smoke of your endless cigarettes, exhaling sharply as if to cleanse yourself from the never ending pain and razor blades grazing your stomach, you’ll sign your ticket to freedom with a hollowness to your heart and an acid drill in your gut, feeling the bitter ferruginous taste of your bile get caught up with your tears in your throat, choking you, a wave of emotions overtaking you, compelling you to surrender by its mighty force. Separation. The word hits you like the blade of a sword, torturing you like the slit tongue of a snake licking your wound with unspeakable slowness.
I know how you feel, I know, for I’ve been to these desolated realms and have emerged from them black and bruised but never broken.  
And I know you will too, you’ll slough your skin too. Just once the unbearable pain goes away.

 

How to Live With A Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (Or Scrubbing His)

Chapter 7: On Housework

As most progressive people, the revolutionary is a firm believer in gender equality: abolition of all kinds of inequalities and all that, how could he not? 

Therefore, the revolutionary will be committed to do his share of the Housework. After all, if you’re living together, it’s only fair right? Right. 

To your utter dismay, you’ll soon realise the revolutionary has quite a different take on housework than yours (you personnally blame your mother, a woman for whom cleaning vegetables involved bleach:What? I don’t see the problem! What, it’s not good for your health? It’s really good! Kills all bacteria! All those doctors are just a bunch of liars! One drop I tell you, only one drop!). 

You see, let us not forget the ULTIMATE aim of the revolutionary, which is, well, the Revolution. Everything is seen as the good old superstructure, some unnecessary decorative materials with no influence whatsoever on their surroundings. 

Sadly for you, that includes housework. The revolutionary will therefore happily throw his clothes on the floor without further ado. Fold them? But why? Why would I fold things when I could use this precious time to re-read the Russian Revolution by Comrade Trotsky, my Beloved? (Trotsky, not you). 

Making beds in every way possible except the most widely admitted way is a national sport for the revolutionary, who will tell you the bundle of sheets in the middle of the room is “contemporary art”. Until this day, you curse the hour you took him to that museum: he may have detested it (Such bourgeois concept! such uselessness”Art for art’s sake! what utter decadent bullshit!) but he sure remembered a thing or two. Thanks for nothing, Marcel Duchamp.

Same goes for cooking: do not, at any point, trust the Revolutionary when he tells you he cooks. To him, cooking is just plonking a chicken in a Teflon pan and putting it in the oven. Yes. The Teflon pan. With the plastic handles. Yes. Those which melt in the oven. Don’t even bother to start asking questions: I don’t get you! What’s wrong? Isn’t the chicken cooked? It is, isn’t it? Isn’t that the whole point? 

Such desarming logic, you’ll be at a loss to find a proper answer to that. 

The issue will become even greater as your home will grow into the HQ of the Global Revolution, filled with bearded, bespectacled Comrades eager to get food for the spirit discussing the United Front vs the Popular Front tactics, and food for their stomachs, which would not even go anywhere near Teflon Chicken. 

You might not have read the whole Permanent Revolution, but Miss Beauvoir’s your pal and it will have to be stated quite clearly that male chauvinistic pig is not a good label for a revolutionary. People, pay attention, for this is important: when hitting a sticky patch with the revolutionary, resort to ideology, The power it’llgive you will be infinite, bless those oblivious righteous GodFathers Marx, Engels and Trotsky.

Armed with his good will (I am a Feminist! He’ll say proudly), he will go out of his way to make a point in doing his share, acknowledging you do more, pledging to increase the amount of tasks. Unfortunately, you’ve learnt the hard way good will, Teflon pans and Comrade Trotsky were not a good match. You will outline a to do list of manageable things that’ll prevent the house for burning down and, your mind rested, will settle yourself behind your own books and computer, blissfully oblivious of any weird noise, curses and swears emanating from the disaster area.  

You sometimes wonder where would communism be if Karl had changed the diapers of the six children and Jenny had sat down and wrote Das Kapital. 

How To Live With a Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (Or Shipping His)

Chapter 6: The Bookshelf

The revolutionary is a tricky specie.

I mean, you’d think that if you scratched a bit the whole If-God-Existed-He-Would-Be-Trotsky varnish, you’d find a regular human being beneath.

How odd that you can still fall for this even after all my teachings on living with a Revolutionary. 

When most people these days care about cars and mortgages and flashy watches and Kim Kardashian’s bum, the revolutionary will not even be aware that these things exist (except maybe for KK’s derriere, after all he IS human, even though you have doubts sometimes, no one could read that much without giving themselves a huge headache but anyway). The revolutionary will still wear the same watch he has worn since he was 12, nevermind that it’s a Flik Flak, Pah Comrade Marx did not even have enough money to eat, let alone have a watch, he’ll barely notice what car he drives, you know as long as the brakes work, who cares really? and he’ll definitely look at you with blank eyes if you tell him about the latest gossip you’ve just read in Hello magazine!

Furthermore, he might be as rude as telling you what you’re reading is utter crap and a violation of people’s rights and a mere product of a derelict society that’s trying to numb people senseless into buying things they don’t need. Won’t even partake in the last test you’ll found: Are your thighs too big? (The answer will always be yes and you”ll always finish it feeling inadequate and wanting to buy useless serums and this is why it’s an exploitation of the female’s body….Aaaaaaarrrrgh Sorry the Revolutionary had momentarily taken possession of my body and spirit) 

To which you’ll buy Cosmo just to prove a point. The revolutionary is extremely hard headed and you’ll need to pick your battles. Don’t ever let go of your magazines, even though you agree with him. Develop your survival skills, and not only for the undercover struggle and dangerous situations.

The revolutionary is not adapted to the world we live in: he therefore wants to change it. Whether he’s right or not is not the question: the real issue is how you bring him out in public outside of the Comrade Comfort zone, for the revolutionary considers each second away from his beloved Comrades an utter waste of time that is probably impeding the revolution of going forward. All of this because you wanted to get food! Food! I ask you! While the whole world is waiting! While we have everything we need at home! (Note: while the Revolutionary is perfectly capable of setting up a picket line in under 5 minutes or to rustle up a demo (he loves this word, such a rush!) in just about 5 seconds, the revolutionary is at a complete loss when it’s time for social obligations: tie? what tie? leave me alone! another bourgeois diktat!)

And by “everything at home”, please understand not meat or vegetables but food for the spirit, as in, The Permanent Revolution, Contemporary Arab Thought, the COMPLETE works of Edward Said (a Much Loved Comrade that you’ll soon curse: What you’re saying is PURE orientalism, just go and Read Comrade Said! he’ll say more often than you care to mention). Indeed, as much as the revolutionary loves to eat (ah, to each man his weakness), he’s not interested in the process to get food. It’s the company that counts:the more the Comrades, the Merrier and all that. No, the Revolutionary is a man of (too?) many words, and he’ll love to be surrounded by them. 

ENTERS: THE BOOKSHELF.

Listen very carefully. The revolutionary is perfectly comfortable taking off his shirt and throwing it on the floor, after all it’s just a SHIRT and is not relevant to the revolution, however, he will be nothing short of erecting an electric fence to protect his precious bookshelf. The bookshelf will of course only comprise revolutionary and in-depth authors, carefully ordered by political currents, so if you were looking for something light (you’re thinking Confessions of a Shopaholic) , the revolutionary will simply hand you The Communist Manifesto. What? It’s not long! And it’s the basis! It makes for light reading! And look it’s even funny!

You still don’t get how exactly it’s funny. You strongly suspect he only said that to lure you into reading it (which of course you did, but will never admit. Let’s not encourage such behaviours)

The Bookshelf is divided between: Already Read Books (usually under two days for about 800 pages) and Books to Read. There are obscure sub categories that only he understands, and he’d be more than happy to explain them to you except that you’ve threatened to slash your wrists with a rusty tuna can if he tried. 

Sometimes, you’ll find the revolutionary gazing dreamily at the collection, his head cocked on one side as if to lovingly watch a child sleep except they’re BOOKS, and mutter to himself: so many books to read, I can’t wait. Picture Golum and his precious. Yep, you’re not far. 

You think he’ll wait to read them before getting new ones? You’re sad. Soon enough, between History of Hezbollah and George Habash: A True Comrade, you’ll see Che Guevara: The Early Years, the Awakening of the Revolutionary Conscience in Three Easy Steps and Evil Capitalist Plots: Down with Everything. You’re developing quite the relationship with your postman. 

Soon enough, there might be, esconded behind the Bible, the Centerpiece of the Bookshelf, aka The Permanent Revolution By Comrade Trotsky, well, How To Live With A Revolutionay Withour Losing Your Head. 

On Anger, Sugar Coating and Fakes

I’m hearing a lot of fake feminism and fake anti-imperialism these days.

It angers me.

It angers me that movements who ultimately struggle for more equality and respect for humanity are used and co-opted by cynical conservative, power-hungry politicians and “researchers”.

Everyone is a philosopher these days, drafting theories right, left and center, holding their half cooked so called opinions forth on TV while they’re just repeating what they were told to by the highest bidders. I don’t seem to see any new Jean-Paul Sartre, I only seem to run into people whose pompous speeches come straight from Wikipedia. When I hear Bernard Henri Levy, the much celebrated French “intellectual” I wish for God to open the earth and swallow me (or alternatively, to hand me a rusty axe and a good lawyer).Yes, that’s the guy who often dubs Israel’s repeated gross violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law as “errors”. To which I really want to say that he’s the error, but let us not get carried away.

Thing is, no one seems to be immune to this plague: from the French feminists who berate veiled women to the Lebanese Religious Leader who thinks that a law that protects women from violence is an evil importation from the West that will shake the Great Lebanese Institutions (er, which ones?) to the Core, all sides seem to participate in the demise of the fight for a fairer world.

However, it’s not their beliefs that anger me the most, after all I do have to live with people who think differently as me, it’s definitely the sugar-coating that goes with their justifications. The French feminists will kindly try and explain that in name of Feminism, women should not wear the veil as it is an instrument of submission, neverminding the fact that a veiled woman who’s left in peace wearing whatever she decides will be ten times more empowered than one who’s forced to live in an environement that considers her a threat, an aberration, a pity case that needs saving, a savage that needs to be taught. Neverminding the fact that true feminism is about comforting, supporting, backing up and understanding where women are coming from. Neverminding the fact that feminism should never be used as an imperialist tool to impose certain interpretations to other women. Instead of including and nurturing, we cast out and stigmatise, in the name of feminism.

The Lebanese politician/religious leader is very attached to the Lebanese Family (over which he has full control so really, he’s very attached to his power) and would not like to see it go to waste (who would pay the Hummer, I ask you?). He’ll therefore fight tooth and nail to keep the Statu quo going: Baba, Mama, and children, Baba wou Mama being married, from the same confessions, the children not mixing with fellow Lebanese from other religions. If Baba hits Mama, it’s her fault, ya3ni who told her to be hal 2ad jehleneh? However, when faced with the growing discontent over these issues, Religious Leader will therefore need a nice ideological back up. Let’s see, RL (Religious Leader) won’t be able to use Human Rights as he’s so obviously violating them, so he’ll resort to the old Cold War days and play the anti-imperialist card. The alterations of the Lebanese Civil Status and the incursions into one’s home (aka try to protect women from domestic violence) are pure imperialist evil traps! We don’t want these imports from the West! Nevermind the fact that Human Rights are universal and that discriminating women based on their gender is, well, is universal as well. Religious Leader doesn’t even have this monopole. How fickle power is really. Lebanon has however signed on to various Human Rights Treaties with no imperialist power breathing on its neck to force it to sign, that it’s bound by law to implement and respect.

However, there’s just a teeny, tiny minor detail these people are forgetting: there are true feminists and true anti-imperialists out there, waiting for you to libel us, which we do not really agree with, leading to some embarrassing (for you) debates.

Believe in what you want: just be straight with me, don’t be a perv, don’t try and sell me your ideas using ideologies that precisely counter what you’re saying.

Exile

You woke up as the sun was rising over your beloved city, tinting the sky a peachy pink, the smog blurrying the horizon, or was it your tears you couldn’t say. 

You didn’t know what to take, you didn’t know for how long you’d be gone, it all looked surreal to you, a big boys’ joke, really. 

Your mother was wearing her floaty 3abbeya, tears brimmed her eyes like diamonds surround sapphires. She was up before you, she made you coffee at starlight, no electricity again, you looked at her in silence.

Words were a luxury you could not afford. 

You draped your shawl tightly around your shoulders, tight, so tight it almost hurt. You carried your bags and your purse a thousand times, carrying them in a way that would never feel comfortable and putting them back on the floor with a definite thud that was here to stay.

You paced at the threshold of what you could once call home, lost in the no man’s land of your thoughts, drowning into space and time, the roars and chaos of the city spread ahead of you an already distant memory. 

You bid no one good bye for you did not have the time, you were pushed to leave and your numbness made you. So you stood in front of your family making decisions for you, trying to shelter you outside of a homeland that no longer felt safe, the smell of gardenia and bougainvillea intoxicating, making you sway in the scorching sun. 

You felt the nausea of leaving grip you while the taxi shook you to the airport, there were no tears in your eyes anymore, they were wide open trying to get as much of your eternal city as they could, taken in every crooked building, every coffee hawkers, every sound and every smell and every noise, trying to print all of it in your memory, the frustration of it all making your blood boil. 

You broke down when you saw the sea humming at your feet, bidding you goodbye, your salty tears rightly going back to her, you saw the sea try and lick your unspeakable pain away but it did no good. 

Your heart heavy with hollow sorrow, you picked your bags once again and started to walk, looking back all the time, pondering whether you should have just walked into the big blue haze, letting it put you to sleep. 

You left, and every miles that separated you from your land felt like a graze to your heart.