How to Raise the Revolutionary’s Children (And Survive)

I don’t know why, Bassem Chiit, our Comrade from the Socialist Forum in Lebanon who passed away in 2014, has been on my mind a lot lately, and when The Rev told me that Bassem mentioned reading my Rev columns at the end of long days sometimes to unwind, it prompted me to write this one.

So this is for you Bassem, in the hope that you can enjoy it from wherever you are.

The Rev and I have kids. Naturally they take after me and are gorgeous, funny, cheeky and clever.

They also hold a healthy dose of skepticism for men as a social group. The fact that I regularly teach them to say ‘men are trash’ might have a little something to do with it.

Naturally, like Karl Marx loved the gazillion children he had with Jenny (that he left her to care for with no money while he was off trying to make the revolution happen (narrator’s voice: it did not happen)), the Rev dearly loves his children and tells them so repeatedly. He’s prone to outbursts of love and affection, ‘my daughters I love them I would die for them’, hereby demonstrating streaks of dramatic toxic masculinity, as if anyone had asked him to prove his love through war and death.

My daughters however are, at 4 and 2, hardened man-hating feminists who have no time for men and their declaration of undying love.

– ‘Nooooonn Papa’ they say, as he tries to cuddle them, and both proceed to swat his hands away in a gesture of such contempt it fills my heart with pure, man-hating joy. They seem to be convinced that their father, and through him boys and men in general, don’t understand a single thing in life and should be given up on as a bad job. Needless fo say, my pride in them knows no bounds.

Each of them have their own minds and have devised their own tactics to topple the patriarchy.

The eldest favours a subtle form of guerrilla warfare, waking up the patriarchal authority figure in her life very early in the morning simply to let him know that she has found her tiara. To manage to raise the patriarchy from its comfortable slumber just to inform it that you’re still Queen is a stroke of genius I wish I’d thought of. Here I was pitifully getting angry and worked up and demonstrating right left and center while my four year old just taught me that all you needed to do was disrupt sleep then sashay away in your pink glittery tutu, a look of triumph on your face and no pity for the enemy in your heart.

Our youngest has no time to waste and no fucks to give, her tactic is search and destroy. In a couple of years time she’ll be punching nazis in true black bloc fashion, but for now she just punches and scratches her father until he bleeds, and cries for me rather than for him, even in the middle of the night, thrashing on the ground if he tries to touch her, which come to think of it I wish she’d stop doing. After all, I am not the patriarchy and should be allowed to sleep.

The Rev, bless his heart, endures and bears all the abuse, even though he blames me for our kids’ lack of confidence in men. He is, however, mistaken. I have merely fed and watered the feminist seed they already had in them, much like Marx fed and watered the revolutionary seed in Engels (and much like Engels just plainly fed Marx and his family).

– But we’re communists! I am a feminist! I am one of you!

– WE ARE NOT COMMUNISTS, I AM A PRINCESS! Get out of my room, only girls allowed!

I won’t lie, while I am extremely happy that my child understands the need for women-only spaces and sees through comrades thinking they’re allies just because they’re communists, I still have the fear that she’ll turn into a royalist, what with all this talk of princesses.

But the Rev and I’s biggest fear remain that both of them become conservative, anti-choice, neo-liberal right wing militants. We observe. We monitor. So far, they share, they protect each other, they’re kind and feisty.

Not a right wing trait in sight.

But we’ll still monitor the situation, just in case.

Advertisements

How to Live with a Revolutionary (and your family) without losing your head (or defecting to North Korea)

When the Rev entered your life, some time around his Nahda period ( the turn of the 19th century Arab Nahda kind of Nahda not the Tunisian kind if Nahda, whom of course the Rev is highly suspicious of, what with them being an ersatz of the Muslim Brotherhood and what with all their awful neo-liberal policies), you did not think politics would come into play, nor were you much worried about him getting along with your family. I mean, you were young and in love, you did not think of these things.
As it transpired, perhaps you should have.
You see, You have a post Arab nationalist of a father who really, really wanted to believe in Michel Aflaq then got disappointed and who you believe has a secret admiration for Hassan Nasrallah and an apolitical mother for whom nothing and no one really existed after Bashir Gemayel ( I know. I’m not proud either). As for your sister, all she speaks about is refugees, especially children, welling up about them most of the times. As it happens, she barely reaches the Rev’s knees so most of the times he can’t even hear her anyway.
Well, and of course you have the Rev, a proud socialist revolutionary who can quote Comrade Trotsky, Comrade Lenin and Comrade Saïd in one go, muttering endlessly about neo-liberalism and orientalism and its cousin, orientalism in reverse.
When all your loved ones get together, it can indeed, get pretty, er, shall we say, interesting.
While the Rev would companionably sit down and eat my father’s hummus, for every revolutionary has common human needs, your mother would eye him suspiciously. Was he or was he not Christian? As it happens, the Rev is an atheist who only acknowledges the presence of Jesus Christ in the framework of the Theology of the Liberation, when Jesus becomes Comrade JC. You know your mother would ask questions. You know she would not like the answers. You know you want your peace of mind and Comrade JC simply won’t give it to you, so you lunge like Harry Potter reaching for the Snitch, get that piece of kebbe and unceremoniously shove it into the Rev’s face, gluing his lips together, giving you plenty of time to redirect the inquisitive stare of your mother towards you. Well done. Be proud. You’ve avoided the first land mine.
On to coffee, where the second landmine awaits, a much, much bigger one, namely, the revolutions in the Middle East North Africa region. You see, the clue is in the name. The Rev is, well, a revolutionary, who shall defend the legitimacy and righteousness of the revolution until his last breath. Your father is convinced every ills befalling the region is Israel/The US’s fault. The rev will say the revolutions are a product of a long term mass popular mobilization against the growing social inequalities coupled with oppressive, authoritarian states. Your father will say all of this is turning into an Islamist Fest and who does it benefit? Israel and its sinister ally, the US. To which the Rev would try and answer that Palestine is Immortal and that of course Israel is a colonial, oppressive state but that there are materialistic conditions to take into account when analyzing the revolutions. Your father: I’m telling you. It’s a conspiracy. The Americans have a plan. They always have.
To which the Rev usually can not answer much because by that time you’d flung your niece across the stairs just to create a diversion, leaving everyone to gather around her giggling self to make sure she’s ok (you didn’t fling her hard, your sister would rant even more about children).
As it happens, enough sparks of revolutions were emitted from the Rev for your parents to understand who they were dealing with. Your mother now knows he’s an atheist and she calls him every Sunday morning to try and entice him to at least watch the Sunday mass on the Telly. He gently explains to her the Theology of the Liberation, she asks God why she had to have an atheist, leftist Son-in-law while she was such a good Christian and these thins are sent to try us. And the Rev hangs up, watching tele foot (for football is the only acceptable alternative to reading Marx).
– Your mother called, we had a good chat, I think she really is coming around on the Theology of the Liberation.
You pick up the phone, sighing, to assess the damage while he grins at you, blissfully oblivious of the very obvious crisis on your hand. Your mother laughs on the phone. The rev can actually get away with what he wants.
You barricade yourself in your room. I mean. You’re lucky you have me. No one told ME living with a revolutionary was so exhausting.