By Freeyad Ibrahim:
Is the Downfall of a Tyrant Enough?
Change in Mind before Change on the Ground
If you look carefully at human history, you conclude that almost all revolutionary acts have proved after a while to be failures – sarab, a mirage. The people begin to exchange frustrated looks, muttering unsatisfactorily, “This was not what we aimed for when we determined a year ago to work for the overthrow of the tyrant”.
That is what we notice in the Middle East today. After the downfall of the despot the situation becomes one of chaos and turmoil, and then a figure a bit worse than the ex-despot takes power and the powerless citizens watch desperately, only to complain hopelessly, murmuring almost soundlessly, “Out of the frying pan into the fire”.
The situation is like the one George Orwell described in his ‘Animal Farm’, published a few months after Liberation Day, 1945: The animals fought for a life of freedom and plenty, but a clever ruthless elite among them takes the control, and the other animals find themselves hopelessly ensnared in the old way.
If you put human beings in place of animals, you get the right picture of what happens in the Middle East today.
Worse yet, whenever there is a movement of protest and dissatisfaction, the new leaders issue the warning, “Surely none of you wishes to see ‘Jones’ back” (‘Jones’ being the former despot).
World literature is full of such situations. I firmly believe that C.P. Cavafy a famed Greek-Egyptian poet (1863-1933) expressed symbollically in some of his poems his frustration, anguish and disappointment regarding freedom. For example:
In these darkened rooms, where I spend
oppressive days, I pace to and fro
to find the windows. — When a window
opens, it will be a consolation. —
But the windows cannot be found.
In this verse the windows are signs of freedom, hope and a bright future, symbols of light and a new daybreak, while the darkened rooms represent the prison, misery and oppression. Or it might refer to the whole country that has turned into a big jail under the dictatorship.
He describes his toil and plight to find a way out of the darkness, but in vain; there are no windows.
Uncertainty and anxiety are expressed in the words in the next lines:
But the windows cannot be found, or I cannot
find them. And maybe it is best that I do not find them.
Maybe the light will be a new tyranny.
Who knows what new things it will expose?
In my opinion, there is one very crucial aspect, a dimension missing in almost all revolutionary actions: a certain change of minds is required, before and after taking any step towards the change on the ground.
Khalil Gibran (1887-1931), a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer, touches on this point delicately in a brilliant but bombastic spiritual terms in his masterpiece, ‘The Prophet’:
“And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed”.
In the Koran there is a verse reflecting the same thought:
“Verily Allah altereth not that which is with a people until they alter that which is with themselves”.
And that is exactly what happens in Iraq (in both the Arabic and Kurdish region). Every time there is the slightest stir, the people are warned: “Surely none of you wishes to see ‘Mr.Jones’ – the old regime – back?”
And that is how the clever, ruthless elite among them took control, and the other humans found themselves hopelessly ensnared in the old way.
Freeyad Ibrahim is a Dutch-Kurd, writer, author-novelist, translator, poet, political analyst, and essayist.