Orwell, Cavafy & Gibran’s Despots
By Freeyad Ibrahim
If you look carefully in the human history, you conclude that almost all revolutionary acts have proved after a while to be a failure, sarab, a mirage. The people begin then to exchange frustrated looks muttering unsatisfactorily, ‘it was not what we had aimed at when we had set ourselves 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 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 one (George Orwell) has 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 for protest and satisfaction the new leaders remind them warning, “ surely none of you wishes to see ‘Jones’ back,” A.F. With ‘Jones’ being representative of the despot.
The world literature is full of such situations. I firmly believe that C.P. Cavafy , a celebrity, well famed Greek -Egyptian poet (1863-1933 ) expressed in some of his poems ( symbolically) 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 the verse the (windows) are signs of freedom, hope, and a bright future, symbol of light and a new daybreak . While the (dark rooms) represent the prison, misery and oppression.´-or-they 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.
Nevertheless, man senses some hesitation in his tone for taking real steps for a change. A concealed uncertainty and anxiety lie behind 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?
To my opinion, there is one very crucial aspect, a dimension missing in almost all revolutionary actions, and that is: 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 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 reflects the same thought:
(Verily Allah altereth not that which is with a people until they that which is with themselves.)
And that is exactly what happens in Iraq (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 the control, and the other (humans) found themselves hopelessly ensnared in the old way.
(He is a Dutch- Kurd, writer, author-novelist, translator, poet, political analyst, and essayist.)