Friday, July 23, 2010

To Be or not to Be, it is a Matter of Love

From a loving mother he learns how to love himself, he identifies with his loving father. They love him for what he is, and do not push him to their "Great Expectations". His ideal self is not that difficult to achieve, hence he got no narcissistic injury. He knows what he must do, and knows what he can. He doesn't blame his self harshly like those who got harsh superegos. He loves him self and he loves the world. But what that child whose parents are unloving?

Pic.1 Hassan Al-Alawi

Hassan Al Allawi attributes Saddam's cruelty to his harsh childhood and absence of love. Saddam suffered a narcissistic injury. Saddam came up to a conclusion that he cannot be loved really. He couldn't trust people. Saddam's school was few kilometers away from his home in his rural area, Al Auja. He used to hold an iron stick in his way to defend his self from the attacks of wild dogs and to remove the thorns from his way. In the school, and at the city, he felt no one defending him, no one loved him, he whose father is dead, and his mother is married to another man, a thing not easily accepted in his society. The only thing that defended him was his iron stick even when he ruled Iraq. Saddam didn't believe in peace because he was not in peace with his self, as Hassan Al Alawi wrote once.

Pic 2. The Great Expectations 1946 movie's cover

Mr. Pip the protagonist of Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations". He was an orphan. His older sister was so cruel and unloving. His environment was harsh as we see when he went visiting his parent's tomb in the graveyard and how he was frightened by that prisoner. He used to work with his sister's husband as a blacksmith. He was chosen by that wealthy bizarre old lady to spend some time with her and with Estella, that beautiful wealthy girl who used to torture Pip in an unusual way by uttering comments in his ears like: "Common boy"… "I hate you"…"stupid clumsy laboring boy"…"look at his hands (referring to their dirtiness)" … "look at his boots (in referring to how much they are old and sheared" … but she then feel some need to show her charm to him and to offer him a kiss when she likes, to continue then her harsh comments. Such sadism that was enough to cause Pip ambivalent feelings and narcissistic injury and an abnormal superego development that might give a space to a psychopathic personality to flourish and to create crimes. But he didn't. That prisoner became wealthy and adopted him and gave him love, a scarce bit of love. He grew older, studied, became a gentleman, then got some happy ending with Estella, and with his superego.

That was because somebody loved him and wanted him to be. Is it by chance that Dickens chose a prisoner "a criminal?" to give Pip love, and to rescue him from being a criminal? To reverse the equation. The prisoner blocked the bad way in front of Pips and showed him the way of good.

Pic 3. A love card taken from the site

I remembered that when I was reading the autobiography of Salim Matar. His feelings of inferiority, his chronic feelings of guilt and unworthiness, his harsh superego that don't get satisfied only when Salim is suffering, all that, what could made out of him?

Many Iraqis share the same story of harsh fathering and neglecting mothering because of the chronic problems of poverty and recurrent wars.

Selim Matar, as an example of an Iraqi, came up with a psychological autobiography with good insight and bunch of articles, books, and magazines about the Iraqi identity issues. He writes in his biography about his discovery of "love" during his experience of laryngeal cancer, and the need to love his own self so that he can love others. It was in Switzerland when he found love, and while having carcinoma. He talks about his former hatred and grudge for almost everything including God. And here we find a kind of atheism with strong hatred to God (as a father figure maybe). When his grudge melted in Switzerland, by the effect of power of love, when his grudge fires were set off by love, he found God again, and he found his spirit. What was the role of laryngeal carcinoma in Selim's finding of love?

It seems that growing up unloved as a child have its catastrophic effect on personality and it needs such extraordinary experiences like that happened to Mr. Pip, and to Salim Matar so that they find again love, and finally be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Iraqi Autobiography

Cover of "Confessions of an Unashamed Mam"

An old flask moved through 2000 years from fathers to sons, sometimes after the father's death, but sometimes the son steals it, and during the final decades it left its homeland, Iraq, to a more modern country, Switzerland. He who owns the flask owns what is inside, Hajir, a naked woman who gives pleasure usually by sex, but sometimes by telling stories, and sometimes her man chose to talk to her or cry on her chest. Adam was the one who took the flask to Switzerland not knowing about Hajir. Adam that Iraqi who is married to Marlin, the Swiss, after discovering Hajir, started to take his flask to cheap hotels in rural areas to spend some time with Hajir. His lust for sex started to be accompanies with a lust to alcohol and marijuana.

The whole issue seems not that of a novel, more of a short story, a forgettable one, with bad use of symbols.

Generations in any stable country differ from each other and there are conflicts on some issues, but what about Iraqi generations. The differences are huge since the changes were huge and radical in Iraq history at least in the last 100 years:

1. Those who were born at the end of the 19th century and lived in the beginning of 20th century lived under the Othman empire rule and saw the English invasion and the start of Iraqi Kingdom. Don't know if anyone from this generation is still living but he is still living in the mind of his sons. They are our grandparents.

2. Those who were born under the Iraqi Kingdom lived to see its fall by that revolution of Abdul Kareem Qasim, the Ba'athist- Communist conflict and killing, 1963's killing of Qasim and the start of Ba'ath regime. The relatively calm 70s and the flourishing of art, the Iraq-Iran 8 years war (those who participate in this war are a generation by themselves for what they saw in this war had changed their values uniquely), the 1991 war and the starvation years of the embargo.

3. The generation of the 2003 war.

We, Iraqis of different ages, differ markedly in the core, in the beliefs and attitudes, in social norms and rules, in the understanding of history, and in things beyond my understanding and the scope of this post.

This is why it is important to read a novel, or an autobiography written by a fellow Iraqi from a different generation, from a different experience of Iraq.

Salim Matter is a name that you cannot ignore. That "Mesopotamia" journal which deals with the Iraqi identity crisis and stability was edited by him, with few other books about the Iraqi identity that is available in the Iraqi book market.

Photo 2. Mesopotamia Magazine issues

"The Woman of the Flask" is a novel of his. It doesn't worth much like his "Confessions of an Unashamed Man", his "psychological" autobiography as he calls it. He told us about his childhood in that poor quarter of Baghdad "Al Shakeryia", and how they go walking bare-foot in the summer to the river crossing in their way that rich quarter "Karradat Mariam" with its beautiful Armenian Church and how he wished that his parents were like these people in this quarter, clean and well dressed. He told us that he and his friends were crossing that quarter with caution and fear, but didn't explain more.They reach the river, under the Bridge of the Republic (Al Jamhoureya Bridge) and start to swim in Dijla.

He tell us about his emotional father with his mood swings between extreme violence against Salim, and then the extreme warmth and telling stories, and about his mother with her 13 pregnancies, (5 babiess died, 8 left including Salim) that didn't give her time for each of her sons and daughters individually. His father used to tell him stories about the prophets, mainly about Jesus, Moses and Ibrahim. Salim like Ibrahim especially. At the age of 5 he started to believe that God will send him an angel so that he becomes a prophet. Later, when he knew about Superman who came from a very far planet he started to train his physical abilities hoping that he one day can become a superman. His family helped his feelings of non-belongingness by making fun of him telling him that they found him when he was a baby in the nearby farm, and they took him and grew him up. Since childhood he worked with his father in the father's simple kiosk in Bab El Sharki where they sell sandwiches and drinks to the police men of the nearby jail and also to the families of the imprisoned who came to visit their sons and daughters. He loved the nearby living wealthy family's girl, Eman, and he liked their big house and dreamt that he is their son. His father was harsh on him sometimes and very violent. His rebellion on his father tuned to be a rebellion against God and later, this non-belonged man who always felt as a stranger as he says, joined the Communist party to belong to its big family. At the 1979 he left Iraq. The autobiography continues to tell us about his second part of life, and briefly about his return for a visit to Iraq after the 2003 war.

His "Confessions" tells about the contradictory messages his father used to give him, and about his ambivalent feelings toward his mother whom he thinks contributed to the development of his chronic guilty feelings. For a long time he was feeling guilty if he feels happy, he tells us about the "Guilty form Happiness" that he got, as if he must not be happy.

He hated his teachers at school, hence he joined his friends in running away from the school to the nearby cinemas where he loved to watch emotional Indian movies. Later, when became a communist, he started to deal with cinema more seriously.

Selim Matar publishes a film of his "Confessions" on his site:

While "the Woman of the Flask" is a boring novel, Salim's Confessions is such an original work written with good insight, and after reading the confessions you might got some empathy to his earlier novel. Thank you Salim Matar for all what you have done. Your works helps to make the Iraqi identity more understandable.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Islam, According to Al-Jibran's Heart

Abdul-Razzaq Al-Jubran starts his book entitled "Prophet's Republic: An Existential Return" and a secondary title "Muddling Soil" by dedicating it to the deceived by the current copy of Islam, and to Ali Sharee'ati, to Soren Kierkegaard, to his brother, and a female who taught him rebellion.

"I divorced Muslims, hence I found Islam"

“The path of reform in Islam is Kierkegaardian.” P. 86

“Faith is not a must for beauty” p. 87

A book that had been published in 2007 by a Lebanese publication house named "Insan (=Human)", reached Iraq and, as usual, illegally photocopied and sold around Baghdad. According to our local book seller it is one of the most sold books during the previous years.

Who are the prophets according to Al Jubran?

“Prophets are not those who shook hand with Gabriel, but those who slapped darkness” p.113

Al Jubran proceeds to remind us of the non-belonged, of the strangers in history. All the prophets were strangers to their society rules. They felt estranged. Also did Ghandi, Jbran Khalil Jubran, Imam Ali, Abo Thar Al Ghafari, and others.

About the most widely spread version of Islamic history he writes:

Most historians, were the court’s historians…(according to Al-Jibran, those court historians wrote a mutated version of history so that they gain the court's approval and support), while the true page of history, or let us say that true history of Islam is the history of the opposition and not any other… history of revolutions, history of the suppressed, and the crazy… the unwritten oral history” p.101

Prophets are always buried by books and not by soil” p. 112

Al-Jubran proceeds to contrast the behavior of jurisprudents in history against the prophets' behavior and found great differences.

"God pours prophets and people drink jurisprudents"

Social-class and Islam

The prophet came to stand for Bilal, and not to stand for God” p.159
Bilal was a black slave owned by a very wealthy man in Mecca who turned to be one of the most furious enemy of the prophet Mohammed because the prophet tried to free Bilal and to makes him equal to the wealthy man. Al Jubran thinks that feelings of strong rejection to the prophet by as such wealthy men of Mecca were not because of the new religion per se, but because of social-class problems.

Forced Faked Faith

Al Jubran reminds us of one of the prophet's quotations in which Mohammed the Prophets disapprove the behavior of those people who want to drag other people to heaven in chains. Al Jibran reminds us that the Prophet's problem were not with those who just didn't believe in him, but mainly with the injustice. Al Jubran concludes:

"God is concerned mainly with injustice and not with unbelief."


Al Jubran is an Iraqi. He might have some respect to Iraqi Communists. He declares in a short quote that: "Communists are closer to God". Since communists usually don't steal in Iraq, then you will find them poor here, and hence they haven't the capability to leave the country to a safer and secure one. And since many Iraqi communists are known for their love for alcohol, Al Jubran quoted:

"If the communists are drinking wine in the bar, then the Islamists (=political Islam) are drinking money in the mosques, and God's problem is not the drunk, but the poor!"

Old Temple New Temple

"The first thing the prophet had destroyed was a temple" p.126

"the problem of the people here is that they cannot find a door to the prophets but the jurisprudents and this what makes them enter to this cave they call a mosque in spite of its darkness"

Al Jubran thinks that Islam was simple at first, simple and lovable. Islamic jurisprudents had turned it into a complex and hated one, according to Al Jibran who put the Danimark cartoon drawings of the prophet as an example of how much hated we are, and how it is important to "rescue the prophet from Islam, since rescuing Islam is difficult" as Al Jubra Says. He adds:

"The jurisprudents had inserted their noses in what the Quran had chose to be silent about, and they talked more than the prophets did"

"The jurisprudents of Islam had elongated the path to God" p 120

"The religion of the prophet is the religion of heart, simply"

Al-Jubran reminds us of the prophet's advice to consult our hearts when we are confused about the right way and to be humanistic:

"It was not the prophet's aim to cultivate barbs, veils, and mosques so that they point to God, but his aim was to cultivate the hearts so that they point to mankind… because the problem of existence is not God, it is mankind".

"Religiousness in prophet's consciousness, is how you become humanistic in the street, not a priestly in the temple"

Pyramids of Love

In the Islamic belief, human were made by God from mud. Al-Jubran tells us about how some Sufis believe that it was a step in our making that we were made from mud, and our responsibility is to turn our mud into something else, like when Mohammad Iqbal, the Sufi who liked Jalal Al Deen Al Rumi's wisdom, said once: "Al Rumi, turned my mud into crystal (taking in mind that the word crystal in Arabic also means "core")". Al Jubran tells us then about the slaves who die while building the pyramids from mud. And advices us to build pyramids from the mud we are made from, the humanistic mud. i.e. to build pyramids of love inside of us, inside our hearts.