Syrian Panem et Baath Circenses!

Syrians are patriots. Let there be no doubt about that. But their patriotism is not any different from any other variety out there, that is, it is no less susceptible to exploitation and/or degradation.



Indeed, and with regard to the former, the Syrian regime seems to have developed it into a virtual art-form, albeit a not too highly refined one – the members of the regimes are simply too rogue for refinement even in this regard.

Still, the ability to exploit the patriotism of the Syrian people has its limits. After all, people don’t live on patriotism alone, and the regime’s willingness to orchestrate one freak show after another will only get it the kind of fickle popular support that authoritarian regimes usually get in their dotage.

For in the final analysis, people care more about their panem then their circenses. And panem these days is a very inclusive term, it actually means much more than bread. Much more.

It means affordable quality education, it means affordable quality healthcare system, it means reasonable retirement plans that people can actually look forward to and not only dread and postpone, it means the ability to create enough jobs, and failing that, then, at the very least, the ability to provide a certain social security network that can actually make a difference in one’s life… And these re only the basics.

When a socialist regime can no longer deliver on such expectations, then this socialist regime’s days are numbered, its military might notwithstanding. And what military might are we referring to here? The Syrian army is a joke, and Syrian soldiers, their sectarian backgrounds notwithstanding, are as much victims here as anybody else. As such, their suport is as fickle as that of taxdrivers who know very well how to disappear when they are most needed.

The Syrian regime can survive a lot of things, but it cannot survive bread riots. In order to avoid such riots, the regime needs to do much more than playing that old divide-and-conquer game it plays so well. It needs to do more than play on ethnic and sectarian fears and enflame sectarian and ethnic sentiments and passions. The regime wil not be able to rule when the country collapses from under it. Managing civic mayhem has never been easy, and under these cirucmstances, it is bound to be fatal, to both regime and country.

To counter this, the opposition needs to rally the people on its side, by highlighting the regime’s failure in responding to people’s basic needs. That is, they need to redefine the opposition in developmental and economic terms, rather than in purely political terms.

Ours, we should start arguing, is not a fight against oppression only. No. Ours is a fight for the improvement of the living standards of all Syrians and for the improvement of our basic lot in this world as a people.

But in order for our message to be effective here, we need to start fielding the right people, and the right spokespersons, ones that can reflect the image that is commensurate with the message. We need to recruit professionals from all different walks of life and we need to begin discussing specific plans for the development of Syria for once we are in power.

The gap in credibility, if not legitimacy, from which we continue to suffer, as far as the Syrian people are concerned, not to mention the representatives of the international community, can only be bridged when we succeed in offering credible visions and plans for the country’s future. Such visions need to be detailed and comprehensive, and they need to be formulated in public and not behind closed doors – that will defeat their purpose.

The Syrian people should know that plans for the future of their country are being made by Syrians, and that their input is more tan welcome.

The process itself will thus play a role in galvanizing support on the street and breeching that communication gap between people and opposition. It will also add more pressure on the Syria regime, which will hard pressed to match our rhetoric by actual moves on the ground, moves that it does not really know how to make.

In fact, the regime seems resigned not even to try, as the recent cabinet reshuffle indicates. For war cabinets, their rhetoric notwithstanding, tend to adopt austerity measures, and not deliver on economic reforms.

The Panem Challenge will go a long way in helping us bring a long-awaited end to our long-running Baath circenses.

3 thoughts on “Syrian Panem et Baath Circenses!

  1. I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt and in the Gaza Strip. In the 1950s, my father was sent by Egypt’s President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to head the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and the Sinai where he founded the Palestinian Fedayeen, or “armed resistance”. They made cross-border attacks into Israel, killing 400 Israelis and wounding more than 900 others.My father was killed as a result of the Fedayeen operations when I was eight years old. He was hailed by Nasser as a national hero and was considered a shaheed, or martyr. In his speech announcing the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, Nasser vowed that all of Egypt would take revenge for my father’s death. My siblings and I were asked by Nasser: “Which one of you will avenge your father’s death by killing Jews?” We looked at each other speechless, unable to answer. In school in Gaza, I learned hate, vengeance and retaliation. Peace was never an option, as it was considered a sign of defeat and weakness. At school we sang songs with verses calling Jews “dogs” (in Arab culture, dogs are considered unclean). Criticism and questioning were forbidden. When I did either of these, I was told: “Muslims cannot love the enemies of God, and those who do will get no mercy in hell.” As a young woman, I visited a Christian friend in Cairo during Friday prayers, and we both heard the verbal attacks on Christians and Jews from the loudspeakers outside the mosque. They said: “May God destroy the infidels and the Jews, the enemies of God. We are not to befriend them or make treaties with them.” We heard worshippers respond “Amen”.My friend looked scared; I was ashamed. That was when I first realised that something was very wrong in the way my religion was taught and practised. Sadly, the way I was raised was not unique. Hundreds of millions of other Muslims also have been raised with the same hatred of the West and Israel as a way to distract from the failings of their leaders. Things have not changed since I was a little girl in the 1950s.Palestinian television extols terrorists, and textbooks still deny the existence of Israel. More than 300 Palestinians schools are named after shaheeds, including my father. Roads in both Egypt and Gaza still bear his name – as they do of other “martyrs”. What sort of message does that send about the role of terrorists? That they are heroes. Leaders who signed peace treaties, such as President Anwar Sadat, have been assassinated. Today, the Islamo-fascist president of Iran uses nuclear dreams, Holocaust denials and threats to “wipe Israel off the map” as a way to maintain control of his divided country.Indeed, with Denmark set to assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, the flames of the cartoon controversy have been fanned by Iran and Syria. This is critical since the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. At the same time, Syria is under scrutiny for its actions in Lebanon. Both Iran and Syria cynically want to embarrass the Danes to achieve their dangerous goals. But the rallies and riots come from a public ripe with rage. From my childhood in Gaza until today, blaming Israel and the West has been an industry in the Muslim world. Whenever peace seemed attainable, Palestinian leaders found groups who would do everything to sabotage it. They allowed their people to be used as the front line of Arab jihad. Dictators in countries surrounding the Palestinians were only too happy to exploit the Palestinians as a diversion from problems in their own backyards. The only voice outside of government control in these areas has been the mosques, and these places of worship have been filled with talk of jihad.Is it any surprise that after decades of indoctrination in a culture of hate, that people actually do hate? Arab society has created a system of relying on fear of a common enemy. It’s a system that has brought them much-needed unity, cohesion and compliance in a region ravaged by tribal feuds, instability, violence, and selfish corruption. So Arab leaders blame Jews and Christians rather than provide good schools, roads, hospitals, housing, jobs, or hope to their people. For 30 years I lived inside this war zone of oppressive dictatorships and police states. Citizens competed to appease and glorify their dictators, but they looked the other way when Muslims tortured and terrorised other Muslims. I witnessed honour killings of girls, oppression of women, female genital mutilation, polygamy and its devastating effect on family relations. All of this is destroying the Muslim faith from within.It’s time for Arabs and Muslims to stand up for their families. We must stop allowing our leaders to use the West and Israel as an excuse to distract from their own failed leadership and their citizens’ lack of freedoms. It’s time to stop allowing Arab leaders to complain about cartoons while turning a blind eye to people who defame Islam by holding Korans in one hand while murdering innocent people with the other.Muslims need jobs – not jihad. Apologies about cartoons will not solve the problems. What is needed is hope and not hate. Unless we recognise that the culture of hate is the true root of the riots surrounding this cartoon controversy, this violent overreaction will only be the start of a clash of civilis-ations that the world cannot bear.

  2. Amar,I think you are starting to grab the essence of the problem and getting closer to find the real inspiration for the populous to move since it is now the time because the geophysical condition is ripe apt for this. The coming years are the dry years and the government, which is used to milk the cow dry, is going to find it harder and harder to do this, and that will dissatisfy the stealers, the thieves’ executives and the beneficiary follower. The second you raise is very important; the opposition should do their homework and combine their politic criticism with the other face of economic and management and provide the solution which regime is trying to ignore to protect its thievery. Hear the people who live outside the country should play a big part in this. I’m one of them who is ready to pay back to my birth place even I got discriminated, stepped on, treated like outcast when I was inside the country. Also, treated terrible, discriminated against and forced to use the thieved outsourcing services outside the government to gt by my legal stuff. In a recent call with one of my brothers in Europe, the Karamazove brothers talk goes like this: my big brother said: I called that person in the Syrian airlines and he will take care of your brother visa and the military service papers. I told him but those guys are the ones who are sucking our blood and getting rich by selling the government properties by giving you the card blanch for extra weights into the airplane and cashing it to their pocket. I told my brother all we need is to have paper record in the entry points to stop milking this country. Good guys have to fight in the right ways like those civilized western countries instead of blaming them for our ills. The other interesting thing from your recent post is that a blog like Aldomari is doing a greater job than any of other blogs by directing its satire, which is one of the weapons, directly against the blood sucker and connecting the maze for common Joe in the country.Lastly, thanks for your continuous effort in defending human being rights to speak his mind.

  3. Nonie“Muslims need jobs – not jihad. Apologies about cartoons will not solve the problems. What is needed is hope and not hate. Unless we recognise that the culture of hate is the true root of the riots surrounding this cartoon controversy, this violent overreaction will only be the start of a clash of civilisations that the world cannot bear.”Amen.“Lastly, thanks for your continuous effort in defending human being rights to speak his mind.”You’re welcome, we are all in it together.

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