Standing Up to Bullies!

When I was a kid, I outwitted one of our neighborhood’s many bullies in a verbal tit-for-tat, and for weeks after that, all what the neighborhood kids could talk about was the beating I got at the hand of that bully and how stupid I was to have tried to stand up to him.

Indeed, violence is the first and last resort of all bullies, that’s how they get in the game, that’s how they preserve their stake in it. Whenever they stray into trying some different tactics and avenues for self-expression, they often get put back in their place. But, then, they immediately relapse into their old tactics with vengeance. Smart bullies have always been a few, and most bullies’ smarts are restricted to the area of their preferred activity: the science of bullying. So, when push comes to shove, bullies will resort to their fists, and the idealists’ to their wits, and the bullies will always win.

When I left Syria with my family last September, I knew I had won the battle of wits again, this time, against the country’s top bullies. I got them to where little old me was actually a major source of worry for them, so much so they needed to deliver a clear message to me via one of the main pillars of the regime. I got their attention all right and I got them scared. Little old me.

But what did I really gain, beyond some immediate narcissistic satisfaction? I was alone facing a clear and very credible death-threat and there was nothing I can do about it but bow out, or sell out. I picked the wrong battle perhaps, or the wrong time for it, I am not really sure. But in the battle against bullies, we should devote part of our wits as well to out-bully the bullies when the right time comes, because if we are not ready, or, at very least, seriously planning to be ready for the final showdown, there is nothing to be gained by outwitting the bullies but “martyrdom.”

But I don’t like martyrdom anymore, those days when I used to dream of it and wish for it are long gone. There is no nobility in death and no honor in it when one has a real choice and a real reason to live and make a difference. I left Syria because I was lucky enough to be given that choice to live and hope to make a difference at some later date. Not everybody I know had the choice, hell, I think I was one very few people in our little group who ever had it really. I never hid my mixed feeling about that.

Be that as it may, what I am trying to say here is that this round might indeed go to the bullies, because, once again, we, the dwindling liberals in this region, were not ready to stand up to them, for whatever reason. So, we really need to begin organizing ourselves more effectively starting now in order to prevent a similar recurrence in the future. Every round we lose is a round that brings us closer and closer to extinction in the region, and there will be nothing to prevent the final implosion of it in due course of time, or, at least, pick the pieces and put them back in an order that can somehow and no matter how retroactively justify the sacrifices that were made, or to be more specific, forced upon us. The bullies don’t mind lording over ruins, so long as they can lord. But we cannot live, not to mention thrive, in a world where mere survival is the name of the game, a world that does not allow us to be free to create and explore and infuse our soul in it.

This is both an existentialist and an ideological battle, then. And in our attempt to win back the street, if we ever had it, we should able to expose the fraudulent nature of all these conflicts that are being imposed upon us by our bullies. This is not an easy feat to accomplish I know, especially when we are already being denounced as traitors and agents of the West. Still, we have to marshal the relevant facts with a certain tenacity and consistency and we have to create whatever teams and networks all the while in order to deliver this message far and wide, all while hoping that, one day soon, the people will soon get tired of dying and will begin listening to what we have to say. We need to turn the tide against the bullies. We need to undercut their support, remove their aura and expose them as the frauds that they are. This might be easier to achieve with certain figures than others, but we still need to find ways to do it. We are running out of time and, more importantly perhaps, time is running out of us.

20 thoughts on “Standing Up to Bullies!

  1. Very true and heartfel Ammar. We have no voice, and even if we did, guns are always louder than words.

  2. Amar, I have been swamped, I’ll check your articles in a bit. please check my latest random posts at

  3. Beautiful.Why are you blogging instead of getting published in the Outlook section of The Washington Post?

  4. I promised myself a long time ago that I will not be a party to wishful thinking and to a belief in illusions and I have really tried hard to live up to that promise. As a result I have no fear of speaking truth to power and or at least speaking my mind without ever paying any consideration to “political corectness” and the popular ideas of the day.I have also concluded some time ago that bullies have ruled the Arab world and will continue for the forseeable future because I do not see any signs that their grip on power has weakened. There aren’t enough people who are seriously interested instanding up to power and principle. Those who do are neither appreciated nor given support. I am not councelling surrender or even apathy. We owe it to our conscience to search for the good life against all odds with the hope that we will eventually stumble across that magical catalyst to transform our world and enable us to defeat the bullies. I have no solid explanation about the reason for our failures to rise and establish the kind of society that we dream of. Is it in our national character to remain tribal? is it our culture that is based on submission and accepting authority or is it simply lack of education both formal and worldly? When I look around me the signs of the time in the Arab world are not encouraging. I am forced to conclude that radical positive change in the Arab world is illusive and those who promise it are masters of illusion. Our masters do not think very highly of us, afterall we have necr given them a reason to think otherwise.

  5. Ammar,First I have to say that poeple like you do make a huge difference in our society. We are prisoners of our fear and every Ammar who lives to tell the tale will erase from our memory 50 victims of the Assadists. So a couple thousand will get us the courage to say goodbye to our jailors.What you express is the dilemma of rational liberals. While many of them strongly beleive in their cause, simple logic dictates that they should not die nor kill for it. When on the other hand you add afterlife to the equation things look very different. This why it seems that at the short term the afterlifers are winning.Our world is ruled by Bush, Sharon, Hamas, Hizbullah, MB, Iranian clerics, etc.The Assads are a relic of the past as they built their success on simple greed and tribal politics.

  6. Ammar I agree with you…does not look good.Great comment by Nafdic.but we still make a difference regarless of winning or losing. Without us it will be 2 extremes and too boring!Cheer up and every month in the middle east is a new adventure. Next year will be better we hope

  7. I keep trying to understand why you speak as though there is nothing behind the actions of the Arab leaders but their own self seeking power grab and greed. Perhaps it is true. However, are there no legitimate claims by the people they serve….? You speak (in these past few posts) with such disdain of even the people, as if there is only ignorance and stupidity behind their choices to follow such leaders.You speak of the “fraudulent nature of all these conflicts” as if they are ONLY pure fabrication and illusion with no legitimate claims on the ground behind them. At minimum, can one say that there is nothing at all REAL…about the issues of land and subjugation …. suffered by the Palestinians…. ???? Hezbollah is surely interested in asserting its power. But this is as much an issue not only about Israel – as within its own country!….after all, we are talking about the poor people again…the poor… who otherwise have no power. And so, the syrian regime has the ability in serving its own interests…to exploit (by claiming to stand with them and behind them) the desires and needs of such people ….even in lebanon…who have REAL grievances.I keep wanting to say, this lates explosion is not about Israel and Hezbollah…no, it is about the bigger struggle between Iran and America.You write of the bullies of the world. Who is the biggest bully of them all? America is by far. The American military comes across the earth and tears Iraq -under the name of rescuing- from her cruel master, only to RAPE her in front of the rest of the world. It is cruel irony to speak of bullies. You want to shame the leaders of the arab world….who are no different from hundreds of foul leaders and tyrants all over the globe….America escapes reproach because she is sooo rich that she can provide for most of her citizens…. (and even here we have our slums, and we assassinated our rebels…like Malcolm X – long ago) so, it seems alright….if she directs her bullying to the rest of the world.Here we have it – America has been skewered into a corner in Iraq…..and the Iranians have seized their moment to say Fuck You…. and Hezbollah gets its green light to achieve its own ends….and Syrian power….basks in this lovely outcome and welcomes also the opportunity to give america the finger…for its arrogance and bullying in the region. Is there nothing legitimate here at all?Meanwhile, the Israelis…get to exploit the entire struggle themselves….or so they think. Are they not a bully too!….first class I you relieve believe that this american gov’t is so benevolent! to be trusted….has it ever ever ever been so….its history of foreign intervention? Read your history. I don’t know what history you are reading. America only wants more whores….on the planet to serve her big yes, the leaders everywhere, as usual.. exploit everything for their interest….but the people have no option.Oh Syrians…… Have you offered them another option? No, you have not. You have nothing but your noble ideas. your admonitions.Your shaming condescension.Sometimes…i hate to say it, mere survival is the name of the game.

  8. the arab world is infested with real trouble…some posters want to blame israel & america (Zenobia of the East and West etc) on all the trouble in the region, to those i say, you are correct, I give you BACK Nasser, Arafat & Saddam, please print posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini, please praise all these fine persian and arab leaders like Abbas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hassan Nasrallah and more….

  9. Zenobia – I can almost feel your spittle coming off my monitor and hitting my face as I read your words of hate against the U.S.Why are you the resident of a country that you so clearly despise? I really don’t get it.

  10. Zenobia,You have to see there is no moral equivalence as our Israeli freinds like to point out :)A person who beat his wife and children is a bully, a person who goes to boxing matches and beat his opponent is a bully too.But you have to admit that they are not the same kind of bully.Israeli and American government do their job very well, they look after the interests of the poeple who elected them.Arab governments on the other hand ..Do not get sidetracked with all the talk about Israel our favorite enemy, for example in Syria, the only thing the Assadist have managed to do is to lose the Golan heights and then have a policy of appeasement on the Golan and power sharing in Lebanon, while filling up newspapers and radio waves with speaches about liberating our land.

  11. Dear western guy, i hope you did feel my spit, thanx.Hate for the US? this is no different from Syrian’s hate for their regime…while maitaining that they still love their country and the people in it. I feel the same about america. I love this country and most of its people (not all) but I have plenty of hate for this current gov’t and many others before it. And I really hate our foreign policy.And by the way, I am really hoping to leave and go live as an international citizen…far from here. Nafdik,I catagorically disagree with you. What can I say,… I think there is absolutely moral equivalence. You example does not apply.I am not someone who can believe in the superior value of American lives. Therefore, I count all the foreign deaths and suffering under American foreign policy and exploits as part of her Moral record.The interventions by American military and covert forces around the globe is more than enough to convince me of her culpability. Look at South American history, South East Asia, Afghanistan, Middle East. It is all the same record. It is not just America, the European powers too have sold out the ME over a century. And so… what rises out of those ashes are more Arab tyranny and despotism and selfish cruel leaders and apathetic, or fanatical, uninformed and desperate … populations…..I mean, what a surprise.I don’t forgive the Arab leaders….but …the leadership of America….is not going to save the ME…it never has been and never will be.

  12. If I were you, dear Zenobia, I would live in peaceful syria. Come home please and live here together with family and friends and a nice husband and kids, this is what Allah wants for us women. Forget the west. Or do you think it is good for a true syrian lady wasting her time with comments on policy? See how the west confused you.Papa Gena

  13. LOL.thanx for the advice. You are either sincere, or being facetious and ironic. I will guess the latter.If there is a god, I think she would prefer that I come to Syria and set a good example, by being far more than a wife and a breeder. I am no, “lady”…and neither was my namesake. I would hope to no longer waste my time commenting on policy, but live by my principles.

  14. A suicide car bomber detonated explosives in a crowd of laborers gathered across the street from a major Shiite shrine in southern Iraq Tuesday, killing at least 53 people and wounding 105, officials and witnesses said.Tell me Zenobia, was the suicide bomber American? European? Israely?No, he was Arab and did it in the name of his religion for peace and democracy.

  15. thanks Miss Zenobia,now I got it and know what you miss in your life. Again, the west confused you dear.bestpapa gena

  16. Zenobia, First, what self-respecting intellectual would not have a love-hate relationship with the people? But obviously despite my attempt at being level-headed and rational, I am like all of us I guess, agonizing over the current situation, not to mention angry, frustrated, flustered, etc. This aside, I have been stressing as much as I can that we, the people, are the “ultimate” losers and the “ultimate” victims and the “ultimate” fodder. Nonetheless, I just don’t want to sink into victimary rhetoric. We have a responsibility here and we should own up to it. I believe that most people anywhere perhaps and not necessarily only in this region revolt not because they are oppressed but because they are not oppressors. In other words, we all belong to the same school of thought, we all have the same attitude, but it’s an issue of balance of power at this stage. When the Assads had power, they occupied Lebanon, and Iraqis had power they invaded Iran and then Kuwait, all in the name of national interests. I don’t buy it in this day and age when authoritarian and corrupt rulers enter into conflicts in the name of the national interest. And to me, the interests of my country are better served when I focus more on standing up to the bullies in our midst first. For once we are free of our bullies, we can work more effectively to stop the bullying of others. If we keep on ignoring how conflicts have been generated on our behalf and in our name to serve the interest of various regimes more than any legitimate grievance on part of the people, and if we keep on rallying behind our dictators in the name of the national cause, neither the national cause nor our real interest will be served, as the record of the last few decades clearly shows. We cannot fight all the battles at once, and we cannot continue to give primacy to all other battles over the real one, which is the battle against the internal oppressors. We have tried to ignore this real battle for decades and look where it keeps on getting us. Meanwhile, the rates of illiteracy and joblessness continue to soar, the educational system become more and more outdated, outmoded and inadequate, and the infrastructure continues to implode. We are losing the homeland for which we are supposedly fighting and dying and sacrificing. We do have legitimate grievances vis-à-vis Israel and the United States, but our more serious grievances, should be education and economic development. This is the stuff that states are made off. The national struggle should be an episodic instance, because, it tends to drain the country’s resources. But when it drags out for so many decades, and when it gets transformed into an instrument of control, oppression and corruption in the hand of the ruling regimes, we should begin to review our commitment to it, at least to the way it’s been conducted in our name and for so many years. We cannot give up on the Golan, we cannot give up on the territories, but we have to find other ways to get them back, and there are, but bullies cannot think of them or endorse them, because they will eventually undercut their power. But you are right, Zenobia, on this being a prelude of sorts for a wide confrontation involving Iran and the US. Nasrallah is merely trying to become the number one man in Lebanon while enacting an Iranian agenda, one that is supported and endorsed by the Assads of Syria for their own un-mysterious reasons. There is no national interest involved here on anyone’s part. As far as I am concerned the New World Order has always been more about conflict of interest than clash of civilizations. This situation encapsulates this little thesis of mine that I have formulated a number of years ago.

  17. papa gena,I am not confused. Stop calling me “miss” or “dear”….(only Ammar is allowed to call me ‘dear’), and stop being patronizing to me. What i miss in my life is more opportunity to utilize myself in positive way, and to act rather than blow steam….but apparently what you miss are more opportunities to be condescending and talk down to females.

  18. In all seriousness Zenobia, I think it is a great idea for you to move to a country where your wellspring of outrage might be productive.I will wait patiently to learn what country you have decided to gift.

  19. Dear Zenobia, Don’t worry about it, or about people who judge you on the basis of a comment made in the spirit of debating the issues. These are very sensitive and emotionally charged issues and times for all of us, and the best way we can figures something out is for us to try to go beyond our desire to vilify the other side and try to really listen to the rationale being presented here. This is not an easy skill to master, as you know. But oh how much do we need it.

  20. Ammar, ok…thanx for more elaboration. It always illuminates.i think the part that I am pondering in my brain is this question or assumption about which “battle” is the “real one” as you said, to be given primacy……the internal struggle against the internal oppression or the the supposed external threats, oppressions. You said: We cannot fight all the battles at once, and we cannot continue to give primacy to all other battles over the real one, which is the battle against the internal oppressors.I think this is the point of contention that gets hashed out all the time….yes… and people defend their inaction against internal change. I understand your point and the critique against the endless rationale as well as subterfuge used by the regimes…wanting to stay in power. Point taken, as long as you have acknowleged (as i think you have now) that there are REAL and legitimate complaints with the outside, west, etc.I think there are some distinctions to be made…for example that the Palestinians are in a very different situations from the Syrians. Syrians are not being wholey occupied in this time, and their support for the Palestinians is not particularly helping at all….so, I think it has more validity to condemn the regime for its selfish interests. Whereas, in the case of Hamas, I don’t agree that they are just interested in power. the people voted for them. The people are dealing with daily subjugation at the hands of others. I do not blame the people for grasping onto what they believe will help them, even if they are misguided.But back to your main point, well, I do agree with you…..that the main grievance of the people…SHOULD be for the internal inadequacies….and the struggle should be for the internal health of the country in terms of economics and education and sound governing without such corruption. How to direct the energies of people towards the building of internal strength…is certainly the driving question. I could make the same statement about america, you know. Our resourses are being sucked up to the tune of already 300 billion dollars for the adventure in ‘saving’ Iraq…. and such military expenditures have always been the extravagance of the USA… at the cost of our rotting out the inside….of our society.Why is this allowed?…. well….because we need to spend all that money on military strength to preserve our ‘national interests’ in the world. I don’t ‘buy it” in the case of america either…frankly.finally, mmm yeah,,, all this explosion…is not about “clash of civilizations”….. the religion, the racism, the bullshit….are just vehicles for rallying the emotions of populations…… nobody would pick up their gun and go die.. if the leaders said… we asking you to fight out of devotion to your leader and for our power!…no way… they have to be told they are going to die for God!… and for preservation of their dignity.And this works…. because people are desperate,,,i tell you DESPERATE, to have some dignity…. that’s why Ammar, I ask, you to solve your love-hate feelings (laugh)!.. for you cannot save the people…if you can’t show them respect… or offer them the possibility of dignity. This is why I said before that Nasrallah was a born leader… what he is fighting for has no appeal to me… it may be wrong…but he knows so clearly what people want and need. The Shia are living in the gutter… they have nothing to lose, they want dignity as much as they want bread. And maybe the same could be said of the syrians…….

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