picture by Ali Farzat
He copies phrases from foreign newspapers into a notebook. Then he copies his notes into a larger notebook with a flag and a band of gold on the front.
His mouth imitates the words of the state TV channel, and the words of undead clerics, and the words of puff-eyed men who sit in cafés.
He curses his country’s backwardness. At the same time he proclaims that the world was brighter when his grandfather was still a rheum-eyed boy.
At school he wrote poems praising his teacher. At work he writes letters praising his boss. When the time is right he writes reports denouncing his colleagues.
He is embarrassed by his social station. In the presence of his inferiors he imitates his superiors. He swings his belly like a wealthy businessman, preens his moustache like a tribal chief, avoids eye contact like a distracted poet or professor, or establishes it, beneath beetling brows, like a policeman. He aims to provoke fear. He is scared of everything.
He follows esoteric interpretations of reality. Behind every fact he sees a hidden hand. He believes the earth is ruled by malevolent angels, not by people. He believes there’s little point in acting and less in speaking, though he speaks a great deal.
He has many problems, as everyone does. For these he blames the Sunnis and the Shia, the Crusaders and the Jews, the villagers and the Beduin, the sick and the poor. If he owned a gun he would shoot truth’s messenger, but he has no gun. He has no power. He has no intelligence. Each night as he kisses his father’s naked hand he forgets that bone should be clothed by flesh and that his father died when the moon was empty. He doesn’t notice death unless someone shines a torch on it.
He has no children.
When he is alone with his wife he attempts to imitate what he has seen of pornographic discs imported from the Holy Land, but fails, and sits thin-legged on the edge of the bed, his head covered by a blanket, and imitates instead the curses of bad-tempered, gap-toothed shaikhs, also from the Holy Land, against the wiles and plots of snakelike women.
While he sleeps one ear hears news of revolutions, and he turns in his nightmare, scenting his own extinction.
Robin Yassin-Kassab is a UK-based journalist, writer and blogger. This colummn originally appeared in his blog. Reprinted with permission.