The Anesthetized Arab

It eludes me sometimes; the things we choose to care about as Arabs. The way we can watch the news and inhale certain pieces; the connections we make during a single nightly broadcast. From the genius to the layman, we seem to have the same allergic reactions to the crumbling environment around us. And like a wildfire, the spark comes sprawling in from no where; a blind spot. The tunnel vision of our human condition.

Is it that we’ve become anesthetized by way of the mass media and the constant redundancy of stories that we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t? Is a mosque, a stone structure, more important than the blood of thousands upon thousands?

Does the urgent crowd out the important?

Our masses pick and choose these moments so delicately, so explicitly, that I frantically search for the method behind the madness. The things we choose to care about in the grand scheme of things.

Maybe we’re all just tired. Maybe we’ve been worn down by tragedy upon tragedy.

Like ragged soldiers crawling through the desert on our hands and knees, in search of water, continuously unfulfilled with the paranoid illusions the sands have to offer. This is our Arab world, our Arabian reality.

The greatest minds of my generation destroyed by madness; starving, hysterical, naked.

The word ‘Palestine’ has been devalued and shelved, collecting dust. Iraq faces a similar destiny.
As has Lebanon. And so on and so forth. Their market shares fluctuate in proportion to their tragedy.

Until a new crisis emerges, a new pain replaces an older pain. Like the excitement of a summer fling. The thing about the consistency of being punched over and over again is that sooner or later the blows begin to feel like the pricks of a needle and the body adjusts. The pathways to the mind that suggest pain, they simple subside and the body adjusts. Until a new pain; a different pain.

And the feeling of something unique, something new; that feeling wakes us up from our transient comatic state and suddenly, so suddenly, the rusty cogs of the machine within us begin to turn and this pain carries a new excitement.

Then of course, the machine shuts down and we fall back into our coma; our regularly broadcast schedule.

And the circumstance, the new reality, simply ups the dosage of anesthetic. We adjust to the new pain.

The body counts have no names.

No identities.

Nothing to make us feel connected to them in any way. Simply a location, a religion and a sect. Like dog tags. Civilians become soldiers and the masses become the audience.

I find the hardest part not in the waking but in the sleeping; those calm and silent stretches of time and space where nothing seems to happen. When there is no crisis.

In reality it’s an ongoing crisis. We’re just taken to a new height where we eventually plateau. The new pain becomes an old pain. Where the death of one person is now equal to the death of a hundred, to the death of a thousand. And so on and so forth.

Glued to the television screen where the images of our death and destruction are ongoing with only short commercial breaks in between.

Nothing new.

I find the most inspiring part to be the awakening.

When we drag ourselves through the streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.

Something. Anything.

Cartoons, speeches, a mosque, a child, a death, a massacre, a tragedy, the colors of a flag, a single drop of blood. Blame anyone, blame everyone (but ourselves).

A reason to get up again. Anything to make us feel alive again. To feel that spirit again. It doesn’t matter what you’re marching for anymore. It’s the march itself that matters. It reminds us that we used to care about something and that perhaps we still do. It’s about hope. It’s about curling your fingers and discovering you can still make a fist; opening your mouth to discover you still have a voice.

But then we adjust.

Until a new crisis comes around.

And some one ups the dosage once again.


  • I’m reading “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, by Herman and Chomsky. I quote the very first paragraphe:

    “The mass media serve as a system for communication messages and symbols to general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires a systemic propaganda.”


    â??Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state” Chomsky: Media Control

    We are making the world’s biggest mansaf !! and NO it doesn’t matter if 99% of the world has no clue what a mansaf is, the 1% who know what it is will know that Jordan made the biggest one

    i tried to find your old entry about records but couldn’t find it because i have no time to look long enough

  • hippo: glad you’re reading it, it’s really a good book. for me it’s not simply propaganda but our society’s internalized anger.

    but while on the subject i kind of remember this yakov smirnoff joke where he says: “in soviet russia we have two channels. the first is propaganda and the second consists of a kgb agent ordering you to switch back to channel one at once!”

    maha: lol well at least it’ll feed the needy right?

  • It has alot to do with assimilation Nas, in the past you had the struggle between the oppressed Arab masses vs the puppet regimes, now after years of institutionalized brainwashing, you have a good chunk of the arab masses who are supportive and in cohesion with the same regimes, the masses have changed, the regimes have not. So what you have is an even deeper layered struggle to get to the just, fair and proper outcome , the people have been turned on each other, this brings up a huge question, is it worth it? Is it worth fighting for whatever it is that you think should be fought for if in the process you are going to have to go through your own people, whats more important a political stand or your brothers and sisters? land or people? justice or harmony?

  • on the Paralysed Arab delema and poetry…please refer to T. S Eliot!

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
    Remember us — if at all — not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.


    Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
    In death’s dream kingdom
    These do not appear:
    There, the eyes are
    Sunlight on a broken column
    There, is a tree swinging
    And voices are
    In the wind’s singing
    More distant and more solemn
    Than a fading star.

    Let me be no nearer
    In death’s dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer —

    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom


    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man’s hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.

    Is it like this
    In death’s other kingdom
    Waking alone
    At the hour when we are
    Trembling with tenderness
    Lips that would kiss
    Form prayers to broken stone.


    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death’s twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.


    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o’clock in the morning.

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow

    For Thine is the Kingdom

    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow

    Life is very long

    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
    For Thine is the Kingdom

    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the

    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

  • salam: it’s origami but it’s actually a japanese paper crane 🙂

    Fad: I actually thought of hollow men, i just went with ginsberg instead. thanks for the poem though.

    Markus: thanks for the comment. you have some valid points but i dont the problem is so much the regime. like you said they’ve been around a very long time, which has lead me to conclude a long time ago that in the environment we’re in, changing a regime and replacing it with another only has the same results. i’m more interested in the way we choose to unleash our frustrations. i’m more interested in the things we feel are worthy of fighting for.

    as an example: i personally find the deaths of thousands in iraq, darfur, palestine and so on, to be more appalling than israel building a ramp at the aqsa mosque or the pope badmouthing the prophet pbuh. and so on and so forth.

    it’s the choice. maybe we’re all psychologically scared.

  • I dont give the regimes a free ride, after all they are responsible for the status quo, they are the boss, in an ideal world the boss gets shown the door by the board of directs when the company fails, but alas, we are in the real world, the very real and harsh reality of the arabs, that is. nevertheless the arab people must have a moral obligation towads what they believe in, so yes, you are right i could care less what bridge is built where, when a child in gaza can barely remember what life is supposed to be like for a normal child. what the arabs need is a revolution, not a sedative not a fix, they need an identity revolution because frankly speaking every bunch of arabs has a different idea about what his priorities are. just look at jordan, a tiny sample , relativly speaking 5-6 million people , who someone claims, are a unified group of people, just interview a cross section of them, you will hear mind boggeling plathora of ideas, thoughts priorities realities, tat are in direct conflict, there is no democracy that can contain these opposing poles in one body, no way. the more revealing example is lebanon, i dont even need to explain. before we can help anyone else we need to work out who we are, wat we stand for, arabs stand for nothing in particular, not even a common enemy

  • Hi Nas,

    I just found your website through a link from Drima (@the Sudanese Thinker) and read the post with great interest.

    I hope you don’t mind when I jump right into the discussion..

    After I read Markus’ last comment I thought that maybe this is exactly (one part of) the explanation why the ramp at the aqsa mosque or the pope are chosen as reasons to protest and go to the streets where “internal” fights are not (even though they might have much bloodier results).. If there is no clear identity (and maybe even the fear of loosing the identity) a fight against a common enemy will stabilize. Protests against one’s “own” people endangers the identity even more. Sometimes it is important to have an enemy… (And I am sure that this is not only true in this case, but whenever a society feels threatened it its identity).

  • a from berlin: thanks for joining the discussion!

    the common enemy theory is valid. but in our case what i’ve noticed is that such a theory can be applied once or twice but when its done a variety of time for a variety of what i sometimes perceive to be ‘not as important’ thing, then to me it says that we are looking for something to focus our anger on.

    every little controversy becomes cathartic.

    a chance for emotional release.

    i suppose its a mix of reasons, that’s just the one i feel is the most applicable sometimes.

  • It’s looks so much like an iris..or is just me who sees it this way?i thought it was brilliant that you could find an origami iris..I was so impressed!!!still am’s lovely!

  • سلام

    What eludes me, is collective accusation!

    And in the case of this article you have written in your blog, all symptoms of collective accusations are found !

    when some people like you insist on using the word “Arab” as if talking about some two dimensional symbol made of ink on paper!

    In reality as opposed to propaganda, and other forms of nonesense, peoples are individuals, and I have yet to see,

    what makes an Arab man diffirent in individual character and content from a Hindu, Chinese, European, or African man.

    Is it so that a self-imposed racism (WE) is allowed and good, but peer-imposed racism (YOU) is sin and bad?

    Neither Self-Criticism , nor Free speech and opinion is not a vehicle of nonesense.

    I just do not trust speakers who overuse collective words like masses, crowds, generation, anyone, everyone, and also like (we) and (ourselves).
    Civilians ,soldiers, audience
    And if you think a mosque is a colletion of stones , then please explain to me what are your concepts of “respect”, “reverence”, “sacredness”, …

    I hope you can see my point !


  • Same3: thank you for the comment. you were a bit all over the map but i think i managed to see your point.

    this is not simply a self-criticism, and if i stated it was i don’t think you should ever have to reduce it to mere nonsense simply because you don’t like it or agree with it. similarily i can reduce your entire comment into say, jibberish, but instead i choose to read it and make an attempt at understanding your point.

    that’s how we progress in this world.

    that being said:

    when i use the collective “we” of course i am generalizing. this post is not based on the individual nature but an observation on what i feel is the majority of “us” Arabs. and it’s not just a feeling, it’s not sketchy, it’s real (I would go so far as to call it a fact based on the numbers). the action and reaction of the arab street is as predictable as the seasons and there’s a reason for that.

    as for a mosque. as a Muslim I care more about the half a million muslims killed in Iraq and the half a million killed in Darfur and the thousands dead in lebanon and palestine and somalia. i care more about the threat of alqueda and takfiri culture. the blood of these people are worth more than the stones of the ka3ba itself, which has been rebuilt several times.

    when “we” start to care about the little things a lot more than the larger things, then there’s something to be said about that.

    and with an emphasis on “We”

    but feel free to excuse yourself from the picture.

  • Sauntered from Drima’s blog:)

    Big ups for the well-written & enlightening post, though it dampened my spirits since it seems our ” Arab crisis” will always remain a vicious cycle:(

    Fad, thank you for sharing the poem.

Your Two Piasters: