I can't write when people are around, in this blog or anywhere else.
There is an intense vulnerability that is exposed when thoughts are put into words. It is an agonizing process of extracting hope from death, and I am still uncomfortable sharing this exposing exercise with the eyes of onlookers. As such, my blog has remained empty the last few days to make way for the hordes of friends and loved ones that have completed my circle.
Despite my virtual return, I feel that there are still so many things in my heart that I can not share. They have been building up with anxiety and reflection for years, like the dust that collects on the backs of ancient graves. These deeply buried secrets are heavy at times, feeling like weights chained to my feet. But at times, they offer me a sense of solitude and sanctuary that I yearn for in a world filled with intense invasive incursions into my soul.
My first loves, because as we grow, we fall in love for the first time over and over again. My weakest moments of greed, lust, privilege, and self absorption. My most fear filled fallouts, shaken by the scorn of an angry loved one, or beaten down by the brutality of relentless destruction. My lowest moments of self destruction, escapism, and disregard for the world around me, all remain hidden like scars under bursting bangs of hair.
I have difficulty serving these items in my daily dose of diasporic diatribe. I choose to hold on to these memories, because, they are like the beautiful rust on an aging piece of jewelery, left somewhere under my grandmother's feet. In a world so perversely shaped by individualism, I would rather have these as my possessions than the meaningless trophies that people spend so much of their energy to pursue. I refuse to latch on to the material gains close to so many people's plastic hearts. I have no illusions about how our wealth is built on the back of poor voiceless people around the world.
Here in Doha, and throughout the capitalist West, cars are extensions of men's flailing confidence in their own driving abilities. Technological toys tantamount to total trash tease their tastes, and give them a sense of fake accomplishment. Here in Doha, and throughout the Gulf, you are judged by what you wear, and how you treat your hair. And not by what and where you work, and how you treat your maid.
There is sporadic graffiti throughout Do-ha. In Toronto, graffiti, one of the four elements of Hip Hop, and a complex art form that is responsive to the misery of marginalized communities, is considered a crime. Because, in Toronto, crimes are judged not by their impact on people, but by their effect on property and matters material. Broken windows are considered to be more of a serious offense than broken bones. As such, our communities might be void of vandals, but are still rife with wife beaters and racist cops.
Just outside the main gate to our house, there is a huge map of India sketched onto an unfinished wall with a thick Cross placed in the middle of the drawing. I suspect it is our neighbor, an Anglican priest from Mumbai, recently arrived, grappling with the rawness of corporate Islam, the region's official religion, that decorated the design. I wonder what his reaction will be to Islamic scrawlings on the wall of his home in India or here. I would test the young priest, but religion is a backwards backbreaking affair, infested with mysogyny and elitism, no matter what stripe your faith is.
Just around the corner, the word 'sex' is spray painted hastily against the heated concrete walls of our gated community. It is a word that you see written everywhere. Young men, uncertain of how to deal with their hormonal hysteria, resort to cheap thrills on the net or by flicking through the parade of porn populating satellite programming. Sex, or just the act of love here, and throughout the world, is tempered largely by status and style, as opposed to being the product of trusts, times, and total encapsulation into one another's worlds.
There was a beautiful piece of grafitti, around the corner, that had two flags, one Palestinian and the other Croatian, embracing each other, with the words, "Together" tagged underneath them. But that has since been consumed by the tidal of wave of construction defining Do-ha, and the Khaleej on which it sits.
Driving through the city, I noticed some Arabic graffiti with the word Gaza in it, hastily painted over to cover up, I assume, any dissent or reference to the struggle of oppressed people, no matter where they are. Other graffiti gems that I gazed over included, "Za3tar", "Abu Sameem", and a slew of randon names put up by people desperate for expression and identity in a world not accepting of both.
References to musical bands are also common. I have seen, "Lamb of God" , "Daft Punk" , "Tupac" , and "System of a Down" scribbled on different walls and fences. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this sort of grab for culture is conducive to change, or is part in parcel of the wave of Americanization sweeping through the Arab world. But, having that said, I identify more with the art of Tupac, Lamb, and System than with the empty echos of Arabic pop music attacking our minds and ears.
But, the most surprising and refreshing discovery I have made throughout my visits over the years, has been a small forgetabble alleyway just around the corner from my house. It is a route commonly taken by students on their way to some highly esteemed private schools in the city. On each side of the tight walkway, walls are covered with Anti-American sentiment, a simmering but sedated emotion running through the veins of young people in the global South. Everything from expletives against the USA to more complex demands from disenfranchised kids decorate the otherwise boring route to nowhere.
Here in Doha, these writings on the wall are my closest friends. Unlike the elite, these etchings are desperate, isolated, and critical of their surroundings. Unlike the rich, the smatterings of graffiti decorating the drama, are genuine and striving for truth. I must admit, that my eyes see the scribbles on the wall in a bigger presence than in which they really exist. But if I follow the neon lights and women in tights, then I will be part of the beast I fear the most: complicity.
Until next time, stay strong like Iraqi mothers.