Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shalash...

Many Iraqis, whether from inside or outside Iraq, are familiar with Iraqi Shalash. Whether people like or dislike his approaches or not, and whether they agree or disagree with him eventually, there's a great majority of Iraqis who read his posts anyway. The simplicity in which he writes, using Iraqi slang and expressions, makes him closer to readers regardless their backgrounds and education.

When somebody intends to make a reproduction of Shalash's writings or character in a different language, it's hard to come accross as an authentic writer. Definitely not original when the name is borrowed, and when there's another writer to compare to. However, today's blogger , The Exiled Shalash, made the biggest mistake by associating himself to Shalas. The real Shalash comes accross simple and unsophisticated, the ordinary Iraqi Joe, flexible and tolerant despite his skeptical sense of humor. The Exiled Shalash? Nothing like that, and shame on the blogger for trying imitate him. The style? The writings? The thoughts? Nothing like Shalash. The simplicity, the validity and the familiarity of Shalash's writings are non-existant in Exiled Shalash's posts.

After skimming through the archive, I didn't quite have the inclination to go through posts as I usually do. However, it's a must. So the most recent post of July 26th, titled al-Maliki in Washington (3 of series) is simply a piece of second-hand news, somewhat hard to appreciate since there are enough news websites already whereas the blog is individual. There's the full text of the Bush/Maliki press conference, which I doubt anybody would bother reading, and which is left without any sort of a commentary by the blogger. You're more likely to scroll down looking for a piece of his mind, which there isn't, then you will wonder "What were you thinking?". It actually looks like the post is only there to fill some space or perhaps so he doesn't look like he hasn't updated in ages. That post almost seems like it's meant to bore people off, I for one was absolutely bored with it.

An older post that was actually a better read is of July 14th, titled Visiting Iraq. It's an account of his visit to Baghdad back in 2003 and his impressions about it, alongside the odds that he will ever visit Baghdad again. The post hued from tetchy to touching, however there was a moment that set me off the entire post:

"I never once even thought of working with the Iraqi or US government because I wanted to help my father with his shop, but that didn't matter to Sunni militants who were looking for any excuse to behead a Shi'a Iraqi returning from exile."

There are both Sunni and Shiite militants in Iraq, and having lived there throughout the war, there were well more Shiite militants than Sunni. Regardless of that, those are renegade militants regardless their sectarian courses and orientations. The differences are existent, but those differences separate Iraqis, and still Iraqis enforce the differences and keep mentioning them. That post gave me a bitter sense of Nostalgia and somewhat reminded me of my own exodus.

The older posts start with reflections upon Iraqi Shalash's writings, and then some individual thinking. The March 17th post, titled Civil War starts off with a recount and an explanation of one of the puns used by Iraqi Shalash:

"I don't know what civil war means," is how Shalash begins his latest piece. You see in Arabic civil war can be translated into al-Harb al-Ahliyyah, but al-Ahliyyah also means "private," and Ahil also means, "family." So is Iraq's civil war a private one? No, I think it is a war among a family, that's probably why it's translated as such."

It's actually somewhat amusing, but then the paragraph that followed left me quite puzzled:

"There is no such thing as a civil war, wars are not civil, not even the one that removed Saddam, if I recall correctly, I think I was a staunch supporter of that war."


Okay, what does this have to do with that? Anyway, so the post goes on, and upon reading I carried on wondering about the kind of "glue" he uses to put his thoughts together, because this one is falling apart. The post was grim, until I reached the breaking point where I laughed hysterically and simply thought "What does he know?!". That breaking point was this paragraph:

"Because we're a decent people, we have suffered so much for so long, we deserve someone better than Ja'afari and yes, someone better than Adil Abdulmahdi"

If you're a believer in God, then you know that he only gives people what they deserve to have, and somehow we've deserved Saddam Hussein for some three decades and then the past three years didn't quite show that our merit was any better. If you're a believer in humanity, then all I can say is that I've lived there and I've watched the rich and the poor loot like there's no tomorrow. You can argue that after decades of deprivation people deserve a break, but in the other hand everybody saw Munqith Al Jebah-che on TV, while he and his wife were stealing gilded tea cups. For those who don't know Munqith Al Jebah-che, he's a doctor who owned a private hospital as well as a clinic. Needless to mention Ahmed Ismail, the famous ortho-dentist, who also stole equipment from Mustansiryah University and installed them in a new private clinic that he intended to establish in Mansour Area. Those were few of many more examples. Decent? Well, the hue of killers, renegades, liars, thieves and corrupted/corrupting individuals doesn't sound that promising. Decent people, it sounds like a nice thing to be said about the majority of our people, had they only earned it throughout history. But well, who are we kidding, our bloody history does the telling. (I'm not saying that everybody is indecent there, I'm just saying that if you stick you're head out of your door you're more likely to face a renegade than anybody else).

The concluding paragraph of the post says:

"When all of this is over, maybe tens of years from now, maybe millions of lives later, maybe after Shalash and after the Exiled Shalash, maybe after Shalash becomes an Exiled Shalash, Iraqis have to put these clowns who now occupy Saddam's palaces on trial. The likes of Bayan Jabr and Abdulaziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr and Ibrahim al-Ja'afari whose names have become known to the world at the expense of our blood should all be brought to justice and no, not some justice system crafted in the 7th century, but a real justice system that does not differentiate between a Budhist and a Muslim, a Shi'a and an atheist, a Yezedi and a Jew."

That paragraph was actually good, except for that I would seriously recommend that Exiled Shalash should never put his name next to Shalash's because he's "no more to Shalash than he is to Hercules". They could never be alike by any means. but in the other hand, yes, those names rose on our expense (But isn't that the 101 of politics?). By the way, Exiled Shalash, you say you shouldn't differentiate, why did you differentiate with militants? Or was that the result of spilling your actual bucket later on, on your blog? Anyway, the thought that supposedly made up the post was somewhat decaying or falling apart, because sometimes there's no link between two paragraphs, whatsoever.

I cannot seem to have the same feelings about two posts, sometimes he's cold and unaffected yet sometimes there's a spark, some zeal. Sometimes I utterly dislike him and sometimes he does sound reasonably acceptable. It's a good occasional read, yet not as Iraqi, and definitely not Shalash-like. The first month or two were as though his own thoughts are veiled and kept from the reader, but then the revelation is later on, in the more recent posts. Anyway, I don't argue his freedom of choice for a name but why did he have to pick that name out of all names out there, and then not do it just at all?

1 comment:

Peacenik said...

Ouch!! You can be so cruel. I have heard elsewhere that the writing of Shalash is amazing in Arabic, but as an American I can say that even translated into English it inspires me toward something that I can’t articulate. It is a frustration and a hope that I am most definitely an outsider to.

This guy is affected by Shalash. He wants to carry his message. Why do you choose to tear him down? Is it because he is poorly counterfeiting a writing style? I know that’s what you do, but it is obvious that he is trying to honor Shalash. He’s not trying to degrade him. Perhaps it would be better to acknowledge a little what the writer is trying to do.