Who am i, what's so special about me that I exist in peace when a vast humanity is denied it? Why should I exist over those who have been forcibly made to cease to exist entirely prematurely, or those who have never had the (mis)fortune to even exist? The fact that I do, and am privileged to exist in peace and prosperity as the 'lucky of history', why not just live and let live? And why not just dream the personal dreams of the 'why?' and the 'why not?', and forget about the collective 'why?' and the collective 'why not?' Why should one care for anyone but oneself?
Ayn Rand, and the 'Fable of the Bees' which likely inspired her as it did Adam Smith, certainly imply 'ubermensch' selfishness to be the most virtuous philosophy in the modernity du jour - to courageously and conscionably optimize selfishness which then supposedly trickles down to make a virtuous vibrant society through 'voodoo economics'. And what is this virtue? To be a virgin on a mountain top? What is this courage? To wage a battle against the windmills? What is conscionable? To be able to wash the blood off one's delicate hands while 'looking from the side' and smiling into the mirror asking who's the fairest of them all? Such is the virtuous practice of 'voodoo economics' for the greater social welfare these days. After all, nature too discards and trounces upon the weak and the frail - those who fail to optimize their private genes - so why shouldn't we?
This is 'About Me' - always wrestling with silly existential questions like these. According to my mom who recently informed me, 'I had thought you might do great things in life with your MIT education and all', I am likely a major failure.
And my wife certainly continually echoes the same, recently she informed me that I was 'quite useless', perhaps because I am continually writing what no one will ever read, and making big plans and dreaming even bigger dreams that never come to pass, instead of doing 'something useful' with my life. I guess the two most instrumental women in my life find good company with each other. That's one of a kind for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law to get along so well on matters of principle. I guess I can't complain. Most men would die to have this consensus - I am getting it for free.
I gave up my career in the industry at the peak of it (sample here), to help raise my kids - when I had a perfectly practical wife as a perfectly ideal and dotting mother who was already doing a perfectly good job of it.
Then in the middle of it all, I came out on the streets to protest the slaughter of innocent civilians, bringing the pride and joy of my life along with me!
And in the aftermath of one of the most destructive earthquakes in history, I put on my mountaineering backpack, hopped onto the back of an open truck one evening in the shivering December winter with knees that don't work so good no more, and made my way into the very freezing mountains to help with the relief effort and aid distribution in some meager way. Instead, I returned helped myself by those who had lost it all.
And I showed up at the World Social Forum and offered my help as a volunteer which they graciously accepted. I was to look into the proper functioning of the public toilet system at the venue. No one remained constipated, the septic tanks got emptied on time! And that's where I learnt what volunteer work really means. My teachers were kids half my age!
And I met many great plebeian peoples there. One such group of really inspiring visiting American youngsters I joined up to help set up 'friends without borders' letters exchange among school kids. That was fun for a while, until paranoia from the 'democratically elected generals' hit realism for the safety of our young local volunteers due to the possible wrath of the intelligence agencies for 'talking to the enemy' in the unpredictable international climate du jour - friends one day, terrorists the next - and I balked. The American idealists hated me for this realism of trying to be protective of my own peoples and wondered what happened to my much wonted idealism? I guess I was responsible for derailing their lofty project in my nation.
All my friends think I am a bit weird. None of them can usually relate to me, judging from their profound disinterest in everything that interests me. None of them for instance, would stand in front of 'fully ready to shoot at demonstrators' Pakistani soldiers with camera in hand clicking away while trying to say 'hi-hello' to their stone dead faces that bear the unmistakable zombie look as if they had been dead since right after boot camp only waiting to be told where to point and when to fire. And when the trigger happy battle-attired city police started firing tear gas at the demonstrators in a densely populated market-residential area in the Capital city, and the choking fumes ended up in homes where women and children were taking refuge from the onslaught and some fainted, none of my friends would run up to the city magistrate supervising the mayhem and inform him that as an eyewitness to atrocities, he was being formally notified that there were women and children in the firing path and to order ambulances.
Okay so my friends are normal peoples and quite content in their night and day pursuits of their respective 'American Dreams', like I used to be. They'd rather just watch it all on the big screen, like I used to do. But they are still my best friends. Some of them since childhood. And because of all of them, I am a much happier person - for it is to them that I crawl when I stumble and fall. And in this instance, that's where I ended up with my eyes swollen and unable to breathe from hours of inhaling tear gas, but still clicking away.
So that's about it. Not much to me. A simple ordinary quite 'useless' plebeian whose efficacy of efforts in understanding the existential questions of 'life liberty and pursuit of happiness for all' as opposed to 'only for the privileged few', is exactly and precisely zero.
But there is also my 'My Little Jihad'. Why little? Because the greater one is far too difficult. It entails peering into the Abyss with all of one's might, but not allowing the Abyss to peer right back into one's soul. Only real human beings are capable of such monumental superhuman feats. Ones like Rachel Corrie - the quintessential moralist daughter of all humanity - who showed the meaning of the Greater Jihad to the spectating world. When will she be recognized as such by her own peoples? When will March 16 be made a universal Rachel Corrie day of Moral-Activism?
I wrote 'My Little Jihad' as an introduction to 'Me' sometimes a few weeks before May 2005. I don't quite recall exactly when, or even its full context. Probably the usual silly political philosophy question I must have put before some brilliant American Academic or think-tanker about what was his or her basis to assert 'Israel's right to exist' on Palestinian lands by displacing its natives, as opposed to, say, in the vast empty spaces of sunny California, or in beautiful Bavaria by displacing its natives? I found it on my desktop and it felt like - hey I still feel this way in April 2007. I guess I am now frozen in time, and have been for some time. Not 'out of place', just 'out of time'. So here it is.
Just to introduce myself and my own values briefly - you do not need to read this in order to respond to my question. But I would appreciate if you would as it will enable you to get to know your petitioner and his biases, including the motivation behind the question.
I am a Muslim from Pakistan, presently live in California, was trained at MIT in EECS, but only learnt how to think from Noam Chomsky while at MIT and not due to any MIT education in EECS which only endeavored to make me an expert in high-tech and not in recognizing simple moral truths and commonsense. I had this worm of idealist Activism in me awakened then, as we peacefully protested the brutal American intervention in South America in the late 1970s. People on campus used to call us 'leftist' and 'radicals', and that used to surprise me because I hardly thought I was a leftist or a radical. I was a rather plebeian ordinary 'cultural' Muslim who prayed to a God I had never met, and was just thinking about right and wrong and acting upon my conscience right alongside the assorted atheists and socialists - 'the radicals' - who were doing the same. Do only 'leftists' and 'radicals' think about right and wrong? Did that mean that all the 'right wingers' and rest of society were devil worshipers? That conundrum still persists to this very day - but I needlessly digress.
This activism, i.e., conscience, was partially put on hold by the everyday economic interests of paying bills, as I dutifully marched to a successful career in the corporate world as a computer architect in silicon valley. I have about two dozen US design patents - you may even have edited a book or a paper on a workstation or server that may have been touched by my work at some point in time at your university - unless you use Windows exclusively. I hate Windows, but not as much as I detest Israel and Zionism, and the hypocrisy of people who support it when they would not have supported the Zionists doing it to them in America if per chance the Jewish god had granted them land rights in downtown USA, say in Michigan. But I digress again.
I recovered some of my activism after 911, which hitherto had been dormant off and on for several years as I enjoyed my early retirement from industry to help raise my family. With occasional pangs of guilt every time a bullet tore through a Palestinian child's eyes as having been subsidized by my own hard earned American tax dollars, I was living a rather content life, trying not to think too hard about the misery of my brethren the world over. Part of the Faustian pact for enjoying a good life of ample blessings appears to be to turn a blind eye from everyone else in the world, or else, the pleasures don't appear so pleasurable any more.
However, with the barbaric bombings of Afghanistan in a strange "algebra of infinite justice", I was transformed as I started crying impotently at the plight of the helpless Afghani peoples, after years and years of fighting the Soviets barefoot on behalf of the Americans resulting in the complete destruction of their society and the creation of monsters within them, they were to be finally paid their due in just gratitude by the Americans. I went to the book stores and purchased several hundreds of dollars worth of books on current affairs and started once again reading up on what the hell had happened since the last time I had visited reality. I reread "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" cover to cover, revisited my history of American interventions in our developing countries since the end of World War II, caught up on my readings on the new ideologies that had cropped up since the demise of the Soviet Union, read up on the writings of the Neo-cons, globalization, WTO, and started attending protest meetings and teach-ins to educate myself.
As the talk of war on Iraq materialized, I got my lazy butt off my chair. I marched in the very front row of antiwar/peace demonstrations during the lead up to the Iraq war in 2002/2003, right behind the armed police line - front row because I felt, albeit fearfully, that if anyone should take the brunt of any baton charges and tear gassing, it should be me before any of my courageous fellow Americans who had risen up in support of my cause and of my peoples took a single hit (and I say "my" quite humbly as an ordinary member of a disempowered humanity and not like some pompous jackass on an ego trip).
And in this endeavor of peaceful street demonstrations, I included my family and young children, as the minimum level of support I could feebly show for the impending innocent victims of America's largess of raining democracy onto a civilian population. To replace a dictator that the American's had faithfully coddled and encouraged to bomb Iran, and indeed faithfully installed through their central intelligence agency chicaneries several decades prior, and once Iran had been contained, was lured into invading Kuwait, and then subsequently pummeled to smithereens in a devastating war followed by 13 years of stifling economic sanctions that cost over 500,000 children to lose their innocent lives due to malnutrition and unavailability of basic medicines. The irony of these neo-con job seemed to be lost on the American people entirely, as the faithful intellectuals of the empire continued to rant and rave about red herrings of WMDs that the fertile minds of the Neo-cons kept sprinkling from the highest pulpits with such imaginative gems like "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".
Remarkable, because I saw absolutely no intellectual in America challenge the official explanations of 911 on this precious piece of wisdom. If this crap is good enough to warrant bombing Baghdad, should it also not be good enough to command the US Air Force to do the same to Washington who I will now assert precipitated 911 as their new Pearl Harbor? How do I know? What is the evidence? Well, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".
But wait, there is actually a lot of evidence, amply found on the web, sufficient at least to start asking probing questions about the lies surrounding the official version of events. Then there is also the actual precedence too - new evidence released through the FOIA from the US Government's once classified files suggest that President Roosevelt had a hand in letting the original Pearl Harbor happen, for he too needed a pretext to get America to enter the European war. Also easily available on the web. Indeed this evidence is incredibly shocking. Would we have to wait another half century to come by evidence for the new Pearl Harbor? But I digress again - only to illustrate the reasons and motivations that were compelling me to voice my dissent through the only means I thought might be effective in averting the war - street protest by millions and millions of people wizening up to the charade being played on them by Washington. What is today, in 2005, starting to appear in blogs and various local newspapers under the bylines of well known journalists playing catchup to reality, I already knew then through books, first hand discussions with peace activists, reading foreign newspapers and reporting of courageous unembedded foreign correspondents, and through daily hours of listening to the wonderful Pacifica Network news programs like DemocracyNow and Flashpoints on KPFA. I knew the hoax was on and wanted to do my small part in ending it.
It was quite easy for us demonstrating in the safety of American streets, despite the presence of imposing cops right in front of us, with whom many a times I would try to strike up conversations and introduce my children in the hope that if the large storm trooper like giants ever dared to raise their baton in a moment of fury, that they might remember that just a few minutes ago they had smiled at the kids and might show them some mercy - mercy that no other children awaiting their impending shattering of tabula rasa would receive from the American bombardiers following their orders to "shock and awe" civilians. My courageous kids, as young as they are, the youngest at the time was 9, are all martial artists (soon to be black belts in Tae Kwon Do in a couple of weeks), and we had practiced at home how they should behave and act in passive resistance in case some policeman came towards them, including yelling out at the top of their lungs: "stop" in the best rendering of their Kiaps. They wore 24x36 inch placards around their innocent necks that they had stayed up most of the night preparing, each had come up with their own pithy statement to George Bush. But alas! Perhaps the President was too busy to take note of my children's innocent thoughts, for he might have been saved by the simplicity of their messages from the eternal damnation that the curses of millions of innocent victims must now surely plead to their Lord to rain down upon him in full vengeance.
I often wonder if Jesus really has the power to wash away the sins of mass murderers of humanity who commit these monumental crimes in his name or to bring his arrival sooner? Is there some special exclusion clause that makes these monumental criminals exempt from Divine Justice? Hmmm, perhaps I am in the wrong religion - my God assures us of Divine Justice - take a misstep in this life and you shall pay in the next. Kill one innocent person and it is akin to having killed entire humanity. Wow, I dare not commit murder or become a suicide bomber out of sheer desperation while I am Muslim, or else I will have eternal damnation to look forward to. May be I should become an Evangelical Christian first if I ever get mad enough? Or perhaps a Christian Zionist? Or maybe just a Zionist? For then I will be in the company of George Bush and he will surely save me. Doesn't he walk with the lord and communicate with him directly? Na, such a hypocrite 'religion', whatever the name, and such a hypocrite 'savior', whatever its name, is not for me!
I just as soon take my chances in Islam where at least the God claims He is the "Most Just". For what other philosophy is there that is so firmly rooted in justice? Which other god has the same emphasis on justice? Perhaps the humanist's god? But they have no god, and with them, justice denied in the world, is justice denied period. But in Islam, there is a promise of fair justice that keeps a victim's hope alive. But I generally tend to be too impatient. Justice meted out elsewhere is also justice denied here - even when there is the firm promise of it in the future - I like to see it administered right here and now, for the victims too are right here and now.
But how is it even possible to punish for 100,000 murders? Rigorous imprisonment for 100,000 lifetimes with dogs snapping at the genitals 24x7 in a small hell hole in Guantanamo Bay seems so inadequate, even if taken straight from the Old Testament Commandment of eye for an eye, for we certainly don't want to exceed in the punishment, eye for an eye is just fine. But the problem is that the butchers of a hundred thousand, or a million, with devastation of entire civilizations, and directly responsible for "all the evil that follow[ed]" from their first aggression, with Depleted Uranium everywhere that will continue killing for untold more generations, the total crime can be in millions of 'human units'. Never mind the collateral 'environmental units'. Which is why I refer to their crimes as monumental. But the cowardly murderers will be dead in a few years, if not right off the bat the first day they see the dogs sniffing at their crotch as they are tied upside down and their heads dunked in their own urine and a rod up their hidden cavities - all the stuff meted out by the imperial soldiers of fortunes to innocent Muslim civilian prisoners arbitrarily held in prison camps dotting the destroyed landscapes of Iraq and Afghanistan in the most inhuman condition imaginable - eye for an eye, punishment from their own books. How to administer it? For once administered, only then will it deter future monumental crimes. Otherwise what did the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals ever deter?
Indeed, what earthly punishment can any genuine war crimes tribunal ever implement on a monumental war criminal to affect justice? These bastards will croak in a day, they are already in their 60s. How can one subject a monumental war criminal to an explosion of each Daisy Cutter that he authorized dropped, and each missile that he authorized fired, in accordance with the eye for an eye justice? True eye for an eye justice is infeasible in modern times, isn't it? Which is why shouldn't modernity forcefully deter, and make impossible, monumental crimes before they occur? Since modernity and its civilized harbingers have continually failed at that endeavor, I guess one would, after all, have to rely on Divine Justice to get real justice now wouldn't one? I pray every time I remember my God, which these days is not too often any more, to execute His promise of Divine Justice. For it is indeed only such a promise that keeps me a bit sane every time a child falls with a bullet to his head in Palestine and I see another Zionist happy, another wedding party blown to bits and a Neo-con from the Pentagon stating they do not keep track of Iraqi and Afghani civilian casualties. But enough digressing.
Holding steadfast to God's promise of Divine Justice against these dressed to kill barbarians in Washington, we marched a few miles each time in each protest march, between October 2002, to I think March 2003, in deep silence praying in our hearts our Islamic prayers for the innocent people about to be killed, while we were secure in the knowledge that no "shock and awe" was about to rain down upon us from the clear American sky, and no twenty year old Israeli soldier, wearing the holy Jewish yamaka and laden with an American made rifle and American made bullets, sitting in the safety of his American made armored tank, was about to shoot at my small children in the eyes and in the head while simultaneously lamenting: "I can forgive them for killing our children, I cannot forgive them for making us kill theirs".
I detest hypocrisy, especially among intellectuals, but am often forgiving of it among the ordinary people who often do not know any better. I hold the intellectuals, as wearing the mantle of Plato, clearly responsible for educating the ordinary peoples in this matter of avoiding hypocrisy - a crime so severe, that all moral codes of law and "divine" injunctions that I am aware of, including those of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, consign its practitioners to the lowest recesses of hell. Far lower than even what Hitler would occupy, for even as one of the worst mass murderers that mankind has seen in history, he wasn't a hypocrite. He had clearly spelled out his opinions and value propositions in his memoirs a decade before he executed upon his barbaric plans, including his demonic ideas on how to deceive his own German masses through systematic propaganda techniques. I have read his memoirs several times. I feel what allowed him to become such a monumental criminal was not that the people were deceived by him, rather because initially no one believed his outlandish ideas would ever be put to practice. What allowed Hitler to be defeated, was when people outside Germany realized he wasn't kidding and wasn't going to be satisfied with occupying just a few countries only - or so the dominant version of history tells us.
In contrast, I feel this new "war on terrorism" is as replete with deception and red herrings under the euphemism of "preemptive self defense", as Israel's occupation and continued annexation of Palestine under America's watchful patronage is in various guises. These deception techniques to me look remarkably like they are drawn from Hitler's own propaganda theories, and as employed so dexterously by Goebbels in the service of the Third Reich.
I further feel that the ones who enable this deception and do little to remove the red herrings despite their claim to being intellectuals, are often times the greater monumental criminals because they disempower the peoples over whom they hold the responsibility for education in all matters too abstruse. And in so doing, they lengthen the period of suffering and destruction by keeping those who are able to stop the injustices, in total obfuscation. This leads the good peoples to waste their incredible talents and energies chasing this red herring or that.
And now it is about to start all over again with Iran. This time, I won't attend demonstrations. It was a pointless expenditure of perfectly useful energy for very little gain last time, the size was never more than half a million in the largest city in America, whereas even in small nations like Rome, millions turned out to say No to George Bush. The American nation is quite asleep - they will only turn out in the streets in massive numbers as they did during Vietnam when their own sons and daughters start coming home in body bags in huge numbers. What a high price to pay to wakeup, or to not stay awake in the first place. The American nation clearly holds its own lives far more precious than anyone else's. This message is known far and wide across the globe - you want America to behave, make it extremely costly for them to misbehave - for strength will only respect strength as we witnessed during the Cold War where Détente was the only sane option - it is almost a law of civilizations, 'as old as mankind'. What can I do besides lament? I have no idea. But I do not wish to waste my energies in pursuits that bear little fruit. I wish I had the imagination, the intellect, and the resources to checkmate the Neo-cons on their own Grand Chessboard; perhaps a plebeian 'Rand Corporation', or a plebeian 'JINSA', or even a superpower plebeian nation of awakened citizenry. But as Nietzsche put it: "Battle not with monsters lest ye become one; for when you look into the Abyss, the Abyss looks into you."
I respect truth tellers who regardless of consequence follow the diktats of their conscience - who know not the meaning of co-optation - hence I am a lifetime student of such teachers. My most revered teacher today, is Rachel Corrie. She proved Nietzsche wrong, she battled the monstrous bulldozer, lost her life under its tracks, but salvaged her humanity, her Jewish religion, and reclaimed for all times, the meaning of Jewish morality, unequivocally demonstrating the brutality of Zionism and the inhumanity of its adherents. In the legacy of her few letters to her mother, which her mother thoughtfully made public for the benefit of us all, she left behind her thoughts on the curse of Zionism and what it has done to an innocent people in Palestine. How can anyone support Zionism and look at themselves in the mirror in the morning? Rachel Corrie could not - which is why she had to go to the Holy Land of oppression and take a stand against her own people. I lack the courage and determination of such pure and angelic teachers as Rachel Corrie, for even as a Jew, she was a better Muslim than I. Even in her martyrdom, she is more alive than I.
I perceive that with the passage of time, with newer Jewish generations continually being born on Palestinian lands, the land theft will be a fait accompli - which is why, contrary to all the talk of time not favoring the Jews in Israel due to higher birth rate of the Palestinians in their pitiful bantustans and UN relief tents, it is actually time that is the Zionist's best friend today. Who today dare evict a Californian, born and raised for generations on main street, the land usurped from the Mexicans - no one today will consider it "just" to evict the Californian any more than the new Jewish generations being born in today's Israel. Thus we see a systematic resettlement of Palestine quite analogous to America - and who does not know today how that land theft was accomplished from the native American Indians? Thus with the passage of time, the problem will become more intractable to peaceful solutions and the Zionists will win by default. The only mechanism that will dislodge them in the future then becomes quite obvious: "Battle not with monsters lest ye become one; for when you look into the Abyss, the Abyss looks into you." For unlike the angelic Rachel Corrie, the price of having a soul may be forfeited when much has already been paid at the altar of a shattered tabula rasa.
I see only bloodshed and more mayhem - a disservice that the American nation has done to the Jews by supporting the creation of Israel and bankrolling its oppression and tyranny over the indigenous population. Whereas the native American was easily colonized as they had no common bonds with anyone but their own tribes, the Palestinians are united in a bond with 1.5 Billion Muslims called Islam. The Justice of Islam on the neck of the Jews sometimes re-occurs in Islamic "end of times" prophesies. Is this a new version of Christian anti-Semitism? The goyim turning the tables on their masters? Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts has been given new meaning in the Christian West's gratuitous gifting to the Jews, the lands of the Palestinians.
One really wonders at the motivation of some Christian intellectuals who support Israel and Zionism, and who made them this gift to get rid of their own Jewish problem from Europe. If the Jewish intellectuals have any vision and concern for the future of their peoples, they might rise up and loudly condemn Zionism and work on restoring Palestine to Palestinians. There is room in the land for all born on that soil to live together, equitably, and peacefully. And all those transplanted from New York and Russia and other places, may kindly be deported to the countries of their origins, and those Palestinians displaced into the Diaspora invited back to reclaim their own properties. Show me why this solution is not the most just and fair - a united Palestine for all its indigenous peoples, and no Zionist Jewish State in Palestine.
If it could be accomplished for South Africa, it can also be accomplished for Palestine. The problem is only in properly defining the key value of "Zionism". Today it is presented as a desirable value proposition, whereas in reality it is a terrorist ideology. Thus actively engaging the "war on terrorism" machinery of the mightiest superpower on earth against it will solve this seemingly intractable conundrum in a few short months. The issue really isn't one of finding a solution. The issue really is one of the "will" and desire of implementing it. Those in power want to sustain their global hegemony, and Israel is an essential component of their overall tortuous strategy in a convolution of mutual interests. Thus the problem definition is not Israel, but those ruling elite in power in America, who perpetually tend to stay in power in the great American political landscape regardless of party affiliations. Today, due to the composition of the imperial thinkers and the financial power-base, Zionism is the bet and Israel is its manifestation. Tomorrow it may be another, as it was in yesteryears when no one had even heard of 'Israel' in America; when there was only Palestine. Zionism is merely another chess piece on the Grand Chessboard. And like some chess pieces, its existence can be made ephemeral by new and evolving strategies.
As an impotent armchair warrior fighting the despotism of my own conscience, writing letters such as these is my own little jihad from which I derive the limited ability to occasionally be able to look at myself in the mirror, and not cringe. Well that's all I want to say about me.