"We are the time we live in," wrote Umberto Eco. Given the cacophony of noises filling the ether of our planet, scepticism becomes the protective shield behind which individuals withdraw to bemoan their lots and to contemplate the absurdity or reasonableness of it all. The constant fluctuations of news and newsmakers make any event far from being taken for its face value. Things turn out to be truly convoluted and their purposes and meanings were maneuvered, twisted, and played with. In the lingo of the talkingheads they're spun. Any happening appears to be coded in semiotic messages: it's to point to something other than itself, to other than the purported referents or the potential symbolism. For instance, was the botched Saddam's lynching a direct message or only a symbol of how deep in s--- Arabs have fallen? In other words, was it to send a plain message to whoever is concerned to watch out for who's pulling the strings and calling the shots and to bow the head and tow the line or else? Or, a backward culture, lately starting to peal off the layers of decency and compassion which had protected it for so long from destroying itself and is now showing itself for what it's; close to barbarous and savagery state?
The meaning and importance of an act may not be as clear as some of those who champion it may like to convey or believe. At the heat of the moment of an act's happening, just as in a battle field, a thick or thin layer of fog, by chance or by choice, blurring the reasons, motivations, and proceedings, and thus would envelope the immediacy of the surroundings and wraps them in confusions which would only cause further mystifications that will render it almost unexplainable. Only time and/or a stepping back by dispassionate analysts may open a crack into the puzzle and prevent it from slowly becoming a mystery. In the real or virtual wall which comes to surround the action, even a cursory glimpse into what has happened becomes shaded through the lenses in accordance to which side of the barricade one is standing behind. That's why only after long deliberations, analysis, and the tempering of time a possibility for the reconstituting of the action(s) again, at least in the imagination, breaking it down to its primary elements and to its constituting parts, so some degree of understanding to its occurrence and therefore the opportunity to render a judgment would become attainable. Barring such a course, only gut feelings and raw emotions are what we've to describe what we observe and to make sense out of what we've just witnessed. Human emotions are responsible for a great part of what humans do, and constitute their primary tools in the interactions that occur. These also are bound to become a major part of the raw data which will help in the mustering of the final verdict, if ever will be a final anything.
However, due to the nature of social actions, politically and ideologically motivated, there're always different versions and sides to every act, add to this historians, as human agents carry their own biases, which would make it extremely difficult to see the tree in the forest or to separate the grain from the chaff. Arabs, in the numerous tumultuous events of their history had been plagued by such confusions from the get-go, perhaps more so than any other group or cultural area. This legacy, clouded in part by the blanket religion had extended on culture, of not seeing clear historical actions and their meanings, still haunts them today. We're today as puzzled, as blindsided, as baffled as any other time in that long nightmare, of what's happening in front of our eyes. The actions we see in front of our eyes we're told meant something other than what could make of them, and actors who we thought were behind the events are washing their hands off the affair, then one may ask whose side or whose version are we supposed to take or believe, or who is it going to be on the right track of history? Which of these acts is real and which is rather a phantom, an appearance, an epiphany, a chimera, if not a phantasy; and who're the players behind them?
Hanging Saddam in the middle of the night, on the eve of a major holiday, surrounded by hooded militiamen, goons, and a bunch of other hooligans and thugs who taunted the condemned man, in their hands, to the last second of his life. A culture without norms, a state without etiquette, a people without morals? Or, a bunch of naive people who were used to carry on the dirty work of someone else's? For such behavior never was, is, or will be an act of courage, justice, or anything decent, carried, on the order of a court, by a dispassionate and "legitimate state" on behalf of its people. Justice has been turned on its head to revenge! The rush to execution, the atmosphere of the scene, and the whole affair made a mockery out of the noblest category of human existence: justice and fairness as a the ultimate categories of human (collective) wisdom. What supposed to have been a solemn act of coming to terms with a period, and of putting an end to a regime -which for so long had tormented its people- has been turned into an agony and a realization that the nightmare is not over yet, perhaps just started. The ineptness of the Baghdad's quislings was beyond description. Perhaps, after all, there's some hidden hand manipulating the whole business of existence. Either by design or pure dumb luck, the schmendriks of the Green Zone were caught in their own mess, instead, of platitudes of leadership, decisiveness, and wisdom, the barbaric act has boomeranged on its actors, and has given a taste to what the bunch in Baghdad and their protectors were capable of doing in the middle of the night. What was supposed to be a healing gesture has opened , if not inflicted, new and deeper wounds to be added to an already ravaged, if not putrefying, body.
"We live in three moments of expectation, attention, and memory, and none of them can exist without the others." Now that we dispensed with expectation, all attention is directed toward memory. "[T]o remember is to reconstruct." Was Saddam a villain whose aims were heroic or a miscreant whose actions have added, if not defined, what Hanna Ahrendt had termed the "banality of evil"? Is he a martyr or just a comic figure who's ended in a tragic way? Were Omar el-Mukhtar and Saddam comparable to stand side-by-side? Did these historical characters act, live, and die at a distance of time, equally or even close? Had they played their chosen or allotted roles in the service of bigger causes which costed them the ultimate sacrifice: their lives on the hands of their occupiers and tormentors? Deep and troubling questions that need to be answered before these figures will be twinned in the same sentence and thus in the collective memory of present and future generations. Though in the view of some "history is a blood drenched enigma and the world an error" it sill remains to the living to make sense of them both as far as past and present events! While history has cleared Omar el-Mukhtar, or so it seems, Saddam has still to face its court and wait for its verdict.
There're also those who believe in the theory of the great man' in history! From the Prophets to Greek Sages to Galileo, Newton, Einstein, George Washington, Napoleon, Lenin, Gandhi, Mao, etc. had embodied their generations', indeed their nations', mettles and aspirations to emerge from the mass and acquired the larger than life statuses. Are we in the process of witnessing such a phenomenon and if so what it tells about the troubled world of the Arabs? How could we believe in the past definitions if what we see is out of wack? Were all those historical figures real or just hagiographical hyperbolas? After all, according to the Shia, Omar ibn al-Khuttab was not the embodiment of fairness and justice, as the Sunnis say, but rather was a wicked raciest and chauvinist!
The world is defined not only by what we inheirted, but above all by how we interact with it. How we emote to its events constitutes a great part of the baggage that defines us. Thus one asks: Were all the moans, sympathy, empathy from some quarters, expressions of true feelings or only crocodile tears, as they say, hypocrisy working at its best? Were Libya, Yemen, etc. officially, experiencing a loss and the pangs of pain or just a calculated opportunity to ruffle some quarters and to gain sympathy from others? Qaddafi and his regime may well turn out to be genuine nationalists, who, albeit differences with the defunct Baath regime, can still distinguish opinions from facts, skirmishers and bickering on how to go forward from reckless undertakings, etc. After all, all great endeavors are controversial: How to carry out the project of Arab re-awakening and take-off and bring it to fruition is no joke -unless of course, you don't believe in it! Such major and noble goals where mistakes and falls were/are bound to occur by the bushel, are also costly in all senses, thus forgiving, for them, is not out of the bounds of commonsense and decency.
Saddam and his cohorts, the rest of the panoply of dictators, are still symptoms of deeper and structural malfunctionings in the culture, rather than, as most oppositions assume, the cause of the malaise. A culture that imports everything including its villains and heroes! Dig deeper and wider and you'll discover that beyond the crust there's a whole lot going on than the calmness of the surface may convey. Under the surface one discovers, hopefully, what's ailing the body politick. Saddam has gone but what ails Iraq, since time immemorial, "Ya ahal al-Iraq, ya ahl al-kufra wa-shiqaq (al-nifaaq)," is still gnawing at its guts badly. Unless and until, exhaustion and/or wisdom prevails and all sides come to the table with no preassumed conditions to carve a new Iraq, neither Sunna nor Shia or Kurd, but out of all of them combined, hand in hand, in a free- modern- secular state where rational citizens can live and prosper; and does away with all the haep of piled junk of the past and go beyond the narrow confines of sectarianism, tribal and all kinds of traditionalism. Only then we can say that the high price Iraq had paid, and is still paying, to carry the banner of change and modernity, has not been in vain: an Iraq becoming the example and a model to all of the rest of us in the wretched world of the Arabia-stans to how much we sill have to go to clear the way and start the march to freedom, equality, progress, and prosperity.