When Aleppo fell the last week (or was liberated, from the viewpoint of Assad regime and his supporters), emotions ran high and verbal duels ensued.
Arguments and counter-arguments were presented, examples were cited, evidences were thrown at, and all this by those who weren’t Syrian, or for that matter Arab, but Kashmiris – non-stakeholders, in the conflict studies terms. What was my position on the issue? I sought out a genuine answer. But even when I had a position – whether informed or uninformed – I was a little hesitant to share it publicly. While I would like to believe it had nothing to do with my fear of upsetting certain friends and acquaintances, but I am afraid that would not be completely true. But even then that was not the entire story either.
Though I have had a bad experience of displeasing and eventually losing few friends because of my explicit and vocal position on Kashmir, on Aleppo, or on Syria for that matter, my silence was more to do with my reluctant, though partially successful, attempt to cultivate a sense of disinterestedness in other “problems”. I remember a casual conversation with my teacher at IUST back in 2009 in which he said and I paraphrase that we Kashmiris have a curious tendency to get too emotionally involved in other conflicts – he cited Palestine as an example – and in the process invite too much burden on our minds which should be in clear and consistent focus on our own problem, a huge and historical problem.
I know this may sound strange and may even seem a morally and ethically undesirable, and outrageous, position to seek, but this attempt of disinterestedness is a process I am reluctantly experimenting with, as a way of both retaining sanity in the prevailing quagmire and becoming unencumbered of a burden which I think is not needed when my own – and my people’s – position is already too heavily saddled with an onerous responsibility; there is big and long fight to fight in one’s own backyard.
Whether I support or not any side of the Syrian conflict is immaterial; it won’t make any tangible difference at all; not in the least through social media. Inevitably, Assad and his allies will fight and his opponents will not give up either; Syria, unfortunately, has defied all theories of stalemate, and whatever could have provided a way out.
Moreover, any position taken vis-a-vis any conflict is essentially governed by self-interest; that is a hard fact, if not the human nature. Therefore, positions of involved nation-states and parties in relation to the Syrian conflict are largely determined by this reasoning. Now, what can possibly influence the nation-states to not pursue their self-interests? I haven’t got an answer yet to this troubling question.
All I have to offer is a nebulous expression on the prevailing situation: Aleppo is two things: an event and a metaphor; Aleppo is a metaphor for our times: of everything which is wrong about our times; Aleppo as an event is a cruel chapter in the checkered history of humanity – and perhaps, an empirical reiteration for those who tend to believe that larger violence begets larger victory!
As the event has reached its tragic climax in the second week of December, it has already laid bare the whole gamut of contrived narratives and consequently whipped up and locked in tension emotions far and wide: on the one hand have sectarian biases masquerading as political pragmatism and on the other hand are ideological partialities; and yet, in between all this, outraged voices spar with the curious cases of political correctness. Like the incredible bramble-like war-scape of Syria itself, reactions to it eventually cast light on our own human frailties; as Hobbes wrote: “For such is the nature of man, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; Yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves: For they see their own wit at hand, and other men’s at a distance.” (Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes; 1651)
First published in the Greater Kashmir on 23 December 2016: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/what-does-aleppo-mean-now/236889.html