I am Glad Scalia is Dead

I am so glad that Antonin Scalia is dead. The man was a fascist in all the decisions he took to influence the way the court operated. The time is ripe for Obama to surprise White America with a human nomination to the highest court in the land. In this sense, Scalia’s sudden death is a gift from Heaven. What a way to end his second term in office. It is now or never Mr. Obama, if you please.

The US Presidential Election

A crazy system only the very wealthy and indeed insane can aspire to be part of. Otherwise, how can we explain the tons of money that goes into changing the guards every four years. We may as well have a president for life and put all that money into education, building roads and hospitals, caring for the have-nots and the list goes on. I may be a dreamer but I hope I am not the only one.

Night is Falling on Kalâa-Djerda

Night is Falling on Kalâa-Djerda

As night falls on Kalâa-Djerda, the small town where I was first introduced to modernity through the French school I attended, I give free reign to remembrances of things past while KD (as we used to call it) takes its eyes to slumber away the days in order to doze off again all night. A pure creation of the French, the town was born when our ‘masters’ discovered phosphate in the region in 1903. In order to extract the precious commodity, they built a town, French in taste and Gallic in architecture: wide boulevards planted with pine trees on either side hence the idea of promenade late in the afternoon, in the summer in particular; manicured gardens where one, if allowed to enter them, could indulge in daydreaming; well-maintained schools where discipline was observed all day and part of the night; a state-of-arts hospital with French doctors from La Métropole; a theater equipped with the latest technology to host the latest fashion and show films fresh from la Belle Fouance; soccer, handball, basketball, and volleyball fields where one could learn how to play the game of their choice; a supermarket where all goods, including designer clothes, could be found as long one could afford to buy them. In point of fact, KD was then called ‘Le Petit Paris’—a way perhaps for the French to fantasize about a world they left behind.
Today, the town is ghost-like, a specter of itself. Even the cemetery where the Europeans buried their loved ones was robbed and desecrated during the 2011-so-called revolution, needless to add that the church, a beautiful building in the colonial style with visible beams on the inside, was turned into a café and then to a stable for horses. There is no respect for history, oppressive history in particular, in the colony.
In appearance, the town was French, but in reality it felt European. There were Italians who lived in the Village des Italiens, Maltese, Corsicans, Kabyle, Jews, and us (natives) at the bottom of the social ladder. There were, of course, the French. They held the major and most important posts. At my school the headmaster was French and so were all the teachers. The curriculum was rigorous. No one was permitted to slacken or fall to looseness. We all spoke French. There was no regard for our different backgrounds. Sunday was the most impressive and perhaps most intimidating day of the week because most Europeans would go out beautifully attired whether to church or to the cinema. They also played soccer with the neighboring teams who came from afar. The team from Djérissa (another mine (iron) in another Petit Paris) was the most talented.
As for us, natives, we always sat on the side and watched with envy, wondering to ourselves how could these ‘foreigners,’ who came from distant lands, rule us in the most orderly way. There was almost a mystique to the way they conducted their affairs. Some of them were kind to us, others were nasty, to say the least.

À suivre…

Playing Chess with Adus

Playing Chess with Adus

Adus is my helper. She is young, kind, and above all, generous. Although she comes from a modest family, she has labored to better herself. All the work she has done so far makes her stand out in relation to those around her. ‘There is a wound,’ she once told me, ‘that will never heal as long as I live.’ When I asked her what she meant by ‘wound,’ she blamed her father who interrupted her schooling when she was only 12.
A stout man, dark in complexion, her father is a short man with an unpleasant face to look at. According to her, he is also an ignorant, cruel, and utterly selfish man, who decided one day that Adus must stay at home, not to cook or clean the house, but to look after his flock of sheep for free until someone came to ask for her hand in marriage. She shepherded for five years in a row without pay of any kind. She would leave home around three in the morning and come home after sunset.
Adus used to spend the entire day alone in the woods or near the neighboring hills without food or drink keeping wolves away from the flock. None of her sisters (six of them) would bring her a snack or a drink. ‘Loin des yeux, loin du coeur,’ you might say. One day she had an argument with her mother in my presence and spoke of slavery: ‘You have kept me in bondage all these years,’ she said angrily. ‘You treated me worse than your sheep. If only I could leave you, it will be forever. I shall never look upon your ugly faces again. That will be my blessing. I prey to Allah to give me the strength to carry on until I break away from your bleak house.’ It was painful to hear her complaint, which was, it seemed to me at the time, true. I could see that this young and intelligent woman was wronged in so many ways.
I realized then and still do today that Adus loathes her family, her father in particular. She would poison him if she could.
One day, Adus looked at my chess board (a classic one) and asked what it was. I told her that it was a chess board and that playing chess (a royal game) can be gratifying in that the player has to adopt a strategy every time he plays and that no matter how good he is, he can always be defeated in a surprising attack. She asked whether I could teach her how to play, which I did, and low and behold, she check-mated me the other day. I must admit I was happily surprised because I never expected Adus to learn so fast as well as to defeat me in a game that was full of anticipation. I was also pleased because I knew that she has the potential to do very well if she had the chance.
It is odd how mysterious life can be. Here is a young woman who was degraded by her own family yet she has turned out to be a pleasant person. She is optimistic, hopeful, and decent. One would have thought the opposite after the savage treatment she endured for years. On the contrary, she gives comfort to those who are in need of it. I have already learned a great deal from her humanity and I know there is still plenty to impart. I have also found myself more than once leaning my ear to the sounds of the wise words she utters every now and then.

À suivre…

In Praise of Three Spotted Hyenas—A Novel—(Part Two)

In Praise of Three Spotted Hyenas—A Novel—(Part Two)

The three spotted hyenas are not much to look at. In fact, they are quite hideous: dirty, uncouth, degenerate. They are also pathologically monolingual. And if Allāt is the devil incarnate: a jejune brunette, a femme-bête qui aime faire la bête, a connasse who looks like a Gorgon; al-Uzzā is an hypochondriaque to boot, a mediocre actress who uses her migraine to seek pity during departmental meetings, a kind of virgin iron pants without the virginity, a fausse bourgeoise; in fine, a vulgar hypocrite who resembles an Egyptian vulture, especially when she walks or laughs. As to Manāt, all that can be said about her is that she is a cold-blooded brown-haired monster, a frigid nun with lips like Marilyn Monroe’s and eyes like Caligula’s; in sum, an Al Capone in a skirt. None of the three spotted hyenas is be trusted, of course. After all, how can one depend on spotted hyenas for honor, civility or decency or sense for that matter.

À suivre…

Zidane at the Pinnacle of his Art

Zidane at the Pinnacle of his Art
Zizou (as he is often called) has been appointed coach of the most prestigious soccer club in the world. This is an unparalleled honor he seems to wear with pride, all the more reason he is quite capable of taking the performance of the team to a higher level. He has both the capacity and magnanimity to leave another unforgettable imprint in the annals of the beautiful game. I have no doubt that the squad will respond to his call. Moreover, the appointment will endear him to many people all over the world, especially to those like him who come from the banlieu nord of Marseille. A shy man, Zidane has an almost superstitious conceit of his talent that ranks high up there with that of Pelé, Maradona, George Best, to name but a few of the most extraordinary players. One can only marvel at the quiet but determined steps he has taken to prove himself to those who think that people like him–the son of an Algerian immigrant–are no good unless you exceed all expectations as Zizou has done. We still recall how the French hailed down oaths that he was French through and through. Some went so far as to suggest he deserves an honorary place in the Panthéon. The claim came when France won the World Cup in 1998, precisely because of the then mestizo team that included Zizou who scored the only two goals of the game. That night the banners on the Champs Élysées read ‘Zizou for President.’
Zidane has been named coach of REAL Madrid at a time when xenophobia and racism (the case of the refugees comes to mind) and Islamism are rife in the world; a world where the likes of Donald Trump (a deranged fellow to say the least) runs for president and Denmark votes a law that strips refugees of their most precious belonging in order to pay for their files to be processed. The world today is no place for those who sit on the margin waiting for any bread crumbs to fall off whatever table so that they can eat the scraps and lefts overs. Zidane knows this bitter reality in that his parents came from the perphery and had to wait for a very long time to ‘belong’ to a society that has yet to face its past of genocide. I am thinking of the ‘savage war of peace’ that led Algeria to gain its independence.
That Zidane chose to live in Spain is no accident. It is interesting to note how he hardly ever gives interviews or appears on television shows in France as if he is conveying a message to the country where he was born and where his parents still live. ‘I cannot love thee, dear France,’ he seems to be saying. ‘Or if I do, it is going to be from a distance.’ For now, though, he upholds his shining honors compact upon him. I have no doubt that he, like the squad he leads, will be the fountain of inspiration and entertainment for many days to come.
The task to train a team that hardly keeps a coach for more than a year will not be easy. However, what Zidane has to his advantage is that he knows the players pretty well, at times he even trains and works out with them for hours. In addition, he really has nothing to lose. His quiet temper and steely determination will make the difference in a sport where no coach ever, in Europe in particular, is of sauvageon descent. They are all ‘white.’ Whether he will sail at great heights remains to be seen. What is certain is that he has already risen to an exalted level. All that can be said now is: ‘Let him soar the air over the Bernabéu stadium, exalted in feeling and elated in high spirits.

What If Tunisia Were Set Ablaze Again

What If Tunisia Were Set Ablaze Again!

The little big country we call ‘Tunisia’ is on trial once again. Until recently, we thought that the country that set the Arab world ablaze five years ago paved the way for a safe and dignified future for its people. The fact that it received the Nobel Prize for peace in 2015 is proof enough of the esteem and confidence the world saw in its stride. Dialogue and compromise won the day. But unemployment, despair, and blind ambition of all those who aspire to lead—and there are many who want to do so in spite of the fact that they have neither the skill nor the vision the country is badly in need of—are rife. What is required is a young dynamic team of able people who love Tunisia unconditionally and are willing to put its future ahead of their greed. They must fling away all pride for its sake. Otherwise, we are in for another sudden convulsion the consequence of which no one can predict. We must avoid the bloody scroll of our time.
Tunisia is able to reach a higher ground than the shaky one it is standing on now because it has the capacity to overreach itself as it has done since its inception in 814 BC. What it lacks is a vision for the future and a total eradication of the plague that is called ‘fanaticism.’ This can be achieved. To begin with, what must be dealt with here and now is unemployment, especially in the remote areas—I am thinking of the interior of the country where young people have lost hope—all hope for a better life. The bomb shell that is waiting to be detonated can explode any time if the leadership do not awake from the torpor that has taken hold of most of them. I have in mind those who wear suits and ties and fancy dresses and put on make up with the intention to appear on television in order to impress their neighbors and so-called friends and the rest of us. Those are the poseurs, the gesticulators, the half-made fellows who are blinded by their insights if they happen to have any at all. They may live to regret the day when they had the reins of power. They had better beware of what the future and will of the people hold for them. No one will cry for them if one day they find themselves in the eye of the tornado. When more than 40% of those under 20 years of age cannot find a job that enables them to live not a full life but half a life, the road ahead of them and ahead of all the hollow men and women who call themselves ‘leaders’ is a steep one. Many years of neglect and hogra (the state of being left out of consideration) has plagued the hinterland (Kasserine in particular) since independence and still does to this day.
The will to turn things around seems to be there for all to seize, but there is also a sense of numbness that has taken hold of certain people who would like to keep the status quo so that they can benefit from it in the next election, that is to say, if we last that long. They continue to play with a smoldering fire. As an observer from the outside, one can only pray and hope for a better day for the little big country. In the past, Tunisia overcame many obstacles and climbed many hills one by one. Whether it is able to do so and gaze on another shore where peace, prosperity, and a decent life can be afforded is an open question. In the meantime, those who have been excluded and ignored and sidestepped and diminished and degraded—in fine, those who call themselves the ‘wretched of Tunisia’ continue to wait in vain for a bright future.

In Praise of Three Spotted Hyenas

In Praise of Three Spotted Hyenas
A Novel
(Part One)

This is the story of three spotted hyenas: Allāt, al-Uzzā, and Manāt. None of them is agreeable to look at. In fact, their ugliness is pretty offensive. Granted that some repulsive women may evoke pleasure in certain men but in their case they spoil it by being who they are—slaves to their degenerate nature. In public they play the innocent while in private they behave like incompetent parrots, senile-faced and simple-minded. All three descended from the sweepings of the old world. Intellectual gymnastics is their insignia. They lead a mediocre life in the land of Sagev. None of them is an Alfa female but together they form a formidable pack reputed to be men-eaters—cannibals avant la lettre. They particularly enjoy the raw flesh of those who are out of place, ‘cultural amphibians’ you might say. They behave as if they owned the place where they all work for scanty pittances of food and clothing. Worse, they always operate the same way Shutzstaffels did in Nazi Germany and we all know what that unfortunate movement led to.

Other’hood as Accessory–The Case of Madama Butterfly (Part One)

Other’hood as Accessory—The Case of Madama Butterfly

The problem is that music today is as massively organized a masculine domain as it was in the past. Without significant exceptions, women play a crucial but subaltern role. [Emphasis Added]
Edward Said, Music at the Limits, 44.

Unlike Carmen, Salomé, or Aida, which have undergone succinct, even biting, criticism that shows their classist, Eurocentric, and sexist bias, Madama Butterfly, a protean modern myth that centers on an original domestic tragedy in Nagasaki (Japan) between 1892 and 1894, has yet to submit to a minute dissection that will enable us to trace the origins, and indeed beginnings, of the opera in the system of Western white male power, knowledge, and pleasure. So far, the attention has been centered on the purely musicological. It is obvious that the libretto lends itself to one such focus, but there is another one that must be taken into consideration—namely, reading the score from the bottom up (i.e. from the point of view of the victim not of the victimizer). This take will permit us to enjoy, by some other way of enjoying, the music, if at all, because an argument can be made about the kind of art that sets out to deliberately disfigure other people simply because they are not like “us.” My suggestion, and much the most important, is that underlying Madama Butterfly are issues of typecast that carry deeply-rooted cultural and social contradictions regarding West versus East. Moreover, in the course of the opera, issues of race and gender become inextricably linked to broader notions of shame versus control, as well as imperialist assumptions about the East. One can also attribute this seemingly complex libretto to a Western fantasy through which the Asian female (she could be African) is made available. It tells us in what way(s) Cio-Cio-San is exotic, passive, mysterious, and above all, Oriental, with all the connotations the label carries. So we are left, in effect, with a celebration of misogyny—woman as the source of a male pleasure that can quite easily turn into hatred. Thus the opera as a whole stands at the farther limits of humanity.

The Tree of Many Virtues–the Olive Tree

The Tree of Many Virtues—the Olive Tree

Olive trees are peculiar, very peculiar. To begin with, they live for a very long time and still bear fruit. Second, they adapt to the harshest of climates and terrains. They grow even in the desert. Here in the low Atlas Mountains, they can be found everywhere, in rocky areas in particular. The olive oil we extract from the ones my family has been growing for years is slightly bitter, which gives it an edge compared to the one that is produced in the Sahel or Zarsis. As a young boy, I did not take to olive trees easily for I had to help my father prune and care for them. A difficult task, I used to think. But with time and many years of dislocation in the West, I have grown to love the tree we call a’zzaitouna.
Olive trees are also difficult to photograph no matter how skilled the photographer may be. For one thing, they do not reflect the light. Moreover, the leaves tend to change their color following the intensity of sunlight. I have tried many times to photograph the ones I have in my orchard but all my efforts were in vain. There is a fair explanation as why I have failed. Both the trees and the leaves, some are old, others are young, are hard to capture in pictures, except perhaps in the afternoon when the sun begins to go down, but again that in itself is a problem because each tree becomes a specter i.e. it does not yield its details. This hindrance occurs even when I used an ISO film which is supposed to be faster than an ISA film. In addition, the color of each leaf changes its color according its location on the tree. Those facing the sun are one color and those hidden from the sun are of another color. With too much light, the color becomes steel-like and at times it looks like platinum. A photographer I know suggested I should photograph my olive trees in full moonlight, which I did and low and behold, I got some fair results.
Perhaps the best effort I made was when I took pictures of some old trees after a shower of rain followed by a good dose of sunshine in the middle of winter. There was also a slight northerly wind blowing against the light. When the film was developed I noticed that the color of the leaves was rich and full, something I had not seen before in any of the photographs I had taken.
One day it dawned on me to try and use a black and white film. I took pictures of the same trees in the full midday sun. Winter was dying then and spring was around the corner. To my surprise and joy, the photographs came out good, very good I dare say. I tried again a week later and failed miserably. I then spoke to a professional photographer who suggested I should use a different lens, which I did. But then again, I failed not better but worse. According to him, the pictures were dull because the light in the low Atlas Mountains peaks not around midday but around three in the afternoon. Still, he encouraged me to keep trying, but the more I tried, the more I failed.
A tree that grows to be thousands of years and still feeds its people, a tree that defies the very art of photography; in fine, a tree as elusive as a Bengali tiger, a tree that has fascinated us since Carthage ruled the world, a tree the branches of which can be given as a sign of peace, a tree that is female in the singular and masculine in the plural is certainly a tree that makes me wonder. I am always amazed at its endurance and kindness—yes, kindness when harvested or pruned. This is the tree that gives us oil to burn when it is dark and oil to eat when we are at the table; oil to bathe with and oil to drink, oil that cures us when we are sick. I am talking about the tree of so many virtues—the olive tree. It is to be cherished and cajoled and taken care of and treasured.
I have planted some olive trees this year. I hope I will live long enough to eat and enjoy their fruits. If not, may they live to defy time, more so than any book one is able to write.