The opinions expressed below are entirely my own. If you disagree, or know otherwise, please let me know via the comments.
The ruler of this small, forgotten land was a tough man who had through strength of purpose, made it to the top. Originally his family name meant ‘Savage’ in the local language; dissatisfied with this image, he called himself The Lion.
He was the kind of man who creates a country’s policies through governance and thereby creates the social tensions that follow. Yet for all that, people – Jews, Muslims, Christians, the eternally warring trio – lived in peace and the nascent industrial economy slowly established itself and the tax revenues trickled in. This was still a time where there was enough for all. That there is should be a reminder of how absurd the situation is today.
Because the social, political problems of today are entirely man-made.
Even so, if you are the leader of a country and you are not quite certain of your own status, you are going to see threats hiding around every corner in the way a child is told that if they step on the cracks between the pavement, there is a bear hiding around the corner waiting to pounce on you. The problem usually boils down to their own paranoia – albeit that this is at a level that is far from abnormal in our day and age. They are at a level that whilst it is not threatening to their own lives, it leads to problems for others. Those who are seen through eyes whose lenses are distorted by irrational, that is to say, illusory fears.
It’s why organizations like the CIA squander colossal amounts of money chasing the wrong people. If the Lion had thought things through for himself and tried to establish some link between his imagination and the reality of the world around him, he could have gauged all his thoughts, both real and illusory, by this measure. He would have become a stronger leader, more confident and thereby the better.
He did not: in lacking that spark of self-reflection, he bowed to pressures that he could not be conscious of. The result was minor purges of people who might – or might not – have been guilty. To others this seems irrational, and is: it is that which lets mistrust take a foothold in a society. Today’s supposed terrorist actions in Europe are there to foster this in societies that are otherwise content. (1)
It must be stated that illusion is not something that need not be connected to reality in any manner or form. In a previous post (2), I mentioned that the people I look for will have a point at which they can measure their fantasy world against the reality of the world we live in. Most do not. Most leaders do not, and it is this one, single element which has led to so many problems in our world.
Thankfully this was a society resilient enough to remain relatively at ease, for all the ethnic and religious divisions. Divisions that had already torn Indian society to shreds, but this again was the result of an unfeeling and distant government that thought it was doing the best. The Lion was indigenous, a product of the nation’s own soil. Even so, the process that leads to division was in place. That is to say, the inability to determine fact from fiction, reality from illusion.
Paranoia of any kind, that is to say, fears that drive illusions usually lead to people who are uncertain of themselves. In that they are uncertain of their own abilities, they will not be sure of their judgement either. They will make the first and most profound mistake anybody can make: they will believe those who tell them what they want to hear.
This is true of people who gather in groups of every sort, complexion and character. The most insidious part of this is the fear that drives them to gather among those who appear to share their views, that is to say, they share their lives with those who they imagine say the same things. Draw the scales from their eyes and expect a civil war when they realize their bosom pal is actually their sworn enemy.
This is in contrast to the truly human amongst us who enjoy the differences the world has to offer us.
The Golden Knight.
The problem for the Lion was that his lack of critical, objective judgement led him not to choose a successor from the more able of his own ministers, but from his own family. His eldest son, who he nicknamed ‘The Golden Knight’ in his local tongue, was as aggressive and as thrusting as the Lion himself. That probably means as unfit to be a leader too. At least, a leader who would create a country where the social tensions would be relaxed, if not dispelled altogether.
A country like Germany that is quietly self-possessed, is quite distinct from a democracy like Britain where the ruling parties are but mirrors of each other. With the exception of the remarkable Mr Corbyn, that is. He is a man that is vilified by fearful politicians in the very way that the Lion vilified those who did not agree with him. In a real democracy, Mr Corbyn would just be another politician; in a country being run to ruin by people whose thinking is tainted by paranoia, he raises horrible spectres of the beastliest kind.
Illusion always runs to ruin. Remember that. It is the key to this post.
Your fears are all the more reason to stick to those who say the right things, and no doubt the actions of the Lion’s son fulfilled this to the letter. He saw himself in his son, and he was pleased. The son became the Golden Knight was groomed for leadership through engineering college and a doctoral study in military science. It is thrusting young men who entertain an illusion of immortality that can be brought to a swift end in a road accident. In 1994 the Golden Knight lay dead in a wrecked Mercedes sportscar. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Not for nothing do good politicians drive small cars. No surprise to learn that Frau Merkel drove a modest Golf hatchback. The more confident the person, the more unassuming they are. Not that you’d know it from the American controlled media that is so filled with contempt for such people. They also make easy targets for those lacking any morals or scruples.
The power of the Muslim insurgent must have been a very real tonic to those wishing to force their will on others in a modern aping of 1930s Germany. The more insidious still as it bleats the word ‘democracy’ whilst pushing everything that denies it.
The Lion’s Second Son.
He had been largely forgotten. His Wikipedia article speaks that as a child he only saw his father once. The Lion’s third son was more like the Golden Knight; but this is not how leaders think. Their uncertain mind leads them to think in terms of the right of succession, in the certainties of the past and not in their own judgement. Thus it was that an unwilling and unassuming medical doctor was torn from his studies at London’s Western Eye Hospital.
To someone who had thus far been neglected, the switch to the status of Preferred Son was as instant as it must have been traumatic.
But power driven fathers do not consider such indefinable elements as sensibility. When such a person can see only that which they can see, any son will do. Any son is assumed – again the illusion based on an inability to discern fantasy from reality – assumed to be the man he imagines him to be. The Lion could see nothing else, could he? The Good Doctor must put aside the things of childhood and become the upstanding, ram-rod straight figure of the military man. The Lion needed nothing else.
The Good Doctor was now proclaimed as the rightful successor to the Golden Knight. The fanfare of this was as strong and as powerful as the Lion’s will itself – and in being his will, demonstrated all his flaws for all who could see them.
With a fearful leadership, you are never given much choice. The Good Doctor was everything his father wasn’t.
In any other circumstance – that is to say, the gentle weavings of the genuine democracy, the Good Doctor would have made an excellent minister, even leader. Surrounded by those with whom he had to discuss, not shout. Listen to, not close his ears. In a government dedicated to wielding power in concert with others, he was the right man.
In the year 2000 the Lion, Hafez al Assad, died.
Bashar al Assad, the Good Doctor, stood in his place as only the unready and unprepared can. Don’t get me wrong: he had been prepared. The problem was that the core of Bashar’s being was that of service to others, not demanding it of them. His preparation for life was as a doctor: someone who plumbs the depths of illness to arrive at a path to health. What better way to train the mind to discern illusion from reality? For Syria at the time had a medical and educational system that was the better of many Eastern European countries; it had a social cohesion that should have been an example to the world.
But the paranoia of other, more powerful states was fomenting insurrection in countries they saw as threatening. With the emphasis that this is what they saw. Whether it was fantasy or not is not something you should ask of such people.
Their lack of tolerance for the needs of others led to the suppression of those who did not toe their line. Any divergence from this would be met by slander in the all-encompassing media and slaughter in the streets. The actions of a bald man who in his insane demand for hairbrushes will batter others to a pulp so that he can have them.
Bashar al Assad was not the man to meet behaviour as deranged and irrational as this. His country was relatively peaceful. Peaceful, just as long as people pretended to do as they were told. How were they to know that he wasn’t his father? Anyway, the economy was growing nicely, with the industrial city of Aleppo being the main driver of this.
Neighbouring Turkey was not so happy that upstart Aleppo should wish to better them: engineers were making things that were eroding Turkey’s rightful hegemony. That people chose Syrian products was their choice, and Turkey, as with so many others, would have none of it.
The US insurgency that began in 2011 found a willing partner in Turkey. In the following years, the Islamic State tore into Syria with a hate that is impossible to imagine.
Well trained Syrian engineers fled to bring their skills to a more peaceful country. Aleppo was systematically eviscerated. Anything that wasn’t nailed to the ground was plundered and everything else was smashed. Syrian oil was stolen to be flogged for Turkish Lira. The results of this were that the IS could buy American made weapons. It’s one way to keep your economy afloat. It does mean that others suffer.
It was so easy for the IS, when a seemingly weak-minded medical doctor had let his army go to seed. Poor maintenance and poor discipline are no counter for religious obsessives who see everybody else’s point of view as the root of all evil.
Bashar al Assad could do nothing. He was the wrong man in the wrong place.
(1) See my reasoning in my post “Paul Klee And Ihe World We Live In.”
(2) This is what I have to say:
“I want to say that it matters not a jot who you are or what you have suffered, gone through, become or were. You can be a humble street-sweeper on the streets of Nairobi or you can be a lifeguard on Bondai beach. If you have even a glimmer of self-reflection, you will demonstrate it to someone like me. Because that is when I hear things like ‘I try,’ or ‘it’s not very big.’ That is when I start explaining what it is and how to coax it. Most of the people who have this capacity have, for one reason or another, found themselves in a job that requires them to meet lots of people. There is no better place to coax your own abilities than in meeting others and conversing with them.”
The full post is here.