As the week wraps up along with Geneva 2, I am left thinking of what is overlooked, things to which no attention is paid. The media, news and otherwise, has been paying attention to every aspect of Geneva 2 reporting diligently what the talking heads have to say. Hundred of words have been written about the (f)utility of such events, hypothetical scenarios, what is best for the government, and what is best for the opposition, and very little about the people. Or, to be precise, very little about the people themselves, who are almost always used as pawns by one side or the other to score some sort of ideological or political victory. Even those who claim to have no concern but the people end up pushing this vague idea of ’the people’ around their mental chessboards, to yell “check!” at every opportunity they get. I, too, have been, am guilty of this.
Maybe Geneva 2 will be the tonic to Syria’s illness, or maybe it won’t. Most probably, it won’t be. But so what? The problems in Syria weren’t constructed in secret, western boardrooms (despite what white men in Texas may believe) and they won’t be solved in western boardrooms either. But as Geneva 2 ends, and Geneva 3 is planned, and when these groups tire of meeting in luxurious Swiss towns, they’ll meet in Cannes, or maybe Dubrovnik… As all this plays out, different faces, same suits in the same luxury hotels, there will be a constant: the people.
Regardless of the outcomes of these political processes, people will live; Live through this, live through war, live through destruction and find ways to thrive because they have to, because this is what people do. For years, decades, centuries, through wars, disasters, catastrophes, people have persevered.
There is a tendency, when speaking of ravaged areas, to assume the inhabitants are subhuman or incapable of anything but receiving aid or having others speak for them. That because they exist in an atmosphere of death, they cannot truly be alive.
And this is perpetuated by the way tragedies are spoken of, by the way they are portrayed. No room for subtlety or nuance, no room for honesty, no room for anything but the vilification of entire groups of people whose shared characteristic is something as the neighborhood they live in, or their sect, or their support for a group.
This is what I am thinking of today. I’m thinking of the resilience people posses to pull through despite whatever odds are mounted against them. I’m thinking of attempts at normalcy within dystopia. Of any and all efforts to move on to push forward, to continue. Thinking of no matter how far a people are pushed, they spring back. With hardship, with sorrow, with despair, with unspeakable tragedy but they carry on.
I’m thinking of urban farms, seeds being planted all over the country be it on rooftops in besieged Homs
or of the men and women of Yarmouk clearing rubble to till land
or the make-shift farms in Deir Ezzor
of knitting collectives in Yabroud
of city clean-up campaigns initiated by civilians,
of communal kitchens,
of community-driven initiatives for those in besieged areas
of nationalist ballads belted out in the midst of rubble
of the small acts of kindness seen on the streets, of those who care for their elderly neighbors, of those who’ve opened their homes for others who’ve lost them, of the doctors and pharmacists who’ve stayed. of teachers who remain the classrooms no matter what, of the scouts of Syria, of those photographing the banality of their days, and of those photographing the ugliness up front, of the hugs, hurried kisses, blogs documenting love in times of war, little kids playing with make-shift toys. Of the humanity, pulsing throbbing bleeding ugly humanity.
Maybe what we are witnessing today are the death throes of a nation-state. And it is painful, gut-wrenching hurt and we have convinced ourselves that we are the first to witness such a thing and that we will be the last (a millennial, social-media caused problem, no doubt). But we’re not, and we won’t be. There will be more misery and more death and more destruction as time goes on. And births, and poetry, and music, and creation… as is consistent with history. Local tyrants will be replaced by newer ones, imperialist powers will shift and change, their powers waxing and waning as they have for centuries. But people, as always, will be people. And they’ll live.