Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Abel & Cain-Allegory 02-07-17

Abel and Cain, An Allegory for our time

Mirza A. Beg

Written, July 17, 2002
Birmingham News, Sunday July 28, 2002

Writing about human suffering caused by ethnic conflicts was on my mind, Kurds, Kosovo, Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine, Kashmir, Northern Ireland, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and many others. The names and histories are different but the basic reason is the same. Some people in the name of “what ever” want what some other people have or deny to others what they have chosen to keep for themselves.

The demise of the colonialism in mid 20th century gave the hapless inheritors, a longed for breath of freedom to claim a place among the community of nation. But they lost their way in the avarice of want. The inspiring goals and slogans that saw them through the dark nights of occupation were caricatured into slogans for the persecution of minorities.

It does not matter what the differences are, they may be religion, race, language, color, creed, ethnicity, or any other contrived to suite the purpose.

With time the ideals gave way to propaganda, finding the drudgery of governance too difficult, the rulers and power-brokers looked for scapegoats and found them in the “other”, what ever the they chose the other to be, even if they had to invent one.

Socialism swept away the feudal Russia, but gave way to Stalinism. Republican China of Sun yat-sen morphed into Chiang Kai-shek and then Mao. In India, the avatars of a fascist ideology that assassinated Gandhi have finally succeeded Gandhi and Nehru. Jinnah’s vision is caricatured into an oppressive and broken Pakistan, a legacy of Bhutto and Zia. In Middle-East the rulers are exploiting the ruled and oppressing the minorities in the name of straight-jacketed Islam on one extreme and perverted secularism on the other.

Iraq is in a class by itself in its ignominy, secular Saddam will exploit anything he can.

But the conflict that defines the late 20th century and has overshadowed all other conflicts is the Israel – Palestine conflict. Where the dispossessed Jews from Christian Europe after deprivation and wandering for about 1,900 years returned to a land of their dreams, in the name of God, to dispossess an other people.

The metaphorical story that comes to mind is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where oppressed become oppressors. The Pigs lead a revolt against Mr. Jones the oppressive farmer and frame a motto that “Four legs good, two legs bad”. In time when the Pigs acquire decadent human attributes, they conspire to modify the motto to “Four legs good, two legs better”.

While musing, I received a collection of poems from Omair Ahmad a young friend from India. One of the poems is “Abel’s Lament”, based on a story of creation and conflict, common to Jewish, Christians and Muslim scriptures. It is truly a metaphor for all conflicts but is specially poignant and pertinent to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is a good rendition of Indo-Islamic Sufi style in English. With his consent, I am sharing it with you!

Abel’s Lament
Omair Ahmad

Whom do I blame?
Tell me, whom do I blame, Brother Cain?
When a starving man
steals a crust of bread
from out of my hands,
whom do I blame?

Knowing, I am starving,
knowing, the crust of bread
is all I have!
Whom do I blame Brother Cain?
When a brother stabs a brother,
whom do I blame, brother Cain?

When God frowns
on your hoeing and sowing,
on your weeding and reaping,
on the harvest of your dreams,
whom do I blame?
Tell me, whom do I blame, Brother Cain?

Wealth of smiles on me,
denied to you, for eternity
whom do I blame?
Sharpening a knife,
Thinking, I see you not?
whom do I blame, brother Cain?

I lie here,
feeling life slip away,
scratching out these words
upon the blood-soaked sand,
Whom do I blame?
Tell me, whom do I blame, Brother Cain?

My back? The knife?
Your hand?
Whom do I blame, brother Cain,
for a fate
that leaves me dead
and you damned?

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted by email at mab64@yahoo.com

No comments: