A little bit of Arabic (& a lot of p0lit1cs)

Arabic is built on a three letter constantal root system. The three root letters have a concept attached to them, and you add other letters to it to get the exact meaning you want. kataba, he wrote, kitab, book, maktab, office or desk. It goes on. Its not always that easy, but it is usually interesting. The same root gives us the words for friend and truth, for example, and ash tray and intifada share a root. Sometimes its confusing, it means the are lots of words that sound very simmiler to other words. Thes a formula for buliding meanings. To create a noun of place, for example, you stick Ma at the front of the root, and it becomes the place where the root happens. darasa – he studied, madrassa-school.

The Arab world has councils, which are theoretically where democracy happens. The word is majls. At its most basic jls means sitting. I think the names pretty apt.

My Syrian friends (I do have Syrian friends I haven’t written about, I just don’t like them as much) have started to be excited about regional developments. I’m excited. People are watching whats happening in Egypt, and thes a sense of expectation, at lest among people I know. The man whos currently el-pres in the land of the pharaohs once said ‘the Amaricans don’t understand the Middle East, and never would,’ (it does take a certain amount of p0litical acumen to still be in power at 82) but we agree that their call for peaceful transition is A Good Sign. Fisk wrote that the universal feature of Middle Eastern p0litical life was a belief in ‘The Plot,’ everyone knows the Americans know more than we do.

P0ltics types have been watching that country for some time. Theirs disagreement amongst the elite about who should succeed the current leader anyway, his son, or someone more his own age from his inner circle. Its argued that neither side can win, and neither will want to back down and this disagreement will open a space for a more representational government.

According to the BBC the Syrian leadership is tightening its internet security, but the people I’ve spoken to are doubtful that the’ll be anything here. I asked someone weather this was because they feared a repeat of Hama (google it). I expected the answer I got, no, but not the reasons for it. It was explained to me that the people behind the Hama uprising were terrori sts, who’d b00mbed, or at lest planned to b0mb, Cham. We agreed x was a likely figure for the number of ‘collaterals’ in Hama, and the person I was talking to did say that they thought that the g0νenmental response had been ‘bad.’ I feel they meant that the regime had gone a couple of thousand over the limit, rather than anything we would use to describe it*. We also agreed Basheir isn’t the man his father was, the world has changed a lot over the last 25 years.

That said people know the consequences of getting caught are not pretty. If anything did kick off in Syria people I know are certain that at lest some of those caught would die in ja il, not all of them after having served a life sentence. Implicit in the above is a lack of belief in the possibility for change.

The people I’ve talked to, including one that thinks its more than probable that Americas public enemy number 1 is in the pay of the freemasons, bemoan the lack of p0 litical awareness. They think that people are happy to have an anti-american, anti-is real g0νernment and don’t know what their p0liti cal masters are up to. Certainly it doesn’t feel like the country’s poised on the brink of a reν0luti0n.

If it was a choice I have no doubt that meany people here, the kinds who become p0liti cal agitat0rs in South America or Eastern Europe would take more social freedom over greater p0liti cal libaty. My family would have liked it if the powers that be were less inificent. The current leader assumed power in 2000, people don’t seem to think a new one would be hugely more effective, or would curb ‘vitamin wows’ ability to cut through red tape. The word we would use would for vitamin wows (a letter in the Arabic alphabet) ecstasy like stimulation of Syrian beaucracy would be ‘bribary.’

Everyone expected the Jordanians to be brought off with cheap bread, and it seems like they have been. Syrians I know thought this not so much because Jordanian bread riots are practically an annual event, but because they suspect the Jordanian g0vernment is ‘better’, to use the word they used.

What did suprise me was the reaction to events in Lebanon. While it’s agreed that its their country and they can do what they like, I think people feel the Lebanese are making a mistake. They’ve formed a g0vernm3nt, with the pro-Syria element domenent.

This is the result of talking to a pretty small, and by no means random, sample. English is not well taught at school here, so everyone I’ve spoken to has been affluent enough to supplement it and has had a reason to think this is a good way to spend there money. Useually because they’ve wanted to move to Europe, either to further there professional training or because they find Syria limiting.


* I’m picking words pretty carefully here, and Chris uploaded this for me. Maybe, probably, its just Middle Eastern paranoia. Everyone heres certain that the foreigners are monitored and I  know people who’ve tried to rent rooms and been turned down on the ground the landlords don’t want the hassle of talking to the authoratys. We’ve all got file numbers written in our passports, every now and then someones deported. While I’m not sure how well organized the foreigner watching unit is (a friends friends visa application was turned down, so she flew to Lebanon and got one at the border), its not my safety I’m taking chances with.

Author: adventuresinarabic

I'm studying Arabic in Damascus, living through the Arab Spring and blogging about my experiences hear.

One thought on “A little bit of Arabic (& a lot of p0lit1cs)”

  1. Good to catch up on your blog now that we’re back on the internet down here in darkest dorset. Naturally we’ve been watching the news and wondering how the current situation in the middle east is affecting you. It’s great the way you describe it in all its levantine complexity! Did you explain that Alice is a clever wordplay in English – he traces her name on the ice and then by skating over it a second time falls through the ice of Alice. Al-ICE, that is. Genius!

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