One doesn’t expect a county that’s part of ‘the axis of evil’ to own a sleek and shiny PR machine, but Syrias actually rather good at branding herself. For some reason though she only ever does it to the people that have never had much of a choice about her. The professionalism of the campaign convincing Syrians to put their rubbish in the bins that adorn every single one of Shams lamp posts is as impressive as it is surprising. None the less the bins have languished, ignored until now.
The bins are green,a perfect background for people to spray the yellow-on-green Al Jazeera logo on. Underneath the omnipresent posters of the president a graffiti war is being fought for Damascus’ public spaces. Artistically we are talking seriously sub Banksy, but I don’t care. A lot of the anti stuff is too offensively ammeya for me to understand properly and it goes pretty quickly, but that’s not the point. Reactionaries can turn their houses into giant Syrian flags, but activists are out draping islamic green flags from ‘the presidents bridge.’ According to Al Jazeera more creative people dyed the water in the main fountains red. The pro stuff is depressing, praising Syrian TV for ‘taking the truth to the world,’ but its also hilarious. Someone’s written ‘Thank you Russia’ in Arabic and Cyrillic, but thanked China in Arabic and English.
I sympathise with whoever was defeated by Mandarin, but he has official back up. Syrias billboards now do Bashars bidding. If at a job interview I’m asked who I’d invite to my dream dinner party I’d have to say Syrian sloganers and G. W. Bushs speech writers. I don’t know what the man who came up with ‘My Future or Your Future, I am With Syria,’ and ‘Optimist or Pessimist, I am With the Law,’ could do in collaboration with the brains behind ‘you are either with us, or with the terrorists,’ but I want him doing it at my table. Americas political tag lines are popular in Syria, a big sign in Mezza proclaims ‘Obama! Change we do not believe in,’ so I think the idea could work.
As if Graffiti artists weren’t bad enough Bashars also got to worry about the world ending. Eschatologically the Qoran is as vague as Revelations. The prophecies, including a massive earthquake, fit, they always do. I’m told, though, that other ‘old books’ are specific enough that in 1995 an Iranian ayatollah named a low ranking Syrian Ba’th party official as the man who, after a string of bloody events, will seize power and precipitate the end of the world. Low ranking no longer, he’s keeping very quite.
Apparently the ‘bloody events’ cannot be misconstrued. ‘Harista, one of the villages of Sham, will fall to the ground.’ Harista was one of the first Damascus suburbs to embrace the revolution, and homed the first building to be blown up, the Air Force intelligence HQ. A western friends just got back from visiting another friends family their. Her host says ‘its a different place after dark,’ which is supposed to be reassuring. Having seen it in daylight the Westerner describes it as ‘fucking scary.’ We can all look forwards to a yellow banner from the west, a green banner from the Hijaz, and a spotted banner battling it out for Bilad Ash Sham. While I’m not sure ‘spotted’ is the first adjective one thinks of in conjunction with the Star of David, Hizbollahs HQ is definitely on the western edge of Bilad Ash Sham, the Levant, and their ‘banner’ is yellow. As part of modern Saudi Arabia the Hijaz’s flag is undeniably green. Various other of Damascus’ suburbs, all of which have staged protests, are divinely scheduled for demolition, one suspects Assad has also lined them up for invasion.
While I don’t believe in the end of the world full stop, and I’m not sure I believe the ‘old books’ aren’t just mass hysteria, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of a spin people who believe the end is nigh will put on a conflict between a president fighting for his throne and an opposition fighting for their lives.