Friday, September 12, 2008

Drought, hunger and violence

I am fond of Bedouin culture. Not really by romanticism, but because I see Bedouins as a disappearing socio-economic and cultural system, a system that was able to colonize very dry environments and live off extremely scarce resources. This disappearance comes after a struggle between the "rigidists" and the "fluidists" (in reference to the relative properties of the governance systems of the settled and the Bedouins) that has gone on since time immemorial. And as I have been trained to think in terms of preservation of ecosystems and of endangered species, my gut reaction is to try to understand why and to find out if anything can be done to preserve culture alive, rather than deploring its disappearance and filling museums with decontextualized artifacts. I hate museums anyway.

I have been keenly following the controversy surrounding the canceling of 2 TV dramas based on the lives of the Bedouins. These TV series have become popular after the first one was shown in 1973. They build on notions of honor and strength and power and love, all common themes in Bedouin poetry. But the 2 TV series were canceled apparently for political reasons: one of them, Saadun al `Awaji tells the story of a Bedouin leader and of his fights and ghazu (raids) of other tribes. It was apparently canceled after showing a few episodes because it was feared that the way the events were presented might raise some tribal sensitivities and create conflict. This might have been a wise decision, if the events recounted were not taking place in 1750 AD!

In any case, here's an article (Arabic) relating the controversy. What I like particularly is this part:

"The region suffered from drought, and the tribes went hungry, so the raids increased. These raids turned some people into legendary heroes. The time was 1750, and the period went on for 65 years".

Drought, hunger and violence: never to be separated in our drylands.


Leila Abu-Saba said...

What did William Faulkner say?

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." (Requiem for a Nun).

However I am living in this aphorism:

The past is the wake of the boat. The wake cannot drive the boat.

Both may be true...or neither. I don't know.

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