When a calamity occurs in the western world, politicians pontificate on how Resilient their people are. Whether it is Blair, Cameron, Bush or Obama – not that there’s much difference between those four! – the speeches are one and the same. Listening to them, one would think that they have a monopoly on Resilience! And, yes, most people are, in fact, Resilient. I know that the American people are. They are also courageous and very kind doers who jump at the opportunity of helping their neighbors, standing shoulder to shoulder with their towns people, rising up and letting nothing deter them from going about their normal lives. I admire their spirit and grit. I love their goodness and charitable stands. I find their optimistic outlook on life to be irresistible.
However, I have seen Resilience elsewhere. It is not a western value, or trait. It is quite universal actually, as are pain, terror, horror, grief, deprivation, loss and all other emotions. These are not the purview of east or west. Rich people feel them and poor people do. American mothers grieve. So do Pakistani, Afghani, Iraqi and Syrian mothers. With the same intensity!
Have not the Palestinian people demonstrated their unbelievable resilience throughout these decades from 1948 to present? Have they not done that when occupied by an Israel that brandishes its lofty “Jewish values” on one hand, while exerting a most ruthless and merciless subjugation on the other hand?
Have not the Iraqi people demonstrated resilience after George W Bush promised to turn their country back to the Stone Age, which he practically almost succeeded in doing?
Have not the Afghans demonstrated resilience after decades of wars that they did not instigate or ask for?
Have not the Lebanese people shown a hard to believe resilience after a fifteen year civil war that was cooked by those other than them and by the thugs and paid mercenaries who drew them into that morass?
Have not 5000 years of history – during which time everyone and their mother passed through the Middle East occupying, plundering, looting, sacking, raping, killing and strewing more bodies all over the damn landscape – proven how resilient people are? And, yes, after every calamity, every war, every occupation and Empire, every Imperialist disaster, every epidemic, pestilent invasions and famines the people picked themselves up by their bootstraps and rebuilt, tilled and sowed the land, went to market, procreated and went on with their lives. And they are still there, still picking themselves up by their bootstraps, fumbling, tottering but proving their resilience every single bloody morning. 5000 years of doing this over and over and over again! We, in the US, have only been doing this for less than 400 years!
And, likewise, haven’t the Vietnamese shown resilience, the Japanese, the Congolese, the Argentineans, the Dominicans, the Chileans and the list goes on and on.
At the end of the day, the difference between, for instance, an American tragedy and the almost weekly tragedies that our wars and drones are causing from Pakistan (with whom we are not at war, right?) to Yemen (not at war there either, right?) and beyond is just like the difference between the splendor of a made-in-Hollywood epic and a dismal home-shot video. The pain that both tragedies cause to people is very similar, if not exactly the same. A killed child is a killed child whether executed by a lunatic or a drone! However, in the west we have learned how to choreograph these events splendidly. In an Afghani or Yemeni village they might not even have running water yet let alone event coordinators and photo ops to depict resilience or anything else! The resigned and fatalistic attitudes of many in the war-torn nations of the world might give us the impression that they do not mourn, grieve or feel the way that we do; that their children are not as valuable, or as loved. Not so.
America is young and optimistic. We’ll beat this too, it seems to say. After all, when it is the strongest military nation on earth, the richest and the newest it has ample reason to be secure and sure of itself; to feel in total control of its own destiny. It is a sense of confidence – and, oftentimes plain arrogance – that we, and the rest of the western world, enjoy. It is not resilience only. Most people in the world have proven that resilience many times over! A bit of humility might be in order here and might do us a world of good. It might also – dare we hope? – succeed in adjusting our foreign policy???!!!
1 thought on “Resilience”
A must read as a follow up on this is Bill Maher’s article in the Sept. 14 issue of the Guardian/UK.