I have stopped reading newspapers these days. It makes me feel like a puppet on a string. The papers say black is white and white is black. They tell me armed occupation is liberation and genocide brings prosperity.
They tell me old civilisations must be destroyed and spanking new civilisations can be built from the rubble of human remains. The papers say they are only repeating what they have heard from others, but they never tell me whose voice they are hearing and whether what they are hearing is right or wrong. That is not their job, the papers argue. If they cannot tell the difference between black and white and if it is not their job to tell right from wrong, they are of no use to me.
I turn to fairy tales instead. I read the fascinating tale of two dragons, Dragon America and Dragon Europe. Dragon America is ageing and afraid that his rival, Dragon Europe, is going to oust his unbridaled authority over the entire realm. Dragon America is hungry and out for a hunt. He storms out of his den spewing cluster bombs and Daisy bombs and all sorts of fiery devices. He swallows Palestine with relative ease and that whips up a dreadful appetite for more prey. Libya, Lebanon and other smaller creatures, he tramples over. He swallows Afghanistan, then Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea, swats Philippines and then rips up Indonesia, turns to India. Dragon Europe sits watching with curiosity and interest. Dragon Europe is not hungry yet. He can wait and watch. Dragons need to hunt to survive. There is nothing unusual about a dragon on a rampage every now and then. That is what dragons do, spew fire and swallow people.
The rampaging Dragon America finds himself at the doors of China. Now, China is a place of pilgrimage for the dragons. Curiosity and fear of the holy-land consume Dragon America. The gods of dragon-land are not happy with this curious incursion into their godly territory and decide to drive away Dragon America. A terrible fight ensues.
Dragon Europe tenses up at this turn of events. If the dragon-gods win what will happen to Dragon Europe? Dragon Europe chides Dragon America for his foolishness. It is one thing to hunt vulnerable prey, quite another thing to step into the holy-land. Dragon Europe knows if Dragon America loses, the dragon gods will kill Dragon Europe. Dragon Europe comes to the aid of the struggling Dragon America. Together they subdue the dragon gods in the holy-land of China. Dragon America kow-tows to Dragon Europe and agrees to be obedient forever to the victorious Dragon Europe. Dragon America remembers with longing the time when in the Terrible Wars he did the same to their elder, Dragon Britain.
All dragons are exhausted from the fighting. They agree to carve up the world. It is a New World Order. The hunting grounds are redefined. The dragons guard their patches and stay within the bounds of their territory when hunting. They introduce new hunting rules, who gets to eat what, how much and whom. Not for long though. A new dragon is born. One day he will engage Dragon Europe in a terrible fight.
It is an awful story. It is terribly boring too. I have read variations of the dragon story repeated so many times: Spain, Dutch, Britain and now America, it is the same story with new names. I stop reading fairy tales. I want to know something about the real world I live in. I turn to my crystal ball instead. At least it tells me the truth. I know what my crystal ball says is true because it is in tune with what I know intuitively about the world I know I must live in.
In the crystal ball, I see the US flag hoisted on the face of Saddam Hussein’s statue. Wasn’t it Saddam who kept the US flag fluttering high all this time? Or was it the US that kept Saddam’s statue in the middle of the Middle East? The Iraqis start arguing about it. Soon the Iraqis fight Iraqis, the Arab Iraqis fight the Kurdish Iraqis, the Shia Iraqis fight the Sunni Iraqis, and the pro-American Iraqis fight the anti-American Iraqis.
The American flag flutters high in my crystal ball. The Syrians start arguing amongst themselves over the Iraqis just as the Lebanese did over the Palestinians two decades ago. The Syrians fight Syrians and the American flag flutters high, as it did in Somalia when the Somalis fought Somalis, as it did in Sudan, when the Sudanese fought Sudanese, as it does in Colombia when the Colombians fight Colombians.
My crystal ball follows the American flag. Such is the magic of the American flag, that wherever it goes, people fight one another and flag continues to flutter. They inherited secret knowledge about the art of flying flags from their family elders in Britain but they surpass their elders in their expertise.
It is such an old story. Is my crystal ball telling me about the past or the future? It has happened over and over again so many times. I blurt out, ‘why don’t these people get it?’ My crystal ball switches off. You don’t question the crystal ball. The moment rationality creeps in, truth goes out of the door. With crystal balls you must accept what it tells you. I find I am unable to accept what my crystal ball tells me. I throw it out of the window.
I start wandering in intellectual wilderness. I am a seeker now looking for a prophet, a messiah. I come across the tomb of the prophet of pan-Arabism. The plaque on his tombstone reads ‘and all Arabs shall be brothers’. I find that the tomb has been vandalised. Who vandalised it? I move on and come to the tomb of pan-African messiah and the plaque reads ‘all Africans shall be brothers’.
That tomb too is vandalised. By whom, I wonder. I come to the tomb of a young itinerant preacher from South America. His tomb too says ‘all Latin American people belong to one family’. His tomb too is vandalised. His grave is strewn with vitriolic verse. My wanderings bring me to a large graveyard of prophetic heroes of a sect that preached that the poor of this earth were all brothers, who said they should unite against their common oppressors. There are no candles in their graves, no flowers, no one is tending their memories. Why are their graves untended and forgotten?
Everywhere I go the world around me is filled with tombs of men and women who died fighting. What did they fight for? The prophets and messiahs or their prophecies and visions?
Will there be another prophet or messiah who will descend from the heavens and tell us everything we already know? Exhort us not to fight one another, to unite and fight the common evil? To be brave and stand by our brothers and sisters in times of distress? To believe in truth, justice and goodness?
What a lot of mush! Perhaps I should start reading the newspapers again. At least there is no mush there. Bring back the fairy tales perhaps or search for the crystal ball I threw out. I am exhausted. I do not know if I will ever be able to find what I am seeking. What am I seeking? I think I am seeking the absent self in me. The self that has been beaten over and over again, beaten repeatedly by the newspapers, the dragons and the crystal balls.
I am a little confused about the prophets and messiahs though. I cannot understand why I am drawn towards them, even after wandering through the graves of so many, who have fallen fighting for their prophecies and visions. It is not the messiahs that I find irresistible. It is their visions. There is something about their visions that are soothing to a wounded soul. Visions are dreams of a sort. Not many dare to dream around me. It requires courage, it requires defying rationality and logic. It requires anticipating the future and preparing for it. I have decided I am going to be an unashamed self-confessed dreamer.
In my dreams I am grass. When the elephants fight, they trample over me, when they make love then too they trample over me, but I spring up again from the womb of the earth. When the wind howls I bend, when it subsides I sway gently to its rhythm. When I am cut down to size I grow again, I am cut down again, I grow back again and again. If you are from the “Third World” and have a soul that has been wounded over centuries, your place in the world is to be grass. Come to think of it, isn’t it a wonder how the grass springs back, how untidy it makes the world of the big and the tall look?
When I wake up from my dream, I feel refreshed and energised. I know my place in the world now. I know what the crystal ball said was true and that fairy tale was not a fairy tale after all. I can read the newspapers without feeling like a puppet on a string now. I know the healing power of dreaming, especially when your soul is wounded and needs nursing.