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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Thursday, September 13, 2001  
    by Renato Obeid

    - The Despondent Correspondent

    Its most infamous resident is a 44-year-old billionaire gone bad – wreaking havoc and terror and bent on world domination.
    No, not Seattle, home of Bill Gates, but The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, host country of public enemy number one – Osama bin Laden.
    Afghanistan (capital Kabul) is a rugged agrarian land of great mountain ranges, fertile green valleys and dry barren plains in Central Asia.
    Landlocked by Iran, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Zemanekstan (erratum – Stan Zemanek is an Australian state unto himself not a Central Asian state!) it is about the size of Texas and had a pre-war population of around twenty million.
    Afghans are predominantly Sunni Muslim tribes people, belonging to the Pathan tribal group (Indo-European speakers believed to be related to Indians and Iranians), although there are minority Shiite Muslims and ethnic Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.
    In ancient times, Afghanistan (meaning, predictably, “country of the Afghans”) lay on the main caravan route between Europe and Asian - causing it to be invaded by, amongst others, Russians and Britons.
    But it was the most recent invaders, the then Soviet Union in 1979, the caused the most damage – to both Afghanistan and themselves.
    In what became known as the “Soviet Vietnam” the Soviets were eventually chased out by the rag-tag American backed and funded Mujahaden (“holy warriors”) after a costly 10-year war of attrition.
    An inevitable power vacuum and struggle ensued amongst the victors, the Pakistan backed Taliban emerging victorious in the mid 1990’s.
    The Taliban (Arabic for “students” – the Afghans are not Arabs but like all Muslims worship in Arabic) were Islamic seminarians that had lived and trained in Pakistan.
    They immediately set about enforcing their strict 7th century interpretation of Islam, giving all men a month to grow beards (a rare concession to practically by the Taliban – somehow “all men must have beards immediately!” wasn’t going to work); banned television, radio, music, art, theatre and non-Islamic literature; denying females work, education and movement without wearing burkhas (basically an all enveloping cover) and accompanied by an immediate male relative.
    Not that Afghanistan ever was a whole lot of fun.
    There never was a “Thank Allah It’s Thursday” (Friday being the Islamic Sabbath) in Kabul.
    Traditional Afghan entertainment was folk dancing, and a game called buzkhasi – which involved a dead calf being thrown into a ditch and hundreds of men on horseback trying to grab the calf and carry it to a goal area (polo, rugby and a BBQ all rolled into one!).
    Surprisingly, and this is something that has been overlooked in the boatpeople debate in Australia, THEY ALSO PLAY CRICKET.
    Refugees returning from Pakistan brought back cricket with them and it’s becoming increasingly popular – provided the male-only players are modestly dressed and stop for prayers.
    Surely our Cricketer-in-Chief John “Donald Bradman” Howard can issue special Cricket Playing Refugee Visas.
    But it’s not all (non-alcoholic) beer and skittles in Afghanistan.
    The Taliban continue to wage war against their surviving opposition – the Northern Alliance – who control some 10% of the country.
    There are unconfirmed reports that the Northern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Masoud, has been assassinated but this has to be taken with a grain of salt – one of the protagonists, General Adid, in another similarly tribal recent war, Somalia, was reported dead by his opponents on some twenty separate occasions before finally succumbing (“this time he’s REALLY dead, promise, swear to God and hope to die”).
    Shades of “We killed Kenny!”
    All this, coupled with famine and scorched earth ethnic cleansing of minorities and opposition, has resulted in a mass exodus.
    There are some 3 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, hundreds of thousands in Europe and North America and a staggering FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY EIGHT “queue jumping” refugees trying to get into Australia on the Tampa.
    According to all reports, Afghanistan has become “hell on earth”.
    This is confirmed by an eyewitness I made up who declined to give me “his” name in order to save me the hassle of making one up.
    The Australian government (namely the tabloids and talkback radio) are probably as outraged towards these “queue jumping” refugees as they are those unfortunate “queue jumpers” jumping of the roof off the burning World Trade Center.
    Thankfully, they’re not in charge of this rescue and relief operation.
    “America Under Attack” is indeed a tragedy and, as it’s been described, “a day that shall live in infamy”; and on television – vulture-like saturation coverage continues and a Jeff Mills soundtrack seems inevitable.
    I certainly don’t wish to make light of this tragedy.
    I myself, a la Ian Thorpe, Leyton Hewitt and every other Australian celebrity who’s been in New York this year, narrowly escaped death in the WTC bombing.
    Had I have been on the top floors of the WTC New York rather than Campbelltown (NSW, Australia) I would certainly have died.
    And regarding those emails circulating that Nostradamus predicted all this, Nostradamus also predicted that “people in the 21st Century are going to be extremely gullible and full of shit”.
    All this brings us back to Afghan resident number one, Osama bin Laden.
    The exiled Saudi born billionaire (“next on Jerry Springer – When Billionaires Go Bad”) is the prime suspect in this and other terrorist atrocities.
    Bin Laden (the 17th of 52 children – it’s always the 17th child that causes all the trouble) ran away from home and joined the disparate American trained and supplied pan-Islamic Mujahaden, staying on in Afghanistan and turning his attention to ridding the Islamic Uma (the nebulous supranational Islamic homeland) of American occupation (boomeranging on his erstwhile allies).
    The Taliban harbor and protect him (he’s even taken reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s daughter as his second wife) but, as America points the finger at bin Laden and wages war, that welcome may be wearing thin for this Caucasian gang leader (contrary to the ethnological arbitrators – talkback and the tabloids - Arabs are Caucasians).
    So, what to do?
    I don’t know.
    “All I know is that I know nothing” to quote Aristotle.
    But I do suggest that we put aside all the hysteria, hyperbole and rabble rousing and defer to those who do know – our democratically elected institutions – Alan Jones, Mike Munroe and the Daily Telegraph.

    *Since this article was penned, we can indeed confirm that Ahmad Shah Masoud is really, really dead – promise, swear to God and hope to die.
    *The Quadrangle (the building formerly known as The Pentagon, now missing one side) is two weeks into its crusade to turn Islam into Waslam in Afghanistan.
    The Taliban and non-western news agencies in Afghanistan claim that there have been hundreds of civilian deaths but his has yet to be verified by white people.

    Renato Obeid
    - The Despondent Correspondent

    All writing in this article is crap, any resemblance between this and proper reportage is unintentional and purely coincidental.

    (first published in inthemix.com.au)

    8:00 pm

    Tuesday, September 11, 2001  
    When you get caught between the moon and New York City

    8:17 pm

    Thursday, September 06, 2001  
    Just got back from a rendezvous with ---- -----*in town.
    We had drinks, dinner and coffee at various places around Kings Cross to the soundtrack of blaring sirens – the Sydney anthem.
    Is Sydney burning (dying, rampaging or all of the above and more)?
    Walking back to the Kings Cross train station I saw a pair of policeman talking to a drunk and disorderly Aboriginal.
    A novel approach for Australian police!
    Hung around for a while, waiting for them to bash him ("policia in my country very bad men!”) but they didn’t!
    They’re no fun anymore!
    Felt like telling them “would you just hurry up and bash him, I’ve got a train to catch, I’m going to miss my train!”
    Was telling ---- that all this anti-Muslimism in Australia at the moment is totally unacceptable!
    I mean that’s our (Maronites) job; they’re encroaching on our prerogatives

    At the end of the day its midnight.

    *Ironically, although it bears my name, this blog is not about me.
    It’s about saving the world!
    It’s about you – the little people, the unheard unwashed masses who don’t have a voice!
    Renatoobeidsworld makes this money back guarantee pledge to you (it’s subjects) – you wont ever read “I’m feeling blue today”,” I’m feeling vulnerable today”, “I had an argument with so an so”, “went to the mall today with so and so, it was so kewl!” and the other unimportant, banal, petty, superficial, indulgent, self important, self obsessed, pop culture centric tripe found in so many other blogs (what do you think I am – an American?).
    Thus, I generally refrain from mentioning myself, family and friends etc except when relevant to some overarching transpersonal issue, point etc.
    When these people are referred to (out of sheer necessity) I generally won’t mention them by name or (where names are written in the original unpublished text) blank their names – pending their approval and payment.

    11:00 pm

    Sunday, September 02, 2001  
    Just got back from a dinner party at --- and ------- and am watching The Big Shmooze on the Comedy Channel - an interview with some whore from the unfortunately successful stage show “The Vagina Monologues”.
    I saw a cartoon in a recent edition of Private Eye which showed a mother with her daughter (in a pram) going past a theatre which had a sign out the front for that production.
    The child is asking her mother “mummy, what’s a monologue”.
    Also in that issue of Private Eye was a cartoon of two women talking over a back fence and one of the women’s children is saying “the Conservatives are going to win the election” - the mothers reply is “children say the funniest things”.
    In that vein, maybe I should call these tapes “The Dickhead Monologues”.

    Tonight at the dinner party I had no luck in finding people who were in agreement with me over the issue of the day – the Tampa crisis.
    Of the ten people there I was the only person who was sympathetic to the “hostages” which pretty much reflects opinion polls in which over ninety percent are in favour of the tough stance taken against the hostages.
    It felt like the dinner party version of “Twelve Angry Men”.
    So, why are these people so hard-line?
    Well, apart form the fact that they are bourgeois, they are anti-immigration because, quite ironically, they’re the product of immigration themselves!
    It is ironic that it seems that the most rabidly anti-immigration people in Australia are themselves immigrants or products of immigration themselves (by that I mean recent immigration as we are all migrants in Australia)!
    I was reading an interview in the paper today with a Vietnamese woman who was amongst the first wave of boat people to Australia (not including the first settlers) – the Vietnamese.
    She came here in 1978 and (apparently) subsequently became a bourgeois professional Wasp wannabe and is therefore anti-immigration and doesn’t believe that these people should be allowed in!
    Its absurd, it’s ludicrous!
    There but for the grace of God go I and her and every Australian for that matter!
    She and her ilk ought to be sent back (your wish is our command) – by her own reasoning, she shouldn’t of come and been allowed here in the first place.
    My suggestion is that any Australian who is opposed to immigration should practice what they preach and go back to wherever it is they came from.
    Retroactive immigration control.
    We are all migrants on this orphaned island – our forebears are buried elsewhere.
    These migrants who are anti-immigration are, in their own ignorance, digging their own graves without even knowing it because this “anti-immigrationism can also be retroactive.
    There’s a fine and blurred line between opposed to further immigration and being plain anti-immigrant – a lot of their fellow anti-immigrationists aren’t just opposed to further immigration but to immigrants in general (including established entrenched incumbent migrants).
    For example the British National Party (who have counterparts in all countries that have significant migrant populations) are obviously dead set against any further immigration but also want migrants (who have often been in the country for several years) to be sent back or, euphemistically, to be encouraged to repatriate.
    “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, the bell tolls for thee”.
    So, why are so many migrants anti-immigration?
    I think its “dog in the mangerism” – a lot of migrants are greedy, selfish, jealous and covetous and quite simply want to pull the ladder up after them and after they’ve used it.
    They don’t want anybody else to benefit from what they’ve benefited from and no longer require.
    Who knows? – it might encroach upon them, although it doesn’t (well no more than it does on the non-immigrant population).
    In this area as in other areas (like racism, which is the twin and clone of this - for some paradoxical reason a lot of migrants are racist) they become hyper-Australian.
    More royalist than the king.
    So desperate are they to fit in and become and be perceived as Australians by white Australia that they become hyper-Australian, over-Australian, turbo-Australian and Australian Plus – “hey we’re just like you”.
    This is particularly prevalent in the area of “culture” where some of the most Australian Australians, the most ockerish Australians are migrants or children of migrants.
    They tend to become either one extreme, total hardcore “wogs”, or, the other extreme, total ockers – almost a parody of Australians as they’re perceived by someone who’s acting (or overacting) Australian, inadvertent caricatures of Australians.
    I once answered the phone to some Australian/Lebanese women (are there any worse!) calling to speak to Aunty Mary.
    She told me that I must be from Lebanon because of my accent.
    That piqued me – there’s nothing wrong with having an accent of a person who learns at least three languages (English being one of them) practically from birth but I don’t have a Lebanese accent I just don’t have much of an Australian accent.
    But in this lady’s narrow world, you either have an Australian accent on steroids or you’re Lebanese.
    After I hung up I was pretty pissed of, muttering to Anthony‘’if you don’t sound like a dickhead then you must be Lebanese!’’.
    Anthony thought it funny - ‘’settle down son – that stuff (stress) will kill you’’.
    Some Australian/Lebanese girl once asked me ‘’where you born here?’’
    When I replied in the affirmative she said ‘’ you don’t talk like me’’.
    ‘’Thank God for that’’ was my riposte.
    Quite simply, these immigrants and their children are aping Anglo-Australians (or their perception of them).
    And how more (stereotypical) Australian can you be than being anti-immigration and anti-immigrant.
    Strange fruit!
    It reminds me of a Syrian I met in Lebanon who was about to become a naturalised Lebanese who told me, jokingly, that he couldn’t wait to become a Lebanese and say “when are these bloody Syrians going to leave!"

    Looking of images of that ship (the Tampa) particularly in Fridays Sydney Morning Herald where you see a photo of the vessel taken from Christmas Island - a Palm fringed vista of clear blue sea and, in the background, that stricken forlorn ship (a stranger in paradise) - you get the feeling that you’re looking at one of the defining issues and images of our time, of Australia and the world in general at the beginning of the 21st Century,
    A juxtaposition of the haves and the have nots, the lucky and the unlucky, people who were in the right place at the right time and people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, people who have the right passport at the right time and people who have the wrong passport at the wrong time.
    Those hostages are strangers in paradise, are in purgatory.
    So close yet so far.
    I think this will, should be and is a defining image of the beginning of the 21st Century.
    Just like the images of the Kennedy assassination and, more relevantly, images of other hostage dramas (planes being blown up in the desserts of the Middle East, a gunman with a pistol aimed at a grimacing pilot in the cockpit of a TWA plane on the tarmac at the airport in Beirut, a balaclava clad Black September terrorist peering over the balcony of the Olympic Village in Munich) were in the 20th Century.
    This is quite simply the marine equivalent of those!

    The fig leaf arguments and justifications (or lies in plain language) about this all being necessary to prevent Australia being swamped by hordes of illegal, unsubstantiated queue jumpers and whatnot taking the places of other more eligible deserving immigrants who apply for it legally and through the right channels are just lies and a smokescreen!
    “So spake the fiend, with necessity to disguise his devilish deeds”.

    P.S: The Standoff at Sea was finally resolved when the government bribed (hundreds of millions of dollars so far) various poverty stricken Pacific neighbours (mainly Nauru) to host the refuges until they can be processed.
    Some of them are still there to this day (Monday 1st December 2003).
    The government called this "the Pacific solution" but I think commandos violently hijacking a vessel is hardly pacific!

    In the interests of fairness I must add that dialling the wrong number in Australia is an absolute pleasure.
    Australians are so nice when you accidentally call them (‘’what number where you dialling?’’ in a pleasant phone voice*) compared to Lebanese who practically interrogate you if you dial a wrong number (‘’who are, where are you from’’ etc?).
    I’ve even had Lebanese interrogate me when they’ve accidentally called me.
    But don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself – dial any wrong number in Australia and I can almost assure you that you’ll end it with ‘’thank you – it’s been a pleasure having a wrong number in your country’’
    And you’ll almost miss them when you hang up and you’ll think to yourself ‘’that person was so nice – I wish right numbers in my country were so friendly. Maybe I won’t fly airplanes into their skyscrapers after all’’.
    It’s an absolute pleasure dialling a wrong number in Australia and I really ought to do it more often.
    Now where’s that phonebook.

    *I notice that Westerners in general have special ‘’phone voices’’ whereas Arabs just use any old everyday voice.

    1:50 am

    Saturday, September 01, 2001  
    Just got back from Matt’s going away do at the studios of Rhythm FM in Balmain.
    It was a good night and Matt will be sorely missed.
    It was good to hear civilized, sane, humane and cultured discussion about the Tampa affair from educated, civilized, humane and cultured young people which every country has a small minority of.
    Wednesday 29th August 2001 is a day that will live in infamy and, as I speak, the hostages on the Tampa remain hostage and in captivity – languishing at sea, kept company by 50 Australian SAS commandos who it seems are stuck there (so that seems to be an additional problem now – how are we going to get the commandos out, how are we going to rescue the commandos?).
    Apart form this being an act of terrorism, a hijacking and an act of piracy its also an act of war and aggression towards a friendly ally – Norway.
    In the Australian press we seem to be going from the sublime to the ridiculous – when the press and the letter writers to the press aren’t baying for blood they’re just as bad.
    To wit a letter to the editor that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday 30th August, “I find it ironic that the Norwegian government can profess to have traditional respect for all seafarers of the world but can happily slaughter the whale”.
    In my opinion that person, all his descendants and all his ilk should be damned to eternal hell.
    It’s just a manifestation of that typical and true cliché and truism that a lot of westerners are more concerned with the welfare of animals than human beings.

    2:00 am

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