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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Lessons from Lawrence. Sorry for the trouble.

Lessons from Lawrence

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Today's GDN says:

Ten MPs plan to call on the parliament today to issue a statement on the need to ban defamatory slogans, pictures and smear campaigns during rallies, said a report in our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej yesterday.

If these ten MPs have their way (which you can never be sure about, since one of the MPs is our local flip-flopper Jassim Al-Saidi) then cartoons like the one above from yesterday's protest, depicting the Prime Minister as a snake, may no longer be shown on placards at future protest rallies. It will be quite a shame if that happens because I see it as a sign that Bahrain is among the freer states in the Arab world (granted we're still going through some teething problems).

And actually, if you look at the cartoon above, the portrait of the Prime Minister is quite flattering for him (if you ignore the snake body). When I saw it, I though it reminded me of Omar Sharif playing Sharif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia, no?

Okay, maybe I just thought that because I watched the movie again on TV a few days ago. And what a fine fine film is Lawrence of Arabia. I don't think any other Western produced movie has portrayed Arabs and the Arab psyche so accurately. If only everyone in the American military were forced to watch the movie prior to its invasion of Iraq, it might have been able to lead a far more successful campaign there. The film is filled with so many insightful and foretelling quotes about Arab politics... here are just a couple:

At one point Lawrence is trying to convince Auda Abu Tayi (played by Anthony Quinn) to revolt against the Turks, "for the Arabs". Auda replies with wit:

The Arabs? The Howeitat, Ajili, Rala, Beni Saha; these I know. I have even heard of the Harith,.. but the Arabs?! What tribe is that?

Later on Auda makes a similar comment to Sharif Ali on the establishment of the United Arab Council in Damascus:

I'll tell thee what, though; being an Arab will be thornier than you suppose, Harith!

The movie aside, the real Lawrence of Arabia was even more aware of the intricacies of the Arab mindset than is portrayed in the movie. In an article in the Arab Bulletin dated 20 August 1917 he provides 27 pieces of advice about dealing with Arabs. Although he states that these should only be applied to the Bedu Arabs of the Hejaz, I believe that much of the advice applies to all Arabs even today. As such, I recommend that this article be made required reading for all potential occupiers of Arab land. In item #15 of the 27, Lawrence advises us:

Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.

Oh, there is so much we still have to learn from this great man.

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1 Responses to 'Lessons from Lawrence'

Anonymous Anonymous says:

I see my old friend Mohammed Khaled is leading the demands for a clampdown on the right to demonstration – the same person who led the hysterical demos against Big Brother and whipped up the riots against Nancy Ajram.    

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