People don’t wake up to chirping birds or even lazy yawns in the historic city of Aleppo -- it’s bombshells, barrel bombs rolling on the battered streets, a putrid air filled with noxious gases.
People don’t wake up to yet another day of work and respite but hoping against hope to see another morning, howsoever the look of a “dystopian novel” that morning may have.
Aleppo, the saddest place on Earth, where the adults cry and the children sit tearless in total awe of their situations.
As the year ended, the Syrian army aided by the Russians has claimed total control of all of Aleppo, including the East that has/had rebels opposing the rule of Assad; it would be far-fetched to think that all will be well from now on.
The widespread circulation of the picture of Baby Omran of Aleppo, not too long ago, and subsequent shedding of tears and the oohs and the aahs -- well, it seemed, the world media and, sorry to say, many people had just woken up to find Syria with their morning coffee.
Well, the atrocities in Syria, in Iraq, and even in, almost forgotten, Afghanistan have been ongoing for years and 2016 was no exception.
The Russian “interference” and the reckless bombing have driven out rebels, as well as the IS, from their secure locations, but it’s the innocents who paid the heaviest price. Thousands have been roaming the streets of Europe looking for some security, some safety.
And with that, as we have seen as recent as a few days ago, “blowback terrorism” has visited many European cities, like the Christmas market in Berlin. With IS dispersed, the “caliphate”-seeking zealots will not run for rabbit holes but will try and cause collateral damage by hitting small targets.
War is not like the glitzy gunfights on the TV screen, war is the ultimate misery of people, guts and gore, bullets flying, making a whistling sound before entering the body, the skull, and piercing the eardrum never to hear again.
War is body bags coming home wrapped in a national flag that holds no more meaning, war is the displacement of peoples, death of the fleeing, slaughter of the innocents, “September on Jessore Road” by Ginsberg, the bodies of babies washing afloat on a beach meant for fun and frolic.
Wars are not always fought between people imbued with nationalism or patriotism, but people acting as pawns in the bloody chess games of fat-cat leaders and their generals.
War is the name of the insanity that makes a crazy colonel crave for the smell of napalm in the morning, war is the creation of mass graves, skulls grouped together, one on top of another, making an author write: “The horror! The horror!”
War is the scourge of mankind that makes millions homeless and makes children carry bombs in their vests, not knowing why or what they are supposed to blow up but blow things up they do. War means wanton rape of women, human dignity ground to dust.
In this year of upheavals and unrest, we have lost many people of note whose departures have only caused the world to be poorer. Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize which is a welcome departure from norms; Castro’s death has only removed the scab from the wound of the far left to make it ache again
And we have had plenty of that in 2016.
And the rise of the inner hatred for “the different” has given us Brexit in 2016, the rise of populism, ultra-nationalism, the ugly face of racism, and Donald Trump. And, of course, the rise of “Tsar” Putin, maybe, even a new era of the arms race.
While IS wants Muslims to be Muslim all the time and has acted violently to pursue that agenda, incidentally hurting more Muslims than “infidels,” it is ironic that many people following the Islamic faith got “taken in” by their alleged religiosity. And the far right in Europe is getting stronger standing on the rubble of the almost destroyed idol of tolerance, co-habitation, acceptance.
We have had the Rohingya issue flare up again at our doorstep, while within the country, the religious and ethnic minorities are facing a future of trepidation, an existential crisis. Religion taking centre stage -- a perfect tool to manipulate the majority of the populace to fulfill the avarice of a few.
Democracy exists as lip service and freedom of all sorts seems threatened. A ruling elite is eating away the nation’s wealth and the powerful remain above the law. Violence against women shows no signs of abetting -- misogyny and victim blaming, the accepted norms of a society that is as far removed from the ideals of 1971 like the desert sand is from the flowing waters of the Euphrates.
In the meanwhile, climate change is making the Arctic icecap melt, but it is the voice of the denier that is the loudest. We keep having summers that are warmer than ever before and strange weather patterns are becoming the norm.
In this year of upheavals and unrest, we have lost many people of note whose departures have only caused the world to be poorer. Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize which is a welcome departure from norms; Castro’s death has only removed the scab from the wound of the far left to make it ache again.
Philip K Dick said: “It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” The year, 2016, seems like a year that vindicates that sentiment. Maybe, we need a “do-over” of 2016.
Still, it is the holiday season in the West. In spite of the grim mood after the gruesome terrorist act in Berlin, people will try to celebrate the auspicious occasions depending on their respective faiths, with as much gaiety and merriment as their sunken minds would allow, albeit always looking over the shoulder, sadly.
Winter also brings respite from the oppressive weather that persists most of the year in Bangladesh and people try to enjoy the bounty of the recent harvest with traditional festivities, the well-to-do may have more extravagant and more expensive designs on the celebrations of the year-end.
Wishing one and all, all over the world, a happy end to the year and hoping for things to get better, (the chance of an ice cube in hell, you say) but I wish you all a prosperous 2017. Maybe, hope will finally escape from Pandora’s Box, just maybe.
Happy New Year.
SM Shahrukh is a freelance contributor.